Home design and decor | { 11 MIN READ | 2020-04-14

Self-isolation can be tough – especially in small spaces with kids. If you’re an apartment dweller, you may not have an art room to paint in or driveway to colour on with chalk. 

If there’s anything we’ve noticed about this time of self-isolation and social distancing, it’s that everyone seems to have rediscovered their creativity – and we’re here for it! 

Especially in small apartments, arts and crafts are very doable, can be inexpensive to set up, and will keep kids busy for hours. That’s why we pulled together 20 creative isolation activities for small spaces that are sure to keep our kids entertained.

With good old fashioned paper

kid laying on the floor colouring in a green dinosaur jumpsuit

If you don’t have a craft box filled with pipe cleaners and pom-poms, don’t fret! There are lots of crafts that can be made with paper and your kids’ tool of choice – like paint, pencils, markers or crayons.

Here are some fun and creative crafts to make with paper (plain, coloured or cardboard): 

1. Signs of encouragement – Hang on windows, inside balconies or on front doors for neighbours to see, or send in the mail to loved ones. It’ll make you and your kids feel good, but most importantly, you might really make someone’s day!

2. Homemade board games – Whether you’re short on board games or they’re missing key pieces, use boxes from deliveries or cereal and turn them into board games. Your kids can spend hours (or days) making them look great and can get creative crafting the pieces.

Tip: For board game storage, use a small, stackable Tupperware container and put a label on it so you know what game is inside. If you’re making one to replace an old game that’s falling apart, fix up the box and store it in the original packaging. Here are some other board game storage ideas.

3. Pretty letters – Have your kids send letters to grandparents, their best friends or teachers. It’s a great way to practice writing and so much fun to decorate the letter and envelope before sending it off to make someone’s day.

4. DIY photo booth – Give your kids a small wall in the apartment (entrance hallway, bedroom door, beside the TV, you name it) and get them to setup a photo booth complete with props using paper, scissors and tape.

Show them photo booth ideas on Pinterest, including what types of props they can make (paper hats, mustaches, noses, sunglasses and whatever else they can think of. 

Then, grab those Halloween costumes, props and a camera and have some fun!

Tip: Just be sure they know not to draw directly on the wall (and only on the paper).

5. Paper airplane competition – These are fun and can be creative, too. Tell your kids their planes will be rated on length of flight and overall design, and let them go wild!

6. Homemade bookmarks – Whether it’s with paper or cardboard, homemade bookmarks are a fun and easy way to entertain kids. They’re also a great way to encourage reading, as they’ll enjoy opening their book to a bookmark they made themselves. They can also make one for each of their classmates to send in the mail or hand out when they return to school.

Tip: If you do happen to have string, pom-poms, ribbon, googly eyes and other miscellaneous craft items laying around, even better! You may just need to help them hot-glue them on.

7. Daily drawing challenge – Help improve hand-eye coordination, improve their drawing skills and establish a bit of routine by doing a daily drawing challenge. Check out this list of a different objects to draw every day. At the end of the month, go back through and have them choose their favourite one. 

Tip: Create a small gallery wall of framed drawings to proudly display in their bedroom or on a spare wall.

Using old books and notebooks

two kids writing in notebooks on the coffee table

If you’d prefer not to have old books drawn and glued on, track down an old notebook you don’t use anymore. 

You might also have children’s books that are torn or missing pages, or have multiple copies of the same one. These are great for cutting out pictures or drawing in new characters to create a brand new story! 

Here are some ideas for crafting with old books and notebooks:

8. Show them how to make a scrapbook – Get together all your crafty supplies and set the kids up at a table to make a scrapbook

Tip 1: If you don’t have any printed photos around the house, order them online and you’ll have them in a few days. You can even have your child go through the computer and choose the photos they want in the scrapbook, which can also take hours (depending on how many photos you have). 

Tip 2: If they can’t find any photos they want to use, give them your phone or digital camera and encourage them to make an isolation scrapbook. They can take photos around the apartment and print them off to tell a story of their COVID-19 experience – something you’ll have (and remember) for years to come.

Tip 3: If you’re using an old book to create a scrapbook, help them count the number of pages they want (and how many photos they have), then glue together pages in the book so you end up with the amount you’ll need. For example, if the book has 50 pages and you glue every other page together, it’ll be a 25 page scrapbook.

Tip 4: You can use an old notebook for tip #2, even if there are notes in it. Your kids will continue to fill the pages with cut-out coloured paper, photos and drawings!

9. Set them up to start journaling – It’s good for us all to journal sometimes, especially when we’re in self-isolation and feelings of loneliness creep in. Whether it’s a “positive thoughts” journal or a book to write short stories or doodle in, it’s a great place for kids to practice writing, express their feelings, and get creative.

Tip: Don’t have any brand-new notebooks? No problem. Using the above suggested idea for scrapbooks, have them create a new notebook from an old one. Show them how to glue white paper over the old pages for their own unique and special notebook and ta-da! Good as new.

