Children’s academic, leisure and even extracurricular lives are now entirely in the hands of parents throughout the country, and it isn’t easy. Here are ten ways, from our contributor Ashley Schafer, on how to keep your kids active, entertained, and educated during our extended quarantine.
It appears we are in this for the long haul, and even technology will become redundant to kids after a while. I’m a mom of two girls, Scarlet, 8 years old, and Violet, 4 years old. Having fun activities planned gives them something to look forward to and breaks up the monotony of being stuck at home away from family and friends. It’s good for us parents too. We can reconnect with our kids, and keep them busy without tech. It's two wins for one.
1. Throw an Unbirthday Party! The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland knew what he was doing with this. There are over 300 days in a year that are not their birthday, but who says they shouldn’t be celebrated?
Let the kids pick out their favorite food, bake a cake and have a dance party with a playlist they helped create. Throw up any decorations you have lying around the house, random balloons from the junk drawer, and party hats. Let them know that every day can be special, and it doesn’t take a birthday to celebrate their life.
2. Have a Lego-Off! Legos can be the bane of any parent’s existence, producing tenfold the pain to its size with a single step and always turning up under couch cushions or in kids’ noses, but they can really be a lot of fun. I promise. Challenge your kids to an architect-off where you design and build the home of your dreams. You can judge each other, assign a non-participant in the home, or even take it to social media and get friends and family to vote, but in the end, everybody wins. It can be especially helpful to the youngest kids out of school.
“Building with blocks and arranging things is a fabulous way for children to develop those fine motor skills needed for cutting and writing, and is a precursor to skills needed to be engineers,” says Linda Warner, who has an undergrad degree in special education from Central Michigan University and was a kindergarten teacher for 40 years, “The paper-pencil stuff is important for them to do because it teaches the self-control and discipline.”
3. Plant a Garden! Spring is here and there is no better time to cultivate a family garden. Seed packs can be found at almost any store from Dollar General to Home Depot and are usually less than a dollar. If total quarantine is your game they can also be ordered online.
Getting kids outside with their hands in the dirt, watching something grow from the tiny seed they planted to the tomato on their plate and every stage in between is exciting. It’s also teaching them responsibility, there will be weeds and watering. If you’re an apartment dweller or just don’t have space, herbs are equally delicious and can be brought to fruition in pots and even indoors.
4. Go Hunting! Themed scavenger hunts are popping up all over Facebook. Peace signs on doors and windows, teddy bears on front porches and hearts on mailboxes, find one for your kids to follow through social media or start one yourself within your own neighborhood. That’s what Flint resident Jennifer Mason did. “I saw someone share a shamrock hunt in another Facebook group as an activity for neighborhoods and kids just as we were all beginning the social distancing...Knowing my neighborhood, and also knowing that kids (and adults) need positive activities to focus on in times of stress and trauma, I threw it out to the neighborhood group and people responded.” She has now taken on the weekly hunt indefinitely.
If a large scale hunt isn’t your thing, you can also look to sites like Pinterest for indoor and outdoor scavenger hunt lists for something more low-key.
5. Turn a Favorite Book into a Play! Give your kid the creative license to bring their favorite book to life. Anything works, from nursery rhymes to the classics. Let them direct the family in the production.
Use what you have around the house for probs or put those artistic skills to work drawing, cutting and putting together sets and costumes. Incorporate music or switch up the ending, whatever they envision let their creativity soar. You could even film it on your phone to share with friends and family or take a risk and go live on Facebook.
6. Do a Puzzle! Something to get your brain moving from simpler times, a good old fashioned large scale puzzle can require many hours of participation. Sure, some older kids may turn their nose up at even the thought, but convince them it’s like Tetris on a table. Order or dig up one with an interesting picture and they’ll be hooked. Besides, when was the last time your kids actually saw you do a real puzzle? I’m positive the only ones my kids have ever seen involve cartoon characters and have less than 100 pieces.
7. Go Camping! It’s still a little chilly here in Michigan, so overnight camping is probably not for the novice, but, being trapped at home all day means you can day camp. Throw up a tent outside, either using one you have, order or even make and really commit. Roast hot dogs and s’mores, birdwatch, curl up in sleeping bags and trade scary stories, but most importantly, ditch the technology. Turn in the phones and tablets and television for 24 hours and go “off the grid."
Not a nature lover in the least? You can do all of these things right in your home, a stovetop makes delicious s’mores as well.
8. Get Cooking! For a lot of people, family dinners could be all but impossible. With long working hours, after school activities and clubs, sports and the day to day stress everyone feels, finding a time to make and then sit down to dinner wasn’t an option.
Since a number of us are at home and stuck there for a while, it’s a perfect time to learn a new recipe as a whole family. Kids are able to put their math skills to the test with measuring ingredients and there is definitely a science to baking. Not only are you getting your own personal sous chef, but they’re also actually learning on the job.
9. Host a Family Movie Night! Lots of movies are being released straight to streaming due to theaters, and every other fun thing, being closed down. Take advantage and make your living room a theatre, dragging out a comforter, pillows, and piling everyone together in front of the television. Wait until it’s dark out, and turn off all the lights. Start popping the essential popcorn and maybe even let the kids have a soda. You can make it a drive-in movie for the littlest littles with an empty box as a car, or for the older kids, make it an opportunity to introduce them to the classics or movies with a message. This way, important discussions are bound to happen. Whichever way you go about it, a family movie night is an excellent escape.
10. Go Mural Chasing! Don’t forget about the art! Just a year ago Flint was buzzing as murals went up left and right across the city, putting masterpieces on display for the entire community to take in. What better time than to see them now? There are plenty you can see by driving by or parking for a bit. If nobody’s around, hop out and take a closer look.
Kids can not only appreciate the beauty but be taught about different styles of painting, different mediums, you can discuss which ones are your favorite and why. Maybe even snap a pic of the faves and go home and try and recreate them yourself. Those murals were and are a gift to Flint, and they’re something we can still enjoy.