Ok, deep breath everyone. We are all in this together. As we lay low and practice social distancing at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my good friend, Shannon Merenstein from Hatch in Pittsburgh, and I have come up with an art and play activity guide for all the kids in quarantine who will be learning from home over the next few weeks. Think of this as a creativity supplement to homeschool learning for kids ages 3-8.
Click here for all 7 Learning at Home guides!
Many of you already homeschool so you’ve totally got this. But most of us have probably not had to be responsible for our child’s everyday learning. Life at home with kids for the next few weeks will be a challenge. Not only is school canceled, but you might also be working from home or forced to take time off. It’s not ideal at all and will be disruptive to your family’s routines and rituals. With this art and play activity guide, we will try to bring some semblance of routine and order to your day. Our guide will promote imagination, creativity, and problem-solving while peppering in some of those math, literacy, science, and social studies skills and concepts that your kids will be missing over the next few weeks.
Art and Play Activity Guide Week 1: Drawing Tools
This week, we are focusing on art and play experiences that use simple drawing tools that you have at home, like pencils, markers, and crayons. With just a few basic supplies and a little prep, you can help create a balanced and engaging day for your children. Feel free to pull bits and pieces from each day, or use it as a loose guide to frame your day. We’ll suggest ideas, provocations, and invitations that children can do on their own and with you, with plenty of variations for younger and older children. This guide is not sequential so you can skip around if needed.
We hope this guide will make your day feel productive and creative, and maybe even joyful. Maybe this is exactly what your family needs to feel safe, secure, and fulfilled during these turbulent times.
Day 1: Nature Walk / Science
Today is all about reconnecting with nature, in whatever way you can. You can venture as far as the backyard, or head to a nearby park or wooded area if it is safe to do so. Get your muck boots and rain jackets ready, even if it’s raining some fresh air will feel good.
Click here to print Day 1: Nature Walk/Science
Start the morning finding just a few minutes to stand still outside in your backyard or on your balcony, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. If you’re with your children already (because you’ve all been up for hours at this point), encourage them to do the same. They can stretch in the morning sun if its especially warm, or just stand next to you under an umbrella while you hold the baby. Just get outside for a few minutes, breathe in gratitude and calm, and breathe out anxiety and frustrations.
While your children are eating breakfast or playing independently, grab a bag for each child for a backyard nature walk (or in the woods/at a park if it’s safe). Set aside a couple of trays and a jar of a few drawing tools for each child. Don’t feel like you need to put out tons. A pencil, a black marker, and a few green and brown crayons would work perfectly. Prepare a simple snack for when you return, so kids can much away while they’re working or for afterward.
1. Take a walk outside and collect “specimens”, like leaves, pinecones, flowers, or even small rocks.
2. Take the collection inside and arrange them on a table or on a tray.
3. Picking one specimen at a time, kids draw what they see using their observational skills.
~ Colored pencils
Younger kids can:
~ Trace their specimen collection then color in their shapes.
~ Find as many shades of brown as they can, or green if you’re lucky.
~ Create leaf rubbings with crayons.
~ Make a collage with their specimens using paper or cardboard, and glue or tape.
~ Punch holes in the leaves with a hole punch and string them together with a pipe cleaner or yarn.
Older kids can:
~ Research the names of their specimens, with the help of a parent, such as “oak leaf” or “crocus” or “river rock”, then write the names and descriptions underneath their drawings.
~ Cut out their drawings and tape them into a Nature Journal, then keep adding to the journal as the seasons change.
~ Take pictures of their specimens with your phone, zooming in to capture textures, or arranging the specimens in an interesting composition.
1. Take a walk outside and collect “specimens”.
2. While outside, the child can play on a log, dig in some dirt, touch and feel and explore nature in a safe way. Encourage this kind of play for as long as you can, while you soak in some extra vitamin D.
3. Take specimens inside and line them up, count them, make piles of the same color.
4. Add in some figurines and they can create an imaginary world and play with their collection. Maybe they can take their imaginary world outside!
TIP: Set aside specimens, like acorns, buckeyes, small sticks, and other sturdy natural items to be used in later collages, block play, counting games and more.
Day 2: Shapes Scavenger Hunt / Math
Math is all around us, and today your child will have fun being a shape detective with an active scavenger hunt around the house.
