Confession: My kids were addicted to electronics before quarantine. And now that they have spent three straight months inside, using their devices for everything from schoolwork to virtual field trips to spending time with friends, it’s safe to say their laptops and iPads might need to be surgically removed.
As the trees began to bloom, the weather warmed up, and lockdown restrictions loosened ever-so-slightly, I thought my kids would be clamoring to go outside. What kind of kids don’t want to enjoy the springtime playing outside? Bike riding, playing ball, running, jumping, working off that pent-up energy reserved only for the youthful?
Covid kids, that’s who. Kids who are traumatized by the fear of catching a deadly illness if they go within six feet of their neighbor; kids who recoil at the thought of touching germ-ridden basketballs; kids who were told to run inside if their friends approach. Their lives have become entirely virtual, as though they are no longer of this earth but belonging to some pixelated fourth dimension where interactions are solely electronic.
I posed the question to our Facebook friends and as it turns out, many parents are also struggling to get their kids to spend as much time outdoors as they did before quarantine.
With summer approaching, I need to break them of this agoraphobic behavior. They need exercise, sunshine, reality. This is not normal or healthy for kids. As coronavirus aggressively wreaked havoc on older generations, younger generations suffered in silence as their lives were torn upside down.
I could wax poetic the negative side effects of quarantine on our children all day long, but I would rather offer some advice to parents who, like me, need their kids to just GO OUTSIDE ALREADY! Mama needs a break.
- Assure them it’s safe to play outside as long as they take precautions.
- Social distancing is still important. Although the chances of catching coronavirus outdoors are minimal, it’s best to keep space between playmates.
- Sports are ok as long as contact is limited and hands are washed after touching the ball.
- Kids over 2 should continue to be wear masks and face coverings. Etsy and Disney make colorful masks your kids won’t mind wearing.
- Purchase pocket hand sanitizers and remind kids to hang onto them while outdoors. Amazon sells hand colorful sanitizers that allow for easy portability. Remind kids they will need to come inside often to wash their hands too.
- Encourage time outdoors together. If possible, eat dinner outside. Let kids complete assignments outside. Go bike riding together and take walks as a family. Walk the dog together. Remind them there is a huge world outside of the screens they are buried in all day long.
- Offer up as much outdoor ideas as possible. Get sidewalk chalk, balls, hula hoops, bubbles, jump ropes, outdoor games, tents, sprinklers, ride-on toys, remote-control cars, hula hoops, ring toss, rock painting kits, inflatables, or even go big and get a trampoline.
- Teach kids your own favorite games from your youth. Games like hopscotch, kickball, Kick the Can, Red Light Green Light and others probably bring fond memories of your own childhood. Share those memories of playing with your own friends when you were younger. You’d be surprised which games will catch on.
Jeannine Cintron is a Staten Island mom of two and the editor for Staten Island Parent. When she’s not writing or managing the S.I. Parent Facebook page, you can find her binging an inexcusable amount of television for anyone with two children.