A Peoria Park District Facility

PlayHouse at home

To support families during these challenging times, the Peoria Park District and the Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum are building a list of activity resources to help support parents, and to help keep you and your children busy, happy, and engaged.

Stay safe, and enjoy this time with your children.

PlayHouse-produced Resources

Beyond Play: Big Topics for Little People

The PlayHouse recently launched a pilot program called Beyond Play: Big Topics for Small People for children ages 4-8 and their families. On Wednesday, July 1st at 1pm we will hold the next session of Beyond Play to discuss race and racism in our world. This program will include an age-appropriate story and activity focused on race. Register now to reserve your spot!

Hey members!

Looking for a way to entertain your kids and give them a chance to safely interact with others? PlayHouse PlayDates are a PlayHouse staff-facilitated experience perfect for ages 2-5. They take place every Tuesday at 11am during our usual Members-Only Tuesday Mornings. These PlayDates include a guided activity, a visit from an animal at Forest Park Nature Center, and ends with a dance party. Want to sign up? Email playhouse@peoriaparks.org asking for the registration link to the next PlayDate and include the name on your Membership card.

great lesson ideas from all over


Make your own invisible ink

Make your own mysteries with this color-changing invisible ink. It can be a the map to buried treasure, the secret code to unlock an imaginary world, or anything else your kids can imagine!

You sank my battleship!

Battleship gets scientific! Help your kids learn the periodic table in this chemistr-ific game of Battleship. All you need is a few periodic tables, folders, and markers to start the fun! What other games can you invent for or with your kids?

Start coding!

No time like the present to become a game designer! Make your own flappy game with these easy to follow directions from Hour of Code.

Growing Food in Water

Have your children ever been curious about where their food comes from? Learn more about growing vegetables by watching the roots sprout right before your eyes when you grow them in water.

Watch and Create

Watch the trailer for Pixar’s upcoming movie Soul, or another featured clip, and then use your artist or inventor skills to add a character or create a tool to help a character. These activities and some context for parents are from the Creativity Children’s Museum.

Messy morning baking soda

Enjoy these STEAM activities from the Kidzu Children’s Museum – four activities that teach kids how baking soda and vinegar react. And from Wonderopolis, and explanation of why they react this way (quick explanation: vinegar is an acid and baking soda is a base).

Plant some beans

Here are simple steps to planting a bean plant in your kitchen, from Peep and the Big Wide World. Learn more about beans with Britannica Kids.  And here’s a recipe for bean salad you can make with your kids!

Science experiment

Give your kids a fizzy, hidden surprise while teaching them about the Scientific Method. Want to learn more about chemical reactions between baking soda and vinegar? Here is more information (and a video reaction!)

Marble Run

Can you build a marble run with play dough? Kids will have to put on their engineering hat for this fun STEM activity with play dough and marbles. Try it a few different ways to see how far you can make your marbles roll!

Maker Activities - Bring Real Tools home!

Check out our PlayHouse maker activities here: https://peoriaplayhouse.org/make-things-at-home/

Sign and Sing Story Time with Communication Junction

Join Communication Junction for a virtual Sign and Sing Story Time this week on April 6th , April 7th, or April 8th!


Read a book with Dolly Parton

Goodnight, moon! Goodnight… Dolly! Join Dolly Parton every Thursday at 7pm for a carefully chosen bedtime story from the Imagination Library.


Start journaling

These times we are living in are surely going to be something for the history books. Encourage your children to start writing history from their point of view by keeping a journal! Read more about the importance of history through the eyes of everyday life from this New York Times article.


Get a library card

Peoria Public Library is making it possible for Peoria Residents to apply for a temporary library card on line, in order to access their amazing online resources, including audio and e-books, music, homework help, and research databases.


Alphabet picnic game

Imagine all the delicious things you might bring to a picnic, in alphabetical order. Check out Genius of Play for this memory game and more play ideas.


Reading (by listening) time

Tired of the books in your library? Audible has made all of their children’s books available for download for free. Check them out and let us know your favorites!


Write a letter

Write a letter thanking someone for something. It can be a gift they gave you, or just letting them know that you are grateful to have them around. It can be to an author thanking them for a book or a character, or a musician thanking them for a song you love. Want to see a model? Check out this link for some great thank you letters by famous people.


Adapt a fairy tale

We love fairy tales, but sometimes they can seem a little sexist, outdated, or otherwise irrelevant … Why did Hansel and Gretel use bread crumbs instead of GPS? Why didn’t Belle just tell the Beast to stop harassing her, and leave? Listen to Amy Poehler’s retellings of three fairy tales, and then pick a fairy tale to rewrite for the 21st century.

