The last blog post before my blogging hiatus was called “Hand Sanitizer and Other Imperfect Tricks.” Not to overthink things, but that strikes me as ironic—almost prophetic—for these times of isolation and Coronaschooling, when hand sanitizer is priceless and many of my efforts seem imperfect at best. (Anyone else?)
Thursday, March 12 was the last day that Sonny and Ace were in “real” school. That evening we discussed their disappointment over canceled field trips and programs but predicted that school would probably still continue, at least for a while. But within hours the governor had called off all Michigan schools; Sonny and Ace awoke to the news that I would be their “teacher” for a while. “This will be fun!” said Sonny! (Dear reader, he swiftly changed his mind.)
Thanks to Sonny and Ace’s real teachers and to Google Classroom and Zoom, the kids have not lacked enriching activities or opportunities to connect. Still, isolation is growing heavy, and while it’s comforting to know that boredom breeds creativity (although am I the only one kind of nervous about April Fool’s Day this year?), time is plodding. Here are some things that we’ve tried or are hoping to try in order to sprinkle some variety into our sheltered-in days. (What are your ideas? Please share them in the comment section.)
- Explore Morse code. Print a Morse Code key, and challenge your kids to first learn to tap out their names. Additional ideas:
- Suggest that your kids become fluent enough to tap out messages to each other. Tip: If that happens, you may want to learn Morse Code too, lest they plot against you (in your very presence, no less), and you will be none the wiser.
- Print this starter sheet of messages. (Translations are included.) Cut the messages apart, choose those that appeal to you,
and challenge your kids to translate them.
- Use this online translator to create your own messages.
- Listen to a variety show online. Then create your own. Include music, comedy, news, and stories. Don’t forget the advertisements! Perform it live, audio record it for that old-time radio feel, or make a video.
- Have a family progressive dinner. Each person can responsible for one course, served in a different room. (Play fast and loose with the term course. Apple slices count. Packaged snack cakes count. No pressure to get fancy if you don’t want to.) Each server can provide the ambiance (decor and music) for his or her venue and create a menu description for that course.
- Invent a new kind of sandwich. If it turns out to be good, name it and record the recipe. (Share it with the rest of us so that we too can expand our palates!) Have a family sandwich “cookoff.”
- Create a code based on symbols. Write a note to someone in that code, and include the key with your note.
- Learn to juggle. YouTube may help. (Include the juggling in your variety show.)
- Design a Rube Goldberg machine (real or on paper). You may want to give your kids a challenge: Design a machine that will feed the cat. Design a machine that will pick up dirty socks. Design a machine that will tickle someone’s nose.
- Create colorful artwork, and hang it in the window so that your neighbors can see it. Switch it out occasionally.
- Keep a running list of people who would appreciate connection. Each day, send at least one note, drawing, or text to someone on your list.
- Write a poem (haikus and limericks are fun!) or a song, or change some of the words of an existing poem or song to make a new one. Here are some limerick starters: “There once were some kids stuck inside . . . ” “I was looking for something to do . . .” “One month I had nowhere to go . . .”
- Make puppets from found materials. Paper lunch bags work well, as do socks that have for months (years?) been languishing for their mate. Put on a puppet show; create your own, or tell an existing story. Consider recording the puppet show and sending it to someone.
- Make a simple loaf of bread. (Consider it a science lesson if you need one for Coronaschooling.) Here are some ideas: no-knead bread, sourdough bread (this requires no yeast, but starting the sourdough does take a few days), and beer bread, which also requires no yeast. You can substitute soda for the beer if you wish.
- Journal with comic strips instead of only words to tell about your day. Family members can do separate journals, or you can collaborate on one.
- Take pictures of your pets and of family members in the same poses as your pets. Curl up like your cat, stretch out like your dog, or nibble a piece of carrot like your hamster.
- If you have a driveway, have your kids measure it. Then have them calculate how many laps of your driveway are in a mile. (Presto: gym class!) Challenge them with a distance and a different style of moving (running, walking backward, skipping, etc.) for each lap. How many miles can they collectively run (or walk or skip) in a week?
- If you have older kids, choose a show that they enjoyed when they were younger, and watch an episode together. Surreptitiously observe their nostalgia.
Whichever ideas you choose, feel free to do them imperfectly. There is no other way, especially now.
Be gentle with yourself, and be well.