We’re going on about a month of “social distancing” and it’s starting to become strenuous.

The hardest thing is finding something for our toddler to do on a regular basis. He gets bored being at home so much, and I can’t say I blame him. I’ve started trying to think outside the box for ways to keep ourselves busy without putting any additional pressure on our wallet. Below are a few activities that have kept our family busy while in quarantine.

Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve never been a baker, but I’ve recently taken to baking chocolate chip cookies. They’re an easy comfort food that can involve the whole family. My favorite recipe is this one from Joanna Gaines. I love that all the ingredients are simple. I watched this video, and it really helped me bake them right. They’re delicious and little ones of all ages can help make them. I take about five minutes before we get started to prep all of the ingredients, so that our son (he’s under two) helps me pour them into the larger mixing bowl. Also, I don’t own a mixer, and they cookies still came out delicious.

Here is the list of ingredients you will need.

  • cups brown sugar
  • 1 stick softened butter (left at room temperature about an hour, still a little chilled)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 bag chocolate chips

Dying Pasta/Rice

Pasta and rice have been a bit scarce, but if you’ve got a costco size bag of either, spare some for this fun activity with your kids. Especially for the younger ones, dying pasta is a fun activity they’ll enjoy and a fun toy they’ll have afterwards. The ingredients are simple.

  • pasta or white rice (uncooked)
  • food coloring
  • vinegar or rubbing alcohol

I used vinegar to make our pasta and it worked great. The pasta will stain if you get it wet, but besides that once it is dry it is set. I filled 8 plastic sandwich bags about two thirds of the way with pasta (about 16 oz) then added ten drops of food coloring to each bag and about half a teaspoon of vinegar. I agitated the bags for a few minutes (until the color spreads) and then placed them on baking sheets to dry. The pasta is a favorite in my sons playroom. If he were a bit older, I may have tried rainbow rice instead, but since he’s little I needed something I could clean up a little easier.

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Start a mini garden

I thoroughly enjoy gardening. We have spent the majority of our quarantine working in the backyard and I have found a lot of joy in it. Not everyone has a backyard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little gardening. This is a project that you can tailor based on your abilities, space, and likes so I’m going to make a couple of suggestions.

Propagate succulents for a mini succulent garden.

To propagate succulents, you will need to already have a few succulents at home. Start by gently removing a succulent leafs with a slight twist action and place them on a dry surface for about 5 days. I like to use egg cartons for this. Egg cartons make it easy to separate each leaf and they’re easy to water. My favorite are the Costco plastic egg cartons. Below is a picture of my succulent propagation carton. Succulents are slow growers, so getting to this point will take a few weeks. You can see that I have leafs that are new (because they don’t have any growth), and leafs that have been growing for a while. Let your succulent leafs dry until edge shows a little brown on the edge, this means you can begin water them. Keep the soil moist and set on a sunny window sill.

Simple Succulent Propagation Tray
Succulent propagation Tray

When your succulents have rooted you can gently remove them from the egg carton and carefully twist the parent leaf off.

You can plant them into a any well drained planter using cacti/succulent soil. If you don’t have cacti succulent soil, you can use soil from your back or front yard. If you’re soil is hard or claylike adjust watering to give your succulent roots time to dry between waterings. For example, in well drained soil, I’ll water my succulents weekly. In hard soil or in a container that isn’t well drained, I may water them as little as once a month.

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What if you’re not into succulents, but you still want to garden? You also have the option to grow your own fruits and vegetables!

Grow your own fruits or vegetables

One of the easiest fruits to grow are melons. They have a ton of seeds, they grow easily, and they’re easy to care for. You don’t even have to buy seeds. You can grow melons from your own melon fruit. Melons have become a staple in our house during quarantine because they don’t rot as quickly as other fruits, so we can buy one tomorrow and eat it in a week or so without a problem. For this activity you will need:

  • egg carton
  • melon seeds from a melon
  • paper towels
  • glass mason jar or other glass jar (pasta jar for example)
  • soil
  • outdoor space to transplant the seeds
  • water

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If you want to save your seeds for later use you will need prepare them for storage. To prepare seeds from a freshly cut melon you will need to rinse them and put them in a jar filled with warm water. Place the jar in the fridge for two days. The contents will start to ferment and the good seeds will sink while the seeds that won’t grow will float to the top. Once this is done, remove the seeds and rinse them off. Then place your melon seeds on a paper towel for a couple of days to dry completely. It’s important for your seeds to be completely dry. Once they are dry place them in a glass container (without any water) and put them in the freezer for two days. After this process is complete your seeds are ready to be stored. If you don’t need to store your seeds, starting them just got very easy. simply take the seeds from your melon, rinse them, set them on a paper towel to dry overnight and voila!

Now that your seeds are ready, fill each egg carton spot with soil and gently press one melon seed into each spot. Press the seeds close to the bottom. In 7-10 days you will your seeds sprout. Wait until they have two leaves before transplanting them outside.

The best part of this project is that you can do it this with a lot of different seeds. Use this same process for watermelon, pumpkin, and tomatoes. Tomatoes can be grown indoors on a very sunny windowsill. Instead of transplanting the seeds outside, transplant them to a large pot.

Egg Carton Tray with Seeds
Egg Carton Tray with Seeds

Our honeydew seeds sprouted right away. Here is a photo of what our seeds looked like about a week later. This tray is a combination of cucumber and honeydew seeds.

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