What’s your kid to do?

Parents, I can sympathize. Keeping little kids amused and occupied while school is out but they can’t go out or play inside with friends, is not easy.

I’ve read some people comment on local online sites that this is “torture” for kids, warning that they may get “depressed,” urging parents to allow short playdates. One person went so far as to say, and I paraphrase: so what if the kids get the virus? They’ll recover by the time school starts again. Clearly, that’s misguided advice. Or maybe he was joking. It’s often hard to tell which online comments to take seriously.

So what’s a parent to do? I’m sure you know all the craft ideas that have been around for decades: help kids make playdough, slime, paper bag puppets, tissue box monsters, potato stamps, and on and on. Of course, there are always board games, online games, video games, not to mention TV and films. Even though my children loved all of the above, and could create cardboard box cars or castles for hours, it’s just not enough — not when you have weeks and weeks of compulsory isolation.

The best advice I read was in North Kitsap Community’s Facebook page: teach your kids practical stuff. Show them how to do laundry, sew on a button, cook, plant a garden, maybe even change a tire.

It worked for me. I remember telling my two little kids, who had never “cooked” before, that they had to start making dinner once in a while. With my assistance, of course, we (and sometimes only they) feasted on pancakes, French toast, grilled cheese, packaged mac and cheese, English muffin pizzas, and pasta with butter — the usual favorites, but all the better because they made it themselves.

I taught my daughter to knit and bake, from a mix mostly, but she was so proud of her accomplishments that we had an endless supply of cakes and brownies. My son enjoyed washing and vacuuming our car, reorganizing the playroom, his closet and, with help, Dad’s workshop. He’s still a neat guy.

Go online and be quiet

There are so many educational but not boring online sites I could suggest. I tried to whittle them down to the best, but it’s all a matter of preference.

My favorite site for little ones is from PBS. There are over 200 games, many with familiar characters — Clifford, Arthur, Cat In The Hat — plus stories to read, videos and activities (pbskids.org/games).

The Cincinnati Zoo just launched Home Safari Live (cincinnatizoo.org), where a child can watch and learn about the featured animal. The first was Fiona The Hippo, who was a huge hit, viewed 2.5 million times. Also online: Sihil The Ocelot and Rico The Porcupine.

The Smithsonian has live webcams (nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams) where a kid can spy on a giant panda, a naked mole-rat, a lion and an elephant, if they happen to stroll by the camera.

For a child into space, go to Nasa online (spaceplace.nasa.gov/menu/play) for games such as Explore Mars, Galactic Explorer, and Space Volcanoes! They can even try to shoot a cannonball into space, which I found fascinating.

I also like 14 Awesome Science Fair Projects for Elementary School Kids (rediscoveredfamilies.com/science-fair-projects). They’re all easy and fun: how beans germinate in water, how storms start, the science of fidget spinners, and just in time for Easter, what happens when you soak peeps in water.

Annette Wright was an editor and writer for women’s magazines in New York for 25 years. You can contact her at wrightannette511@gmail.com

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