By VisitErie guest blog contributor: Connie Pelton
Don't think of yourself being cooped up inside. Instead, consider recent shelter-in-place orders as a time to reconnect with your family. After all, family life is one reason Erie and the rest of Pennsylvania rank high in a recent quality of life study. Warding off cabin fever by staying busy takes a little planning, so here are a few ideas to keep the family entertained while staying home.
Games and Puzzles
From indoor board games to outdoor play, a little friendly competition goes a long way to bringing your kids together for a common goal. How about the kids against the grown-ups (they’ll love that!). Board games encourage bonding, communication, and commitment to other family members. Games and puzzles teach kids of all ages to work as a team, negotiate, follow rules, and use common sense logic. Another plus? Your kids are dealing with each other face to face, and not with their friends on the phone. The phone and computer have their advantages. You can Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime with other family members so they can play along, too.
Movies and Television
Maybe you’ve done it all winter, but now you have an excuse to rent or stream movies and binge-watch TV shows. But not all entertainment is family-friendly entertainment and constant screen watching makes us dull and lazy. Allow each family member to choose what he or she wants to watch, and then make a set time limit and schedule. Parental hint: Educational television is NOT boring. Check out nature programs on PBS and Discovery Channel. With so many television and movie options available, you’re sure to find a nice balance of fun and learning.
Cooking and Baking
With life seeming like it’s at a standstill, now is the time for experiments in the kitchen. Pull out those old cookbooks and family recipes. Teaching the kids how to cook and bake can be a lot of fun, especially when they get to eat their homework. Online recipes and cooking tutorials feature various foods for exploring new tastes. Keep in mind: Some ingredients may not be available at your grocery store right now, so have a backup plan.
When you can't get out and about, online shopping is always fun. Erie has lots of hometown stores that will appreciate your business. Sheltering in place doesn’t mean you have to curb your love for unique treasures. With stores now online, you can indulge your family’s passion for art, jewelry, clothes, candy, and other specialties. Look for coupons or promotions on their websites or Facebook pages. Set a price limit and allow family members to purchase a present for themselves. Support your local businesses — they are counting on you.
If you’ve never had a garden before, staying home means you now have more time for it. Gardening with children helps them learn new skills and responsibilities while developing a love for nature, learning about nutrition, and getting some exercise. Gardening takes patience — a lesson for both children and adults. Start this project by:
- Giving each child his or her own gardening space.
- Providing seed pots and lightweight tools.
- Digging in the dirt.
- Plant, feed, water.
Let the kids decide what to plant but encourage them to choose a rainbow of vegetables: green beans, red tomatoes, yellow and orange peppers, and white onions.
Erie’s Outdoor Parks
Staying home doesn’t mean you have to hide inside your house. You can take the family to nearby parks as long as you practice social distancing. The great outdoors has a lot of space for walking and bike riding. Although park facilities such as restrooms, water fountains and playgrounds are closed right now, most of the trails and walkways are open. Don’t forget to use the bathroom at home before you leave.
Staying home amidst social distancing has its silver lining. You have more time for the little things that we tend to take for granted. Fun, exercise, learning, family connection, and slowing down to enjoy life are the benefits of being together — apart.
Connie Pelton is a retired teacher who spends most weekends gardening with her grandchildren. Together, they built and planted an indoor vertical garden wall taller than any of them.