By now, self-isolation has taught many of us that things can escalate quickly, even our moods. If you are committed to getting fresh air, taking the best (and most basic) care of yourself, we have faith you and your family will be just fine.
We aren’t going to join the throng of others telling you our surefire way of raising your kids right in these uncertain times. Some parents are drafting complex schedules to minimize downtime while others are moving forward with a more fluid approach to maximizing creativity and freedom – because it works for them. Your process for managing this time is for you to decide and shape on your own, as you are the best judge of what is best for your family.
What we can offer, however, is an awesome list of ideas that made us feel joyful, playful, and renewed the minute we found ourselves present in them with our sweet littles. Big kids and S.O.s can join in the fun too!
Take it Back to the Basics
Paper dolls – I completely forgot I had collected a stack of these and have held on to them since middle school. Pages and pages of fashion plates printed on card stock, almost too gorgeous to cut apart. I found a few I was willing to sacrifice and appreciated the rest. The process was relaxing, fun, and completely exhilarating for my little quarantine buddy. She lost it on several occasions when she saw all the costuming choices for her dolls. We had everything spread out all over the coffee table and started inventing fun backstories for everyone: who were they, where were they going, what they loved the most. The best part – the TV was off the entire time. No one noticed and no one cared!
Making ANYTHING in the kitchen – Embrace the mess and let your littles choose what they want to make. If they want pizza for breakfast, help them make it happen. Explore ingredients and recipes together to broaden their palettes. Encourage them to take risks and to try something new. Make combinations that are complementary, but not entirely common. As with everything else on this list, have fun. Focus more on the conversation and less on the perfection surrounding the product. If it ends up being edible, that’s just a bonus.
Crafting your own playdough – The whole slime revolution took households by storm, especially if you have tweens. Take it back to where it all started with this doughy delight that offers endless options for customization. Some recipes for handcrafted playdough include Kool-Aid, hot chocolate, or ginger just for an added dash of delectable scent! One recipe we chose was even just a combination of hair conditioner, corn starch, and food coloring. We felt like we hit the jackpot when we tore through all our old vacation packing essentials to find all the partially used sample-size bottles of conditioner from hotels. But with no corn starch in the kitchen, we substituted flour with somewhat successful results. The conversations surrounding the texture and adjustments we should make was way more interesting than a perfect result. The additional great news is that we enjoyed making a manageable mess of the kitchen and were all in agreement that we wanted to try again with corn starch and the scented ingredients.
Build a fort – this was one of my all-time favorite activities as a kid and after all this time, the enjoyment hasn’t gone anywhere! And when the whole house is yours, the limitations and restrictions are minimal. Our favorite technique is to involve all the furniture. Scoot the sofa and the love seat together to make a comfortable pod, then wedge some brooms and mops between to create a taller structure. Bring the kitchen chairs alongside for draping with blankets, quilts, and sheets. Use scrunchies, binder clips, anything to help keep everything in place. Bring in some battery-operated twinkle lights and you have a heavenly hideaway! If you have the tools and means, an adorable play tent can be fashioned from canvas, PVC pipe, and ribbon.
Draw on the sidewalk – Pinterest has LOADS of super cool ideas, from coloring your own rainbow brick road to mosaics, to a sidewalk garden. Surprisingly, you can lose yourself in your own design, reducing your stress levels and developing your own artistry in the meantime. Our neighborhood has made an incredible show of their creations, bringing out yardsticks and painter’s tape to make everything look like stained glass on the concrete. In addition, families have started writing sweet messages of hope alongside their drawings so people on walks can feel uplifted. What could be more thoughtful?!
Color Together – Studies have already shown us that this meditative activity helps keep us grounded. While some results are arguable, simple decision-making, simple skill reinforcement, and commitment to self-control are all some of the benefits gained from borrowing your kids' craft supplies. We’ve all picked up a different pace since starting to self-isolate. Coloring is one of the best activities for the family since it helps you settle into something that can keep everyone captivated without the need to corral anyone. Everyone can pick their own subject or theme. Self-expression is a cinch if you have an abundance of coloring supplies and a printer available.
Challenge Each Other (in a positive way) – This could involve a simple activity like how many times you can you jump rope without tripping or stopping, how quickly can you do 20 burpees, how much money can you accrue on Jeopardy (collections available on Netflix), or who can make the best art created from found materials collected from your walk around the neighborhood. Good old-fashioned board games are always a great go-to or you could modify activities from this “Minute to Win It” list of games that use common household items. Competition makes us all work harder, faster, or more innovatively, creating the best entertainment for the entire family.
Learn Together – Sheltering in place is the perfect reason to return to that language you stopped learning. Even better, let your little ones choose from list provided from platforms such as DuoLingo or Rosetta Stone (free access through county library websites). Brush up on your Spanish, get back to French for the first time since high school, or develop an appreciation for languages like Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, or Navajo.
Class Central’s collection of Ivy League Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) lets you investigate and explore over 400 different classes. Content ranging from programming to health & medicine to personal development has been made publicly available. You can spend multiple afternoons looking through courses in the humanities to enrich and inform the fam right before you visit a museum together (see below). Take a literature course to help your book club take things to the next level. Or revisit a few classes in the Math categories to be more helpful as your kiddos tackle their distance learning from the kitchen table. Aren’t sure about quantum mechanics? There’s a class for that. Interested in Dutch culture? Regardless of your intent, maintaining a love of learning is everything we hope to pass on to the next generation. Model well.
Tour Together – The Smithsonian and many museums offer virtual tours to take you through exhibits from the comfort of your living room. Especially if you’ve been living on the West Coast your whole life, it’s fun to finally have an affordable way to introduce your kids to the arts and culture scenes on the East Coast (and vice versa). What’s more, it’s not just a national thing. The British Museum in London, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and many other institutions around the world have opened their digital doors to patrons. Imagine the conversations you’ll have when you get to visit Vermeer, marvel at Monet, and ponder Picasso together. The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City boasts 23 exhibit rooms devoted to the preservation of ancient artifacts, some from the Mayan civilization. Bon voyage!
Move Together – GoNoodle is a fantastic site for the whole family that makes guided dance sequences and silly secret handshakes a breeze to learn and enjoy. With engaging music and interactive singalongs from groups like Blazer Fresh, KidzBop, Young Dylan, Moose Tube, and more. Make refreshing and reinforcing classroom content a cinch with tracks like, “Never Eat Soggy Waffles”, “Unicorn Noodles”, and “Yo! They Got a Backbone”. Practice mindfulness with “Rainbow Breath” and a “Mood Walk”. Dig into some fun tricks and challenges in the “Brainercise with Mr. Catman” channel. GoNoodle is so much fun for kids because their completed activities help them level up their avatar. The site also offers free coloring pages of their mascot that you can print to celebrate their achievement.
Connect with Others – Organize a socially distant exercise routine with your neighbors. Offer to order out for food for someone else. Write letters and send cards to the grandparents. Download a multiplayer game with your colleagues from work. Video chat with your book club. Connection is still possible during quarantine; the effort and approach just have different looks. Zoom and Skype are perfect for seeing your sweet friends who are elsewhere while going in together on a mystery subscription box might be the ideal solution for helping you stay close to your true crime-obsessed sister.
Above all, we are in this together. Be patient and realize we all express our energy differently. Give each other space to rest and to explore. Make safe and healthy decisions. Reserve judgment when you aren’t as productive as you were before COVID-19. Hold each other accountable for being good humans during this time. All else can wait.