Click here to print Day 2: Shapes Scavenger Hunt/Math
Since we’ll be playing with shapes today, everyone can warm up with some “circle moves” (and coffee for the grownups). First, trace circles in the air with your fingers. Make small circles, big circles, scribbly circles. Then, use your arms to make bigger, faster circles. Try doing some with one foot, too. Lay down on the ground and draw big circles in the air with your legs. Make circles with your head and hips, too. Try these moves with other simple shapes.
You can do this activity in two ways. Your child can grab items and bring them back to the table one at a time (this would be a good way for them to burn some energy), or you can give your child a bag and they can go around the house and collect as they go. Prepare a snack and some water for your child if they need some refreshments along the way.
1. Find 5-10 different shapes around the house (parent and child can have a conversation about shapes prior to the scavenger hunt).
2. Bring them back to a table covered in butcher paper, or a paper bag that has been cut open, or just plain paper.
3. Trace the shapes with a pencil, then color them in.
~ Butcher paper, paper bags, or just plain paper
~ Colored pencils
Younger kids can:
~ Find 10 circles that are different sizes (or triangles, rectangles, squares).
~ Cut out shapes and use tape or glue to make a collage.
~ For extra cutting practice, cut shapes in half, then in quarters.
~ If you have collected some recyclables, they can dip shapes into some washable paint and stamp the shapes onto paper.
Older kids can:
~ Write the names of the shapes underneath.
~ Create patterns inside each shape with a black sharpie.
~ Cut out the shapes and make a mobile with a wire hanger.
~ Trace the shapes onto cardboard, then cut them out and use the shapes to build something.
~ Trace a single repeating shape over and over to create an interesting composition, then add color.
1. Go on a texture hunt, like “find something fuzzy, bumpy, smooth…”
2. Create a grab bag or different shapes and ask a sibling or parent to reach their hand in and “tell me what you feel…”
3. Line up shapes from smallest to biggest.
4. Bring out Magna Tiles or blocks in a new area of the house.
After quiet time, offer a shape snack buffet. This doesn’t have to be hard at all. Wheels of cheese, sandwiches cut into triangles, some rectangular crackers, oval-shaped almonds. Ask kids to think of other things to add, too.
Day 3: Storytelling / Literacy
Children are natural storytellers. Have you ever noticed just how much detail and imagination they pack into the stories they share as they play? Let’s build upon this and incorporate some literacy skills into the day.
Click here to print Day 3: Storytelling/Literacy
Start the day with some books. Maybe books are usually saved for bedtime, but today curl up together for some favorite stories or scroll through photos together from some fun family times (a vacation, getting some ice cream, a hike) and retell the story of that memory together.
Clear a table and get out all the drawing tools. You can even bring our watercolors if you have them. Prepare a snack and a drink for when your little storytelling needs a boost of energy.
1. Find some large paper, either butcher paper or a paper bag cut open or a big piece of cardboard.
2. Using a black sharpie, kids tell a story and draw their story at the same time (see video below).
~ Large paper
~ Black sharpie
~ Colored pencils
For younger kids:
~ Take turns with a sibling or parent telling and drawing a story.
~ Read a book with a parent or older sibling and retell the story through drawing.
~ Read a book and draw a character from the book, or draw one main element from the story (for example, in the book Smitten by David Gordon, the child can draw a sock or mitten).
~ Tell a story with playdough.
For older kids:
~ Write their story underneath their drawing.
~ Draw 3-5 boxes and tell an unfolding story with a beginning and an end, similar to a graphic novel.
~ Fold one sheet of paper into a mini-book (here is a good tutorial) and create a story on the pages.
1. The child tells a story through playing with animal figures, dolls and figurines, and blocks.
2. An adult or older sibling writes down the story as the child is telling it.
3. Act out a favorite book together.
After independent play and quiet time, enjoy a storied snack together. Dig around in the pantry for jam you bought at the orchard in the fall, or popcorn you enjoyed together at the movies. Find snacks that bring up shared memories to talk about. Then, draw a map of the experience together to tell the story of that memory. For example, “First we, then we, next we, finally we…”.
