Back in the good old days – before mid-March 2020 – I had a lot to be grateful for due to the fact that all my kids and grandkids (K’s & G’s) live within a five-mile radius of my door and we shared a lot of togetherness. On Mondays the little kids – the ones not yet in school – played at my house all day. On Thursdays, whoever could come to dinner, came to dinner – sometimes as many as seventeen of us. Then the pandemic stripped all of that away leaving me to wonder how I could get back a semblance of my good fortune.
Of course, with everyone in Cincinnati, I was still able to see these beloved folks – outside and at a distance. This worked well for us. We adapted with outdoor toys like jai alai scoops and wiffle balls, Velcro mitts and tennis balls, badminton racquets and birdies, not to mention hula hoops used more than one at a time, and the ever-popular sidewalk chalk.
No one ever would have guessed that this Marmel (my grandma name) knew how to throw a ball, much less how to fake out the “monkey in the middle.” We’ve had our fair share of fun.
But now, a new threat looms: WINTER.
As the need to reinvent family life calls out again, I have a plan. Not only that, but this plan will work for people whose K’s & G’s live far away. This plan will also work for adults trying to stay better in touch with their adult friends who live far away – or who seem far away because of social distancing. (If this is your case, please take these “family” ideas and extrapolate in that direction.)
All my ideas involve FaceTime or Zoom meetings. If you are just communicating with one household, FaceTime is fine. If you want to loop in more than one family, you need a program like Zoom. With this technology in hand, I now offer:
Four Ways to Let the Good Times Roll During the Pandemic:
After you chat with your loved one and catch up on how boring everything is due to pandemic restrictions, switch to zanier topics. Do a Google search of “conversation starters with kids” to come up with questions like these:
- If you had a robot for one day, what would you ask it to do?
- If you had the power to shrink anything and take it with you, what would you shrink?
- Can you make up a song about your favorite cousin and sing it to me now?
- If you were stranded at an airport and in charge of entertaining everyone, how would you entertain them?
- If you could design a new ride for Walt Disney World, what would it be?
Book Club – There are lots of options here:
- I read Charlotte’s Web to my granddaughter, Cookie, one chapter a night, via FaceTime. It was a delight to listen to her plead for another chapter even as her eyelids drooped.
- I read a chapter book to all four grandsons across two households. Leo, Josh, Dylan, and Jude enjoyed the thrice-weekly installments, but more than that, they LOVED seeing each other via Zoom.
- Here’s an idea for new readers – order two copies of the same book. Send one to the child and one to yourself. Books in hand, take turns reading chapters aloud. Your budget for kid-related activities has not been in use lately. What a great way to spend that money.
- For older grandkids, a “normal” book club will work where you each read the same book and discuss it. (The rule: They choose the book; you order two copies of it.)
Games Without Boards or Cards – If you Google this phrase you’ll get LOTS of suggestions such as these:
- Story Telling – The more kids, the merrier for this one. Someone makes up the first sentence of a story. The next person adds a sentence and so it continues around the group. If you’re thinking improv comedy here, you’ve got the right idea.
- Timed Categories – Using your cell phone as a stopwatch, pick a category such as junk food. All participants write as many items in that category as possible before the one-minute timer goes off.
- Would You Rather – Take turns creating two scenarios for other players to choose between. The scenarios can be mild like: Would you rather be able to control water or fire? Or the scenarios can be wild: Would you rather fart every time you hug someone or burp every time you kiss?
Personal Story Sharing:
- Most kids loved Show ‘N Tell in elementary school, so play it again. Certainly, there’s something in your closet that has a back story and perhaps even a moral to the story? Show it, and tell about it. Ask the kids to return the favor with something they own.
- A favorite photo can also be the object of show and tell. Photos of ancestors are great but what about a cute baby photo of the child you’re talking to? Watch them light up! You’ll light up too – with the joy of inclusion – when they share photos of their friends and activities.
Before you groan about FaceTime and Zoom, let me tell a little tale. Back in the 1970’s, my ex-husband and I moved away from our hometown. Long distance phone calls were expensive. To stay in touch with each set of parents, we bought tape recorders, and began sending 60-minute tapes back and forth.
My ex-parents-in-law were uncomfortable with this technology, so they dropped out.
My parents played along. In both our households, the tape recorder sat on the dinner table capturing the news of the day. Each week we sent and received 60-minutes of news. We did this for almost thirty years. Clearly, those who embraced technology won.
Thanks to FaceTime, Zoom and the ideas suggested here, you can win the game of togetherness too, even during the pandemic.
Need something else to read after finishing this blog? Read a good book! Check out the new book review section of my website for suggestions.