By Natalie Maughan
For many of us, our Spring Break plans were cancelled due to COVID-19 and we were left at home wondering what we were going to do. Now with school on hold for three more weeks we are left with so many questions about how to keep our kids in a routine and occupied. How do we let them continue to be kids while keeping them and others safe?
We have been told to stay away from social gatherings so museums, trampoline parks, the Science Center among other places is no longer an option. These places aren’t even open. So, what is safe outside of our home and what is off limits?
I’ve been curious what is safe outdoor exposure. Is it ok to walk around the neighborhood? Is it ok to go to the park down the street? Is it ok to have play dates? I know many other moms are asking the same questions, so I’ve decided to share some of the information I’ve gathered as well as some ideas for safe outdoor activities within our own backyards.
According to a Washington Post article, allergy and immunology physician Maha Mahdavinia said, “‘Outdoor activities where there isn’t much shared equipment or contact should be fine, like riding bikes’, she said. ‘Playground equipment, which are being touched by children who may not have the best hygiene, should be avoided.’” The article went on to suggest avoiding play dates for the time being. Another article stated, however, that play dates outdoors in small numbers may be fine so long as the kids keep a safe distance as playdates would be good for their mental health. This is something that should be carefully considered by each family.
So, my take away from all this is that outdoor play in our own backyard is ok for the kids to get out, exercise and get some fresh air. It’s good for us, too, as parents to join in the fun and take a break from the indoors. Going places to hike or enjoy the outdoors is something that should be done using good judgement and caution. As this situation is rapidly evolving every day, please follow the advice of professionals and, if asked to remain indoors, please do as we are advised. I’ve come up with some backyard activities for families and siblings to do during this time of isolation when we need some fresh air.
Here’s a few things you can do outside with your kids during COVID-19:
My kids love making obstacle courses in the backyard. They each rummage through the garage and find whatever they can to make their own obstacle course. Soccer balls, pool toys, rackets, jump ropes, you name it. They each set up a course and then challenge each other to complete the course in record time. As a family, you could build one large obstacle course and take turns competing to see how fast you can complete the course.
Homemade Bird Feeder
The robins are out and they’re prepping their nests for their new arrivals. Help them out by making bird feeders for them to eat. Here’s my recipe that I’ve been making for years and it works great:
Homemade Bird Feeders:
4 c. bird seed
¾ c. flour
½ c. water
3 TBSP corn syrup
Mix all together. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place cookie cutter on cookie sheet and fill with bird feeder mixture until compact. Use a pencil to make a hole in the top. Remove cookie cutter and bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes. Once cooled, loop a string through the hole made by the pencil and hang on a tree in the yard. The birds will love it!
Daytime Camping Trip in the Yard
It may be a little chilly to sleep in the tent at night right now but why not set up a tent during the day?? Blow up the air mattress, throw all the extra blankets out there and stockpile pillows for a daytime retreat. They can watch movies out there for the afternoon and you don’t even have to feel as guilty about it because they’re outside! They could read or work on schoolwork out there as well. The house will be eerily quiet for an afternoon.
Wash the Car
If it’s going to be nice and sunny (hopefully in the coming week) ask the kiddos to wash your car. As soon at it hits 50 degrees kids are thinking it’s warm enough for shorts. At 60 degrees they’ll be in swimsuits and thrilled to get the hose and sponges out. Maybe you could even convince them to vacuum the inside of the car for a little incentive.
Offer to Help Elderly Neighbors
The elderly are not wanting to be highly exposed to others right now. What a great time to help those neighbors out and get your kids involved in some sort of service. Offer through text or phone call to pull out their dead landscaping or get rid of those dead leaves that have been gathering all winter. See if they need any pruning done on trees or shrubs. You can serve without being in their home. If they come out to chat or supervise activity, please make sure to be at least 6 feet away.
We often think of this as more of a summer or fall activity but if everyone is home and the weather is nice, why not roast hot dogs and s’mores? You could start early enough in the evening before it gets too chilly outside. This would be a great ending to a day spent in the tent watching movies; almost like a little reverse camping trip in the backyard. See what else roasts well. Melt some chocolate and eat it with fresh fruit.
Hopefully these ideas help to generate more ideas for your family. Help kids continue to be kids right now but remember to be smart about play time. We are all in this together so share what your kids have been doing outside lately. We can all use a little extra help (and sanity) right now.