Being cooped up at home can take a toll on anyone. Add small children to the scenario and “sheltering in place” could create a whole new level of cabin fever. But stir craziness can be tempered with both structure and daily doses of creative activity. The current springtime weather provides the perfect reason to get outside. Here, experts from Fort Worth-area preschools and childcare centers share creative ways to have fun in your own backyard while staying at home during a global pandemic.
Go on a listening walk
Silence is golden, at least for a few minutes. A listening walk can provide for a few moments of peace while kids use their senses to experience the outdoors. “Families will first discuss the five senses and which body part is used for each sense,” says Bill Smith, owner of Primrose School of Columbus Trail and Primrose School of Fort Worth at Mira Vista. “Then connect by walking silently around the backyard. After a minute or so, have the child name all of the sounds they heard.” Extend the activity by having the kids draw a picture of one or two things they heard.
Play old-school exercise games
Tried-and-true classics like “Follow the Leader,” “Mother, May I?” and “Red Light, Green Light” let children practice basic physical activity like running, jumping and balancing. “A trend that we’ve noticed over the last several years is that our kids’ physical development lags behind their language and academic development,” says Nina Burrows, director of the First United Methodist Church Day School. “Jumping, skipping, hopping, balancing on one foot and then the other — all of those are great for kids. These games also help develop listening skills, focus, and learning rules of the games.”
Create artwork using foliage
No need to buy more paint or markers. Step outside and find a plethora of artistic tools at your child’s fingertips. “Have the kids collect flowers, leaves, grass — whatever they want,” says Smith. “Then have clear contact paper for each child to place their things on to hang in the window.” Children may also add another sheet of clear contact paper on top to create a placemat. “The children and parents always liked this and it was so easy.” Kids can also create a nature paintbrush, Smith says. Simply use a twist-tie or rubber band to tie leaves, flowers, or pine needles on the end of a stick and paint rocks with mud.
Sidewalk chalk can be a savior
While parents of young children have likely invested in more than a box or two of the colorful outdoor art tool, chalk’s possibilities span beyond free coloring. “One thing that my kids and I love is using sidewalk chalk to make a track for them to ride on,” says Ginger Baker, preschool teacher at First United Methodist Church Day School. “We put obstacles along the track, like sticks.” Children can run, ride bikes, or use a scooter to make their way along the chalk’s path, avoiding (or plowing through) obstacles along the way.
Go on a treasure hunt
An old shoe box can be transformed into a child’s treasure chest, ready to be filled with outdoor riches. Smith recommends having the child decorate the box first. Children can either fill the box with their own finds — be it rocks, sticks, flowers or even bugs — or parents can create a list of items for a scavenger hunt.