By: Tara Kerrigan Hayes
These are scary times for everyone, including our children, so it’s important not just to occupy our kids, but also to find ways to emotionally support them. In an effort to capitalize on this unexpected gift of family time, (while struggling to keep our sanity in tact), I’ve compiled a list of activity ideas for indoors, outdoors, and even online, (gasp).
Let’s face it, the war against screen time rages on. So for the times you can’t beat ‘em – join ‘em, (literally), and explore the world together without leaving your living room. There are countless virtual tours and webcams, (both entertaining and educational), for kids of all ages with varying interests:
- Transport your family to Paris, France by taking a digital tour of one of the most famous international museums, the Louvre.
- Take a digital field trip toYellowstone National Park to visit the Mud Volcano, Mammoth Hot Springs and more.
- Scroll over the terrains of several National Parks (Sequoia, Acadia, Grand Canyon and others), with Google Maps where you can click on your places of interest.
- Explore historic monuments like the Great Wall of China.
- See what the beluga whales are getting up to at the Georgia Aquarium webcam.
- Check in on the sea otters via the Monterrey Bay Aquarium sea otter cam.
- Learn about the wildlife of Africa by visiting the African Wildlife Cam situated by a busy watering hole.
- Get up close and personal with Polar bears without getting mauled, thanks to the webcam at the Ouwehand Zoo in the Netherlands.
- Explore the surface of Mars with a digital 360° camera.
- Listen to NASA astronauts read amongst the stars via Storytime From Space.
Then abandon the electronics, (including your phone), and venture outside if you can do so responsibly, (as in you have a private yard or access to secluded outdoor space away from fellow humans). There are some great outdoor games with lightweight portable options (and carrying cases) like Ladder Ball, Corn Hole, and Bocce Ball. Amazon actually sells a “soft” Franklin Sports Bocce Set that can also be used indoors, which we discovered one endless, incessantly rainy day. Bike riding is another great way to enjoy the outdoors with limited exposure to others. For those without your own bikes, you can rent one from any Blue Bike station for a $10 Exploration Day Pass. Just be sure to wipe down the bike with Clorox wipes, wear gloves, and wash your clothes afterwards.
When the great outdoors is not an option, it’s time to go old school with simple card games like Rummy, Go Fish, War, and Uno, or dust off the old board game classics like Scrabble, Monopoly, Clue, and Operation! A jigsaw puzzle is a great way to come together, as is a few rounds of Charades, and it’s never too early to teach your kids Checkers or Chess. Or how to clean a bathroom properly, solely to teach them responsibility, of course.
Turn television into an ally instead of an enemy, by watching together, followed by an activity (i.e. watch Top Chef Junior as a family, then have a cooking contest recreating your favorite dishes from the show).
But for the parents still juggling work from home, not every moment can be spent on family activities. This is a ripe opportunity to nurture creativity during quiet time. To inspire reading, invest in a book series (like Harry Potter). Get little artists drawing with an inexpensive sketchpad and a set of colored pencils (or an easel and paint for older kids who won’t destroy your walls). A simple diary is a great way to get children to be still, and write. Or a hard cover book kit, which can be purchased online. Encourage little ones to write about their favorite family moments during this time, to be kept as a keepsake.
Or why not use this time to foster compassion in your children and encourage them to help others, by crafting handmade masks for donation, or writing heartfelt letters to be mailed to the sick or the elderly who can’t have visitors during this difficult, isolating time.
However we choose to spend these days, know that structure is calming during these stressful times (especially for younger children). It might be helpful to mimic a school or camp schedule. And when you feel overwhelmed as a parent, remember this is a rare opportunity for family time that can be either dreaded, or embraced… and our little ones are only little, once.