“I’m bored!” may be the worst sentence ever for parents under quarantine.
As a child life specialist for the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, Kym Allen says that a big part of her job is helping kids who are bored, anxious or need a distraction while they’re in the hospital or clinics. “So here are just a few thoughts of what parents can try during this time,” she says.
Take Advantage of the Fact That Your Kid is a Screen Time Master
Since your child can’t go to school or see friends, encourage him or her to use a favorite or new app or game to connect with friends online. “It’s pretty easy with FaceTime or even supervised Zoom meetings,” said Allen. “And school-age boys who play video games and talk online on a game system have this down to a science.” Another idea is to encourage your child to FaceTime a friend so they can watch the same show or movie, talk and laugh together.
Put Some Oomph Into Outdoor Play
Getting fresh air and sunshine should be on your family’s daily to-do list, and sure, you can always walk, bike or play basketball. But how about organizing a family scavenger hunt, dressing up for wacky Olympics, or drawing an obstacle course on the driveway with chalk? Google any of these to find some great images and ideas to help spark your own imagination.
Get Together for Game Night
Pick one night a week for game night, and have everyone in the family take turns choosing a card or board game to play. Or pull out a puzzle and work on it together as a family. “During this time when days often melt into one another, setting up routines like this are important,” said Allen.
This could be a great time for you to suggest that your child “redecorates” his or her room or the playroom. Give your child free rein to move around furniture, put up new pictures or posters, get rid of old toys, even paint if you want to go that far. It’ll freshen the space and could give your child something fun to be excited about.
Shake Up Your Week With Spirit Days
Spirit days aren’t just for school. If your family’s into it, pick a week where your child can dress up every day; then, take pictures and post them online just as you would if it were during school. Wear-One-Color Day, Backwards Day, Pajama Day, Crazy Hair Day—plenty of ideas are online. And it doesn’t just have to be clothing; for Backwards Day, you could plan to eat a dinner food of your child’s choice, like pizza and salad, for breakfast—then enjoy waffles with bacon and fruit for dinner. “Giving your child choices to pick things helps give kids control, especially during this time when we don’t have much control over what’s happening,” said Allen.
It may sound old-school, but if you don’t already, your child would probably love to curl up with you so you can read a book together. You could even each take turns reading a page, then talking about the story. For even more fun, do something related to the book too; for example, if you read “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss, add a little food coloring to breakfast the next day.
Sometimes, though, boredom has its uses. Every day, your family should have some down time where each member spends time alone in their room or other chosen space. That’s time just to lay down and daydream, draw, read a book or take a nap. Down time is important so everyone can recharge, especially when we’re having so much together time.
A Few Final Thoughts for Parents
“The most important thing to remember right now is that home is your child’s safe place,” said Allen. “Right now, they may not be sure where they are safe, but driving the point that home is safe is important for kids of all ages. Your teen may roll his or her eyes, but your preschooler might really need to hear you say that out loud.”
So set a schedule or routine to make this new home life more normal for your child. Turn off the news so your anxiety doesn’t feed over to your kids. “And definitely try to add in something fun that kids can look forward to and play and be silly about,” said Allen. “It can help all of us get our minds off what’s happening.”