Anxiety seems to be the norm in these days of social distancing and quarantines. If you are feeling anxious about what’s going on in the world, you are not alone; in addition to fearing the contraction of the virus, losing jobs, shortages in supermarkets and concern for the future, there is the new reality of children and parents all being home at the same time, for extended periods of time with few distractions. In some cases, parents are working from home and need ways to keep their kids active and entertained so they can carry on with their business needs. This “new normal” can be stressful and lead to all kinds of negative feelings and anxiety. With a little planning, though, you can keep your kids active and find a little peace for yourself. Below are some ideas and suggestions that could help ease the burden of these trying times.
- Reading is great for all ages. Reading is an excellent way to spend time. It strengthens the brain, improves vocabulary and language skills, and prompts creativity and thought.
For preschool-aged and younger children, reading alongside (not to) your children is very beneficial for language and literacy development. Encourage children to talk about pictures, predict what will happen next in a story, and talk about what characters may be feeling. This will keep their interest and challenge their thinking skills. Consider recording yourself reading a book and play that for your child when you can’t sit with them. The familiarity of your voice will make it a soothing experience for them.
For older children, discuss the book they read and adventures within. Encourage them to dream of their own adventures and future. Ask them to read a book then watch the movie version and look for differences and similarities. Ask then if they prefer the written or movie version better. Choose questions to encourage thinking and discussion.
There are many excellent resources for reading, and other literacy activities. Here are just a few:
- Go Noodle is a great resource for games, energy boosts, tricks to help your child relax or just have fun. This is a big hit with parents and educators alike!
- Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems is awesome! Mo is a well known children’s author and launches live videos at 1pm eastern, to share his famous doodles with young children!
- #RGSTeachersLounge has a collection of 11 Reading Resources (mostly free) for children.
- Audibles.com is an Amazon company which has books organized by age group, topic and more. It is a subscription-based service, however, they often have free trial offers.
- Storytelling is a great way to connect with your children too. Remember the days of sitting with your family or friends and telling stories? When I was a kid we used to play a game in the neighborhood where we’d sit in a circle and tell stories of things we’d experienced, such as family trips or other adventures. Sometimes we’d create our own story. Someone would start with an idea, and the next person would add to it and so on. By the time we got to the last person, we had a funny tale that we all could laugh about and share. Whether it be sharing past experiences or making up stories, storytelling is a fun way to connect with your child and build memories.
- Share family memories and stories. This one follows in line with storytelling, but teaching children about their ancestry and culture is a gift they will cherish. Look at old photo albums together! I know, I know, we all have a digital photo library on our phones now, but I’m sure you still have an old photo album or two at home. Take it out and share your family, friends and past events with your children. Share stories about the people in the photos. Take some selfies and add them to the collection to make your child feel like part of the story!
- Physical Activity for all ages. While we are all doing our best to stay home and practice the new social distancing technique, physical activity is critical for both mind and body. Gyms may be closed but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage in exercise in a fun and beneficial way – here are 12 At Home Workouts to do with your children!
Take walks or bike rides outside (if possible). The fresh air and open space will likely be good for your state of mind as well as your body.
For younger children, watch to see what catches your child’s eye. Talk about the object – ask your child to name it, what they think about the object, describe it or even make up a story about it. For example, if they see a colorful flower blooming, talk about it, ask them what their favorite colors are, tell them about pollination and the role that bees have, talk about gardening, farming and other ways to grow your own plants – maybe start a spring garden!
For older children, this is a great opportunity to talk about “stuff” – what they are feeling, their concerns, their hopes, or whatever else comes up. For many of our young adults, this virus is causing them to miss out on a lot of social activity with friends. Proms, senior trips, graduations and more are all in jeopardy and they are likely feeling sad and anxious about it. Talk about it.
Social distancing is tough for all of us, find ways to help children connect with their friends. A friend of mine told me about her teenage niece who “got together” with a group of friends for dinner while still practicing social distancing. They all drove to a parking lot at a local park, parked their vehicles in a semi- circle with the trunks facing each other (and sufficiently separated). They brought their own food and drink, sat in the back of their SUVs (yes it was convenient they didn’t have sedans) and ate, chatted and laughed for a while. It gave them something fun and safe to do and their frame of mind was significantly improved.
