COVID-19: How to Keep Your Children Entertained at Home

Needoh, a popular stress ball
With many families stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, our Advisory Board member Ashley Browning offers the best toys and games to keep kids occupied.

By: Sydney Manning

Ashley Browning is an Advisory Board member for Southwest Metro Magazine and a toy sales rep for Minnesota and the Dakotas. Below she gives recommendations to help entertain kids at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: Southwest Metro Coronavirus Resource Guide

Southwest Metro Magazine: What types of toys/games are you selling a lot of right now in light of the situation?

Ashley Browning: My biggest seller right now has to be puzzles! So far my puzzle lines that I represent are still able to ship. I have friends that have never done puzzles that are now doing them with their spouses or entire family. Games tend to be classics that the whole family can play (Monolopy, Risk, Candyland, Clue) and some newer ones including The Genius Square, Dog Crimes, Invasion of the Cow Snatchers.

SWM: What types of items do you recommend for keeping kids and families occupied?

AB: We have also played Genius Square many times. If the weather is nice, sidewalk chalk has been fun to see around our neighborhood. MadLibs, arts and crafts like Latch Kits, DoADot markers, sketchbooks, rock painting, Legos and books of course! For stress relief, I like to use the Buddha Board!

SWM: Do you recommend any educational products to augment school-at-home activities?

AB: There are a lot of items that are great for educational at home activities. I sell a line of books that are wipe-clean with different categories from tracing numbers and letters, sight words, first words, math and fun dot to dot. One popular item I sell is called Magnatab from Playmonster. These “tablets” help kids practice writing letters and numbers. Science kits are also fun while being educational. Marble runs are great for cause and effect experiments. Many of the local toy stores are still providing curb-side pick-up and delivery. They are a good resource to call to get recommendations!

SWM: What about children with autism or sensory concerns? Do you recommend products for them to use at home?

AB: There are so many options. I’m not an expert, but things that I’m familiar with include Hoberman Spheres, some cooperative games (ThinkFun has some nice selections of cooperative games and singular player brain teasers), Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, lots of sensory “squishy” items including a popular stress ball called Needoh.

SWM: Are there some fun outdoor games/toys that readers should consider?

AB: Sidewalk chalk, stomp rockets, Nerf guns and balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, kites, skateboards, scooters, bikes.

SWM: What type of businesses do you sell to?

AB: I sell to toy stores, gift stores, hospital gift shops, bookstores, and drug stores. (Goodthings, Grey Duck Toys & Games, Patina, all the local toy stores in the Twin Cities)

An Escape the Room game

SWM: What type of games do you suggest for a “family game night?”

AB: 5 Second Rule is a fun one for all ages! Ellen DeGeneres plays this on her show from time to time! Rummikub is one I just learned and I really like it (ages 8+), I have ALWAYS loved Balderdash! There are some really great Escape the Room games from ThinkFun and Escape Puzzles from Ravensburger. Haba has a long list of games from toddler to adult (First Orchard, Animal Upon Animal, Unicorn Glitterluck Cloud Stacking, Rhino Hero - my favorite – it’s a card stacking game.)

She then ended by saying, “I feel that games and puzzles are a nice way for us to reconnect as families. It’s not just the game or puzzle we are doing, it’s the conversations that are taking place while we are together.”