Supporting Teens and Young Adults

Being quarantined with teenagers may not be as much a hands-on job as managing toddlers, but that doesn’t mean that the mental strain or engagement is any less. You’re probably seeing a lot more of each other than either of you are used to. These tips for parenting teenagers and young adults suddenly home from college can help smooth some of the edges and help you to enjoy your time together. 

Reiterate the importance of social distancing. Now that parts of the country are starting to open up, your already restless teen may be tempted to take a chance and hang with their friends. Teens lack the ability to understand the long term consequences of their actions. Dr. David Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, also notes that teens tend to see themselves as invincible and they may think that COVID-19 isn’t problematic for their age range as it is for older people. “They want to see their friends, and don’t see why the social distancing should apply to them. Our answer is that exposure to this virus is an exponential thing, and that it’s not really about them. It’s not really about the fact that they feel fine. It’s the fact that they could be asymptomatic carriers and they could kill others, including their grandparents.” He suggests you remind your teens that, “You just can’t know that your friends are well. And while you may be comfortable taking that risk, you’re also bringing that back in your house.”

Encourage healthy habits. It may be easier to explain string theory to a toddler than get your teen to maintain healthy sleep habits, but it’s worth the try. Just like the rest of us, being well-rested coupled with healthy eating habits and regular exercise goes a long way to boosting mental as well as physical health. Model the behavior you want to see – if you’re on the sofa, powering through a family size bag of Cheetos at 2 am, don’t expect your teen to take you too seriously. 

Don’t over-parent. If you’re living with a college student that’s just moved home, remember you’re dealing with a young adult who has experienced life outside your home, out from under your authority, and has had autonomy over their own lift and decisions for some time. If you treat them the same way you’re treating your younger children, they’re likely to chafe against your rules. Be mindful of the fact that while you are still their parent, you’re speaking to an adult, not a child. Speaking to them respectfully while maintaining authority goes a lot further than making demands or doling out punishment.

Give them – and yourself a break. It’s all about balance. Yes, good sleep habits, a healthy diet, and exercise are important, but if sometimes they a second cookie, an extra episode of Adventure Time, or sleeping till noon translates to self-care, don’t sweat it. When the days seem endless and it sometimes feels like time no longer exists, be kind to them and indulge. 

Validate their feelings. Think back to when you were a teenager and how much you relied on peers over parents for everything from advice to emotional support. When things are getting heated or you’re getting push back on the boundaries you’ve set, acknowledge that their feelings of frustration and isolation are valid. Studies have shown that teens still prefer face to face connections over social media, so it’s no wonder they’re struggling. If you’ve set boundaries on screen time or social media, this is a good time to sit down and have a conversation about the possibility of shifting those boundaries and finding creative ways for them to connect while still social distancing. 

Look to the future. Don’t forget, many teens are missing out on milestones you enjoyed or may have taken for granted. Senior prom, graduation, bar mitzvahs, their quinceañera – these are once in a lifetime events. There’ll be other birthdays, other chances at a first-date, but be aware your child may be grieving the loss of what was supposed to be. Give them the grace they need and work together to find ways to make up or re-schedule the event if possible. By including them, you make them feel less helpless and take away some of the sting of the disappointment.  

Help them practice mindfulness. Mindfulness techniques are powerful tools that will carry them through the challenges they face inside and outside quarantine.  Mindfulness teaches us to stop, identify the feeling you’re experiencing, and free yourself of judgment. 

Dr. Joanna Stern, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute calls it “radical acceptance.”

“You tell yourself it’s okay to feel anxious right now. It’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay to feel angry. You’re accepting the feelings you have and validating them because we’re all having those feelings. It’s really important that you accept them as they are rather than fighting them. We say to ourselves: ‘This sucks, and I’m going to be sad about it, and I’m going to be angry about it, and I’m going to feel anxious about it,’ or whatever it is. This then allows us to move on and say, ‘Okay, so now what needs to be done?’”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Create Your Facebook Avatar 

By Tracey Dowdy

Earlier this month, Facebook released its Bitmoji-like avatars. This new feature allows users to make a cartoon-style character with features similar to your own. You can customize your avatar with a variety of faces, hairstyles, and clothes. You can even use them as stickers 

You’ll then be able to use the avatar when you comment on a Facebook post, in your stories, as your profile picture, and when you use Facebook Messenger. As a bonus, you can use them as stickers on Snapchat, Twitter, Mail, and on Instagram. 

