“All over” was a vague term in my pre-mother days, most often used as hyperbole. Now, “all over” was literal and I was looking at it. I was stunned when I saw the kitchen table. I stood still, scatterbrained, and staring. My wonderful children, who should have had their church shoes on and standing at the front door, were running shoeless all over the house. One or all four of them had tipped a box of cereal all over the table. A table was full of tan flakes in various states of matter and white sugar. I had 3 minutes before I had to be driving away from my house and about 30 minutes of work to do before I could even get out the door. My husband was away, so no dividing and conquering strategies. And though my senses were currently divided, I would not be conquered.
I retreated to the garage for the broom and dustpan. Yep, I swept my kitchen table, not my finest homemaking moment. I corralled the kids to the door, somehow, they got shoes on and we made it to church. And if it was like any other Sunday service, my kids were all over the pew and the youngest crawling all over me.
And what do frosted flakes, brooms, and pews have to do with summertime fun in the age of quarantine? As it turns out, at least two lessons lay in my experience. It has to do with the time we are not all over the town going here and there doing this and that.
First: Like using a broom to sweep a table, look for creative solutions.
Second: I was frazzled because we had a tight schedule. But we can make the most of the time we save not taking kids all over town to various activities.
1. Summer Camp canceled? Be your own camp director! We’ve done this and the memories are a treasure. I set up a different theme for each day for a week. We had stickers to celebrate completing projects. My husband was away that week, so it also kept me distracted from missing him. There are ideas all over the internet for nature crafts, homemade games, outdoor DIY obstacle courses, etc. Don’t forget the s’mores! Even microwave ones count. If you have a fire pit, there you go, your own campfire program!
2. The local library had to go digital or postpone summer reading programs? Put on your own summer reading event. Have ‘read the book, see the movie’ activities. Make paper puppets of the characters in a book and act out the story. Read out loud to your kids outside. We used to put pillows all over a corner of our deck and I’d read aloud, and we’d eat popcorn. Simple. But it was just different enough to keep things fresh.
Make your own reading bingo with prizes. (I suggest keeping the prizes simple and inexpensive or maybe not a thing at all but a ‘stay up late card’ or ‘get out of a chore card’) But add things besides reading to the squares. Literary things like writing a thank you note to a favorite author, drawing a picture of a character in a chapter book, or looking up more information about a place or thing from a storybook. You can even require non-fiction books or certain books. After all, you’re the librarian now.
Make the Most of the Time
As time moved past the cereal incident, there will be a time when the quarantine will be all over. Use those 10 minutes saved by not having to get shoes on small squirmy feet toward a complex project best broken into small pieces. 10 minutes a day for 3 months of summer equals 15 hours!
1. Stop Action Films. There are free apps for your phone that let you make stop-action films. Write up a story. Gather the characters from all over the house. Create backgrounds. Check lighting. Set it up. Practice. Take Pictures. Edit. Add music, etc. Too much to do at one time, but broken up into 10 minutes a day, you would have a mighty fine product at the end of the summer.
2. Family History. Gather photos and start writing the stories surrounding the image. Pick an ancestor but remember, family history isn’t all about those who have died. Current events are history. Think of your parents when they were your kids’ ages. Don’t cover just the basics of birth date and place, etc. Let your mind go all over the place. Describe them – write about eye color, favorite sayings, or jokes they told over and over.
Want to tell the story of a family member that has lived a long time? Make index cards for every year. Fill in the card with all that you know happened that year – file chronologically. Research and fill the cards. Think of places they lived, how old their family members were that year, events that happened in their community. Find out little things, like the price of bread and gasoline. Was there a pandemic? What did they hope to be when they grew up? What music was on the radio? What were the major scientific developments? What were the fashion trends? Then when you get to put it all together, you’ll already have it in order and lots of details. Have the kids interview a family member – hopefully, the oldest family member you’re in contact with. Record the interview somehow. Think of the joy a 10-minute call once a day for a week would bring to an elderly relative. Plus, imagine the treasure that recording will be to your kid’s grandchildren. They’ll be all over it.