This week was, without question, the strangest, most unexpected, and unpredictable week I can recall in my lifetime.
Social distancing is mandatory as a way to slow the spread of coronavirus as it was also declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Schools throughout the Metroplex have extended Spring Breaks and many have returned to remote learning. A 14-day or longer period of isolation is no joke for parents who are all too familiar with the challenge of keeping kids engaged.
Here are five ways to keep your kids spirits high, while also learning together as a family.
Follow a Live Cam:
The Dallas Zoo may be temporarily closed as a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, but you can always see your favorite animals via live cam from around the globe. With places like explore.org your family can see gaze at gorillas, manatees, dolphins, penguins, and hummingbirds. Nothing will soothe you quite like watching animals play, explore and eat in their natural habitat. Have your child write down five fun facts, take a quick quiz, or conduct additional research and present it to you over dinner. Be sure to follow the Dallas zoo’s website for updates on when they’re-open to the public.
Assemble a New Puzzle
Our Spring Break included a quick get-a-way for my husband and me. My mother-in-law engaged our son with a puzzle. We decided to keep the streak going and put out another puzzle, this one a little more difficult for the varying ages in our household. We all enjoyed walking past and trying a new section. As a bonus you can stream a podcast via BBC earth where you can listen to 20 minute podcasts focusing on science and nature, or Home of the Brave podcast, taking you on a three part series on grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, while you puzzle over the pieces and learn something new.
Build an Indoor Reading Nook:
Arranging a few chairs topped with blankets is an easy way to make reading even more fun. Encourage your kids to grab a favorite book, fill the fort with pillows and a few flashlights to make the activity feel special.
Exercises in a Jar
These are stressful times. Why not encourage your family to move and have some laughs at the same time. Write your favorite or funniest exercises on small pieces of paper and place them in a jar. Take turns selecting one and trying it. Some examples for younger ones include: bear walk, lobster crawl, walk like an elephant, and dance like a monkey. Older kiddos will enjoy burpees, push ups, jumping jacks, and sit ups. If you’re looking for something a little calmer, check out YouTube for a free yoga sesh your toddlers our personal fav is yoga for kids for our younger set and Wanderlust for teens to enjoy.
Get out and explore your local running path or hiking trail:
Why not make a list of things to look for and cross them off as you set out on a hike. Encourage your kiddos to look, smell and enjoy but leave things where they are. Challenge them to see how many types of moving creatures they can spy (think bugs, squirrels and birds) types of leaves and flowers.
A few places to explore: Texas Buckeye Trail, Spring Creek Forest Trail, Cedar Ridge Preserve and Lower Wetland Cells.
Enjoy the Night Sky
When was the last time you looked through a telescope? Warmer weather and clear nighttime skies offer an opportunity far from your tv screen to learn about the heavens. Don’t own a telescope? No worries! Your phone likely has a free astronomy app such as Heavens-Above, SkyView Lite, Nightshift: Stargazing & Astronomy-many use your smartphone’s gyroscope and compass to determine what you can observe in the night sky.
Take this adventure one step further and camp in your backyard. Just pitching a tent, roasting marshmallows, and telling stories around the fire will be a happy memory for your kids during what otherwise is a really difficult time.
These past few weeks have been an important reminder for me that I can only control what I can control. Rather than focus on the negatives of social distancing, we can choose to make the best of a bad situation, creating fun family activities, and modeling for our children how we respond when the going gets tough.
Here is wishing you and yours safety and good health as we navigate this global health crisis.