By Tracey Dowdy
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.