Seasons of the Pandemic
Let us admit that being indoors for an extended period during the pandemic is not ideal, but it is necessary to help us through this time. We live in Canada, and we have had spring, summer, fall, winter of the pandemic, and now we are in spring again. Spring and summer are our seasons because my husband and I are from South America, and we like when it is a little warmer. We accommodate fall, and we are learning to tolerate winter.
How do we keep the kids occupied?
Our two younger children, our twin girls, love the outdoors; they will go outside regardless of the temperature. Keeping the twins occupied is not a tough job, but for days when the weather does not permit going outside, I must put some thought into the day’s activity. Remember they are three years old, and they lose interest quickly. If they are outdoors, they will spend an entire day digging for worms.
We also have an eight and a nine-year-old, and they live in a virtual space; getting them outdoors requires a little more planning. Keeping them occupied during this period is a job by itself. During the summer, it is easy because it is nice outside; we would spend most of our days in our backyard. Winter brings with it snow, and this was the first year I looked forward to winter and its snow. The children enjoyed being pulled in sleighs, building snowmen, building ice castles, eating the snow (mainly the 3-year olds), and just generally rolling around in it or tossing it at each other.
Our situations are not ideal but let us make the most of our time together with our families. As I mentioned, we live in Canada, and some of these activities may not be available in your neck of the woods, but you can improvise. Here are 16 activities, both indoor and outdoor, that you can do to keep your sanity during this time:
1. Plant a garden.
We did this last summer and have already planted seeds so that we can do it again this summer; our littles enjoy the entire process. We get some of the plants as seedlings, and some we plant from seeds. We usually have ¼ of the yard set aside for gardening, but last year, we planted ¾ of the yard. We’ll be doing the same this year. We assign a task to each of the children, watering the plants, pulling weeds, and reaping. In addition to those tasks, the twins will dig for worms.
So, look around and see what you can grow. If you have a backyard, designate a spot for planting. If you live in an apartment building, get a plant pot, and do something simple like tomatoes. Let your children be involved in some way, and they will love it.
2. Go for a walk, hike, or bike ride.
Now that the weather is warmer, we have started our bike ride routine again. We saddle up the children, pack snacks, and go for long rides. By mid-May, we will start our 10km rides again, depending on the children’s willingness. We take the scenic route along Lake Ontario. Along the way, we explore various trails or Conservation Areas. We use the word “adventure,” and even our children that live in the virtual world get excited.
Last year, one day, on our way to the Lynde Shore Conservation Area, we found a field of crickets. Eli hates bugs, so he was not impressed, but being country-bred (as against town), my husband and I were nostalgic. The crickets’ music reminded us of home. It was beautiful.
3. Visit farms
When the season permits, go apple and strawberry picking. Last year, we could not eat the fruits while we picked because of the COVID restrictions in place, but it was still fun. I particularly loved the variety of available apples. Our favourite apple is Ambrosia. Such a sweet taste, it never disappoints. Gala, of course, is right up there for favourites, golden delicious, red delicious, and so many more varieties.
Last year we visited a sunflower farm. I never knew that was a thing, but we enjoyed our time there. The sunflower farm’s downside was the bees, so if you are not a bee person, I am not sure what your comfort level would be visiting that location.
Many businesses got creative, and some activities that were usually available as a walk-through activity were available as a drive-through. We were able to see a dinosaur display. The dinosaurs were mechanical; so, they were moving and roaring. That was entertaining.
We will do all the above again this year if the restrictions permit.
4. Go to the beach or the creek.
Pack a basket, get out your water toys and go. If barbecuing is allowed, cook while you are there. Water is fun. Building sandcastles is fun. Spending the entire day in the water is fun. We did the beach twice last summer. We put the children’s life jackets on them (safety first), and they spent the entire day in the water. When it was time to leave, the kids were still trying to return to the water. On our way home, they were chanting, “Best day ever. “
The beach will be seeing us again this year if restrictions permit.
5. Set up your water table
For the days when you cannot make it to the beach, set up your water table. Suppose you do not have a water table; no trouble. Fill a tub with water, add some toys or floating objects and let the children have a grand time. Children will love anything water-related.
If you have a sprinkler, attach it to your hose, and you have a makeshift water park. Our children had fun running in and out of the water when we did this.
6. Go camping
We went camping once when Eli and Anayah were much younger, and at first, they were a little scared sleeping outdoors, but they ended up having fun. We are planning it again for this year; we may not get to sleep in the tents, we may have to take cabins. With COVID still lurking, I am not comfortable sharing washrooms. What I love the most about camping is the children can enjoy the outdoors as we used to as children without the distractions of technology.
7. Nerf wars/War break
Our 9-year-old is still very interested in nerf wars or war break as we called it growing up. It is fun, pick teams and enjoy the spoils of victory. Our rules are no face shots. Safety first always. Bragging rights for the winning team are the best part. Of course, there is no real winner, so that makes it even better.
8. Bake together
Our children love the treats that I would typically make, so I get them involved in the process. We make salara (it is like a coconut roll), brownies, shortbread cookies, pizza, bread, brownies, cakes, coconut buns, apple crumble pies (last year we used apples from our apple picking), and so many others, but they are not coming to mind now. Let them have a personal pan or a doughboy of whatever you are making, and they will enjoy the process even more.
9. Arts and Crafts
This is a vast topic, and the possibilities are endless. Google arts and crafts and choose a few of the options that come up. Our children like painting and collages. So, painting and collages are my go-to, but I sometimes mix it up with colouring books and do-it-yourself bubbles, and do-it-yourself slime.
10. Legos or blocks
Bust out the Legos and just let them build. When Eli was younger, he would make just about any and everything. On days when they are not allowed technology for an entire day, Legos come in handy, and it is fun to see how creative the children get.
11. Kinetic Sand, play-doh, and other sensory activities
Some sensory toys can be messy. Even when I designate an area in our home, the children still manage to get it everywhere. But hey, pick your battles; they are having fun, we can always clean up after. When I run out of kinetic sand and play-doh, I will use a container with rice and beans and let them have fun with that as well. They love to scoop the rice and beans with shovels and just making a mess with it.
12. Board games & Puzzles
We have family game night, and this is where my competitive demon emerges. Nobody likes me during these nights, and I am ok with that. They gang up against me; it is hilarious. Our favourites are Monopoly, Scrabble, Snakes and ladders and Pictionary.
13. Video games/Virtual Playdates
Aww, yes, this is the one thing that the kids will never protest, playing video games. Some favourites are Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, and Terraria. The fun part of having them play video games is to play with their friends, like a virtual playdate.
14. Movie Night/Karaoke Night
We used to enjoy going to the movies, so we did a makeshift movie theatre in our home in our basement. Movie nights involve lots of snacks and lots of fun.
On Karaoke nights, bragging rights will be given to the person that messed up the songs the most. Brentnol is to Karaoke what I am to Board games, so basically, we gang up against him. Trying to get a turn while he is participating is almost impossible.
15. Build an indoor fort.
The kids love to build a fort and spend the entire day there. They read their books there, watch YouTube or take a nap. It is fun.
Everything you need to get rid of or need to donate now is the time to get it done. Steal two hours out of your weekend or weekday and gather the items that you no longer need; this may be mainly clothes and shoes, which no longer fit but are taking up space. Donate them where possible.
There are so many more things that can be done, but this article would go on for a while, but you get the picture. Just be creative and whatever you are doing, make it fun. Take lots of pictures, so you have a good memory during these trying times. You can also keep a journal to remind yourself of some of the things that make you happy. Some of the things for which you are grateful. What fun activities have you and your family done during these unprecedented times? Please feel free to share.