Create a virtual comic

Do your kids spend their days creating stories of imaginary worlds? Help them make their story come to life by creating a comic about it! Create your very own virtual comic using these easy instructions from the New York Times. Once you’re done, submit it to the PlayHouse Times for a chance to see their name in print!
Art & music

Make your own clay

Imagine and create new creatures with this easy clay recipe! All of these ingredients you probably already have stocked in your kitchen. Try using other things from your kitchen to add to your creatures, like dried pasta as claws or hair!

Draw with Mo and Jeff

Let’s get artsy! Check out these videos of artists showing their skills and learn how to sketch your own artistic masterpiece:

Mo Willems  | Jeff Hopkins

Design a superhero (or a superhero sidekick!)

This activity was inspired by a “Mystery Box Challenge” from the Children’s Creativity Museum – see more of their ideas here, and tips for designing and facilitating activities like this for children can be found here.

Make dinosaur garden

Collect sticks, rocks, leaves, and other natural elements, and arrange them into a place where the dinosaurs can roam! (Don’t have any plastic dinosaurs, and feeling artsy? Make your own!) Loving dioramas, and want more ideas? Check out this site for kid-friendly tips.

There’s More to Explore through “frottage”

“Frottage” is the artsy word for rubbings. It’s a great way to explore texture, and to get some cool ideas for new artwork. Grab a piece of plain paper – printer paper or newsprint – and a crayon with the paper taken off. To make a rubbing put the paper on a textured surface – for example, a leaf, the side of a tree, or a wooden floor  – and use the side of the crayon to rub. (If this is unclear, watch this video.) Explore your house or your neighborhood, and make a texture collection!

Want to turn your rubbings into art? Learn about how the Surrealist artist Max Ernst did this with this video from the High Museum of Art.

Make a puppet and put on a show!

Sock puppets: All it takes is a sock and a marker, or some fabric and either fabric glue, needle and thread, or hot glue. It can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Need more instruction? Try this. Paper bag puppets: Even easier! Kids inspired and ready to perform? Make a puppet theater with a spring rod and a curtain in a doorway!

Create stop motion animation

Use these great resource to help your kids create a stop motion animation video. 1. download an animation app on your phone – something like Stop Motion Studio (for Apple products) or ClayFrames (for Android). 2. Use these great instructions from Tinkerlab to make a stop motion animation. 3. Share your movies with us by emailing playhouse@peoriaparks.org!

Music time

Patchouli is a Forest Park Nature Center favorite  - listen to one of their songs here. Then, make your own music! For older kids and adventurous adults - here are the lyrics to Patchouli’s “After After All". Write your own lyrics for this song. Younger kids – make a music instrument. What can become a drum? What sounds can you make by banging spoons together, or banging on different sizes of pots? What else can you make music with? Get inspired by this kitchen percussion video from Marbles Children's Museum.

Paint while listening to music

Different types of music can inspire you to think, see, and imagine in different ways. The artist Wassily Kandinsky thought he could “see” music. Set up a work space with paint, crayons, or markers. Listen to these three pieces of music and make art while you listen. How does different music inspire different art? When you are done, share pictures of your art with us in the comments section below!

Musical selections: Duke Ellington, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Marching band music

Artmakers Rulebreakers: An art podcast for kids

Learn about Andy Warhol in this art podcast for kids: Artmakers Rulebreakers. You’ll hear from an art historian and Andy Warhol’s own nephew! Andy Warhol took ordinary things and looked at them in new ways to make them extraordinary, and he wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. What’s an everyday thing that most people ignore but you think is fun?

Cardboard dolls

Looking for a new way to reuse those cardboard paper towel and toilet paper rolls? Make your own dolls! All you need is the cardboard tubes, scraps of fabric, and any other crafty items you want to add to make your doll complete.
Outdoors & Community

Make a bird feeder

Reduce, reuse, and recycle to make your backyard birds a new home! Gather up your recyclables and any extra crafty items you might have to make it your own. Hand the finished product from a tree branch, fill it with bird seed, and watch the birds come for a visit!

Learn about pollinators

Spring has sprung, which means it’s about time that pollinators get to work! Check out these activities about pollination. How many pollinating animals can you spot in your neighborhood?

Transform your sidewalk or driveway

Get creative with these different tape and chalk activities! Turn your floor or driveway into an obstacle course, game of hopscotch, or even a checkers board.

Neighborhood scavenger hunt #1

Going on a walk is a great way to keep yourself active during social distancing. Make it more exciting with this scavenger hunt! How many of these can you find in your neighborhood?

