With the recent and rapid spread of the Coronavirus around the U.S, quarantine is proving to be a very stressful time for parents as they try to juggle working at home and keeping their children occupied and up to date with their schoolwork. It won’t be long for those kiddos to start getting stir crazy, but never fear – Dan Pegram, children’s author of Pop-Pop Airplane, How Do You Fly? has developed a great list of activities that will bring the whole family together and keep everyone sane at the same time. Here are Dan’s top 10 ways to keep the kids from driving you insane during quarantine:
1. Schoolwork: Continue your children’s assigned schoolwork. Most schools are providing guidance and lessons via the Internet. Just like the classroom environment, make this time structured and devoted to accomplishing their daily assignments. Also, create a workspace for the school-age kids equipped with a chair, lamp, pencil holder, crayons, etc. It shouldn’t be an all-day thing but only about an hour each day.
2. Engage Without Electronics: Limit their time in front of the television, video games, computers, and iPad type devices. This may prove difficult at first but if you’re creative this could turn into a blessing in disguise. Assign them simple chores to do so they can earn time on these devices. Encourage your children to spend earned time on educational sites only. We have all become increasingly addicted to our cell phones and computers. Spending more time engaged with your children during this uncertain period is comforting and lets them know how much you care.
3. Go Outside: Plan activities outside and show your children how we used to entertain ourselves before the Internet and social media. Go for hikes in your neighborhood or on local trails and look for birds and other wildlife, while avoiding people and crowds. Look up bird species in your area and then see how many you can spot. This could turn into a lifelong hobby. It did for me. You can also look for birds in the backyard or together from a balcony.
4. Arts and Crafts: Arts and crafts are perfect for promoting creativity and learning new skills. My granddaughters and I try to build something out of balsa wood every time we visit. I do the cutting and they do the building. There are numerous sites online for arts and crafts projects. YouTube art classes are great and age-appropriate. Pick a few and get started. It’s a great way to spend time together and be creative. Our grandson and his friends are coloring pictures for each other and putting them in each other’s mailboxes to keep busy and stay in touch with their nearby friends. I recently built three birdhouses and mailed two to our granddaughters. I kept one and we’re decorating them as a project and plan to share our finished products. Putting puzzles together is also a great way to pass the time.
5. Cook Something Together: There’s no better way to teach your kids a valuable skill than by cooking. Dust off your cookbooks, pick a couple of simple recipes and let the magic begin. Your children will learn about ingredients and through measuring will learn a little about fractions. Plan your meals together and let them do some of the simple things like measuring the ingredients, greasing a pan or setting the table. Spending time together at the dinner table talking about the day’s events, discussing this quarantine situation at their level and planning for tomorrow can’t be over-emphasized. This may be new to some but you will find this time very enriching.
6. Read Books: Reading is a skill that opens the world to youngsters. It’s also a perishable skill that needs continuous practice. During this time away from school would be a great time to introduce your children to some of your old favorite books and discovering some new titles. My new book entitled Pop-Pop Airplane, How Do You Fly? teaches children, ages 3-7, how airplanes fly and is a great book for stimulating inquisitive young minds. For the more advanced readers, chapter books like Elephant & Piggie by Mo Willems are quite popular. There are also a couple of apps used by schools called EPIC! and Raz-Kids that offer unlimited access to 35,000 of the best children’s books and learning videos so your child can read and learn anytime.
7. Write: As an author, I’ve been asked many times, “How do you start writing a book?” My answer is simple – “It’s just like having a conversation with someone and you’re telling them a story or relating some event in your life.” If your children aren’t familiar with journaling, this might be a great time to introduce them to this wonderful writing exercise. Journals don’t have to be formal. Any small notebook is a great place to start. Google search “journaling” for some useful ideas and benefits. Another wonderful app is Teachers Pay Teachers. This app contains printables and worksheets to help youngsters with simple writing projects.
“Our grandson and his friends are coloring pictures for each other and putting them in each other’s mailboxes to keep busy and stay in touch with their nearby friends.”
8. Look at Old Photos: One of our children’s, and now grandchildren’s, favorite things to do is drag out the old photo albums and have us tell about each photo. Children are very interested in what life was like back when we were children. They also enjoy learning about grandparents, aunts and uncles and the places we have visited. It is so much fun laughing at the old photos, the retro clothing and hairstyles and reliving fun times in our lives.
9. Make Some Noise: If you play a musical instrument or sing, this would be a great time to explore your children’s interest in music. I dabble at playing the guitar and love to sing. The jury is still out on the quality of the noise coming from my office from time to time! Impromptu singing with a wooden spoon or microphone with my audio amplifier entertains our granddaughters for hours. YouTube has an endless assortment of lessons for any instrument including vocals. Again, casting inhibition aside, jump in and have some family fun.
10. Stay Calm: This is an unprecedented time for all of us. Remain calm, stay informed and educate your children as to why we are practicing social distancing and staying at home. Emphasize to them how important good hygiene habits are and why most everything we used to do has been curtailed (including playdates). Ensure your children these life-changing times will be over soon and things will go back to near normal. With the exception of being quarantined, try to make each day routine and spend as much quality time together as possible. I hope the above tips and ideas will help you and your children get through the next few weeks and come together as stronger families. By following the guidance given by national health officials and local authorities we all will be smarter individually and as a nation in regard to combating unexpected and dangerous health hazards and pandemics.