As a parent, I understand how challenging it can be to keep children engaged during school closings. However, with a little creativity and some planning, you can turn this time into a fun and exciting experience for your kids. In this blog, I’ll share some activities that kids can do indoors and outdoors and offer tips to keep things fresh and exciting.

My goal is to minimize the mental load for my fellow parents by offering this go-to list you can refer to each time you need it. 

Indoors at Home:

  • Rotate board games are a great way to keep kids entertained and promote family bonding. Rotate games on a monthly basis. It helps minimize clutter and create excitement for playing with a new set of games for kids. I recommend having a monthly calendar reminder to make it easier to remember. Identify games kids can play by themselves and those you can play as a family. Some popular board games for kids include Monopoly, Clue, and Scrabble.Train of thought is a good conversational game as well for families. 

  • Host playdates: You can set up a designated play area with toys and games for the kids to enjoy, and provide snacks and drinks for everyone. These are a great way for kids to socialize and have fun together. This is a great time to activate those “let’s get the kids together!” wishes you have been exchanging with fellow parents. 

  • Have a dance party. You can even make it a themed party and encourage everyone to dress up in costumes. Dancing is a fun way to get some exercise and release energy, and it’s also a great stress reliever. Having a kids playlist can make it fun and easy. 

  • Get creative, Encourage your kids by doing art projects, writing stories, or building something with Legos. You can provide them with supplies and let their imaginations run wild. The dollar store is a great place to start getting supplies. 

  • Cook or bake together with your kids is a fun and educational activity that can also teach them valuable skills. You can choose a recipe together (think of all the faves you saved from IG!) and work as a team to make something delicious.

Fun yet productive activities

  • Help your kids separate their clothes, shoes, and toys that no longer fit them. These items can be donated or gifted to friends and family. Your local Buy Nothing group is a great place to offer these items.

  • Organizing bookshelves can be a fun activity for kids to discover books they haven’t read. Help them sort their books by genre or author, and make sure they’re easy to find. You can even create a reading nook or a cozy corner for your child to enjoy their favorite books.

  • Get rid of paperwork: Help your kids go through their paperwork and get rid of anything that is no longer needed. This can include old school assignments, artwork, and other documents. This will not only help your child to be more organized but also help them to develop good habits for the future. Parent hack – kids LOVE shedding papers and watching the pieces fall. This can be a great supervised activity. 

  • Creating a chore chart is a great way to help your kids learn about productivity and responsibility. Assign age-appropriate chores, such as making their bed, setting the table, or feeding the pets. This will help them to understand the importance of contributing to the household.

  • Planting a garden is a fun and productive activity that can teach your kids about the environment and responsibility. You can help your child choose plants, herbs, and vegetables to grow, and teach them how to care for their garden.

Indoor adventures. If you’re looking for some fun indoor activities in Northern New Jersey, there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether you’re planning a day out with the family or a fun date with friends, you’ll find plenty of exciting things to do. From museums and art galleries to indoor playgrounds and cooking classes, here are some top suggestions:

  • Catch a show at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, this is a renowned theater that offers a variety of family-friendly shows throughout the year.

  • Check out iPlay America: iPlay America in Freehold is an indoor amusement park with rides, games, and attractions that are sure to keep your kids entertained.

  • The Morris Performing Arts Center in Morristown is a historic venue that has been entertaining audiences since 1937. The center hosts a variety of performances including music concerts, theater productions, and comedy shows. Renovations have kept the venue’s grandeur and elegance, adding to the experience of watching live shows.

  • The Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown is a state-of-the-art venue that features a variety of performances including concerts, theater productions, dance shows, and comedy acts. The center has exceptional sound and lighting systems, ensuring a high-quality experience for audiences. In addition to its regular shows, the Mayo Performing Arts Center also provides educational programs and workshops for both children and adults.

  • Sign up for a cooking class at Sur La Table: Sur La Table offers cooking classes for kids that are fun and educational. Kids can learn new recipes and techniques in a hands-on environment.

If that is not enough, how about a Museum tour? There are several good Museums in New Jersey.

  • The Newark Museum in downtown Newark is a great place to learn about art, science, and history. The museum has a planetarium, a mini zoo, and a variety of interactive exhibits for kids.

  • Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange is a popular destination for families. The zoo has more than 200 species of animals, including lions, tigers, and bears.

