Tag Archives: grow food from scraps

More Screen-Free Activities for Kids

By Tracey Dowdy 

On a scale of “Guess How Much I Love You” to “Lord of the Flies,” how are things at your house? Learning to parent through a pandemic is something none of us expected to have to do, yet here we are. 

For many parents, understandably, screen time limits have become more like suggestions rather than rules as we try to navigate uncharted and often choppy waters. If you’re flat out of ideas and looking for activities to fill an afternoon or more, here are some fun options. 

Plant a garden. I know it may seem a little late to get started, but there are plants you can start now, indoors, to transplant in the spring. If you’re not sure where or what to plant, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has a guide that drills down to specific towns in the U.S. and Canada from Fairfax, Virginia, to Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. Just type in your zip or postal code to bring up your planting calendar. If an outdoor garden isn’t an option, you kids can plant an indoor herb garden. You can even teach your children how to grow pineapples, avocados, onions, garlic, or a host of other vegetables from the parts you’d typically compost or throw in the trash. 

Organize. With the holidays fast approaching, there’s a good chance that your children will be expecting – and accepting – new clothes, toys, books, and games from Santa and Hannukah Harry. This is a great time to go through closets, toy boxes, and playrooms to purge things the things your children have grown out of. This is a job you could easily do on your own, but it’s an opportunity to teach your children generosity. It has been a challenging year for many families, with many parents out of work due to the pandemic. Donating unused clothes and toys teaches your children to think beyond their own needs to the needs of those around them. It teaches compassion for others and gratitude for what they have. Be aware that some charities are not accepting donations right now, but here’s where you can donate clothes and toys right now. 

Write a book, scrapbook, or create a memory box together. While it’s true that many of us will be happy to see 2020 and this pandemic in the rearview mirror, we’ve lived through a significant event in world history. Why not document your family’s experience for grandchildren and generations beyond? Have your kids write a letter to their future selves about what they loved and hated, their favorite pastime in quarantine, what they thought of virtual schooling, what they missed, and what they learned. Write your own letter, documenting what it was like to parent during this season. You can gather photos and publish your own photobook of “Our Life in Quarantine 2020,” or document the whole year in a “2020 – What a Year for the Mathesons!” Include snapshots of virtual school, what you did in your downtime, relevant news stories, rallies, or protests you participated in, socially distanced playdates and proms, information about the election – whatever resonates with your family. Or, create a scrapbook or memory box of letters and items that remind you of this season. 

Write a book together. Has your family started cooking together? Compile your favorite meals you’ve prepared over the past several months, write out the recipes, include photos of the finished dish, or even better, your children actually preparing and eating it. Voila, you’ve just published a cookbook! Or, have your child write a story, letting their imagination run wild. Along with writing the text, have them draw the illustrations, then print a hardcopy or publish it online to share with family and friends. 

Get in the kitchen. For a few weeks at the beginning of quarantine, my husband and I did a live cooking demonstration for family and friends then gave the meal to a local viewer. It was silly, fun, and a great way to feel less alone while we were all housebound. If a live demo isn’t a good fit, do your version of Iron Chef, the Great British Baking Show, or Top Chef, and see who makes the best brownies, cupcakes, or grilled cheese. Since eating out options are limited, learn how to make restaurant favorites at home, or teach your children how to make family favorites or recipes handed down through the years. 

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.

Fun, Indoor Activities for Kids 

By Tracey Dowdy

Now that the colder weather is here, it’s even more challenging to keep our littles entertained or help them to find creative – screen-free – ways to entertain themselves. Encouraging their creativity and imagination is more than a way to keep them busy for a few minutes. Creative thinking develops problem-solving skills, spurs innovation, promotes taking initiative, and spans careers and vocations. It’s a life long skill that will carry them far. 

Here are a few ideas for inspiration the next time you hear, “I’m bored!”

Build a blanket fort. I know, I know, it makes a mess and you’re the one who has to fold all those dang blankets when they’re done, but help your kids to see it’s not just a bunch of blankets. It’s a tree fort, a spaceship, a cave, or even another planet. Not only that, they make great places to curl up with a good book, protect Lego creations from pesky little siblings, or sketch in peace. 

Paint a picture. Again, I KNOW that it can get messy, but the fact that it’s a rare treat to paint means your littles will be very excited and more likely to be engaged for more than five minutes. 

Create a time capsule. 2020 has been a wild ride, so have them collect things or make a list of the things that they loved most, absolutely hated, and what made them happy over the past year. Have them include their favorite TV shows, movies, books, games, or even their favorite outfit. No need to bury in the backyard unless you want to – it’s just as much fun to tuck it into the back of a closet or top-shelf. Pull it out this time next year and reminisce over all that happened. 

Have them learn a TikTok dance or choreograph one of their own. Not only does it spark creativity, but they’re also getting a little exercise in and getting out some of that restless energy. 

Have them put on a play or shoot a movie. Have them write their own script or act out a favorite book. They could write a sequel to a favorite story or write an origin story for a favorite character. They can shoot the movie on a phone, tablet, or iPad and both Apple and Android have simple video editing software. 

Play with your food. Cook together, do a blind taste test, and see if they can guess the food or flavor – highly recommend parental supervision on that one – or make pictures or necklaces with pasta like you did in elementary school. 

Plant some seeds. You don’t need fancy gardening supplies or even a packet of seeds. Teach your kids how to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables from the produce you buy at the supermarket. All you need is inexpensive potting soil and an egg carton, and the scraps from plants like peppers, onions, celery, mint, dill, or even potatoes and pineapples. This is also a lesson in patience and responsibility as they tend and watch their plants grow and mature over the next several weeks.

Go old school. Break out the board games you used to play as a child – Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, Scrabble, Clue, Pretty Pretty Princess, Twister, Battleship, Candyland…or, find a new favorite like Cataan Jr, Feed the Woozle, or Wild Kratts Race Around the World. Or, skip board games and play hide and seek, tic tac toe, or monkey in the middle with a Nerf or other soft ball. 

Let them “redecorate” their room. I’m not suggesting you hand over your credit card and set them loose on Pottery Barn’s website, but moving their bed or desk to a different wall, or changing up the art work on the walls can make the space feel fresh and new. Have them cut out snowflakes and tape them to their windows or hang them from the ceiling. Or, give them a stack of magazines and let their inner designer come out as they cut out pictures of their dream house. 

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.