How to Keep Kids Engaged and Active While Social Distancing
Guest blog from Teddy DeRosa, our Director of Public Relations, Social Media, and Sponsorships, who is also a mom to a 1 ½ year-old and a 3 ½ year-old.
I’d like to start out by saying - I’m not a teacher.
I got my bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, then got my master’s degree in public relations. Part of my job as a PR professional is to positively optimize every situation, so since my kids are home from daycare and preschool during a very stressful and abnormal time, I’ve come up with a few ways to keep their brains engaged and try to keep some sort of structure.
CIRCLE TIME OR STORY TIME
This is a great activity to do to start the day, and really, there is no wrong way to do it. Grab some books, think of a fun song to sing, and get their brains amped up for the day. The best part is you can all still be in your pajamas. I’ve included some of my favorite books below:
I love this book for a few reasons: the illustrations are incredible, the storyline is weird and fun, and the whole family gets to practice our pirate voice.
This is a book that transcends generations. The storyline itself is a great message about using imagination to better any situation and the illustrations are engaging. Bonus: It’s fun to pretend to be the monsters afterwards. And, if you are able, you can follow up the book with the movie.
This book encourages your young explorer to get outside and look at things in a different way. It gives prompts on what to look for, encouragement on what to notice, and room to draw and journal. While this might be for ages a bit older, you can still use it as an exploration guideline for the younger kids. Just make sure to bring Ranger Ready so you can focus on the learning and not the bugs.
EXPLORE YOUR BACKYARD AND NEIGHBORHOOD
We recently wrote an article on how to make the best of your backyard, which has some very helpful tips including a backyard picnic and identifying animals and plants within your neighborhood. During the first week at home with my kids that information was very helpful, but I realized that I wanted to do even more to get them outside.
DIY Obstacle Course
There are absolutely no rules for this. Grab pails, a rake, a stool, and some balls – or really anything else you have in your house – and place them in different areas around your backyard. Decide on the order of obstacles, a time limit, and teams, and you’ve got your very own “Legends of the Hidden Temple.”
Stop Sign Spelling Lessons
One of my favorite things to do with my 3 year-old is to hear his spelling and language skills develop. At every stop sign he spells “S -T – O – P” so I decided to expand on that. When walking around our neighborhood, we work on spelling different signs, identifying the house numbers and the colors of the houses, and practicing rights and lefts. It’s a great way to get exercise and work on language development.
Outside Art Classes
Take your inside art class outside. Instead of setting the paper on the dinner table, set it on the grass. Bring the water cups, crayons, paint brushes, and glue outside. You can even make paint with mud! Just remember that with the warmer weather brings more insects – like ticks and mosquitos – so bring your Ranger Ready, too. And a bonus: outside art class cleanup is super easy.
EXPLORE THE WORLD FROM YOUR LIVING ROOM
The four walls of your living room don’t have to limit what you see and experience. Below are some excellent virtual experiences that can expand young minds in the comfort of your own home.
Travel and Leisure Magazine has put together an incredible list of museums that you can virtually tour. From the British Museum in London to National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City to the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C., this is a great opportunity to show the wonders of the world. And, the virtual tours might spark some actual family vacation ideas!
We encourage you to explore your backyard, but if that’s not in the cards, taking a virtual tour of US National Parks can be just as fun. The National Park Service has an incredible database of park around the country – choose a park and get photos, videos, and information on what makes each one unique.
Google also created some great virtual tours and programming to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary back in 2016. Choose from five different locations including the Volcanoes in Hawaii and Bryce Canyon in Utah and get a guided "tour" from a local park ranger. For some added fun, find the hidden materials behind photos throughout the segments.
GUILT-FREE SCREEN TIME
Before my son’s school closed, they had sent out a plan for a “Screen Free Week” starting March 23, with suggestions on what to do instead of watch TV.
Then the school announced their closure, and they also announced a pause on the Screen Free Week.
I quickly learned that screen time doesn’t have to equal zombie time. It’s perfectly fine to put on the TV and have them learn at the same time.
The children’s book publisher has a fantastic at-home learning platform that has multimedia learning activities for ages as young as pre-school. The programs combine books, videos, word games, and more that students can complete on a computer or iPad. They’re great to do together or to let you student complete them on their own.
This is my favorite at-home program. GoNoodle has a huge database of movement and exercise activities to keep brains and bodies engaged, including yoga, dance, and meditation. My family and I have been doing at least one yoga program every morning and it helps all of us get in a better mindset…at least for a little while.
If you want to see Oprah, Chris Pine, Kristen Bell, Kevin Costner, and James Earl Jones read children’s books, you’re in luck. The SAG-AFTRA Foundation has created this online database of dozens of your favorite celebrities reading children’s books of all genres. The book illustrations come to life and the actors do an excellent job of reading with real emotion – naturally.
It’s a weird time right now. It’s a stressful time right now. Hopefully these programs can help ease a bit of stress and anxiety for the whole family.
And if none of this works, or if it’s not possible, cuddling on the couch watching movies and eating snacks is equally as wonderful.