  • Imagine That!!! in Florham Park is an indoor play area where kids can explore and learn through hands-on activities. The play area includes a play village, a sensory room, and a variety of other interactive exhibits.

  • Liberty Science Center in Jersey City is a great place for kids to learn and explore. It has interactive exhibits on science, technology, and more.

  • Montclair Art Museum is a small but vibrant museum that showcases American art from the 18th century to the present. The museum also offers a variety of family-friendly events and activities throughout the year.

Outdoor Activities 

  • Visit a local park. Northern New Jersey is home to many beautiful parks and nature preserves, offering opportunities for hiking, biking, picnicking, and other outdoor activities. Some of the most popular parks in the region include the Watchung Reservation in Union County, and the Great Falls National Historical Park in Paterson. These parks are perfect for a family outing, a romantic stroll, or just a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Come and explore the natural beauty of the Garden State!

  • Go on a nature walk and experience the beauty of the Garden State in Northern New Jersey. With an abundance of nature trails and wildlife reserves, you can explore various plants and animals in their natural habitats. The region boasts several popular trails, including the Ramapo Valley County Reservation in Mahwah, and the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area in Morris County. Get some fresh air and enjoy the stunning scenery that Northern New Jersey has to offer on your next nature walk.

  • Visit a beach. New Jersey has more than 130 miles of coastline, making it an ideal destination for beach lovers. Some popular beaches in Northern New Jersey include Sandy Hook Beach, Long Beach Island, Belmar Beach, Asbury Park Beach, and Point Pleasant Beach. These beaches offer a variety of activities for visitors, including swimming, sunbathing, surfing, and fishing. Additionally, many of the beaches have boardwalks with restaurants, shops, and games for kids, making them a perfect destination for a day trip or a weekend getaway. 

  • Try kayaking or paddle boarding at some of New Jersey’s picturesque waterways. Some popular spots include Greenwood Lake in Passaic County, the Passaic River in Essex County, and Lake Mohawk in Sussex County. Additionally, the Hudson River in Hoboken and Weehawken offers stunning views of the New York City skyline while kayaking or paddle boarding. So grab a life jacket, rent a kayak or paddleboard, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

  • Checking local events on Facebook & Eventbrite can also lead you to spontaneous and interesting activities you can enjoy as a family

Building Skillsets – school closings are a GREAT time to help our kids build critical life skills. Depending on their age and development, this is a great time to teach them how to prepare meals. You can start from snacks (cutting strawberries with kid safe knives etc), making pancakes supervised.  

Giving Back -It is also a great opportunity to give back to the communities we live in.  

Volunteering as a family is a great way to give back to the community while spending quality time together. Here are a few more ideas for volunteer opportunities in New Jersey:

  • Look up your local soup kitchen and food banks. Putting an inquiry in community groups can be helpful to identify organizations that may be looking for help.

  • In Jersey Cares, volunteers can help with everything from tutoring kids to gardening to visiting seniors.

  • In Clean Ocean Action, volunteers can help with beach cleanups, water quality monitoring, and advocacy work.

  • Volunteering at an animal shelter as a family is a great way to give back to your community while also spending quality time together. You can help care for animals in need, socialize with them, and provide much-needed attention and affection. By volunteering, you’ll not only make a difference in the lives of animals but also teach your children the value of kindness, compassion, and responsibility.

  • Habitat for Humanity – building homes for families can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. 

If budget and time allows, for longer closings (think spring break etc), it can be a great opportunity to explore new places that are within driving distance. Be open to stopping at attractions on the way, grab a meal and enrich your trip even more. If traveling with younger kids, it is helpful to prepare activities to keep them engaged in the car such as BrainQuest questions the whole family can enjoy. 

For working parents, there may be day camps by your local dance studio, martial arts or YMCA. It could also be a good time to activate your support system. Building relationships with local parents so you can take turns working from home or taking off from work and hosting playdates. Local high school and college students and even teachers may be looking to make cash and offer babysitting services as well. Being active in the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) is a great way to form these relationships. It’s best to build these relations and vet providers ahead of you needing the service. Your workplace may also offer backup care for school closings that is worth exploring. 

I hope this blog gives you much needed mental bandwidth to keep your kids engaged and will serve as the go-to guide for upcoming school closings and anytime you want to come up with fresh ideas engaging kids meaningfully. 

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This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.