How to keep from going cuckoo while cooped up with your kids

You’re stuck inside.

Your kids are stuck in there with you.

Your palm is stuck on your forehead.

Schedules. Kids need predictability and structure. Even if your family’s daily routine seems “obvious”, it probably doesn’t feel that way to your kid. Post your daily schedule for everyone to see. If your child is very young, use pictures. For example, Wake-up, Use Bathroom, Eat Breakfast, Change clothes, Brush teeth, Virtual School, etc.

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Choices. Feeling a small sense of control can keep tempers at bay. Give your child choices, even if they are two things you want (e.g. “should I make green beans or carrots for our dinner vegetable”). Let your child have full control of simple choices- like picking out his/her own clothes for the day or choosing the family board game.

Check Lists. Another way to help your child feel control is to give him/her little lists to check off and small built-in breaks or rewards: e.g. Do 5 math problems, then do 25 jumping jacks, then do 5 math problems, then run up and down the stairs 3 times, etc.

Limit Screen Time. Yeah, yeah. That’s easier said than done. A good place to start is a “first/ then” plan with screen time. For example, first doing an activity that involves interaction and engagement (like playing Uno or Hide and Seek), then playing a video game. Or, first read a book for 30 minutes, then watch a favorite show. Remember- turn all screens off at least 30 minutes before bedtime (longer if possible), to prevent sleep disruptions.

Sensory Play. Kids desperately need to explore with all of their senses. It’s hard to do this inside, but you can try some of these ideas: fill a plastic bin with dry beans and rice and hide little toys inside; hide coins in play dough and have your child dig them out; smear shaving cream on the table top and have your child draw pictures with his/her index finger; make a fort out of blankets; pull the cushions off the couch and play “crashing” games; have one child sit in a blanket and have a sibling pull him on a slippery floor; have one child sit in a laundry basket and the other child push him around to find toys (or just have your child push the laundry basket around for clean-up time).

Chores. Make a chore chart, so that your child can earn screen time or other rewards. A separate chart for each child gives them a sense of ownership.

Movement. School aged children need breaks from their school work. has some great exercises. Spend as much time outdoors as is humanly possible. Make after dinner family walks part of your routine.

Mindfulness. Kids need to feel a sense of calm. There are some great Apps out there to help kids with mindfulness. Two that we recommend are “Calm” and “Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame”.

Author’s profile: Lisa is a practicing occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience. She currently is a partner at Growing Up Therapy. See for more information.