With the Kids home from school and major attractions closing for the foreseeable future, this can be an intense and stress filled time, and it can be hard not to go a little stir crazy. We are all in for several long weeks ahead of us, but that does not mean we can’t make the most of what we have.
As the total number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, steps are being taken to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. This includes the closing of shopping centers, events, restaurants, and other places where people might gather. Many offices are closed or have employees working from home and schools across the country have closed in an attempt to keep cases low. All of this can be very scary and stressful but ultimately comes down to families and individuals advised to stay socially isolated and largely at home.
For some, the beginning of Quarantine seemed almost to be an opportunity.
Even just last month, if given the opportunity to escape from the world, I would have jumped on the chance. I was behind on my personal projects, I had about a million errands to run, my homework was piling up and my house had not seen a vacuum in weeks. I could not even remember the last time I had spent any real quality time with my family.
When the initial self-isolation suggestions and quarantine measures began to take effect, I, like many people, could only help but feel stressed by the additional pressures and uncertainty ahead. Now, barely a week in, as offices, shops, and restaurants have closed down, the dust has begun to settle and I am finally seeing the ‘vacation’ that has, rather unexpectedly, come my way. This is not to say that this is not serious, as it most definitely is and I urge everyone to continue common sense hygiene and social distancing practices and to please treat this with the seriousness it deserves. That having been said, I have some unexpected time to myself and I intend to make the most of it.
Please Note: These are very different circumstances for hourly shift workers who may be living paycheck to paycheck and small business owners who depend on their businesses for their livelihood. Please be sensitive to the needs and circumstances of those around you and those retail workers who are still clocking in day after day despite the risks.
Quarantine Time is Family Time
With two weeks off from school, we all have an incredible opportunity to reconnect and just spend time together. But with restaurants, attractions, and gathering points closed for the foreseeable future, many families are having a hard time. So what are we to do?
If you are looking for family activities to keep the kids from climbing up the walls and spend some quality time together, we’ve got you covered.
Fun Family Activities
While avoiding crowds and shopping centers is strongly advised, as is limiting your contact with other people, there is no additional benefit to staying locked up inside rather than being in fresh air. The virus is not transmittable over long distances and cannot be spread through the open air.
In South Florida we are lucky enough to be enjoying a stretch of truly beautiful weather – take advantage of that.
Go for a long bike ride, take a walk through the neighborhood or just spend time throwing the ball around out front. If you are lucky enough to have a private yard, make the most of it! If you do not have a yard, you may be more limited but there are still options. While most parks are now closed, many natural areas do not need to be defined to be enjoyed. Use this as an opportunity to explore local habitats, admire the natural wildlife, and spend time together. Kids not excited about a walk in the woods? Bring a picnic lunch! Throw a ball around. Maybe even cast a few lines in the water where permitted.
You don’t need to have a destination in mind to go out together. One of the girls I babysit, M, loves to ride her bike around the block. We peddle idly and chit chat about her weeks, or occasionally race to the end of the street. There is no goal in mind other than getting out the house and enjoying a nice ride.
So long as you practice safe social distancing and sanitary practices (6ft personal bubble, wash your hands, etc) there is no reason why you can’t enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine!
More than just streaming the latest Netflix upload or binge-watching episodes online, turn movie night into an experience! Set up a pillow fort (more on that later) and make all your favorite movie snacks and turn down the lights!
I’m a personal fan of sweat and salty combos like chocolate-drizzled popcorn or French fries and milkshakes. But DIY movie Nachos and slushies are also a big hit! If you are stumped for snack ideas, these recipes from Buzzfeed are a great place to start.
Turning Movie Night into an event helps serve a dual purpose. Beyond being a family bonding experience and just spending time together, Movie Night as a special event can also help transition kids towards the idea of movies or TV as a special treat rather than as a mandatory constant.
With the rise of on-demand and easy to binge series, too often we switch on a screen without so much as thinking twice. Turning Movie Night into an event may just help some kids to pause before reaching for the remote the next time they get bored.
When I was in elementary school, my family had a small pop up tent that we used to bring camping on occasion. But the tent spent more time propped up in the middle of the living room than it ever did outside. We would bring it out for sleepovers, movie nights, during thunderstorms, or even just because. I think my parents enjoyed the fact that our chaotic playing was (mostly) contained within the confines of the tent. We just thought it was awesome to be camping inside.
For many kids, blanket forts are ten times better. The girls used to spend hours building elaborate blanket tents and pillow forts in the living room or strung between the beds in their room and would live in them until they eventually collapsed under their own weight or had to regretfully be dismantled before the start of a new school week. The bizarre allure behind the novelty of a new sleeping arrangement is something that many kids are drawn to and should never be underestimated. Setting up pillow forts and blanket tents can lend a magical quality to almost any evening but works especially well with movie and game nights or sleepovers.
Here are a few construction pointers from the pros;
- Determine if anyone is going to ‘sleep’ in the fort before you start building, as it may require additional bottom padding and space.
- Use sturdy existing structures as much as you can; dining room tables, banisters, beds, or fixed wall mounts. Not only will this help provide shape and structure, but they can give an otherwise droopy tent considerably more height.
- Start with sheets for wall and roof construction where possible. The lighter material makes construction easier and can extend the life of your blanket fort.
