By Faith Christiansen Smeets
There is much to be said about the health pandemic in which we find ourselves and the many decisions we must make as parents during these unchartered days ahead. For most of us our reality right now, on the ground, is tomorrow (and for the foreseeable future) school is officially out. Children are home and you are home with them. Like my 6 year old daughter likes to say, “It’s like summer, but really not.” Exactly, but really not.
Unfortunately, this reality of tomorrow has parents in panic mode. Please, don’t panic…the kids will be alright. Though, this is not an article about how not to panic, or emotional intelligence, or tips on discipline, or even mindfulness during a health pandemic. This is just a good old fashion reminder that you don’t need much to show kids a good time or to expand their minds (even while they are social distancing and perhaps anxious). As history as taught us, children are resilient, courageous, curious, problem solvers, and professionally think daily without barriers. So, let’s put down the screens and let them do what they are best at no matter what- being kids.
After years of volunteering with children of various ages in underserved areas, being an aunt to many, and raising children of my own I was able to compile a list of random activities that can be done at home or on a walk with little to no materials/supplies. These were almost always very successful recommendations to kids with limited resources. I am defining success as everyone was occupied and were able to express themselves or improve on one skill or another alone or in a group setting. It is important to note, as we are unable to run out and gather supplies during this time, I have tried to eliminate activities that require much more than basic household items. One might want to add a twist or make it a bit more involved on the supply end, but I would suggest refraining and allowing kids to do their thing – let them do the leg work. In other words, kids are quick to adapt if you do not have ideal space/supplies and will come up with ideas for alternative rules or materials to make things work. Let them surprise you in order to make it their own success.
This is in no way exhaustive, but let’s hope it is a good practice in our unexpected new normal for children to do more with less. Welcome to the world of what my friends like to call “Camp Faith”.
-Let kids be bored. It’s good for their brains. I did the research, it’s true. It is akin to all your good ideas coming to you in the shower or in your dreams.
-Look at books or catalogs. Even if it is just at picture books, no need to be the best reader in town. Catalogs give kids the sense of what things cost and are in most cases appropriate for all ages.
-Find heart rocks – literally rocks in the shape of a heart in your neighborhood, on a hike, or in the landscaping at your apartment complex.
-Pick up things on a walk to create a collage. Display on table, driveway, yard, porch, veranda, etc. “Rainbow option” Collect one or several items per color of the rainbow to create a rainbow sculpture or flat lay. Glue items, display items, tape items.
-Wash the car. Don’t have a bucket…use a giant bowl. This is very easy to clean up. Wash your bike. Wash something.
-Separate whites from colors to do a load of laundry.
-Race each other or the clock. Run, walk, somersault, roll, bounce, walk backwards, whatever it takes.
-Make menus for every meal – per person. Draw pictures of each dish if that works better. This helps with meal planning or not and you can use paper or paper bags or whiteboards or napkins or post it notes.
-Make an obstacle course. You may suggest they use a timer and “try to beat” their best times. Inside, outside, around the block. All you need is space for this one and don’t necessarily need items/obstacles (Spin around 5x with your eyes closed and jump over a crack and don’t break your mother’s back, ready, set, go.) -Learn to whistle.
-Learn to snap.
-Make a secret handshake with each member of the household.
-Draw on yourself
-Draw one another.
-Make dream collages (Keep junk mail for a few days that has pictures if you do not receive magazines at home.) No scissors? Tear it out.
-Set the table – make it fancy or use paper plates.
-“Face the foliage”. Collect sticks, leaves, flowers, rocks, grasses, and create a face by laying them flat on the ground. (A good stick eyebrow is great.)
-Send postcards or letters (Classmates, assisted living homes, family, etc). Take pictures and send them via text if you are concerned with safe surfaces.
-Make a picnic. That is just eating anywhere outside on a blanket or sheet.
-Listen to new music. Make playlists on Spotify or iTunes. Introduce kids to classics or your favorites from childhood. Beatles? Mozart? Hamilton? Singing in French? Spanish? National anthems from ancestral homes?
-Humming contest. Guess what I am humming?
-Play dress up. Let them wear your clothes and shoes.
-Tic Tac Toe Tournament.
-Make shadow puppets.
-Play “Don’t drop the ball” Simply keep object in the air with a partner.
-Catch bugs or lizards and let them go.
-Walk dog if you have one or attempt to walk the cat.
-Make up a dance routine and have a performance.
-Stare into space.
-Write a Haiku (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables).
-Write a theme song for your family.
-Count change. Quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies. Let kids figure out “cash” and amounts. What makes a dollar?
-Make a list of goals for the day, the year, lifetime. Illustrate or make to do list accordingly.
-Make “Top 5 Lists” (Colors, songs, teams, teachers, movies, food, places to visit, etc). Ask why?
-Play with the hose.
-Learn to braid. Hair, rope, thread, grasses.
The list could go on and on, but the idea is you need little more than your imagination and a pen and paper here and there. Simply, children need little to do a lot and can create for themselves magical times during their new reality.
Report back. I would love to hear how your kids are doing and how they are using little to do more than anyone would have bargained for. You can find me making art in the desert and raising littles on Instagram @faithchristiansensmeets or email me at [email protected].
PS No really, there is no need to panic and no need to interfere with the games above. You can do this with little and they will teach you a lot. We just need you to be present and the kids will take care of the rest. Really, I promise.