As families stay at home in an attempt to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus, many parents may be at a loss to find ways to keep their children occupied and active.
However, Bobbi Thomas, preschool and children’s programmer with Airdrie’s Genesis Place Recreation Centre, said the challenge is not insurmountable.
“You don’t need to be a phys-ed teacher or a rec leader or have all the equipment in the world to go and take a walk,” she said. “For you and for your children, the best thing you can do is stay active.
“You want to see kids being active for at least an hour every day. For their mental well-being, for their physical well-being, they need to be doing something.”
The recreation problem facing parents is compounded by the closure of rec centres and playgrounds. With those options not available, Thomas said parents have to use creativity to find ways to keep kids active.
Activities do not have to be complicated, Thomas said. They can be as simple as setting up hopscotch or a creating an obstacle course in your home with laundry baskets.
Another suggestion is a “window walk.”
“I see a lot of stuff posted on Facebook – people are putting pictures up in their window for kids to go and see,” she said. “If you’re doing a neighbourhood walk, do things like making it an adventure.”
Switching up your daily walk can make it more interesting for children, Thomas said. Instead of merely walk, incorporate other movements like skipping, jumping, hopping or galloping. Or, she said, read a story before setting out on a stroll, then have the whole family act out the story throughout your neighbourhood.
If the weather is nice, Thomas suggested taking advantage of Airdrie’s many parks and green spaces by bringing your a ball to toss or kick, or simply burning some energy running around and playing.
If you are confined to the home due to illness or weather, Thomas said a set of dice could be your best friend.
“Have the kids roll the dice, and pick activities and put them in a jar – jumping jacks, burpees, pushups, skipping on the spot, pretending to be a bunny and hop around the room,” she said. “The number you get is the amount of things you have to do. It really becomes making a game out of activities.”
Parents may want to incorporate some type of movement into activities that normally would be mostly stationary, Thomas said – for example, build a puzzle, but hide pieces around the house for kids to search for.
Families practicing social distancing can also take advantage of online resources, such as activeforlife.com and appetitetoplay.com, where parents can find plenty of ideas on ways to keep kids active. These websites usually suggest both indoor and outdoor activities that require no equipment, Thomas said.
“They have over 200 activities, and they’re all designed for ages zero to 12,” she said of activeforlife.com, while appetitetoplay.com includes tips on ways to get moving and nutritious eating.
No matter how you choose to keep your family active, Thomas said it is important to have some sort of exercise during the day, especially for children who may be struggling to cope with the isolation that is currently a necessity.
“One of the things we know – and research has shown this time and time again – is that when we’re active our mental health improves,” she said. “[For] those kids that are so used to being in school and social and stuff like that and are missing out on that, you’ll see depression. Getting outside, getting some fresh air, doing something active allows your brain to take a break from all of the crisis and the stress that’s going on.”
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