The various phases of reopening in KC after two months of staying at home have left us feeling cooped up and stir crazy, some may even be experiencing quarantine fatigue. Continued social distancing doesn’t mean cancelling connections; it just means cultivating creativity to preserve them. More than ever, it’s important to foster all the familiar relationships that give us life, especially for our kids.
My preschooler is usually pretty shy, but has been asking often about his friends from school. I’ve not been accustomed to him expressing a desire to interact with people outside of family, so it has been catching me off guard. When these requests started, I quickly realized my son had not been inside a building other than our house since March 13. That was the day his school let out for spring break, and we never anticipated not seeing his teacher or classmates for the rest of the year.
I know many of us are in the same boat. Our kids miss their teachers. They want to have playdates with their friends. Grandparents are lonely. I’m especially grateful for technology during this time. Zoom, Hangouts, Marco Polo, Facetime, Facebook Messenger are all apps that allow for video connection, which has been a blessing in a time when seeing each other in person is still a challenge.
Here are some ways we’ve been making creative connections and keeping in touch while trying to maintain social distancing.
Show and Tell
We have had a couple Show and Tell afternoons with friends. I set up a Zoom call with the other moms from school and each of our kids picked out a toy to show their classmates. The kids took turns telling each other about their special toy, demonstrating how it worked, and sharing what they liked about it. It was the sweetest thing hearing my son exclaim to classmates, “Wow! That is so cool. I like your toy!” Each kid lit up at the praise of their classmates and I think it gave them a taste of the connection they are missing from their classrooms. Now that virtual school is out for many, maintaining connections will be even more important.
Birthday parties look different right now, but nevertheless, kids should be celebrated on their day! I’ve seen so many fun and creative birthday parades that surely made for a memorable day. Have families drive by your house on your side of the street, honking once for a birthday shoutout or saying “Happy Birthday” out the window. Friends can make a special “birthday card” (poster) to tape outside their car door, for the birthday boy/girl to see from the driveway. Tell the birthday boy/girl to smile big and wave from the garage at all the friends who stopped by! Graduation season is upon us, and a parade is a great way to honor that, too. The plus side of a drive-by party? You don’t have to clean the house for guests!
A fun way to interact with grandparents over video chat is to do a virtual story time. Grandma and Grandpa (or any close relative or friend) can pick out a book to read to your child. If your kids are old enough, maybe they can pick a their favorite short book and read it to their grandparents.
This is another great one for Marco Polo. Since these videos may be longer, everyone invited to participate can watch at their leisure. Maybe your child can play an instrument, carry a tune, or has been practicing magic tricks at home. Give them a stage to perform! It will be fun for them to see their friends showing off a talent as the video responses come in. And what is cuter than little kids trying to dance and sing??
Neighborhood Scavenger Hunts
Something that has been touching to see in the midst of this pandemic, is the way neighborhoods have come together to create real community with one another. Many have coordinated occasions to put up things in the windows of their homes for neighbors to look up and find during walks. For our neighborhood, it started with a Shamrock Hunt on St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone colored shamrocks and taped them up in their windows. Then we had a “Silly Door Decorating Day” on April Fool’s, followed by a Neighborhood Egg Hunt for Easter. Look up all upcoming holidays and find inspiration for other coordinated themes. Another fun idea is a bear hunt, inspired by Michael Rosen’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Neighbors set stuffed teddy bears in their windows for a scavenger “hunt.” Some neighborhoods have started laying out fun painted rocks and other art for families to find while on walks and bike rides.
Theme Days/Dress Up
Superhero Day was a big hit for us with friends. My kids were excited to switch things up and have an excuse to dress up in costume, since most days have been spent in our PJs. Just us? We exchanged Marco Polo messages with friends that day and got to see friends in their neat costumes. Other theme/dress up ideas: farm day, zoo day (make animal masks using a paper plate and popsicle stick), princess day, Toy Story day, under the sea day, beach day, tea party day.
Chalk the Walk
…at someone else’s house (as long they stay inside)! Go to Grandma’s, a friend’s, or a neighbor’s driveway and leave a work of art in chalk. Put your kids’ artistic skills to the test by having them draw a picture or hopscotch course. They could also leave an encouraging message that will brighten up anyone’s day as they walk past. Even more fun if you can make it a surprise.
My kids love to be in the kitchen with me when I cook. My oldest has really started developing an interest in cooking while quarantined. We decided to sign up for Raddish Kids a cooking club for kids. Each month, we receive 3 new kid-friendly recipes to try and cook. The recipes share a theme and come in a kit that may include extra goodies like a craft or a gift. Your child and his/her friends can schedule a Zoom call to cook a new recipe together with adult supervision. The result is usually something that tastes better than it looks.
There’s a new extension that can be added on Google Chrome called “Netflix Party”. It allows you to host a virtual watch party with friends and family. Maybe your child can invite his/her classmates to watch a movie or TV show together at the same time. People in the party can also give commentary via the chat box if they want to talk during the movie. Get the popcorn ready and have an Incredibles 2 night!
It’s the perfect time for some good ol’ snail mail to stay connected! You can also incorporate this into distance learning as a great way to practice writing even though school is out for summer for many kids. Have your child exchange letters with out-of-state cousins, friends from church, or get a list of their classmates and assign pairs for pen pals. Younger kids can make cards (aka drawing unidentifiable pictures and using every sticker in the house) or send homemade crafts to their friends. My kids love sending and receiving “happy mail”!
There are many websites to make virtual play dates happen by playing games together. Taking inspiration from 5 Second Rule Jr., have a trivia night via video call on Zoom. You don’t have to own the actual game to do this. Simply have one kid be the game host while the others are contestants. The host makes up categories for the contestants to answer. When it is their turn, each contestant has five seconds to name three things that fit into that category. These categories can be sports, animals, colors, favorite snacks, Disney movies, kids songs, etc. Game apps like Monopoly can be downloaded to your mobile device and played with family and friends. The classic game of UNO! can also be played virtually. Pictionary and Charades for Kids are two board games that can be played over Zoom, as well.
It’s a great time to be creative in how we maintain relationships. Think outside the box for rule-abiding ways to stay connected with friends, classmates, grandparents, and neighbors. Your kids will really appreciate it!