“So much of our interactions these days are taking place online, which is why it’s more important than ever to be able to express yourself personally on Facebook,” said Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook App. “We’re excited to bring this new form of self-expression to more people around the world…With so many emotions and expressions to choose from, avatars let you to react and engage more authentically with family and friends across the app. “

To create your avatar, follow these steps: 

  • Open the Facebook app on your phone and tap the menu (three stacked lines) On iPhone it’s in the lower right corner, the upper right corner for Android.
  • Scroll down to “See More.”
  • Select Avatars > Next  > Get Started.
  • Choose your skin tone, then tap Next. 
  • Choose a Short, Medium or Long hairstyle for your avatar, then tap the Color icon.
  • Next, choose your Face icon to select your face’s shape, complexion, and lines or wrinkles. 
  • When you’re done, tap the Eye icon. Select your eye shape, color, and lash length. Tap the Eyebrows icon and select your brow shape and color, and add glasses. 
  • Select your nose shape and then choose the shape and color of your lips and any facial hair. 
  • Finally, select your body shape, an outfit that’s similar to your style, and then add your accessories. 
  • Once you’re happy with your choices, tap the checkmark in the upper right corner. Tap Next > Done.

Any time you want to, access your avatar, tap the smiley face icon in the “Write a comment” section. 

Have fun! 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Protect Your Pets From COVID-19

By Tracey Dowdy

Since the COVID-19 pandemic is thought to have originated at a live animal market in China, many people have wondered if they need to worry about their pets carrying or transmitting the virus to them.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any risk to humans from our pets is very low. “There have really only been a handful of known domestic animal infections in the entire world,” said Dr. John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “There are reports of a few cats in China, and two dogs tested positive there, too.” A number of cats have been diagnosed with the virus here in the United States, and pug tested positive, though it was asymptomatic. “It’s doubtful the dog — was even ill. Pugs have upper respiratory problems anyway. It’s very easy for the test to pick up the presence of the virus in a dog’s mouth, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the dog was infected. The dog could have licked up the virus from any of the people in the household,” Howe explained. One family member admitted that Winston, the pug, was allowed to lick from the family’s plates. According to news reports, a study at Duke University showed that three family members and Winston tested positive, but “A daughter, another dog and a cat didn’t test positive,” Howe said. 

While public health officials acknowledge they are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus here in the United States. “Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected,” says the CDC.

The CDC recommends the following measures to protect you and your pet from the novel Coronavirus: 

  • Don’t let pets interact with people or other animals outside your household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
  • Don’t allow people outside your household to touch your pet when you are in out in public. 

If you or another member of your household show COVID-19 symptoms (either suspected or confirmed by a test), limit contact with your pets and other animals, as you would around people.

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, licking, and sharing food or bedding.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

It’s important to note that animal testing does not reduce the availability of tests for humans. 

For more information on animals and COVID-19, see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html

For more information about testing in animals, see: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/one_health/downloads/faq-public-on-companion-animal-testing.pdf

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How to use Facebook’s Free New Video Chat Option

By Tracey Dowdy

Never one to let the competition get too far ahead, Facebook has come up with a new video chat alternative to its competitors, Zoom, Skype, Jitsi Meet, and Google Meet. With Messenger Rooms, up to 50 people can chat in a room at once, with no time limit. Participants don’t even need an account to use the room.

Messenger Rooms offers more features than its Facebook Messenger video chat option, allowing up to 50 people on screen with no time limit through either the main Facebook app or through the dedicated Messenger one.

