Quarantine parenting is partly about figuring out how to fill each day — without relying solely on endless streams of TikTok, cartoons, and video games.
We asked staff at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to share some of their favorite at-home projects — for toddlers to teenagers. All rely on everyday items that can be found around your house.
PRE-K AND YOUNGER
Art All Around Scavenger Hunt and Photo Challenge
This project is in two-parts: first, a mini scavenger hunt of everyday objects, followed by a photo exhibition.
“One of my favorite parenting hacks, especially now, is moving forgotten toys to new and unexpected places,” says Liz Yohlin Baill, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collections interpreter for youth and families. “Many artists are experts at this — recontextualizing the mundane in new and inspiring ways, and we can apply those same ideas to keeping kids busy while helping them think creatively.”
Pick a theme for your scavenger hunt such as a color, shape, and/or pattern, like “blue” or “striped and square.” Move a few toys, or just regular household items, that fit the theme to new places in the house. It can be as simple as moving the basketball from upstairs to downstairs, or placing a kitchen spatula on your living room coffee table.
Search and gather. Tell the kids to wander around your home to look for objects that fit the theme and gather them together.
Power up the camera on your phone. With the objects laid out in front of them, this is your kid’s opportunity to discover what it means to be a photographer. Give your child your phone, and let them capture the treasures from your scavenger hunt.
“Shape, color, and patterns are key to early childhood development,” says Baill. “Have fun organizing the materials in different ways.”
Some photo shoot ideas:
Photograph objects individually and then arrange them into two different still life groupings.
Jump in the picture to turn it into a portrait. (Check out this photograph in the Philadelphia Museum of Art collection for inspiration.)
Compose something that mimics a painting on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s website. “My 3-and-a-half-year-old loves the painting Circles in Circles by Kandinsky, so he’s filled my phone with circle photos that we’re making into a photo book,” says Baill.
They can design a miniature world or “dollhouse” with the objects to photograph, like in this photograph by Laurie Simmons.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AGES
Reuse & Remake
Inspired by artists like Bessie Harvey who transform unusual materials into celebrated works of art, this project challenges your kiddos to create a sculpture with objects lying around the house.
“This is more about the making and doing rather than the finished project,” says Caitlin Deutsch, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s manager of family programs. “Allow kids to explore their space for materials, dig deep for inspiration, and discover their own creativity.”
To start, have the kids rummage their room, or several rooms in the house, to gather a collection of materials they want to use. From seashells to broken toys to their bicycle helmet to bottlecaps, tell them to get creative and think about how they can repurpose old or unused items. Lay out the materials on a table or the living room floor.
Choose a base for the sculpture. Whether it’s a large stick, water jug, or piece of cardboard, have the kids pick a foundation for their project.
Find some materials to help bind the sculpture together. Wire, tape, old twist ties, yarn, ribbons, or any other type of string can all help pull the components together.
Assemble into an abstract work of art. Use the base as a starting point, start attaching other pieces to it. If your budding artist isn’t sure where to start, give them a challenge. Deutsch suggests having them make a creature, perhaps even using a stuffed animal as the base. Ask questions to encourage their imagination, says Deutsch. Does your creature fly? Hop? Have 1,000 eyes?
Draw the project. Once their design is complete, have the kids use pencils, pens, or markers to sketch it out on paper.
MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL AGES
Sketchbook & Journaling
Sketchbooks and journals can do double duty right now, as platforms both for self-care and creative practice, says Lindsey Bloom, Philadelphia Museum of Art museum educator and coordinator of early childhood school programs.
“Older students are more independent and don’t need as much supervision,” says Bloom. “This is a space for them to collect their ideas — good, bad, and ugly — and a way for them to reflect on their day.”
Create a daily 15-minute routine. Have your kids take a moment each day to document — what did you see, do, or feel today? Invite them to write or sketch their thoughts. “This type of reflection can calm the mind and hone in focus,” says Bloom.
Choose a weekly prompt. To keep inspiration flowing, encourage kids to check out a new artist each week. Bloom also suggests using prompts. Below are a few of her ideas to get started.
Draw your earliest memory of being a kid.
Make a drawing with one continuous line.
Start a drawing and mail it to a friend to finish it. Artist Vincent van Gogh often sent mail to his friend Paul Gauguin.
Turn on the radio. Close your eyes and let your hand dance on the page.
Triangles: come up with 10 objects, places, or feelings that remind you of a triangle. Do the same with circles or squares.
Trace a shadow.
Look outside. Capture those colors and shapes into your sketchbook from the window.
Think of your favorite story, and illustrate just one scene.
Collection Re-creation Challenge
Playing off of a popular challenge launched by the Getty Museum, here’s an idea for the whole family: Re-create museum works of art at home.
“Use sheets, toys, kitchen utensils, whatever works,” says Bloom.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art encourages you to share your creation when you’re done.
Select a work of art from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Find a few objects lying around your house.
Re-create the artwork.
Share your creations with @philamuseum #PhilamuseumFromHome.