Keeping Your Children Occupied While at Home (#4)

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
April 16, 2020

With our normal day-to-day lives upended, parents and caregivers have to face a new daily challenge...how to keep their children occupied while at home. Fortunately, there is a wealth of information being shared online in response to this challenge. Our plan has been to highlight some of the best ideas and resources available to help keep your children busy and engaged.

Check out the first three blogs in this series at Healthy Minds...and be sure to review FCPS's Distance Learning Plan. While the start to virtual learning has been a bit rocky, FCPS is working hard to make it a positive experience for all. 

Parent Idea of the Week

"We got together with another family and challenged our children to come up with a trip they would like to take together as families when this is all over. They each have to research costs for travel, food, entertainment, etc. and then create a presentation (report, poster, PowerPoint, etc.) and present it to the parents for a vote. The children are loving it and it's fun to have something to look forward to!"

  • While not everyone would be able to plan a trip, the same could be done in planning and presenting a family activity for the day such as taking a hike. Children could plan where to go (such as a trail, park, or specified route through the neighborhood), how to get there, how much time would be needed, what to wear, what materials may be needed (such as a walking stick or bug spray), what to pack for lunch, what to be on the look out for (such as animals, plants, landmarks or other sites), and more.  
  • We really liked this first parent submission. Please consider sharing any of your ideas for keeping children engaged while at home.

Draw with Rob

Rob Biddulph is a British illustrator posting a free draw-along video every Tuesday and Thursday that parents can watch with their kids and hopefully, make some nice pictures. The drawings are fun for kids and adults of all ages. The illustrator also loves to see the results and asks for pictures to be shared with him through social media using the hashtag #DrawWithRob. 

Get Ready for a Challenge

Dyson engineers have designed 44 hands on science and engineering challenges specifically for children. They encourage inquisitive young minds to get excited about engineering. Can you skewer a balloon without popping it? Coat a nail in copper? What happens when you plug a clock into a potato? Children will spend hours finding the answers to these questions and more.

Have Fun in the Kitchen

America's Test Kitchen: Kids is offering almost all of its online content for free right now. Check out Kitchen Classroom. They currently have five weeks of free programming to tackle in the kitchen, with more coming weekly. Try out recipes like Fudgy Chocolate Mud Cakes or Parmesan Chicken Tenders, experiments like The Gooey Science of Melting Cheese, and hands-on activities like Salt Art. This is fun...and delicious.  

Make a Wish Jar

Go ahead and create a Wish Jar! Find a jar and decorate it. When your family wishes they could do something, go somewhere, see someone you love, visit a place or invite people to visit, simply write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. When all of this is over, this will be your magic list. Work your way through the jar and as you do, you will find that you will be more grateful for the little things and special people in your lives. Until then, enjoy watching the jar fill up with exciting things to look forward to doing!

Explore Mount Vernon

The home of George Washington is closed to visitors, but the digital experiences are open.

Participate in Citizen Science 

Science needs more eyes, ears, and perspectives than any scientist possesses. Enter citizen science: a collaboration between scientists and those of us who are just curious or concerned and motivated to make a difference. When we engage in citizen science, we make and share observations, analyze data, begin to formulate questions, experiment, and ultimately construct a deeper understanding about the world, all while advancing important areas of scientific research.

Create a Video for FCPS's Student Voice

FCPS's Student Voice is a digital storytelling platform for student expression. In their own voice and choice of media, students have an opportunity to share their own unique and compelling thoughts. Selected stories will appear on the FCPS Student Voice webpage and possibly other digital or broadcast platforms. Student Voice offers two options to students for sharing their thoughts and creativity: 

  • Theme: Coronavirus - May 31 deadline. Share your thoughts, feelings, and suggestions about how this has affected you and your family's and friends' lives.
  • Voice Box - Open theme, open deadline. Step up and raise your voice! Voice Box, an open-ended opportunity. Share what you feel passionately about...your choice of topics. Let your voice be heard!

Take a Virtual College Tour

YouVisit offers virtual tours of over 600 colleges right from your living room. This is a great way for students to begin exploring future secondary education options that may be right for them.

Make a Time Capsule of This Unique Period of Time

While we may all wish to forget this period of time one day, this pandemic will certainly be a significant marker in history. Your children will remember this forever, and how interesting it would be for them to look back one day on what was going on in their lives at this point in time by opening up a time capsule. Here are six steps to create your own time capsule today:

  • Decide where to store your time capsule. Time capsules do not have to only be buried. Consider an above ground option like a closet shelf or other out of the way place. 
  • Select a container. A jar, shoebox, bin, old suitcase, plastic jug, or more options can be used. Just be sure to consider how long this collection must last and where it will go in making a selection. 
  • Collect the objects to go in your time capsule. This is the fun step. Decide what to include in the capsule. What is unique about this time, and about you or your family. Consider including items such as a favorite toy, packaging of a favorite food including a price tag, a work of art, a newspaper or magazine cover, photos, a journal, letters, piece of clothing, indicator of advanced technology, and personal messages to and from others. Need more help...complete the COVID-19 time capsule sheets below for inclusion in the capsule.
  • Include a family tree chart. Or, if you have favorite family stories, write them down to include in the capsule. Storytelling is a great way to pass along family memories.
  • Select a time to open the time capsule. It is easiest to use a special date such as a birthday, anniversary, or future school graduation that you will remember.
  • Seal the time capsule and store it. And now your memories await.

Try a Yoga or Meditation Class

EkhartYoga is helping people cope during these stressful times. They are offering anyone 12 free yoga and meditation classes, specifically designed to help relieve stress and anxiety. No payment details are required to sign up and join classes.

Great Information for Parents about Reducing Anxiety

Learn from a leading expert how to reduce the anxiety for your family, and yourself, during this challenging time. View the presentation provided by The StudyPro of Dr. Jonathan Dalton, Founder of the Center for Anxiety and Behavioral Change, titled Master the Pandemic: 3 Essential Strategies to Ease Kids' Fears. (Tip: Place your cursor on the webinar screen to be able to adjust the sound through the speaker icon that is displayed in the lower right corner.) There are additional videos featuring Dr. Dalton discussing anxiety at the bottom of his practice's website.

Healthy Minds would love to hear from you!

Many families are trying their own creative ideas at home to keep children active and engaged. Please consider sharing any of your ideas and they may get posted in a future Healthy Minds blog.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.