Everyone’s lives look different these days. Some kids are back to school, some are modified and only online part-time, others are completely remote, some kids are not going back until the new semester, and many of us are experiencing change from month-to-month. All this change comes with challenges, and many challenges that we are hearing about have to do with online learning.
We have put together a few useful tips to help out your kids and families, and included a few fun, simple activities to add some joy to the day – or keep your youngsters busy while the older kids are learning or you are working!
1. Stay Hydrated! Wearing masks a lot may cause you and your youngsters to not drink enough water. Dehydration leads to headaches and isn’t so great for your teeth either! It may help to have a family hydration chart – either a prize for any person who meets their goal each day or a community prize (game night?!) if the entire family meets a goal over the week.
2. Speaking of headaches, many people are getting headaches from increased screen time. Some are investing in blue light blocking glasses to help, but there is limited research on this. If you do notice that the blue tones bother you or your child, you can try the glasses to see if they help. It may also help to change your screen settings to night mode, which emits warmer tones.
The most common cause of eye strain and headaches is actually dry eyes from forgetting to blink and strain from staring at a spot so close to your face for a long time. If you stay hydrated, your eyes won’t get as dry, and following the 20-20-20 rule will help your eyes relax. The 20-20-20 rule is simply this, every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is a good time to drink some water and blink 10 or 15 times in a row (1).
3. Mental and Emotional Health Breaks. Regular breaks from work and screens provide a wide range of benefits. They protect your mental and emotional health, rest your eyes and mind, and can help refresh a body in desperate need of movement. Here is a great article on protecting kids’ mental health during e-learning. In it, Erin Leyba, Ph.D. includes this helpful infographic.
Everyone needs a break from sitting. Here are some fun ideas that can only take a few minutes.
Have a snack - but be intentional about it. Snack time can provide a great benefit if you get up, out of your seat, and don’t look at any screens. Better yet, move snack time outside for a breath of fresh air and to give your eyes a much-needed chance to look into the distance.
Wiggle around! Literally. Do laps around the room wiggling like a worm, galloping like a horse, walking like a crab, hopping like a kangaroo, and whatever else your imaginations can come up with! Most kiddos will have even more fun if Mom or Dad join in.
Animal charades – Everyone in the room stands up - or moves to a spot where they aren’t looking at a screen, then each person acts out an animal while the others guess what it is. If each child gets one or two turns, this becomes a fun, short break to refresh the mind and body.
Go Outside! Walk a few laps around the house, eat a snack outside, look for birds or butterflies, or just go out and take a few deep breaths. Not only will the fresh air help relax and reset your mind, looking out into the distance will provide your eyes with a much-needed break.
Now, on to the fun activities section. These ideas will be fun and relaxing for kids of all ages, and adults, too!
Fairy gardens from The Prudent Penny Pincher
Take your pick from this slew of ideas on how to make your best fairy garden, depending upon the look you want and the materials you have on hand. We especially liked this Fairy Garden from My Frugal Adventures with great instructions on each step and plenty of ideas to choose from. You can swap out fairies for dinosaurs, dragons, gnomes, bugs, or anything else to suit the preference of any child. You can even bring it inside or keep it outdoors, whichever your little prefers!
Clothespin caterpillars from Somewhere in the Middle
Nothing could be easier than these little cuties! You’ll just need some colorful poms, a few sets of stick-on googly eyes, a bag of clothespins, lots of glue, and some willing helpers. You’ll end up with as many caterpillars as places you can find to pin them up!
Coffee filter butterflies from The Simple Parent
These are fun for all ages, especially your littlest ones, and you likely have most of the materials on hand already. You’ll just need coffee filters (2 per butterfly), markers (use the kind indicated by the craft creator, or swap out for your own favorite), a spray bottle with water in it, wax paper, and a couple more easy-to-find (or swap out) items. An easy add-on: attach a magnet to the back of each one and you’ll have butterflies for the refrigerator!
You can also use this craft and the clothespin caterpillars craft to show the stages of a butterfly’s life. A single small pom can be used as an egg. After a clothespin caterpillar has dried, wrap it in a brown coffee filter to represent a chrysalis. Unwrap the “chrysalis” and attach your child’s beautiful coffee filter wings to the caterpillar. What a fun way to learn the life cycle of a butterfly!
Pinecone pineapples from Tiffany’s Tidings
These are fun and easy for kids of almost any age with a little help and supervision. If you don’t have any pinecones around, you can buy some at most craft stores. You’ll need some paint, paper, and scissors, and then just follow the instructions for a cute tropical display! (Pair this activity with a healthy snack like cubes of fresh pineapple or mango or even a tropical homemade chicken nugget dipping sauce for extra fun!)
Origami jumping frogs (that really jump!) from It’s Always Autumn
These are too cute to believe, and yes, they really do jump! Start with a pack of bonafide origami paper for best results (the craft creator recommends these, but you can use almost any type of colorful thin paper that folds crisply (not construction paper) as long as it’s cut into squares, and not rectangles.) Once you’ve mastered the 16 folds necessary, hold your finger down as shown in the how-to and make your froggies jump. You can even have froggie races!
Giraffe finger puppets from IHeartCraftyThings
Get ready for a summertime safari at your kitchen table! These wild animals can only be tamed by your littles, some cardstock paper, and a few other art supplies. Follow the directions in the easy video first, then read the step by step how-to when it’s time to make them together. Once you finish the giraffes, why not make some zebras? If you have a large enough group, you could even make some of the other animals on the creator’s blog, like the llamas, alligators, or many others!
Easy pot painting from Sweet Tea and Saving Grace
When it’s time to freshen up the patio, give a gift for Granny’s birthday, or hand out something to the moms in your group, this craft can’t go wrong! Get some terra cotta pots with a rough exterior (one for each kid), plenty of acrylic paints (enough for at least 4 per kid), art smocks (this one gets messy!), a big batch of wax paper, and go to town! Follow the how-to on the site and you’ll see how fun this can get. When you’re ready, plant a pretty petunia or pansy with some fresh soil in each pot for the recipient to show off when she gets home.
Pretty paper daffodils from Make and Takes
The daffodils may have already bloomed in your yard, but we can recreate their beauty with this handy craft! You’ll need the yellows, whites, and oranges, or whatever color blends you want to create with your paper, scissors, and glue. Then just follow along on the how-to for an enjoyable creative endeavor resulting in a lovely bouquet of beautiful flowers. Enjoy!
Homemade bird feeders from Eighteen25
This is another super cinchy project for the littles to work on, then hang outside to attract their feathered friends! These only require 6 ingredients, and one of them is water. Just combine them all together, then shape the concoction into molds, allow to dry overnight (turn them over a couple of times), and voila! Bird feeders ready to hang from your favorite trees. To make it more fun and learn a bit too, here’s a site that talks about all the birds of Arizona -- find the ones you can attract to your feeder. Enjoy!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.
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1. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Do Blue Light Blocking Glasses Actually Work?. <https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-blue-light-blocking-glasses-actually-work/> [Accessed 20 September 2020].