Neighborhood scavenger hunt #2

We love these ideas for interacting with your neighbors while keeping a safe distance! Try this “Chalk Your Walk” idea we heard on Facebook. Chalk your favorite saying, your favorite shape or anything that is colorful and fun! Share this idea with your neighbors, and then go for a walk and see what you find!

Create a neighborhood scavenger hunt

Collaborate to create a neighborhood scavenger hunt! We love this idea from Johanna Christiansen in the Uplands neighborhood in Peoria: Cut a piece of colored paper (or plain paper, or newspaper, or anything you have) into a big shape, then post the shape in your window for kids to find while they are out walking. Share this idea with your neighbors. Then tomorrow, go for a walk and see how many you can find!

Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt

How many of these can you find in your backyard, around the block, or in a nearby park? If you can, take a picture of each thing you find. When you are done, share your favorite picture with us, along with any questions about what you found! Downloadable nature scavenger hunts     

Make a nature collage

Go on a walk and collect sticks, leaves, pebbles, and other bits of nature, and make a collage. (Hint for Tuesday: get some extras while you are at it!) Find full instructions, thanks to the National Park Trust, here, and more activities from the same source here.    

Adopt a tree

“Adopt” a tree to learn more about our ecosystem and the changes seasons bring, while practicing observation and critical thinking skills. Use this resource as your tree journal! Need something for younger kids? Try this resource: Connecting Kids to Nature. Want to make this into a deeper STEM exploration with your children? Check out these resources!    

Start a nature journal

Make your own journal with a stack of 4 or 5 sheets of plain 8.5x11 printer paper, folded in half. Put a few staples along the fold, making sure to catch all the pages, so your book doesn’t come apart. Then decorate the cover. Now use your new nature journal today, and over the next few weeks to watch spring appear. Capture the world changing every day. Do you see a tree visited by different animals, green shoots starting to flower, or birds building a nest? Include drawings, poems, descriptions, and the changes that you observe over days, weeks, months, or even years!
Phys Ed

Shadow Tag

Active play is critical to children's healthy development. Shadow Tag is a great way to play tag with a social distancing-approved twist! Instead of tagging others, you tag their shadow. Have little ones who might easily trip over their feet following sneaky shadows? Try playing as slow-moving dinosaurs or slow-motion giants!

Play like a champion

Play like a champion – at home! It might be hard to keep active while social distancing, but you can keep your bodies moving if you make play a priority! Check out these ideas to keep your kids active, even when e-learning doesn’t include gym class.

Yoga Adventures

Join Yoga Learning Adventures on Facebook for free kid’s yoga classes every Tuesday and Thursday at 3:45pm! Every class will have a different theme, and will be a great way to help your kids keep their bodies moving while safely at home.

Bottle Bowling

Miss bowling? Or just looking for something active to do inside? Start collecting plastic bottles now so you can try Bottle Bowling!

Play ball!

Get ready for baseball season (someday) by learning how to throw, catch pop ups and fly balls, hit, and toss. (And parents, when this is over, we look forward to signing you up to help coach PPD sports!)

Soccer Drills I

Keep the kids active while practicing soccer skills such as passing, shooting, and agility.   Practicing passing is a particularly good activity to do with another child while keeping a safe social distance!

Soccer Drills II: Individual Dribbling

This video will get you ready to get your kids ready for soccer! And even if they are not soccer players, this is a great way to get them outside, moving, and working on their motor skills.

Baseball Practice: Infield Play

This video will get you ready to get your kids ready for baseball! Learn how to field a groundball with National Alliance for Youth Sports.

Try some family yoga

Start with a few basic poses, like these from Pure Wow. Prefer working from a video? Check out Cosmic Kids.

Put your left foot in...

Need a little post-lunch work out with the kids? Check out the  BrainDance Hokey Pokey!

Paper Plate Tennis

Looking for an activity to keep your kids active even in the rainy weather? Try this indoor paper-plate tennis game! All you need is a balloon, paper plates, and something to make a net!

Time to dance

Glazer Children’s Museum made this Spotify playlist for families to dance to.

Meet Tony the Tiger Salamander

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB80CZ6IS3o Listen as Jessica, Curator of Education at Peoria Zoo, introduces you to Tony. Did you know that Tiger Salamanders are the Illinois State Amphibian? (Did you know that we had a state amphibian?) Learn more about state amphibians here and pick one to research further!

Meet a tarantula

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaKjgZBcUDg Listen as Julie, an Educator at Peoria Zoo, introduces you to Madonna, a Desert Blond Tarantula. Take a tour and meet tarantulas from the National Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, and the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo. Learn more about tarantulas here!