Zoom became especially popular in the early days of self-quarantining, but issues around security leading to Zoom-bombing soon became an issue. Facebook is no stranger to security and privacy problems. Still, in a livestream earlier this month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company has been “very careful.” He tried to “learn the lessons” from issues users have experienced with other video conference tools over the past several months. 

Facebook also owns WhatsApp, with over 700 million accounts participating in voice and video calls every day on both platforms. In a press release in April, Facebook noted that the number of calls has more than doubled in many areas since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Facebook seems to be taking the potential security risks seriously. Messenger Rooms promises these features:

  • Locking: Rooms can be locked or unlocked once a call begins. If a room is closed, no one else can join, except a Group administrator for rooms created through a Group. 
  • Removing a participant: The room creator can remove any unwanted participants. If the room creator removes someone from the call or leaves, the room will lock automatically, and the room creator must unlock the call for others to join. 
  • Leaving: If at any point, users feel unsafe in a room, they can exit. Locking down a room prevents others from entering, not participants from leaving.
  • Reporting: Users can report a room name or submit feedback about a room if they feel it violated Facebook’s Community Standards. However, since Facebook doesn’t record Messenger Room calls, so reports and feedback will not include audio or video from the room.
  • Blocking: You can block someone on Facebook or Messenger who may be bothering you, and they will not be informed. When someone you’ve blocked is logged into Facebook or Messenger, they won’t be able to join a room you’re in, and you won’t be able to join theirs.

Make sure you have the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger mobile apps downloaded from the App Store or the Google Play Store to create a room on your phone. 

  • Open the Messenger app.
  • Tap the People tab at the bottom right of your screen. 
  • Tap Create a Room and select the people you want to join. 
  • To share a room with people who don’t have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups, and Events. 
  • You can join a room from your phone or computer — no need to download anything, according to Facebook.

To create a room on your laptop or desktop, go to your Home Page and to the box at the top where you would usually post. Click on “Create Room” and follow the prompts to name your chat, invite guests, and choose your start time.

Currently available to everyone in the US, Canada, and Mexico, Messenger Rooms is rolling out worldwide over the next week.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Finding Balance for Your Family During COVID-19

By Tracey Dowdy

While some parts of the country are moving into Phase One (Safer at Home) and reopening to our new normal, others are still under Phase Zero (Stay at Home). For those already itching to reconnect with family and friends, the glacial speed at which the process is moving can seem discouraging and more than a little frustrating. 

We can all agree that no one wants to see a spike and have to start this process all over again, so following the guidelines and observing the guidelines is crucial. Your children may find it especially disheartening and feel it’s unfair when they see friends or family out and about while under stay-at-home orders. 

These tips can support their mental health and help with perspective while you wait. 

Stick to a routine. While the days at home may have devolved into the Wild West, it’s important to remember how much we rely on schedules in our daily lives. Before we all went into self-isolation, we got up, exercised, walked the dog, made breakfast, sent the kids off to school, then headed to work. Though it was often hectic, our days had a beginning and an end. During stressful times, consistency and structure are calming. Children, especially younger children or those who struggle with anxiety, really benefit from knowing what’s going to happen and when. With little ones, stick to regular bedtimes, set timers for school or playtime, and allow time for transitioning between activities. 

Focus on the positive. This may sound “easy for you to say” as you juggle your roles as parent, teacher, employee, referee, chef, bouncer, and housekeeper all at differing levels of success, but there is a lot of good happening. Focus on the positive – parts of the country are reopening, scientists are making progress on finding a vaccine, and summer will be here soon.

Get creative. Dr. David Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, recommends going back in time to your childhood, before tablets and Nintendo Switches became ubiquitous. “I’ve been asking parents to think about their favorite activities at summer camp or at home before screens. They often then generate lists of arts and crafts activities, science projects, imaginary games, musical activities, board games, household projects, etc.” Bake your way through a cookbook, learn to paint with watercolors, start a massive puzzle, plant a garden, or take a 30-day fitness challenge. 

