By Brittany Carlson
Americans practicing social distancing are looking at a lot more time at home than they’ve ever had before, but what to do with it?
When we began homeschooling last week, my family made a “bucket list” of things we want to do together as a family, from learning something new to helping others (from a safe distance). It’s been calming to us to have the list to look at when we feel bored or worried, and it feels good to check off accomplishments when each day at home can feel like the one before.
Here are a few suggestions on how to use the extra time at home, curated from my family and friends:
Spend quality time together as a family
My friend Shelly is making a family movie with her husband and sons about how COVID-19 has affected their family and community. It includes kid/parent interviews, and news segments put together by her oldest son, using stuffed animals. “It helps give us a family memory for years to come and gets our brains working in creative ways,” Shelly said.
Another friend, Rachel, said she and husband are going to design escape rooms in different rooms of their house for their girls to try to figure out.
This is also a great time to finish family projects that might have been on the back burner for a while, such as decluttering or reorganizing areas of the house. My friend Krystie is using this time to complete scrapbooks and family albums.
Learn something new
Now is the perfect time to inject something fun to look forward to into each day. This applies to adults and kids, from learning to tie shoelaces to learning to bake or sew, but in a pressure-free environment.
My husband just took our 5-year-old fishing, and they did not catch any fish, but they had a great time being together outside. I also recently started giving my son piano lessons, using a workbook my friends recommended and our keyboard.
My friend Erin’s kids are taking this time to learn to ride a bike with no training wheels, and she is learning to make a sourdough bread starter.
Find ways to connect long-distance to friends and family
Since we started homeschooling last week, my kids have really missed their preschool friends and teachers. It helped my kids to write letters to their teachers telling them about what we’ve been up to. They’ve also had some FaceTime dates with friends from school as well as family members to help feel like we are together even though we are apart.
There are also some great ways to stay connected to your community online. Check out resources from local libraries such as storytime and activities for kids. Some zoos also live stream videos of keepers introducing different animals every day, such as the Cincinnati Zoo or ZooAmerica in Hershey, PA (check out their Facebook pages for more information).
Help someone else
My friend Cassie just put together a great list of ways to help the community while maintaining social distancing practices. The list includes giving blood to the American Red Cross to help combat a national blood shortage (www.redcross.org); donating to Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org) to provide food to families in need; sewing CDC-compliant face masks for medical personnel (visit the “Sewing to Save! mask making for health care workers” Facebook page); sending cards, board games and puzzles to local nursing home residents who can’t receive visitors right now; or paying a local restaurant to deliver food to hospitals for medical personnel (this supports local businesses and encourages busy medical staff).
A simple thank-you card (or gift card) for people still working right now, including medical staff, grocery store workers, postal workers, sanitation workers, etc., can go a long way in bringing encouragement to others.
You can also pray with your family for the nation and the world, for healing, for wisdom, and for peace (not panic) in the days to come. This is something we’ve been trying to do to show our children that even when we aren’t in control, we can appeal to the One who is.
Getting fresh air and sunshine are vital to everyone’s mental and physical health, especially since so many families are now limited to spending time in their home or outside.
Here are a few activity ideas when you’re outside: Work on your garden. Ride bikes. Take a hike in the woods. Pack a picnic and bring it to a blanket in your yard or a local park. Have a water gun or water balloon fight.
Try a scavenger hunt, or let your kids practice their map-reading skills by burying treasure in the yard and giving them a map to find it.
You could also do some backyard or local camping if the parks are open in your area, like my friend Melissa just did with her family.
It’s encouraging to know that even in serious situations like the Coronavirus pandemic, families and communities can still connect, encourage and help one another, while maintaining safe distance practices. They can still find the good in the world and in each other, and instead of giving in to panic, take action to make their homes and communities a brighter place to live.
Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and has two sons, Adam (4) and James (2). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
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