How To Spend Time Outdoors During Covid-19
First and foremost, we need to look to our local, provincial, and federal authorities for guidelines on spending time outdoors. This means avoiding playgrounds, hard surfaces at parks, and forgoeing any day-trips.
"While I do encourage people to go for walks and enjoy being outside, it is EXTREMELY important to maintain distance ... please maintain a minimum distance of two metres from others. Avoid touching rails, garbage cans or other potential sources of transmission."
-Dr. Deena Hindshaw
Step 1: Take a Breath
With travel restrictions in place, it’s left many of us feeling a little stressed and a little couped-up. Schools across Canada have now announced closures, and there is still a lot of uncertainty on how long kids may be at home. However, as we continue to hear about closures, the outdoors remain wide open (within the guidlines of the authorities). From a public health standpoint, closing schools is a useful measure. But as a parent, it can be stressful and logistically challenging. Here are a few tips we’ve come up with to make the most of some extra time at home.
Appreciate the Newfound Freedom
Does anyone really love packing lunches, hunting for missing homework, or the chaos of getting everyone up and out of the house in the morning? No. So, during this time, try to embrace the new norm. Consider weekday breakfasts together; meal-time may be a good time to talk openly about what’s going on in the news and give space to ask questions. A Calgary blogger, Dashing Dad put together a thoughtful blog, Kids and the Corona Virus with several great sources on how to help kids through this uncharted territory. Try to think of this time as a chance for a staycation, where your family gets to spend time together and have some fun.
Create a (flexible) Schedule for Your Home
Depending on how self-sufficient your kids are, there may be an opportunity to work part of the time if you can create a loose schedule to balance family time, solo-time, indoor/outdoor play. If both parents are trying to work from home, consider dividing parental duties into shifts so you can at least get a few uninterrupted hours of work done. A schedule might give everyone a bit of sanity, but hey – don’t be afraid to go off-book when needed. You could also try getting the kids more involved in some of the household chores – taking turns cooking, doing laundry, shoveling snow, walking the dog.
Example “Quarantine” Routine
- Play indoors
- School Work
- Lunch(on your own)
- Family activity (indoor or outdoor)
- Outdoor Play
- School Work
- Dinner (together)
- Chill Time
Indoor Play Ideas
- Fort building: easy, clean, fun for all ages. Forts can be created from simply putting a large sheet over a table, to more complex feats of engineering. Other innovative materials could include couch cushions, pillows, cardboard boxes, empty milk jugs, or an actual camping tarp or a small pop-up tent.
- Learn some magic: here are eight fun easy card trickst o get started, if magic isn’t your thing, you can also use playing cards to build impressive towers.
- LEGO: an obvious – but how about tossing the manual and getting into Free-Build mode? What about trying a Lego Mosaic? There is tons of inspiration on Pinterest, but we also love this free printable Lego Challenge Game From Artsy-Fartsy Mama.
- Crafts: lacking craft supplies? No problem, even a roll of Duct Tape can go a long way; try duct tape wallets or making capes for Lego minis. Start saving toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, tin cans, corks, egg cartons, and plastic containers – join The Wild Life Outdoor Adventures Facebook page for nature-inspired craft ideas that use recycled materials.
- Drawing:how about inspiring the next generation of graphic novelist? Make up your own characters or maybe incorporate a bit of screen time to look for inspiration, we’ve listed some of our favorite outdoor-inspired animated shows below. You can inspire kids to draw household objects, toys, action figures, or family pets. Try using different things to draw on like cardboard, wood, or glass.
- Home Science Experiments: Magnetic slime, classic soda bottle rocket, grow a bean in a CD case, classic paper planes, or an egg drop experiment.
- Board Games: even if all you have is a pack of cards, there are endless family card games, you can try inventing your own games, or some of the family classics like Monopoly, Exploding Kittens, Ticket To Ride, or Catan. Here is a great list of outdoor themed board games like S’Quarrels, Wild Craft or deer in the headlights.