• Another option? If you have printer paper handy, grab a few pages, use a hole punch in the top left corner and tie together with a ribbon or string. Done!

10. Encourage them to write and perform a play – This is a great way to get your kids to read, use their imagination and express themselves! 

They can read a book, summarize it, and turn it into a play to act out for you (or present to friends and family over Zoom). It’ll be fun to see how they perceive and present the story!

They can create something from scratch. Whether you have one kid or four, have them write a script and act it out for you, complete with costumes, makeup and sets. Be sure to film it!

In the kitchen

two kids holding up hands with cookie dough all over them

The kitchen is a great place to get creative! Whether it’s cooking or baking or simply using objects in the kitchen, we’ve got lots of great ideas for the kiddies to get busy. 

11. Bake sugar cookies together and let them decorate – This one takes a bit of preparation and can be a little messy, but once the cookies are baked you can set them up with icing and sprinkles and they can decorate for hours!

Tip: If you’re working from home, set your work station up at the table so you can monitor how much icing they’re putting in their mouth versus on the cookies (and then you can “taste test” some, too!).

12. Help your kids create a “band” – Give them some kitchen tools like a cheese grater, wooden spoons, and pots and pans. Tell them they have to create a band name, logo and write a song to perform for you.

Tip 1: If you have an only child, video call their friends so they can do it together on video chat.

Tip 2: Make sure their practices and performances are after 11 am and before 6 pm so you don’t disturb neighbours (you may also want to put on headphones while they practice). 

13. Have them build a meal plan – put on “MasterChef Junior” or “America’s Test Kitchen Kids” and have them write down meal ideas. They can build a menu for a week and work with you to refine and edit it, then ask them in to cook their favourites with you. This might help them appreciate how much work it is to cook three meals a day!

Tip 1: Get them some craft paper and markers to create an official menu.

Tip 2: For a fun challenge, set them up in the kitchen to create a meal all on their own (with your supervision). There are great options for kid-friendly knives that help prevent cuts.

14. Mini marshmallow and toothpick buildings – Build bridges, “people” and structures, admire them, and eat them! It’s as simple as that. For a challenge (and so they don’t eat a whole bag of mini marshmallows), give them a limited number to see how many structures they can make.

15. Homemade play dough – With a few staple ingredients and optional food colouring, your kids can make play dough and be entertained all afternoon. 

Here’s an easy, no-cook recipe from Youtube you can try out.

Miscellaneous creative ideas

white rock with a rainbow painted on it leaning against a tree

Lastly, here are a few more small space craft ideas to keep your kids busy in isolation. These involve “miscellaneous” items that can be brought together to make something magical. Enjoy!

16. Make a time capsule – All they need is a box or jar (shoebox, cereal box, mason jar or any old box you have in your home). 

Have them gather photos and drawings, letters (whether new or old), mementos from recent trips, shows and holidays, and recent newspaper clippings. 

Once they’re done pulling everything together, look it over to make sure there’s nothing that shouldn’t be in there (like your debit card), and tuck it away in a closet or storage locker to open in ten years.

17. Create a collage – Collages are fun, creative, take time and look great! Plus, all you need to is cardboard or a box, glue, scissors and a collection of materials (the sky’s the limit!).

Use materials like old magazines, buttons, ribbon, fabric scraps, newspaper clippings, and whatever else they can think of. 

18. Produce a music video – All your kids need is a phone or camera and some speakers and the rest is up to them! Props, costumes, settings (whether the couch, bed, balcony…) and camera angles are all their choice. Then, they can learn about video editing programs or put it together at the end using TikTok

Psst – this actually will take hours and at the end, you’ll have a video to laugh and smile at for a long time. Win, win!

19. Pop bottle bowling – This creative project has two parts: setting up the game and playing it together. 

Have your kids raid your recycling bin for bottles and cans, and then decorate them with paint, hot glue and fun miscellaneous craft items. 

Once they’re decorated and there are six or more, have them set them up in the hall, find a ball (non-bouncy, for the protection of your furniture) and bowl with them! What a fun activity to do all together. 

20. Paint rocks – This involves going for a walk and collecting rocks. Just be sure to go with them and keep at least two arms-lengths distance between yourselves and others around you. Then, lay the rocks out on newspaper on the floor with some acrylic paint and they can paint fun and creative designs on them – like ladybugs, goofy faces and flowers.

Tip 1: Gather a few of their favourite quotes (from books, movies and TV shows). They can then paint quotes on their rocks to display on windowsills, side tables and in glass jars.

Tip 2: You can also encourage your kids to paint rocks with encouraging words or pictures (like a rainbow) and then put them back where they came from – like a local park, building entrance garden or by a tree (once parks and public spaces reopen).

We hope you have fun setting your kids up for creativity during these times of social isolation. We know it isn’t easy keeping everyone busy, but we’re here for you. 

Want to share photos of the crafts they made or recommend other ideas? Tag us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.