Ideas for families to try while home during COVID-19 precautions

Caleb Purcell, 3, of Elizabethtown plays outside with some bubbles. It’s one of many ideas for kids’ activities during the precautionary COVID-19 school closure.

School is out, many community events are canceled and organizations are halting activities because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While children still have school work to do, with all this free time together, families may run out of ideas for things to do together.

“We can choose to use this time for amazing family memories,” said Ashley Purcell, children’s minister at Grace Heartland Church.

Her first idea, go outside.

“Kiddos have spring fever anyway, so get outdoors,” she said.

Activities can include hiking, nature walks, 5K activities and bike rides. It can be as simple as going outside and blowing bubbles.

“Fresh air and sunshine do wonders for your immune system, not to mention your mental health if all the kids are home,” Purcell said.

She said while outside, plant something. If you don’t have a garden, she suggested finding a few pots and starting container vegetables or flowers.

“Let your kids see the true wonder of gardening,” she said.

And, if you are home anyway, let the kids get involved in the outdoor projects you’ve been putting off, Purcell said.

Another idea, play board games.

“All those games in your closet that never get used, now is the time,” she said.

Purcell suggests “handicrafts.” These can be modern crafted items or they can go old school. Specifics, including instructions, can be found online.

“There are hundreds of ideas on how to wile away the hours like Laura Ingalls,” she said, referring to the frontier author and character from “Little House on the Prairie.”

While searching online, she said find fun and easy science experiments that use items in your pantry.

“Who knows how many fun science experiments you can create from things you have on hand,” she said.

To show off family talent, host a talent show.

“Get creative, design posters and a stage area and set up your phone to record the show,” she said.

You even could post your show on social media to entertain others stuck at home.

With streaming services adding new movies to their lineup during the outbreak, why not set up a drive-in movie in the living room.

Find old boxes big enough for the kids to sit in. Decorate them like cars and set them in the living room to watch a movie. Add some fun theater snacks for the whole experience.

Purcell also suggests cooking and baking with children because they love to be in the kitchen.

Dayna Fentress, Ex­ten­sion agent for family and consumer science, offers some tips about cooking with kids.

“Families should get everyone involved in the cooking process, even toddlers can assist with basic tasks like pouring, mixing, wiping up afterwards, rolling and more,” she said. “Let your children know what’s in the pantry and see if they can come up with a combination of ingredients that makes a meal.”

While cooking, she said, talk about the importance of food safety and hand washing and let them know how to tell which surfaces are hot.

Fentress said there are age-related activities kids can participate with in cooking.

• Two-year-olds can scrub fruits and vegetables, carry unbreakable items to the table, wash and tear lettuce and salad greens and break bread or other ingredients into pieces.

• At age 3, kids can pour liquid into batter, mix ingredients, shake liquid in a closed container, spread butters or other soft spread, knead dough, wash fruits and vegetables, serve foods and assist with clean up.

• Four- and 5-year-olds can juice oranges, lemons and limes, peel some fruits and vegetables, mash soft fruits and veggies, cut soft foods with a plastic knife, press cookie or other food cutters, measure dry ingredients, crack and beat eggs, set the table and assist with clean up.

“As long as everyone is safe, there’s no reason children shouldn’t help in the kitchen,” she said, adding helping cook the meal might even get picky eaters to try more foods.

When cooking with children, Fentress said to have them stand at the level of activity and use a stool if needed. Also, use cooking dishes that won’t break, use plastic or butter knives for cutting, discuss kitchen rules, provide simple directions, read the entire recipe with the child so they can know when they can help, provide constant supervision, be patient and expect a mess and let them know it’s OK to make one.

“So many school readiness skills are unknowingly picked up in the kitchen,” she said. “It’s such an easy way to make learning fun.”

These skills include math, reading, science, creative art, nutrition, social skills and physical development, Fentress said.

• Math: Following recipes teaches counting, measuring, sequencing, sorting and fractions. Working with food teaches shapes and colors.

• Reading: Cook­books and recipes teach awareness through cooking and reading recipe books and use of cooking terms builds vocabulary.

• Science: Cooking provides opportunities to learn about food groups and how food grows, observe how food changes while cooking and use the five senses.

• Creative art: Creat­ing and decorating foods can be a creative process.

• Cultures/history: Cooking provides opportunities to experience cultures by preparing foods from other countries.

• Nutrition/health: Proper food handling teaches food safety and hand washing. Cooking can be used to introduce nutrition concepts, healthy cooking methods and healthy ingredient use.

• Social skills: Cook­ing together uncovers the importance of being responsible, working together, sharing, completing a task and feeling confident.

• Physical development: Preparing food develops fine motor skills through cracking eggs, chopping, stirring, pouring and cutting.

If a parent needs help with more ideas, she said to call the Hardin County Extension Service at 270-765-4121 or look for them on Facebook.

Purcell’s last peace of advice was “turn off the television and read a book.”

“Find a great audio book on your library app or Scribd, get out the coloring books and listen to a beautiful story,” she said. “Your mind and heart will be far more enriched than listening to the frightening news loop on repeat.”

Rene Hutcheson, director of the Hardin County Public Library, offers instructions on how to access library books online. Go to hcpl.info and click on the blue tab called eBooks and it will take you to the Kentucky Libraries Unbound page, Hutcheson said. Log on with your library card number and then your pin. Patrons need to install either the Libby app on their mobile device or Overdrive on their computer. Instructions are available on the website for setting up the app on Android, Apple, Chromebook and Kindle devices plus E-readers including Nook and Kobo.

There are 1,035 magazines available for checkout, 75,196 eBooks, 18,828 audio books and 1,796 videos, for a total of 96,885 items, she said.

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270-505-1740 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

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