On Your Health

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Keeping Kids Busy When They Have to Be Home

This spring, thousands of Oklahoma children were sent home from schools for the rest of the school year as concern over the coronavirus rose. With kids stuck at home, many Oklahoma parents are wondering what their kids are going to do all day.

As children transition into life at home, sticking to routines and setting a schedule for your youngsters are the most important things you can do to help your kids say moving and learning. 

If you’re running low on ideas to keep the kids busy, here are some ideas we’ve put together for activities that can help kids stay engaged.

Make reading a priority 

Numerous studies have shown how important reading is for kids and their development. According to the Encyclopedia of Children's Health, reading helps with cognitive development, or the ability to think and understand. Reading with your child can help them build thought processes, including remembering, problem-solving and decision-making.

Try implementing a set reading time. Just 15 to 20 minutes of reading per day can benefit a child, and you can even break that time up into shorter blocks. Try reading aloud to your children or have them read aloud to you. If your child wants to read even longer, encourage them to do so. The added benefit is that your child knows they will have reading time every day, so a routine is being built into each day.

Local libraries like the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library have apps where you can rent and download books for free. Check out the Libby app through Overdrive. You can also sign up for Oxford Owl to access free e-books tailored to any age. 

Online learning

In the time of quarantine, many educational institutions and scientific organizations have created free learning resources for children and adults. 

National Geographic curated a Learn at Home program for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-12. The lesson plans can be done at home with minimal supplies for engaging, fun and skill-building lessons in social studies, geography, science and more.

Many museums also have virtual tours of artwork, mansions, historic buildings, famous American landmarks and more., Book Shark, the Exploratorium, the National Science Digital Library and the History Channel all offer virtual tours and fun lessons kids can enjoy any time.

Even though the Metropolitan Library System’s physical buildings are closed, it has many services and programs that families can still enjoy. Want to learn a new skill or language? Try Mango Languages or Need to research a topic for school or do some test prep? Check out Help Now, Explora and LearningExpress

The library is also trying several online classes held through Zoom and Facebook Live. Register of these programs on their events calendar and a Zoom link will be emailed to you to participate in the audience or you can view it on Facebook Live. Classes include:

  • Genealogy 1-on-1 Appointments
  • Online Community Coffees
  • Job Resources
  • Online Learning
  • Storytimes
  • Book Club Discussions

Check out the library’s new Coronavirus page for more information and resources. 

Healthy eating at home

Eating a healthy diet during these challenging times is important, too, and letting children be a part of meal planning and cooking is a fun way to teach them about nutrition.

PBS has a great site full of kid-friendly shows called Cooking With Kids that allows children to explore different cultures and cuisines in the kitchen. 

Now that warmer weather is here, experiment with gardening with your children. Let them pick out the seeds they would like to plant and watch the garden grow together. Harvesting the fruit or vegetables can be a whole family experience that teaches children where their food comes from.

Try doing a scavenger hunt in the kitchen. Make a list of foods you have in your refrigerator and pantry and separate them by fruits, grains, vegetables, protein and dairy. Let your children explore the different food types as they try to find all the items on the list.

Choose healthy snacks like nuts or fruit and limit high-calorie or highly-processed food like chips or candy. Plus, too much sugar can make children hyper, and if they are bored already, that’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Get artistic

Not an artist? Luckily you don’t have to be to let your kids explore their artistic sides.

The Kitchen Table Classroom has a slew of fun, easy art projects your kids can do for free. Maybe your child wants to write the next great American novel? Try out Class Central’s “Writing for Young Readers” course.

Tons of apps are now available to help children learn a new language as well. Drops lets students ages 8 and older learn new vocabulary through fun, fast-paced games with simple mnemonic images, and you can choose from one of more than 35 languages.

The world of online learning and art is endless, and with a little research, you can find art lessons and plans that will engage your child’s brain while they have fun.

Get moving

Sometimes, it’s tempting just to plop the kiddos down in front of a video game or the television, but staying active and moving is important for both the physical and mental health of your children.

Kids need exercise. Health experts say children and teens should get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Toddlers need at least 60 minutes of activity a day and preschoolers should have at least 120 minutes of active playtime a day. Young children should have no more than one hour of sedentary activity per day, unless they're sleeping.

So, what are some ways to keep those kids moving when stuck at home? Try this list:

  • Put on fun music and have a dance party in the living room. Or play the “Freeze Dance.” Encourage your children to dance until you turn off the music and yell “Freeze!” Have them freeze in place in whatever position they were in until you play the music again.
  • Play tag in the backyard.
  • Let your children do your exercise videos along with you.
  • Take a daily walk around the neighborhood every day after dinner.
  • Ride bikes in the neighborhood or on trails at local parks. 
  • Take a hike in the woods.
  • Play balloon volleyball. Just tie some yarn between two chairs to make a net, blow up a balloon and get the game started.
  • Start a hula hoop contest in the backyard.
  • Read a book aloud that repeats a word or phrase (Think “Green Eggs and Ham”) and every time that word or phrase comes up, everyone has to do jumping jacks.
  • Plant a garden. Digging in the soil and planting flowers or vegetables is a great outdoor (and indoor, if you are doing container gardening) activity that has the added benefit of being educational.
  • Download fun children’s exercises online, like this one from GoNoodle.

The possibilities are endless! For more great ideas for your children and family, or if you need help with additional resources, check out our Family Resources.

Children’s at Baptist Medical Center

INTEGRIS Health Children’s at Baptist Medical Center provides comprehensive services for children, from newborns in our neonatal intensive care unit to a continuum of inpatient and outpatient care throughout adolescence. We’re here when you need us.