Day 4: Envelope City / Social Studies
What is social studies anyway? By definition, it’s the study of human society. In this instance, and for most early elementary students, it’s all about community and the social activities that make a community function. Today we will be thinking about the people and places we see each day in and around our town or city. It’s weird not playing at recess with our friends, or chatting at the coffee shop with our neighbors. Let’s make a virtual community so the kids can still feel connected.
Click here to print Day4: Envelope City/Social Studies
Just as in your community, everyone in the house has a job to do. This morning it’s collaborative cleaning! Brainstorm together what these cleaning jobs might be. Maybe an older child can wipe down the counters, and a younger child can put away silverware. Start the morning by collaborating, connecting, and cleaning.
While the kids are playing, find some envelopes in as many shapes and sizes that you have. If you don’t have any, cut some house shapes from paper. Set out some drawing and coloring tools and some tape. Prepare a snack for later.
1. Use envelopes with the flap folded up so that it looks like the shape of a house, or cut envelope shapes from paper.
2. Turn envelopes into houses and create a town or a city.
3. Prompt children to make their own hometown, with buildings that are familiar to them like schools, a post office, and a grocery store.
~ Envelopes (multiple sizes) or paper cut into envelope shapes
~ Colored pencils
~ Clear tape
~ Colored tapes for added decor
For younger kids:
~ Make a rainbow village by coloring each envelope a different color.
~ Use stickers to decorate the houses.
~ Make people out of crafts sticks, then the people can fit inside the envelopes and it can become a portable playset.
For older kids:
~ Create 3-D houses using cereal boxes or shoe boxes, making their own town or city where they live.
~ Make signs for the names of each building.
~ Create a town for ladybugs, birds, fairies, or any other imaginary community.
1. Build your own hometown using blocks.
2. Roll out some butcher paper on the floor and the kids can draw roads for their town.
3. Gather cars and figurines to add to the town, or make them from tea boxes and craft sticks.
This quarantine can be very isolating, so take time to call or facetime a friend/family member who could use a comforting chat. Maybe they can enjoy a snack with your child while your phone is propped up. Or maybe you and your kids can whip up a recipe that reminds you of them. Think about folks who are extra lonely right now, and find out from nursing homes or other quarantined spaces whether it’s OK to send some cheerful art. Or, phone an elderly neighbor to see if they would like you to deliver some goods to their doorstep.
Day 5: Drawing Sticks / Process Art
Phew, we made it to Friday! Today it’s all about open-ended exploration, trying things, imagination, and creativity. That’s what process art is all about!
Click here to print Day 5: Drawing Sticks/Process Art
After breakfast, start the day with another backyard adventure. Do some deep breathing in nature (or wherever you can find a little fresh air – even if it means opening a window). Now set the kids loose to find some long sticks for today’s process art activity.
While the kids are playing or eating breakfast, make sure you have some tape and markers ready. Set out some paper. If you have butcher paper, then tape a long strip to the floor or cover a wall. Gather some bits and bobs that they could decorate their sticks with.
1. Find some long sticks outside.
2. Tape markers to the end and use them to draw on paper taped to the floor or wall, or taped to an easel.
~ Drawing tools, such as markers or pencils
~ Optional: materials to add to sticks, such as feathers, yarn, pom-poms, tape, rubber bands, or anything lying around in your junk drawer
For younger kids:
~ If you are worried that your child will turn the drawing stick into a sword, tape sidewalk chalk to the end and use black paper. Or tape a drawing tool onto a long cardboard tube.
~ Kids can use their feet to hold the drawing stick and try drawing with their feet.
For older kids:
~ Decorate the sticks with the collected materials.
~ Create a self-portrait with the long drawing stick.
1. Make magic wands with the sticks.
2. Tape fabric to the sticks and make flags. Use the flags in imaginary play, or to march in a parade.
3. Make a fort from really big sticks.
Share a stick(y) snack together. Offer cut up fruits and veggies with mini skewers, toothpicks, or chopsticks (if it feels safe for your family) for spearing snacks. Or search the pantry/freezer for another option on a stick, such as popsicles. You can even make your own frozen fruit pops! Hang out and enjoy the rest of the day together.
Shannon and I hope to bring you a new guide each week, for as long as we have kids in quarantine. Sign up for my newsletter to get immediate communication about our weekly art and play activity guides.
Sign up here:
xo, Bar and Shannon
PS: Shannon sells amazing art kits, too!