Doe a deer

Here are two ideas for learning about deer from Kristi, a member of the Peoria Park District’s amazing environmental team – a printmaking activity that teaches children what deer tracks look like, and a game to try and stay quiet as a deer.

It’s for the birds

Learn about birds! Hear the different sounds birds make with this great website. Seeing (and hearing) birds in your backyard? Learn more about them here. Inspired to make some bird-inspired art? Kids ages 4-18 can enter their masterpieces in Mass Audubon's 'Taking Flight' International Juried Bird Art Exhibition!

Meet Rango the Chameleon!

We introduced Rango on today's Facebook post - pop in and say hi! Chameleons are the only lizards that can see in two different directions at once. Watch as Rango’s eyes move independently of each other.  Chameleons can also “zoom focus” their eyes just like a camera to enlarge what they are viewing. Learn more about Rango and other animals here.

Meet Tank the Armadillo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEol2Ffa_wI Listen as our animal expert, Julie, talks about Tank the armadillo, just one of the amazing armadillos at the Peoria Zoo. Tank is a role model for all of us for sheltering in place. If you have kids at home, ask them to curl up into a ball and be an Armadillo, or pose like another animal.

Meet a snapping turtle

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpq50f8eTTQ Listen as Jessica, Curator of Education at Peoria Zoo, introduces you to Stanley, an Alligator Snapping Turtle. Learn more about Alligator Snapping Turtles and how Peoria Zoo is helping to reintroduce them into Illinois Watersheds.

Learning about animals behavior

This is a simple imagination game that can also be used to demonstrate animal behaviors. Go outside, and find a magical stick. Any stick can be magical if you decide it is! When waived around and the magic words are said, this stick will transform kids (and the adult holding it!) into an animal. For example, the stick holder might say, “Alacazam, Alacazoo, turn these kids into a kangaroo”- at which point the adult might start hopping around and the kids likely will too. Ask kids for suggestions of what animal to do next. And be sure to transform littles back into a human being or the game could go on forever
Ages 0-3

Pom-pom drop

Looking for a simple hands-on activity for your littlest ones? Try this pom-pom drop! All you need is cardboard paper towel or toilet paper roll tubes and pompoms, or other small soft toys. Ask your older kids to join in on the fun by adding more tubes to make the path to the bottom more complicated.

DIY Sensory Toys

Help increase your baby or toddler’s sensory skills using simple household items, things from nature, or bubbles to make fun sensory toys!

Tummy Time Finger Painting

Who says babies can't paint? Babies can paint mess-free during tummy time with a few simple supplies that you probably already have at home!
Misc fun ideas

Indoor Scavenger Hunts

Need an inside activity to get you through the rainy weekend? Try this indoor scavenger hunt from Chicago Children's Museum that can make anything part of the game! This scavenger is perfect even for the littlest ones who are still practicing their ABCs.   

Make your own Mancala game

Make your own Mancala game! Save an egg carton for the “game board” and then gather tiny items you have in the house - you could use Cheerios or paperclips or even find tiny pebbles in the yard. Find the instructions here! 

Learning Centers at home

Bring the classroom environment to your living room by making stations at home! Stations are a way that many preschool and kindergarten classrooms make little learning centers for students to focus on one subject at a time. Creating these prop boxes is an easy and fun way to keep your kids learning!

Housework Hustle

After spending a few weeks with everyone in the house all the time, make cleaning a family fun time.

Bake a chocolate cake

This chocolate mug cake will be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth, minus the mess! Find the recipe here to start baking right away.

Sensory play

Sensory play makes activities even more fun! Check out these activities that engage your children’s sense of touch in a unique way, from Learning4Kids and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.

Make a Pet Hospital for your stuffed animals

The Kansas City Discovery Center shares these instructions for creating your very own veterinary play space for your stuffed animals. Take good care of those much-loved pets!

Indoor Scavenger Hunt

Try a few mindfulness activities

This is hard, guys! Socially isolated, worried about your family and the world… Try relaxing with these two mindfulness activities from Pathway 2 Success. We think these are great for any age! (1) Dragon Breathing: Sit up straight, breathe in, stick your tongue out, and breathe out like a dragon. It might feel super silly at first, but it helps to bring the idea of deep breathing down to their level! (2) Mindfulness 5-4-3-2-1 - Look around your current surroundings and find five  things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Build a blanket fort

Using sheets or blankets, build a cool space that’s all your own. Need inspiration? Check out these ideas! Once you are done, share pictures of your blanket fort with us!

resources lists and links

Want more? Here are some lists of resources gathered by others. If you know of other great resources, please let us know and we will add them!

The Genius of Play

Sesame Street #CaringForEachOther Page

We Are Teachers

The American Alliance of Museums

The Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum

The Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum