With states across the country issuing lockdowns to fight COVID-19, many parents are facing weeks—possibly months—on end with their children at home. Schools and daycares have been closed, sports and lessons canceled, and even public parks and playdates are now off-limits.
Parents the world over are taking charge of their little one’s education, with the help of tremendously nimble and dedicated teachers. But how can we provide our kids with another important aspect that happens outside of our homes: the chance to socialize and nurture friendships?
To this end, we have compiled a list of fun, potentially silly, and wholly inventive ways to keep kids connected to one another throughout this season. Best of all? Each of these ideas is focused on practicing safe social distancing while also letting our kids know they are not alone in these uncertain times.
What friends can do on their porches, balconies, and front lawns…
1. Strike up the band—the porch band that is. Call up your neighbors and have each of the children bring out an instrument to play from the comfort and safety of their own front porch. Get all the kids on the same page singing along to a song everyone knows. And hey, pots and pans are a perfectly acceptable instrument choice in times of crisis. If it can make a joyful noise, bring it on the porch!
2. Host a dance-off with each of the contestants competing from the safety of their own property. Add wild costumes, boisterous music, and a bring-your-own-juice-box initiative and it may even qualify as a party.
3. While kids can’t hit the parks together anytime soon, they can still work off steam from the safety of their own spaces. Have an adult lead them through a series of energetic, silly, and fun movements to keep their bodies wiggle-free for the rest of the day.
4. Host a fashion show—the goofier, the better. Have your little one raid the dress-up box and put together a series of creative looks for sashaying down the sidewalk. If you have a house with a front walk, each child can be invited to stroll from front door to sidewalk and back, so kids never ever cross paths. Bonus points if a grown-up plays emcee, introducing the models and describing their unique styles.
What friends can do on video chat such as FaceTime and Zoom…
1. Bring on the friendly competition with a game day online. Set your little one up with a video call and let him or her play games such as Guess Who?, Battleship, or even charades with friends from all over.
2. Encourage your child to start a book club, meeting online with friends to discuss what they loved and learned from each selection. For younger kids, including a craft or art project that coincides with the book is a major bonus.
3. Host an online art show, giving each child time to showcase a work that makes them proud. Have them talk about their work of art and field questions from friends.
4. Get the gang together for a group circus—I mean, chat. Sure, piling a bunch of small kids into a video call is a recipe for indecipherable noise, but having kids see their schoolmate’s faces again is well worth it and goes a long way toward helping children stay connected to the life they had mere weeks ago.
5. Feeling artistic? Set your child up with art supplies and have him or her draw a portrait of their friend on the other end of the call. When both kids have completed their masterpieces, keep the results a secret and instead slip them in the mail for a delayed surprise.
Kind gestures friends can make in real life…
1. Go analog with a return to old fashioned letter writing. Whether your child can scribble, draw, or write letters, have him or her dedicate some time to creating cards to mail to friends near and far.
2. Start a craft scavenger hunt in your neighborhood by appealing to folks on your community message boards. Ask neighbors to hang a new drawing in their windows each week for kids to spot on family walks. Try Easter eggs, rainbows, flowers, and more.
3. Challenge your child’s classroom to a tower-building contest. Send out an email to the school directory and engage your child’s competitive side, inviting each student to build the tallest/most architecturally complex/most creative tower they can. Have parents snap a photo, send it in, and let the people vote!
4. Show friends you care by leaving special treats at their door, whether it’s a handmade card, art project, or encouraging message scrawled in chalk across their sidewalk. Who wouldn’t love peering out the window to find a “We can do this!” waiting for them?