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A little about Shannon:
Shannon Merenstein is the founder and director of Hatch, an art and play studio in Pittsburgh. She is the author of Collage Workshop for Kids from Quarto Publishing, and a mom of two. Before that, she was an art teacher and instructional coach for years in an elementary school. Shannon also facilitates professional learning opportunities for teachers around the region to bring open-ended art-making and creative play into the school day.
Follow Shannon on IG @hatchartstudio, and find her on Facebook.
Shannon also makes the cutest “Hatch On-the-Go Art Kits”, and you can find her book on Amazon.
Read more of Shannon’s posts on Art Bar here.
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Did you like this post? Here are more art ideas for home learning:
This has been my favorite response so far. I won’t be seeing my students for the time being but I love the ideas!
You guys are THE BEST!! I teach 3s and 4s and will be sending out ideas to my student’s families daily. I will certainly be directing them to your wonderful new weekly guide. xoxo
Same Angie! I refer to Art Bar regularly and will happily pass this onto my 3 yr old’s parents. Thank you!!
What an amazing resource! I plan on using this during our time off over the next few weeks. Thank you!
GAH I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. I’ve printed out each day, and I am actually very excited to dive in with my clan tomorrow! Thank you for this awesome resource! 🙂
Laura Elizabeth Urriche
En Argentina aun no estamos en cuartentena o suspensión de clases pero se viene en cualquier momento muchas gracias por las actividades son estupendas
I’m so thankful for this blog! I used to refer to it often when I worked in youth development, but have since “retired” to take care of my infant and 2-year old. However, I still love over the emails and even though most of the activities are too “big” for my 2 year old, I modify them to fit her abilities. Thank you for putting this resource together—particularly your super thoughtful ideas for everyone as we self-quarantine.
This is such a brilliant thing for you guys to share! Thank you.
I’m in the UK and we’re not on lockdown yet, but I’m sure it’ll come. I’m going to save these ideas for later and I’ll share with my friends.
Wow! I deeply appreciate the love and time you put into this post. Thank you thank you!
Amanda Macy Hall
This is sooo up our alley! Perfect program! I am so excited to use this!!! Thank you for creating this!
Honestly, you guys are amazing. I don’t know how you manage to have the time and headspace to do all this at this crazy time, but I am so thankful! I will definitely be looking at your ideas and getting inspiration for my days at home with the kids. Right now things feel so unsure and so hopeless and dark, this post has given me some light and hope, and some positive things to think about. Thank you.
Great ideas! As my school’s art teacher, TK – 8, sitting here in my house in California, I’m struggling to find art ideas that can be done at the student’s home that parents might already have around the house. I don’t want to place too much pressure on moms and dads. Keep up the good work! Blessings on you!
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE so many of these ideas and how easy they are to carry out! Thank you for gathering them all in to one place. I will be sharing these with my 3’s and 4s families since we don’t know how long we will be apart. The way you’ve broken down each activity for each day is brilliant. Thank you again!
I so appreciate how you lay out the flow with rituals and the blend of natural exploration and art. Thank you for creating such a beautiful resource! I feel my heart calm as I scroll through. I echo my amazement that you are pulling this together so quickly. I’m recommending your blog wherever I can!
Thank you so much for this. I’m a 1st grade teacher and am learning to teach online now that our school is closed. I posted a link to your weekly activities and have had so many positive responses. The kids are loving the activities, and the parents are loving that they don’t have to leave the house to go in search of materials.
What a blessing and Godsend! Thank you so much for this post! My 3yo and I are driving each other crazy already:=) These activities will be PERFECT for us! XOXO
This is so helpful, calming and inspiring for teachers and parents that all in a whirl wind at the moment.
Thank you for the ideas, I love that the resources used are kept basic, and to a minimum, I think we forget sometimes that less is in fact more and that we dont need more than paper, some markers, creativity and our minds to teach and learn.
Thank you, this has really helped recentre my teaching approach.
Thank you so much!! I have been searching for weeks for a layout of activities for my kids to continue learning through play and creativity and this is by far the BEST I have come across. I’m so thankful I could cry😭. I love that you include morning rituals and suggestions of making snacks for certain activities. Also laying out simple prep, activities that only require things most everyone has around the house already and extensions for each idea 😍.So grateful. Thank you!