- Volunteering: shovel a neighbours driveway or offer to walk someone’s dog. You could make and drop off soup on a doorstep of someone who is sick or self-isolating, make cards for elderly people or people living alone to show them they are valued and loved.
- Plan an Outdoor Family Reunion:It may be hard to gather family who are far away, but outsidehow.com has some fun ideas for Outdoor Family Reunion Games from lawn bowling to treasure hunts and many more!
Outdoor Play Ideas
- Ice lanterns andOrnaments: you can decorate with food coloring, twigs, cranberries, greenery, leaves, fruit slices, rocks, or shells.
- Outdoor bowling: try the “night” edition by putting glowsticks in or around the pins.
- Frozen Bubbles: regular ol’ bubble solution, but a new twist on trying to catch one and let it freeze, photograph it, inspect it, and use different techniques to shatter the bubbles.
- Skee Ball: can be done with snowballs in the winter, or tennis balls in the summer.
- Target practice:make a cardboard target and practice your aim with snowballs, nerf guns, or water pistols.
- Bird feeders: there are lots of different ways to make bird feeders, one of the simplest is a toilet paper roll coated in peanut butter and rolled in birdseed, you can simply slide a brand through the roll. Put it somewhere near a window and start a list of types of birds you see or snap a picture when a new feathery friend comes by.
- Ice painting: a little food coloring in an ice tray, put popsicle sticks in and leave outside to freeze (if cold enough), can be done indoors or outside if it’s nice out.
- Cardboard bobsled: let’s keep these 1-man bobsleds for now, but construct your sled with cardboard and duct tape and let the races begin.
- Boats to Float: If you’re somewhere that there is snow melting, you can make boats or rafts and race them along the gutters. Try different materials to see which make the fastest boat. Note: Always be careful near water, never go alone.
- Build a House: Try creating a house or den for an outdoor critter or a make-believe troll, fairy, or gnome. Use sticks, rocks, and leaves that you find in your backyard.
- Back Yard Camping: If you are new to camping, a great idea is to camp close to home for a trial run. Outsidehow.com has a great Backyard Camping Guide with everything you need to prepare and plan.
We post outdoor games, crafts and activities often, so check out The Wild Life Outdoor Adventures Facebook page for frequent updates.
Let’s be honest, depending on how long kids are at home for, we are all going to need some chill time. Books, puzzles, video games, or some screen time should be part of the routine.
Outdoor Inspired TV Shows
Nat Geo Kids: Nat Geo Kids makes it fun to explore your world with weird, wild, and wacky videos! Videos featuring awesome animals, cool science and funny pets.
Dodo Heros: Animal planet spotlights people who go above and beyond to help animals.
Project MC2: This Netflix show features a Teenage spy McKeyla who teams up with three other super-smart girls to become secret agents who use their science and tech skills to save the day.
SciGirls: a PBS show designed to engage girls 8-12 by exploring STEM. The girls investigate everything from the environment, to engineering, to nutrition. The website has integrated projects.
Beakman’s World: wacky scientist Beakman and his assistant Josie, and Lester, an actor dressed as a mangy rat, answers an inquiry about where puddles go after it has rained.
Wild Kratts: A PBS kids show, the animated Kratts brothers encounter wild animals during stories of adventure and mystery.
Books and Graphic Novels
If you're considering buying books on-line, consider a local bookstore – many are offering no-contact pick-ups, on-line browsing, reservations and purchases. In Calgary, check out Shelf Life Books, Pages, The Next Page, or Owl’s Nest. Here’s a list of fifteen awesome outdoor-inspired novels for kids but we’ve highlighted a couple of our all-time favorites below.
Lumber Janes: the story follows a group of girls at summer scout camp, and the strange creatures and supernatural phenomena they encounter there.
Calvin & Hobbes: a classic oldie, but nothing says adventure and mischief like Calvin and his Tiger Hobbes.
Look on the bright side
This could be a memorable time for your kids, what do you hope they’ll say when they remember the coronavirus outbreak of 2020? Take some time to share stories about your childhood and teach them games you enjoyed as a kid. Although many of us are a part, this time could provide some great opportunities to outside and connect.