At the outset, it’s important for me to make sure that this title is not misleading. Let me be clear: we are not winning at this quarantine. Things are not going well by any pre-quarantine metrics. The wheels have long since fallen off and are nowhere to be found.
That said, we have had plenty of wins along the way. And in the spirit of leveraging some strengths, focusing on the positives, and sharing best practices, it seems like a productive exercise to share some of those wins.
So with that in mind, here are a few quarantine activities that have helped lift everyone’s spirits, given us something to look forward to, or simply broken up the one long day that has been March and April.
Finding New Places to Explore Outdoors
We’re fortunate to live in a neighborhood that’s walkable and has lots of green space. Even so, nearby parks, trails, and playgrounds have always been a good outlet for us – giving everyone a change of scenery and plenty of space to run and play. With the closure of those parks, we’ve often felt a little lost on Saturday morning at 9 am. And 10 am. And 1 pm….
But, we have had some wins finding new places to explore and to just get outdoors. One day this week we went to an Episcopal Camp near us that’s open for people to make a reservation to come enjoy the beautiful 143 acres. It was fun to have such a beautiful property to ourselves and a great change of pace being outdoors with no concerns about trying to keep kids 6 feet away from others (there were no others). We also have found some nearby neighborhoods to bike to – one has a nice lake with ducks to walk around, another has the street blocked off to allow more space for playing.
Since time isn’t an issue, no one minds spending some extra time biking or walking to new spaces that offer a different place to enjoy being outdoors. Getting creative about outdoor outings has helped us change things up a bit, get outdoors more, and stay active (while also following local and state regulations and being safe).
Chalk Obstacle Courses
Sidewalk chalk has been big for everyone during this period, but my kids have upped their chalk game recently by creating obstacle courses or bike tracks. We live across the street from a church, so they have a parking lot to play with, but there are lots of places to do this. It’s a total win because they spend a lot of time creating the course and then just as much time doing the course.
As some examples, the obstacle courses have spots to jump, instructions to spin on the line, a long jump, a sprint section, frog jumps. The bike tracks are just a long (often very curvy) course where they’re supposed to ride – think two parallel lines about 3 feet apart marking the course. Something about having that outlined track gives them a new focus when it comes to riding (for example, the entire time I’ve been writing this my son has just been riding the circle “track” that my daughter drew for him earlier.) Also, they like to personalize the courses and add themes, which adds to the chalking time and excitement. Note: sidewalk chalk goes quickly, keep plenty of buckets on hand.
My kids’ schools have both been GREAT about supplying lessons from their special classes (music, art, PE, dance, etc.). There are lots of fun activities, videos, and challenges to do. Yet, both of my kids have been unwavering (and passionate) about their desire to have nothing to do with these activities. In fact, for the most part they’ve led to the kids being some combination of sad and angry. My best amateur psychoanalysis of this is that it really highlights what they’re missing. After all, if you’re six, it’s one thing to miss reading and math, but it’s an entirely different thing to miss ballet, music, and PE.
All that to say, we don’t even attempt the specials anymore, but I did want them to continue some activities they love (plus there is a LOT of unstructured time every afternoon). So, we decided to start our own “extracurricular program.” Step 1 was buy-in, which has been hard to get for most everything of late, so I focused a little extra attention on the “launch.” I made a Google Slides presentation (in about 10 minutes), with potential activities and then played it (in a very ceremonious way) on the tv. The kids then got to select activities that they want to do for each “session.” For session one we’re doing soccer, karate, cooking, crafts and LEGOs.
At the beginning of the week, we have a calendar for extracurriculars, and Joe and I take turns “teaching” them. There’s a minimal amount of prep time, but it’s been worth it for the lift it’s given our afternoons. The kids daily look forward to their “after school activities.”
One thing we really need right now – when the calendar is almost completely blank – is something to look forward to. This weekend we have our second backyard campout on the books, and the kids are counting down the days. The first campout, last month, was a big success. Setting up the tent kept everyone occupied for a while, as did running in and out of the house to fill it with “essentials” for the night. Once it was set, kids happily played in the tent for hours. The actual camping went smoothly and was fun for all. Next time, I think we’ll plan to do a little campfire, eat dinner outside, and roast marshmallows to add to the experience.
A few other things that have been highlights:
- The Disney Family sing-along
- Michelle Obama’s Monday readings – this is the only type of online story time the kids have been interested in
- A family puzzle competition
- Story Pirates episodes, radio time, and activities
- Mo Willems Lunch Doodles
While there are no shortages of chaotic, frustrated, or sad moments around here, there have also been plenty of sweet, fun, and special moments. Hopefully some of these can help to make this time a little easier for you and your family. And, please share any successes you’ve had!