With schools closing all over the country in response to the coronavirus pandemic, parents are faced with the task of keeping their kids mentally and physically occupied at home. Here are seven ways for your kids to learn, stay active, and have fun while social distancing.
1. Make Window Art
Gather all the markers, crayons, colored pencils, and finger paints in your home and spread some sheets of white or colored paper on the kitchen table. With these materials, you can encourage your kids to make beautiful drawings and paintings. Suggest that they use bright colors that will make people happy when they look at the artwork. When their masterpieces are done, hang them facing out in windows where neighbors can see them while getting outdoor exercise or even sitting at home.
2. Read to Young Kids
While 30% of three- and four-year-olds in the United States attend childcare centers and private preschools, the majority of these facilities have shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, parents are now expected to care for and educate their young children every day. That’s where reading to your kids comes in. Storytime for preschoolers and kindergartners doesn’t have to happen only at bedtime. It can take place any time of the day — and the more you do it, the better off your kids will be. Experts say that interactive reading helps promote language development and literacy. Prompt your kids to discuss the pictures in books, guess how the story will unfold, and imagine how the characters feel. You can also promote your kids’ language skills by talking with them about the plants and animals you see on outdoor walks.
3. Make Easy Crafts as a Family
You may not have everything you need on-hand to make elaborate crafts, but you probably have lots of supplies you and your kids can use to create some simple and fun projects. Gather up empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes, loose buttons, string, ribbon, glue, tape, construction paper, pipe cleaners, squares of cloth from discarded clothing, needles and thread, and anything else you might have been saving to make crafts. Kids can glue buttons for eyes and string for a mouth on two pieces of cloth you sew together on three sides, creating a puppet. They can also cover toilet paper tubes with colorful construction paper to make pen and pencil holders. Even the simplest crafts keep kids’ brains busy and their imaginations active.
4. Get Outdoor Exercise
Just six states make physical education a requirement for grades K-12, but you and your kids can get exercise outside while practicing social distancing. You and your family can play basketball and catch in the backyard, for example. You could also go walking, biking, and hiking in your neighborhood as long as you keep six feet away from others at all times. Stay away from parks, playgrounds, and other areas that you expect to be crowded or that might pose a health hazard, since it won’t be possible to practice social distancing in these places. Outdoor exercise alleviates cabin fever and gets everybody some much-needed fresh air. The activity itself will help to boost your family’s mood and release the tension your and your kids may be feeling due to anxiety and social isolation. And if you have a pool in the backyard, don’t hesitate to use it! Swimming is excellent exercise, and a mild case of swimmer’s ear will clear up in about seven days if it happens at all.
5. Have a Family Dance Party
Although 350 million people worldwide experience some form of depression, many more will probably feel stress, anxiety, loneliness, and despair as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s important to your family’s mental and physical health to get as much exercise as possible during this difficult time. If the weather is too unpleasant for outdoor activities, gather the family in the living room or rec room for a dance party. Ask your kids to pick out their favorite music and add some lively favorites of your own. Break out your silliest moves so that your kids will be inspired to do the same. Dancing is a great cardiovascular workout, a powerful mood booster, and a source of pure joy.
6. Take a Virtual Art Museum Tour
It’s a great time for kids to learn about art without having to leave home. The Google Arts and Culture project is giving access to hundreds of museums from all over the world. You can take virtual tours of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the National Museum in New Delhi, and many more. Beautiful art affects the pleasure centers in the brain, teaches kids about other cultures, and inspires them to create their own masterpieces.
7. Make Your Own Play Dough
If kids participate in making homemade play dough, they’ll be even more excited to create new shapes and objects when the dough is ready to handle. You will need:
- 3/4 cup salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or coconut oil
- Food coloring (optional)
- Quart-sized bags, 1 gallon-sized bag, or wax paper
Let the kids help with the measuring of ingredients under supervision. Combine the cream of tartar, flour, and salt in a large pot. Then, pour in the oil and water. If you only have one color, add the coloring now. Stir the pot constantly on medium heat until the dough is thick and has started to form a ball. Put the dough into the gallon-sized bag or on the wax paper. Let it cool enough to handle and knead it until it is smooth.
For different colors, make balls from the dough and place one ball with five drops of food coloring into each quart-sized bag. Then, knead the dough inside the bag. After that, it’ll be ready for your kids to make whatever they can dream up.
Your kids probably miss their classmates and may be feeling adrift without the structure and routine of school. But you can help keep their brains and bodies — as well as your own — busy in this time of social distancing. You’ll weather this challenging time as a family and come out a stronger unit on the other side. What indoor activities are you doing with your kids to keep them happy and healthy at home?