Whether eight years old or thirty-eight, game night appeals to all age groups. Reach into your cupboard and see what board games you already have that you can dust off or look at what games are available to order in your area.
Classics like Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders are classics for a reason, but there are so many more options now than there were in the ’90s. While simpler games like Candy Land, Operation, Mousetrap, Life, or Clue might be a better fit for younger kids, games like Exploding Kittens, Code Names (PG), and One Night Ultimate Werewolf are great for ages ten and up. There are even more options out there for teens, just be careful not to pick up the ‘adult’ version.
Then there are card games, multiplayer party game apps, or puzzles. Never underestimate the appeal of a puzzle! I put one out at every family BBQ and, whenever there is a lull in the conversation, somehow people always seem to find themselves looking for that last corner piece.
If you don’t have games at home and ordering online is still unavailable, don’t be afraid to try and make your own! You would be surprised how creatively competitive kids can get when designing a game together.
Much like with Movie Night, turning Game Night into an event with pillow forts, special snacks or other treats is half the fun – so don’t be afraid to go wild!
Whether it is Skype, facetime, video chat, or something else, physical distance doesn’t have to limit your social calendar. The gaming community probably understands this better than most as conversations with friends, allies, and enemies routinely take place while halfway around the world.
One of my girls has been doing this for ages. She will routinely have one of her friends on facetime as they are both playing the same computer game. Sometimes they won’t say anything at all for ten minutes at a time, but they just enjoy each other’s company as they play, even if it is digital.
Various streaming services have even begun opening up chat features so that friends can stream the same movie or episode at a time and chat together as if they’re in the same room!
There are few more popular ways to spend time together than a cool new DIY project or fun craft. Whether it’s finger painting with the littles or making cool new lighting with the teens, there is something for every age and skill level, most of which can be done with objects you already have lying around the house. I’ve included some of my favorites down below.
There are loads of other great crafts out there but my favorites involve upcycling or customizing things that you already have. Both 5-Minute Crafts and Life Hack have made empires out of showing people how to do just that. 5-Minute Crafts on YouTube has a broader selection of project ideas, but for those who need more instruction than a 12 second video clip I recommend this list from LifeHack – ‘DIY Projects for Junk Around Your Home‘.
I wish I could tell you the girls I watch are budding chefs in the making, but it wouldn’t be true. And I know it’s not on them, it’s on us. Between homework, laundry, the dogs, and dealing with everything else that needs to get done in a day, it is just so much easier to go ahead and make dinner rather than deal with the stress and take the time to involve them in the cooking process.
But now, with schools out and restaurants closed, not only do we suddenly find ourselves limited to eating at home, but also with a surplus of time on our hands.
Take this time. Take it and grab them by the hand, put them in an apron, and teach them how to make a grilled cheese. Teach them to make a PB&J. Teach them to make pasta or cut an apple. Teach them to pack school lunches and peel potatoes and help make dinner. Make a meal together. It doesn’t have to be gourmet. It doesn’t even have to involve a stove. Even if it’s only a cheese sandwich, everyone has to start somewhere.
Try to make one meal together, every day, while we have the opportunity. Be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even late-night movie snacks. Grab the kids, get them in the kitchen, and make something from start to finish. Have them help pick the meal, involve them in the process as much as they are capable, and keep them around to help clean up. By the end of the week, you might find them making suggestions and contributing more than they had at the start.
This list from Taste of Home is a good place to start for younger kids, ranging from trail mid and PB & banana sandwiches to chicken quesadillas and microwave egg sandwiches.
For older kids, there are worse places to start than with Tasty’s One-pot pasta recipes. Most of these Pasta dishes have a broad appeal to kids of most age ranges (who doesn’t love pasta?) and the fact that they are one-pot saves everyone the hassle of a messy cleanup process at the end.
As may have already been obvious, my deep and abiding love of the written word started young. I was lucky enough to have parents who made reading a regular part of our home life and a library with a decent selection of kids’ books.
With everything that kids and parents alike are expected to keep up with today, taking time out to read together can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But I promise you, if you can make time for reading together, that time will never be wasted.
Spending mornings running around outside or enjoying a new craft, cook and make lunch and spend time together. And then, in the afternoon, curl up on the couch, or in your wonderful new blanket fort, with a good book and read together.
Read to your younger ones. Encourage your older ones to read to you or take turns. Just sit beside your independent readers and enjoy each other’s company as you each dive into your respective literary worlds.
If you don’t have a lot of books at home, don’t worry. There are thousands of free books available online, which I talk about HERE
Some of my favorite titles, organized by age, are listed HERE.
While I generally prefer print for various reasons, there is nothing wrong with using a kindle, tablet, or smartphone while libraries and other resources are inaccessible. Some authors, teachers, and even celebrities like Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen) have ‘story time’ videos available online where they read picture books for children who are stuck at home and missing school.
No one knows how long we will have to be with each other, and each week the kids are out of school is one less week we may have this summer. So take the time while you have it, enjoy being in each other’s company, and make the most of what we have while we have it.
Consider the potential risks involved in contributing to potential spread, if not for yourself than for others. Family time is a precious thing for many, but not at the expense of yours or someone else’s health.