The lifestyles of most American families look drastically different now than they did a month ago. We're spending more time in our homes with our immediate family, and we can't "just go..." or "run out and grab..." like usual. Below are the things we've ordered from Amazon that have most improved our lives while we're staying home and social distancing.
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I spied this in my friend’s lap on a recent Zoom call. Not sure how I missed this magic invention, but this collapsible silicon bowl pops popcorn kernels in the microwave with just a little oil. My friend also adds a few shakes of a dry Ranch dressing packet.
I use my local library as much as possible, but need other options now with libraries closed. Kristie recommended the book The Pumpkin Plan so I signed up for my free trial of Amazon's Audible membership and I’ve been listening to the book on my phone (when I run, when I’m cleaning up, when I’m getting ready in the morning). Kristie’s husband loves Audible, and I’m starting to see why. Having a library on my phone is really convenient.
3. Card & dice games that appeal to all ages
With boys and girls of different ages in our household, it can be a struggle to agree on a family game. We ordered the dice game Tenzi after playing it with some friends (and we ordered the version that comes with the 77 Ways to Play Tenzi cards to make it more interesting). It was a hit with both the 6-year-old and the 12-year-old, and you can flex how long the game lasts. Other fun family card game favorites in our house: Dutch Blitz (fast-moving game for up to four or get the expansion pack for up to eight people) and Sleeping Queens (a favorite for elementary-age kids).
4. Aerobies & Kites
Even with social distancing, my goal is to get our family outside every day if weather permits. There are some affordable options on Amazon to add outdoor options for kids. My boys have been asking for Aerobie frisbees for awhile, and now’s the perfect time, so they’re ordered and on their way (Easter gift!). We also found an old kite in the garage with a stripped down stick taking the place of the original rod. It has a little life left, but the kids had a blast with it the other day so I’m shopping for a couple new kites as another outdoor activities we can do from a distance.
5. Art Supplies
Our school-at-home routine includes related arts time each day. Sometimes it’s practicing piano (or cello for my sixth grader because I’m paying on that thing every month still!) and sometimes it’s art. My sons aren’t super into art, so I tried to get creative. There are all kinds of free art videos on YouTube, and Facebook lives are popping up to guide art projects. I bought a new 40-pack of markers to make notes to mail out, modeling clay, some watercolor paper and brushes, and a pack of colorful card stock. They've tried Art for Kids Hub on YouTube and Cincinnati-based McHarper Manor's Facebook live art tutorials.
My daughter was excited about the art supplies, and my sons not so much. But they've had fun. Exhibit A: the squid created by my 12-year-old. The modeling clay I bought (and the link above) NEVER dries out.
6. Pantry Organizers
A lot of families are taking advantage of time at home to do some home improvement projects. One small update that made a big difference was a clean-out of our coffee mug pantry. We donated quite a few that we don’t use anymore and added pantry organizer shelf from Amazon as a second tier. My OCD heart feels happier just looking at it now (and I’m not afraid it will topple like a losing gaming of Jenga when I grab a mug in my morning stupor.)
7. Ways to bring outdoor play indoors
Turns out it's really hard to replicate at home the amount of physical activity my kids get during typical school days. They're walking to the bus stop and around the school building, then playing at recess and probably going to soccer practice in the evening.
We try to get outside every day, but sometimes we need to bring the outdoor play inside just to move around more. Our indoor mini basketball hoop gets play every day. We got ours through our boys' Upward basketball league a few years ago, but this mini basketball hoop is a similar size and gets great reviews.
Kristie's boys pitched a tent inside for National Camp at Home Day last week, and we're planning to do the same one night soon because it sounds so fun. We have a couple three-person tents in our crawl space. Our two sons sleep in one when we go camping and leave the rest of us in the family tent. But for now it works great for camping with movies and popcorn in the front living room. If you don't have one, grab this Coleman 3-person tent on Amazon for $50. I got mine as a high school graduation present and it's still going!
8. Norwex Cleaning Cloths
With limited paper and cleaning supplies in stores, I’m leaning heavily on my Norwex cleaning cloths. These cloths are designed to disinfect without chemicals or cleaners. The Enviro Cloth works great for the kitchen table and counters, and the Window Cloth is the best way I've ever found to clean my stainless appliances with no streaks. I like to buy my Norwex from people who sell it locally when I can, but Amazon also sells it.
9. Spray That Makes All Bad Smells Disappear
I stumbled on this gem in the store where I buy my running shoes. Developed to eliminate smells in disgusting hockey bags, this Sweat X Extreme Odor Eliminator spray works magic. It smells like nothing and makes bathrooms and shoes and sports bags smell like nothing, which is the whole point.
10. Amazon Fire Stick
There are all kinds of things available on the phone that would be great to see full screen on the TV, and the Amazon Fire Stick makes that happen. We stream YouTube videos, workouts from Facebook and the Peleton app, and our Sunday church service to any TV in the house without trying to fight with a clunky smart TV browser. It also means we can watch Hulu, Netflix or other streaming services we pay for on the not-smart TV in our basement.
Full disclosure, we actually have a Google Chromecast at my house (sorry Amazon, I still love you😘), but it's basically the same thing--and Kristie's family uses the Fire Stick.
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