No Place Like Home

 “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  Winston Churchill

Jill Carstens

As I observe my husband take way too long to make his move playing Chinese Checkers, I sort of regret bringing out the board games. At the same time, I’m marveling that our young-adult son is actually playing with us. We all need a dose of patience and creativity right now, as home becomes our everyplace. Here are some ideas for keeping the kids busy:

First of all, stress less about screen time. That doesn’t mean to never put a limit on it during these weeks but to engage in media with more intention. Encourage kids’ online creativity by putting them in charge of a new Instagram account or making silly videos. My friend’s pre-teen daughter is creating “how-to” videos for art projects on YouTube.  

Kids ages 10 and up are completely capable of being in charge of a task that is useful for the whole family, like finding a good movie for everyone to watch, looking for unique games or art projects to do or maybe even finding out who has more toilet paper! FYI, Michaels fulfilled my online paint order within hours for curbside pickup.

Ask teens to look up a recipe you can use with what you have in the house and give them the task of making dinner. You can encourage them to look through old cookbooks you might have and improvise.  Also, here is a website where you can enter the ingredients you already have at home and it will come up with recipes for you!  

I am encouraging my son to learn new things. We just discovered  Another is Blueprint, which offers lots of cooking and art classes. And YouTube is free!  Encourage older siblings to teach younger siblings a new skill. Additionally, if you feel like your kid needs more academics as online learning ramps up, here is a place to start:

Look at your home and what’s in it with new eyes. Cardboard boxes and many recyclables are toys to children under 8. Extra sheets or tablecloths are potential forts. Bring Xmas lights back out and let your children create their own fairyland. 

Heed the advice from last month’s column and try to let the messes go for a while. Children can be more invested in what they are doing when they know they can go back to a project and add to it day by day. 

For those with very busy younger children, here are a few easy activities to do at home:

Fill a sink or the bathtub with just a few inches of water and supply your child with water-filled squirt bottles, old shampoo bottles, and other containers to dump and pour. Add shaving cream for extra fun! Maybe let them wear their bathing suit.

Pull out some flour, salt, cornstarch, baking soda plus water or vinegar. Put about a cup of each ingredient in a series of bowls with spoons then instruct your child to put one spoonful of ingredient in their own bowl at a time, adding liquid periodically, and mix.  In preschool we call this “Potions.” If you add food coloring, that’s a bonus. When the children adhere to using just one spoonful at a time, this activity can last quite awhile. In the end we usually try to use whatever they combined and convert it into play dough.

Cutting paper. Using tape. Kids usually LOVE to be given free reign to just cut. And cut and cut and cut. It will make a mess. You can try having them cut over a cookie sheet to contain the scraps, but you will need to vacuum after. Children love to be able to use tape with no limits – like using it until it runs out. If your child cannot tear the tape on their own, we have a method where we adhere the end of the tape to the edge of the table, pull about two inches out, then cut it that way.

Have your younger child dictate a story to you or an older sibling as you type it on the computer word for word. Print if possible and encourage them to illustrate their story.  They can “read” it to you later. For pre-readers this is a powerful tool for children to see their verbal words in print!

Also, it’s Colorado, so get outside whenever possible.

Since I stopped working I have revisited my first love, art.  I started an Instagram account that exhibits some of my paintings with some, hopefully, nurturing thoughts: @graphittirainbow  Check it out.


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