Get moving. Plenty of studies have demonstrated that exercise boosts mental health, so encourage your kids to get up and get going, and while they’re at it, join in. There are plenty of home workout options, while gyms and playgrounds are closed. Staying healthy and getting fit while quarantined is possible and promises tangible benefits for both mind and body. 

Make plans. One simple way to boost your spirits is to make a list of all the places you’ll go, all the restaurants you’ll visit, and all the family and friends you’ll travel to see when this is done. Looking ahead instead of around can elevate your mood by reminding you there’s hope for the future. 

Turn off the news. When 9-11 happened, my daughters were in kindergarten and second grade. I was very mindful that the images and the verbiage used by newscasters were not age-appropriate and kept the TV and radio off when there was a chance they’d be exposed. Use the same discretion with COVID-19 coverage. While staying informed is essential, your nine-year-old doesn’t need to hear the death toll in New York or see images of funeral homes and patients on ventilators. 

Finally, take care of your mental health. Finding time for self-care has never been more challenging, but finding ways to unwind, de-stress, and treat yourself is vital to being able to lead and support your family. Get up a little earlier to run, pray, meditate, eat the last of the chocolate cake before anyone else gets their hands on it – whatever blows your hair back and gives you the boost you need to face the day. Be kind to yourself. No one was prepared for this, so forgive yourself – and your family – if the laundry is piling up and there are dishes in the sink. It’s okay if third-grade math is making you swear like a longshoreman in your head, and those worksheets aren’t quite right. 

“We should forgive ourselves the image of perfection that we normally aspire to as parents,” says Dr. Anderson. “Maybe your kids don’t have TV or screens on the weeknights during the school year, but now that school is canceled or online, we can give ourselves license to relax these boundaries a bit. We can explain to our kids that this is a unique situation and re-institute boundaries once more when life returns to normal.”

Find a balance for your family – don’t expect what worked three months ago to work now. The rules have changed in the Game of Life. You’re not cheating if you take some shortcuts. 

 

Facebook Cracking Down on Fake COVID-19 News

By Tracey Dowdy

It’s nothing new for Facebook to be under scrutiny for fake news and hate speech. It’s been an issue for years and was never more evident than in the wake of the 2016 presidential electionThey’ve made concerted efforts to rein in misinformation, but it’s an ongoing battle. 

Facebook has been open about the challenges both human reviewers and AI have in identifying and removing offensive content. While things have improved, the number of users posting makes it challenging to curate information accurately.

One area where their efforts are glaringly deficient is the amount of COVID-19 related misinformation in languages other than English.  Avaaz, a crowd-funded research group, analyzed more than 100 pieces of Facebook coronavirus misinformation on the website’s English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Italian and French versions. 

They found that:

  • It can take Facebook up to 22 days to issue warning labels for coronavirus misinformation, with delays even when Facebook partners have flagged the harmful content for the platform.
  • 29% of malicious content in the sample was not labeled at all on the English language version of the website.
  • It is worse in some other languages, with 68% of Italian-language content, 70% of Spanish-language content, and 50% of Portuguese-language content not labeled as false.
  • Facebook’s Arabic language efforts are more successful, with only 22% of the sample of misleading posts remaining unlabelled. 
  • Over 40 percent of the coronavirus-related misinformation on the platform — which had already been debunked by fact-checking organizations working alongside Facebook — was not removed despite being told by these organizations that the content was based on misinformation. 

Avaaz’s research led Facebook to begin alerting users if they’d been exposed to false information. So, according to a Facebook blog post and a report from BuzzFeed News, both Facebook and YouTube are cracking down yet again and using AI to weed out the volumes of misleading content. 

Facebook has been forced to rely more heavily on AI as the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced its number of full-time employees. They still rely on contractors, many of whom, like the rest of us, are working from home. The content review team prioritizes posts that have the greatest potential for harm, including coronavirus misinformation, child safety, suicide, and anything related to self-harm.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Our effectiveness has certainly been impacted by having less human review during COVID-19. We do unfortunately expect to make more mistakes until we’re able to ramp everything back up.”  

