Texas families with students can apply for up to $1,200 per child via federal pandemic benefit program

As districts around the state and across the country continue to grapple with how to proceed in this unprecedented challenge to public health and education, the Houston Independent School District supports the nation’s need to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As such, HISD will extend its districtwide closure through Friday, April 10. All schools and offices are scheduled to reopen on Monday, April 13.

District administration will re-evaluate on Monday, April 6, to determine whether a longer closure beyond April 10 will be necessary. The district also will provide more information about online learning and alternative education later this week.

With schools and universities across Texas extending breaks or making students take online classes after the break, kids will be at home longer than parents expected.

Below are some tips from experts and from people who homeschool their kids or work remotely on a regular basis to help parents get through this time of social distancing.

What are some activities we can do during and after the break?

Here are 10 simple and fun activities you can do with items found around the house, recommended by mom blogger Laura M. from Houston Moms Blog:

  • Painters tape roadway. Kill an easy hour or two by grabbing some painters tape and creating a roadway. You can cart out boxes to act as attached garages, construction site playsets for the roads to wind around, and occasionally even a toy farmhouse for the trucks to visit on their routes. Don’t have any painters tape? No problem. A similar effect can be achieved with string or strips of construction paper. Just get inventive and have some fun!
  • Nature scavenger hunts. Feeling cooped up? Head outside and get your kids involved in a scavenger hunt through nature. Compile a list of items for them to look for like an acorn, a large green leaf, a yellow flower or a funny shaped twig and have your kids take turns checking them off. Don’t feel like coming up with a list on your own? Ask them to look for one item in every color of the rainbow. This not only adds an extra challenge but helps little ones work on their color recognition as well. And don’t forget to bring a basket to collect all their treasures in!
  • Build your own zoo. With the Houston Zoo closed until April, parents have to get creative. Have your kids round up all their toy animals and create a mini zoo of their own. You can use shoe boxes, toy blocks, or even popsicle sticks to separate the animals into different enclosures. And hey, if their zoo has a few dragons and dinosaurs alongside the monkeys and zebras, well, who’s to stop them?
  • Create your own binoculars. Got a few empty toilet paper rolls hanging around? Grab some construction paper, string and glue and get to work on a pair of DIY binoculars. Simply glue two toilet paper rolls together, punch holes on either side for the string, and then go to town decorating them. You never know, they might even come in handy on your scavenger hunt. And hey, with Easter right around the corner, have a little extra fun with it and make them themed.
  • Bowling with blocks. Find your toddlers and preschoolers are getting a little wound up and on the verge of destroying your house? Have them channel that energy into destroying block towers instead. Step 1 – round up all their building blocks and help them construct a few towers of varying heights and shapes. Step 2 – give them a ball and let them go crazy trying to knock them over. Guaranteed shrieks of joy and hilarity. Added bonus, they can pass a good chunk of time rebuilding the towers in different configurations. Don’t worry if you don’t have any wooden blocks laying around. Simply use plastic cups, Tupperware or empty snack containers instead.
  • Toy car wash. With all these germs raging around and everyone social distancing, what better time to spend getting things sterilized? Grab a few of your kids’ toy cars or trucks, some bubble bath or dish soap and a water table or large storage container and have yourself a toy carwash. And hey, if it gets those little hands clean as well, all the better.
  • A-B-C search. One fun game that both keeps kids occupied and counts as an educational activity for those moms missing the benefits of preschool, is an alphabet search around the house. Go through each letter of the alphabet one by one and have the kids try to find an object corresponding with that letter.
  • Treasure hunt. Whenever they’re feeling a little stir crazy, grab some sticky notes and write out a bunch of clues, each one leading to the next. For example, where does mommy take her clothes when they need to be washed? Where does daddy cook toast? We run around the house finding all the clues, and the kids always know there will be some small surprise or treat at the end for incentive.
  • Obstacle course. When my kids start trying to wrestle with one another and nearly take out my favorite planters, I know it’s time to do a high energy activity to get out their excess energy. That’s when I go around the house collecting empty laundry baskets, hula hoops, couch cushions, pool noodles, play tunnels, chairs and anything else that looks interesting to create an obstacle course. Challenge your kids to jump from one item to the other, crawl under tables, and follow the course from one room to another. It gets the wiggles out and makes for a fun afternoon of family frivolity.
  • Blanket fort. When all else fails, blanket forts. Seriously, if I ever need just ten minutes of peace and quiet, I haul out a bunch of sheets, blankets and pillows and construct a quick {or okay, sometimes slightly more elaborate} blanket fort. My kids will play quietly inside while I get ten minutes to myself to unload the dishwasher, make lunch, or just drink a cup of coffee and regain a shred of my sanity.