Dance! Whether inside or outside, put some music on and dance! Be silly, it doesn’t matter if you are a good dancer or not, just move! Encourage your children to participate. Do floor exercises, stretches and more to fun music. This is an opportunity to keep your body in good shape and your mind as well, not to mention introducing your children to new music or old favorites!
- Enlist children to help with daily duties – good for all ages! With more people home and engaging in social distancing, it is likely that everyday chores will pile up. Include kids in cooking, clean up, laundry and more. These activities will increase their sense of responsibility, provide an opportunity to reinforce math and science skills (measure laundry detergent or ingredients for cooking) and it will help you out too. Who knows, perhaps your child is a budding celebrity chef!
For younger children make it a game. Have them count how many towels are going into the washer. Make sure the same number of socks that go in, come out of the drier (because we all know that never happens) and go on a hunt to find any missing members (read on to see what you can do with those mis-matched socks)!
For older kids, let them help you plan and cook meals. This could be a math and science lesson as they practice measuring ingredients as well as a science lesson as they learn about nutrition. For those picky eaters, it is a proven fact that kids are more likely to eat something they made, so let them experiment.
There are lots of cooking resources for children of all ages, here are some of my favorites:
- 24bite is a great website full of fun, delicious and easy recipes created by Christian Guzman, with a little help from his mom! httHere you’ll find recipe favorites like Cheeseburger Pizza and Magic Unicorn Chip Cookies. Recipes created by a child, for children that parents love too, you can’t beat that!
- Taste of Home
- Crafts! Of course, being a crochet designer and avid crafter, I could not compile this list without including crafts! It really doesn’t matter what craft your kids do, making stuff is fun and can build self-esteem. They will have such pride in what they made and want to show it to everyone, and of course, they will be busy and out of your hair while they are doing it!
Coloring! Don’t underestimate the therapeutic benefit of coloring and drawing. Even as an adult, if I’m very stressed, I often find myself doodling and/or coloring. When I was younger, I used to love to pull out my box of Crayola crayons (the 64-pack box with the sharpener in the back) and spend hours coloring. I would color in coloring books of course, but also enjoyed making my own designs and coloring those. I would staple them together and make my own books, with covers bound with old shoe laces…yes, I’m a geek!
Crafts using simple, everyday items you likely already have, is a great cheap and easy way to get children creating. Of course, you could buy craft kits, but when I was a kid, we used to make all kinds of things from whatever we found around the house. Mud pies, glue decals, doll clothes and more! Here are a few projects you can make with your kids using everyday household items:
- Straw weaving
- Sock bunnies (for those lonely socks we spoke of earlier!)
- Paper crafts like these fun alien spaceships!
- Tissue Paper Painting are great for making greeting cards too!
- 3 ingredient (food quality) playdough – no harmful chemicals in this one!
- If you do want to order kits, Leisure Arts has a wide range of kits and instructional books for almost any craft!
Teach your children a new skill! Sewing, cross stitching, knitting and of course, crocheting are all excellent skills to have and can bring hours of pleasure, produce practical items and even lead to a career (that’s what happened to me!), so why not encourage your kids to learn or improve their needlecraft skills? If you possess these skills yourself, you could pass on your knowledge and it’s another great way to bond, but if you don’t, no worries…. internet and YouTube to the rescue!
- Made to Sew has a series of easy to follow tutorials for beginners and those with a bit more experience too.
- RJ Knits will take you from yarn and needle and teach you step by step.
- Phil’s Next Kick has a beginner cross stitch tutorial to help you out.
- Simply Daisy has a beginner crochet series and my friend Rhondda at Oombawka Designs has lots of tutorials to help you out too:
Find all my FREE crochet patterns HERE
Yes, these are stressful times, but we will make it through the challenges together. Keeping ourselves, family and friends healthy (both mind and body) and finding ways to relieve the stress as we go through it will go a long way toward a successful outcome.
I hope this post triggers some ideas for you and provides you with some resources you will find helpful during this period of social distancing. I wish you health!
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