Currently, if a fact-checker flags a post as false, Facebook will drop it lower on a user’s News Feed and include a warning notice about the veracity of the content. The challenge in removing misinformation is that it’s much like dandelions on your lawn – you can remove them from one spot, but there’s already countless more popping up somewhere else.  

Facebook uses a tool called SimSearchNet to identify the reposts and copies by matching them against its database of images that contain misinformation. The problems stem from users being quick to hit the “Share” button before checking to see if the source is a reputable organization.

Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer admits  AI will never be able to replace human curators. “These problems are fundamentally human problems about life and communication. So we want humans in control and making the final decisions, especially when the problems are nuanced.” 

So before you hit “Share” or are tempted to gargle with vinegar or Lysol, head to UCF Libraries Fake News and Fact Checking page, Snopes, the CDC website, and do a little homework.

As Abraham Lincoln warned Americans during the Civil War, “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Stay Safe as We Re-Open After Quarantine

By Tracey Dowdy

While even the most introverted among us are ready to start socializing again, we’re also apprehensive about what life will look like as the country starts to re-open. As it’s been from the beginning of the pandemic, foremost in our minds is how to stay safe, flatten the curve, and protect those around us who are most vulnerable. 

It’s important to stay vigilant and not think that this is over. The threat of a second wave remains, but as restrictions lift and we begin to venture out, these precautions can protect you, those you love, and the strangers you’re near in the frozen food section stay safe and healthy. 

Keep wearing your masks – even homemade ones. In a blog post, the American Lung Association addressed the issue of whether or not homemade face coverings were effective. “These types of masks are not intended to protect the wearer, but to protect against the unintended transmission — in case you are an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus.” 

Don’t stand so close to me. Growing up, I remember a nun at a school dance rebuking us and telling us to “leave room for the Holy Spirit” if couples danced too closely. That’s not a bad idea in this season. Stay six feet apart while you’re shopping, walking the dog, waiting in line for carry-out, etc. If you have food delivery, pay and tip when you order, then when they drop off thank them through the door and wait for them to walk away before you open the door and take your food. Open the packaging, throw it away, wash your hands thoroughly, and then eat. 

Move it along. Yes, we’re all desperate to be somewhere other than our sofa, but limited exposure to one another is still a key element of flattening the curve. If you need to be in a store, use a list to help you shop quickly and efficiently. 

Go hands-free when you can. Instead of tapping out your pin with your fingers, use your knuckles. Flip switches with your elbow, use the automatic open accessibility option for those with mobility issues, pull doors open with a foot or the crook of your arm – get creative. You’re more likely to touch your face with a finger than your foot or your elbow – it’s a little change that goes a long way. 

Do your best to touch only what you intend to purchase. Items like canned goods or boxes of cereal can easily be wiped down, but not so with items like fresh produce. Instead, wear gloves or use the plastic bags available in the produce selection to avoid cross-contamination. 

Speaking of washing your hands, wash your hands. It’s recommended to wash for at least 20 seconds both before you go out to protect others and when you get home to protect yourself. If you’re unsure of how long 20 seconds lasts or bored with counting “One Mississippi, two Mississippis” every time, #washyourlyrics takes your favorite song and generates a handwashing infographic complete with lyrics and proper handwashing techniques. 

Money money money money. Cash is notoriously bacteria-ridden, and at times like this, a potential carrier for COVID-19. Use your debit card (punch in that pin with a knuckle), PayPal, Apple Pay, Venmo, Google Pay, Samsung Pay – you can even send or receive money through  Facebook Messenger. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 6: Mobile Gaming

Exploring Our Fascination with Mobile Gaming

When: Wednesday, May 6, 2020
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Smartphones and tablets have inspired millions of people to start playing video games, and now with the arrival of 5G, the speed, quality and popularity of mobile gaming is set to reach unprecedented heights.
Join host, Marv Dorner (@bebizzy) and the team at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) on Wednesday, May 6 for a #PlayForGood Twitter chat, as we explore our fascination with mobile gaming, and take a look at some of the latest trends like multi-player gaming and augmented reality!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of
TWO $250 Amazon Gift Cards!
(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
ALSO, check out the Crackables 2.0 tournament – the winner gets $10,000 and a chance to win another $10,000 for a Covid-19 charity of their choice!
Click here on your mobile device for details!
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: PlayForGood) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/35txVIT
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#PlayForGood) on Wednesday, May 6 between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the chat! 

