Everyone is struggling to make sense of the challenges we are all facing due to the novel coronavirus. If you have young children, you may have even more stress as you struggle to keep them busy. There are numerous suggestions online for activities and games, as well as many resources offered by companies and publishers. Besides that, if you are looking for ideas that do not require a trip to the art store, the grocery store, or even opening your computer, check these out.

LISTEN. I found myself sitting in my back yard yesterday for no reason other than to get some fresh air and some sun. Suddenly I was noticing an amazing variety of bird songs. My five-minute outdoor break from work turned into thirty minutes of listening. Children almost never have the opportunity just to sit and listen, so use this time to make that happen. I’ll admit it did have me later going to my computer to try to identify an unusual orange bird, an oriole, I think; but, nothing wrong with sparking that kind of curiosity.

READ. Sometimes we only read to our children at bedtime (that’s great, don’t stop!) but mix it up and read anytime, even first thing in the morning. Choose favorites from your bookshelf and read aloud or have your child tell you the story in their own words. Or, branch out and choose a cookbook with lots of pictures. I remember my own young children frequently requesting a cake baking cookbook. They were enthralled with the photographs of cakes shaped like guitars and bunnies. Art or coffee table books can open up a whole new world as well. Peruse together, make observations, and ask questions. I recently shared a book about an environmental sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy with my three-year-old granddaughter, Alma. Her thoughts on his rock and twig structures were fascinating for both of us. Later we even collected some rocks and twigs of our own to build with.

SING. Be inspired by the Italians who have taken this opportunity to express themselves musically and lift up themselves and their neighbors. Schedule an after-dinner sing-a-long. Share tunes that you remember from your childhood. Children adore hearing about life when their parents were young. Plus, research shows us that singing releases chemicals and hormones that raise our feelings of pleasure and reduce our feelings of anxiety and stress.

DANCE. Have a dance party. Pick a theme…hats, scarfs, face paint, any crazy idea will do. If dancing isn’t your thing, start with something simple like the hokey pokey or the bunny hop, or just clapping along and take it from there. Besides the benefits of movement and exercise, dancing like singing can boost our mood. Model your kid’s inhibitions and have fun!

Stay safe and healthy.