COVID-19 Part 1: How to Enjoy Staying Home

Happy Saturday, everyone! I hope your families are safe and happy. Obviously there won’t be any new destination posts here for a few weeks because everything we could visit is closed due to the coronavirus. Luckily, that doesn’t mean the fun is over!

Check out these great ideas for a shelter-in-place Saturday that you and your kids will remember with a smile:

Zoos & Aquariums

Many zoos and aquariums are livestreaming their most popular animals. You and your kids can read about your favorite animals and then watch them in real time. If you’re working from home, you could even open the livestream in a small corner of your screen and let the penguins keep you company during the week!

3 meerkats
Photo by Dušan Smetana on Unsplash

Take a virtual field trip

To take it a step further, how about an imaginary field trip? Pack the Cheerios in little baggies, put on your sweatshirts and sneakers, and line up the kitchen chairs in two columns to be the “car.” You can even let your kids do the “driving” on the way to your virtual zoo. Talk about what you think you’ll see, what sounds the animals make, or which animal they’d like to visit first. When you “arrive” at the “zoo,” you can pile out of the “car” and into the living room, where you’ve slung the livestreams onto your TV. Which animals are there? What else can we see? When it’s lunchtime, should we have a picnic beside the monkeys or the otters? Use your imaginations!

Photo by Karen Lau on Unsplash

Get outside!

It’s really, really important to get a little sunshine every day if you can. Even if you’re not an “outdoorsy” type (we can relate!), just go for a walk around the block or read your book on the patio for a little while. Social distancing can feel isolating enough; compounding that with lack of sunshine will make this time even harder. Please be kind to your mental health as well as your physical well-being.

sun peeking through pink flowers on a clear blue sky
Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

If you don’t have a yard, you can still create a safe outdoor play space for your family. (Thanks to Janet Lansbury for that article!)

Playgrounds are closed; parks are open.

The shelter-in-place order says to stay home and stay indoors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go outside at all. If you have a dog, walk the dog. If you want to go for a walk or ride your bike, go for it! Just make sure you’re staying 6 feet away from anyone else along the way. Please note that all playgrounds are currently closed in San Jose, but the parks themselves are open for walking, hiking, and biking.

Obviously the rules change frequently right now, so please see the official updates from the WHO (world), the CDC (national), and the State of California. If you’re local, check Santa Clara County‘s and San Jose‘s specific guidance as well.

Treasure hunt in your own backyard.

If you have a backyard, go on a scavenger hunt together. How many different colors or shapes of leaves can you find? Can we gather the flat ones to do crayon rubbings? Can we make a collage by gluing leaves and twigs to construction paper?

collage of leaves and twigs on paper
Photo by Jonas Elia on Unsplash

If you don’t mind your kids digging in part of the yard, consider burying some “treasure.” When I was little, I remember my dad and his girlfriend building this whole story about how a pirate had lived in the house before she did and had left his treasure behind. Her nephew and I found dozens of coins — some chocolate, some real coins collected on my dad’s overseas trips — and loved it. What could your imaginary “pirate” have left in your yard?

The Amazing Ever-Changing Backyard

How many different things can your backyard become? Here are some ideas:

  • Move or angle your tv to face the backyard. Then fill an inflatable swimming pool with pillows and blankets for a comfy “movie theater” under the stars.
  • If you have any kind of play structure, shed, basketball hoop, fence with lattice work on top, or anything else that can become an anchor or frame, challenge your kids to turn it into something different every few days. Re-use old sheets, garbage bags, string, buckets, or whatever else you have around. Can it become a pirate ship? A circus tent? A campout? A space station?
    (Obviously make sure any pesticides or other toxic substances are out of reach while your kids are playing out back.)
children drawing with sidewalk chalk
Photo courtesy of Stock Snap
  • Turn your driveway into an art museum with sidewalk chalk. You can even post pictures of their creations on Instagram or Facebook.
  • Make a fairy garden using recycled materials found around the house.
  • “Paint” the fence or house with plain water and a wide paint brush. The color contrast is great while it’s wet, and there’s no paint to rinse off afterward!
  • Use sidewalk chalk to draw on the ground or the fences. It washes off easily with the hose for a fresh canvas every time.
  • What kind of balls or other sports gear do you have at home? How many games can you invent to use those in different ways?
Two kids digging in backyard garden
Photo courtesy of Pixnio

Together from a Distance

If you have families nextdoor or behind you, you can have grand fun over the fence or between your apartment balconies:

  • Have an acapella sing-along. How many Disney lyrics can you remember together without checking?
  • Start a story, then have the other person add the next part. Use the voice memo app on someone’s phone to record it if possible.
  • Have a jump rope or hula hoop contest. Who can go the longest?
  • Tune to the same radio station and have a dance party.
  • Sit near the fence and  stream the same movie at the same time on your tablets. Then you can share all the squeals and “oh my gosh”es at the same time.
  • If you both have the same board game, you can each set it up on your side of the fence. Announce your moves out loud and move both pieces so you’re seeing the same thing. Otherwise, play as usual. This is especially effective in a game like Guess Who or Battleship when you’d normally each have your own boards anyway.
  • Important: Do NOT play catch over or share/pass any other objects over the fence. Just share the experience verbally.
close-up of car piece in boardgame of Life
Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Indoor Activities

  • Use watercolor or food coloring and water in clear containers to learn about colors. Can you make a color wheel with 6 colors? How about 12? How many shades can you create by mixing different numbers of drops of each color?
  • Practice physics by creating a compound mechanical contraption. (If you want the gold medal ultimate version, check out this amazing video!)
  • Combine your Halloween costumes and/or stuffed animals in unexpected ways. What if your frog wears a tutu and bunny ears? What kind of story can you invent for that new character?
  • Play the photo mystery game—each person in the house takes 5 creative photos. Look for intriguing textures, close-up details, and other harder-to-guess shots. Then everyone else guesses the subject/location. The person with the most mysterious shots wins!
  • When you all need a break, check out PBS Kids for commercial-free educational programming.
  • Many public libraries are opening up their online resources to help. If you don’t already have a San Jose library card, you can get a temporary “eLibrary Card” to let you access everything from home right now.

Of course, see Pinterest for (literally) millions more ideas specific to your children’s ages, interests, and needs.

Child's foot covered in paint
Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Let’s get creative!

It’s time to put your imaginations in high gear. Trust your kids to have great ideas; trust yourselves to be able to relax and follow their lead. Even when we’re stuck at home, life is full of reasons to smile!

children's hands on dirt with caterpillar

This special edition Saturday Smiles at Home series continues with Part 2. Stay tuned!