There’s probably not a mom or dad who hasn’t heard their kids complain, “I’m bored, there’s just nothing to do here at home.”
It’s spring break for numerous schools across Alabama, and the closure of state beaches amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has halted vacation plans and trips across the nation.
There are many fun ways to engage children and come out of the coronavirus hiatus as a closer family unit. The upside is more time to be with family, exercising and spending time at the dinner table, instead of running to and from work and social engagements. Positive things can come out of difficult situations.
Neighborhood scavenger hunts, kid’s contests keep families busy
In Trussville, some resourceful moms are working together to keep their kids busy. Amanda Gardner, whose sons attend Paine Elementary School, admitted, “I’m not a planner so we just kind of roll along when I can pry their devices away.
“We’ve got a teacher mom in the neighborhood organizing daily challenges,” she said. “They’ve done scavenger hunts and sidewalk chalk art contests. We managed to put together a puzzle the other night.”
With widespread stay-at-home directives issued across the country, jigsaw puzzles and board games were among Amazon’s top-sellers in the past month. Board games popular for family play – Monopoly, Chance, Sorry, Jenga, Connect 4 and Clue – have been in great demand, so much so that Hasbro is planning new products. Board games are available at many online retailers.
While some kids are playing games and videos, several Hoover Elementary School teachers have advised parents to get their youngsters to spend at least 1 hour daily doing “a little something good for your brain,” using these resources:
- See thousands of short videos on TED Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing.
- Create a free account to find lots of for reading at all levels at ReadWorks.
- See the art world through field trips to Virtual Museums and Smithsonian Virtual Tours.
- Hear celebrities read children’s stories on Storyline Online.
- Blocks Cad Geometry combines math concepts with coding.
- Check out Brain Pop for videos about academic topics.
- Explore with National Geographic Kids.
Let your creativity break free
With plenty of time on their hands, the break is perfect for allowing children’s creativity to flow. Encourage kids to spend time drawing and making handmade cards for grandparents and other family members sheltering at home. That’s a sure way to cheer up folks who must stay indoors for safety, including the immune-challenged, elderly and nursing home residents.
Some people find solace in creating and drawing. For instance, the circular designs of mandala art are relaxing. Locust Fork resident Sharon Cook finds mandala to be emotionally soothing, and it allows people to get outdoors and draw or paint, whether from a patio, deck or apartment balcony.
Some stores stocking arts and crafts are open. If you’re sheltering in place, you can order arts and crafts supplies online and have them shipped to your home. Or, restock your art stash without leaving your car. Crafts stores such as Michaels are offering curbside pickup. When your order is ready, the store emails a number to call for curbside pickup and employees deliver items right to your trunk.
For additional ideas, try watching videos by Kennedy Center Artist-in-Residence Mo Williems as he conducts a daily art project.
Settle in with a good book
Feeling restless? Now is the time to catch up on the best-sellers you’ve missed. A good book may transport you a million miles away from the stresses of life – and possibly open windows to energetic FaceTime book discussions.
The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is calling kids of all ages to take part in the annual spring reading challenge. Best of all, kids have a chance to win a mystery prize each week.
“In good times and not so good times, the Birmingham Public Library is here for the community,” said Floyd Council, executive director. “Join us as we spring into reading, right before the start of summer learning.”
Sign up at Beanstack website to log in or register. Parents can log the minutes children read to earn virtual badges, using a timer on the Beanstack app. All participants who read and earn badges through Beanstack will be entered into the weekly drawing. The contest ends Thursday, April 30.
Bird watching delights
Look around: spring is unfolding before your eyes. You may be sticking close to home but it’s comforting to know that nature is undisturbed by the human ordeal of the coronavirus.
“This time of year is great for birding in Alabama,” said Geoff Hill, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University and curator of birds at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History. “Hummingbirds are migrating through our area right now. You can put out feeders of sugar water and attract them to your porch or window. Sometimes they’ll show up within an hour of placing the feeder, because they’ve all been trained to look for red feeders.” July and August are the next-busiest months to spy hummingbirds.
Many birds are nesting, including Northern cardinals, American robins and Northern mockingbirds. Put a plate of birdseed on your balcony or deck to watch birds from a window. Hill suggests trying to learn the birds in your yard by listening to their sounds.
Find bird identification apps, many of which are free, on the App Store. The iBird Pro Guide to Birds app, for $14.99, has photos, bird songs and text about birds.
“Take a picture of a bird, pull it up on your cellphone and see if it matches,” said Hill, who began bird watching at 10 years old. “It’s the nicest time of year to hear the birds in full song. I find that the best way to learn bird songs is to trace the sound to source. Get a look at who is making a particular sound, and the next time you hear that sound you’ll know the bird’s ID without even looking at it. Start slowly with the most familiar yardbirds like the American robin, Carolina chickadee and tufted titmouse. Get a foundation of knowledge and build from there to the hundreds of birds that live in our state.”
Taking a drive on a quiet road is a great way to bird-watch.
“Bird-watching is great across the countryside of our state, and low-traffic county roads will take you to great bird spots,” said Hill, who recently saw dozens of species of birds while doing research in Geneva County. “There are thousands of miles of back roads in Alabama. There’s very little traffic, and you can be totally isolated from people.”
Socially distanced exercise: try the free Peloton app
Families can safely exercise outdoors by staying 6 feet away from others and not touching anything others touch. Go for a run or a bike ride on your own, or step into nature for a hike. If you decide on an outing at a local park and happen to see friends, wave from afar and keep going. No matter how cute the pet, keep your distance when walking so that pet owners and pet admirers stay safe.
Workouts may fall by the wayside during the coronavirus shutdown. Enjoy a free, guided workout with Peloton – the maker of high-end bikes – through the 90-day trial of its app. Classes include cycling and running you’d normally use with Peloton equipment, along with other guided workouts for yoga and high-intensity interval training. After 90 days, if you like the app, you can pay $12.99 a month to keep using it.