20 Activities to Help with Your Child’s Cabin Fever 

By Tracey Dowdy

No matter how laid back your parenting style or how independent your child, weeks of self-quarantine and observing the stay-at-home-order can make even the introverted-est introvert a little stir crazy. 

Hopefully, this list of ideas can help stave off the madness a little longer.

  1. Set up a treasure hunt. Hide ten or fifteen things around the house and play “Hot and Cold” as they walk around looking for the items. 
  2. Turn the treasure hunt into a tidying up game. Give your kids a basket or a bag, and whoever comes back with the most toys at the end of a minute wins. Keep “playing” until all the toys are gathered up, then work together – or send them on their own – to put them away. 
  3. Get moving together. These dance and exercise videos are a great way to work out some of the sillies. They’re easy enough for everyone and an excellent way to connect as a family.   
  4. Make Elephant Toothpaste. A fun activity that doubles as a science experiment? Yes, please. 
  5. Watch an animal webcam. Zoos and aquariums around the world have set up webcams on their animals, so even if they can’t see them in person, kids can virtually visit their favorite animals. 
  6. “Visit” a museum. Many of us had to cancel Spring Break and vacation plans this year, still some of the world’s most beautiful museums, including the Louvre, the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian, and the British Museum are offering virtual tours. 
  7. Visit a National Park. The U.S. National Park Service has webcams set up throughout its parks, so it’s easy to take your kids on a field trip or family adventure.
  8. Visit Mars. While you’re exploring, why not head to outer space and explore Mars with through NASA’s Curiosity Rover.
  9. Make a craft together. Cincinnati’s McHarper Manor is offering a free arts and crafts lesson on Facebook Live every day at 1 PM EST. Each day they post what you’ll need for the next day’s craft project on their Facebook page. 
  10. Bake together. Even if you don’t have a lot of ingredients on hand, there are plenty of things you can bake, including one of my family’s favorites, Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies that only needs peanut butter, sugar, and one egg. (Easily substitute other nut butter if there’s a peanut allergy in the house). 
  11. Master a meal. As long as you’re in the kitchen, teach your kids to cook a favorite meal like tacos or mac and cheese. They’ll be proud of their accomplishment, and you’ll be grateful for another go-to meal and a second pair of hands in the kitchen. 
  12. Chat with a princess. Have a Disney princess obsessed little one? They can FaceTime with their favorites via Video Call or a recorded video message. 
  13. Make slime together. There are lots of recipes out there, but this one doesn’t use Borax, making it even more kid-friendly. 
  14. Work on those fine motor skills. If your little one is accustomed to Occupational Therapy services through school, Mama OT has excellent suggestions for working on motor skills with everyday objects around your house. 
  15. Plant a herb garden or create a terrarium. PBS Kids has a fun tutorial on Growing Seedlings in Egg Cartons, and NASA has instructions on how to create a mini terrarium garden
  16. Make hand soap. At a time when washing your hands is more important than ever, making their own soap can be a great motivator to make sure they’re scrubbing away all those germs. 
  17. “Explore” America on a glider. The Smithsonian Science Education Center has an app that allows you to “soar above five real-world terrains in the United States while learning about different types of land and water features. Kids can test their knowledge of land and water features after every flight through an in-game assessment.
  18. Listen to a podcast. There are heaps of family-friendly podcasts directed at kids. Some are silly, some are educational, but all of these are interesting a provide a break from screen time. 
  19. Hang with Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Kids can even do a home science experiment with him!
  20. Learn to Code with Grasshopper. Google’ Grasshopper, its tool for teaching kids how to code, is now available on the desktop through a web-based app as part of its Grow with Google initiative. MommyPoppins also has resources for kids just getting into the ins and outs of coding.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.