As the virtual school year ends and many states extend stay-at-home orders, you’re probably asking yourself a question on the minds of a lot of parents: how can I keep my kids entertained and occupied this summer? While this summer may not be like your kids imagined, there are plenty of ways to get your kids – from toddlers to teens – to have fun while also giving back.
1. For your toddler (or just the young-at-heart): try making custom “thank you” cards for your local food bank
Food banks and their volunteers are working really hard right now. Harder than they’ve ever worked. Why not send them some adorably colored love through the mail? Find your local food bank, and have your toddler draw his or her favorite fruit or veggie on a thank you card. If they’re old enough to write, ask them to write a short note. If not, add one in yourself!
If your kiddo isn’t the arts and crafts type, you can always send an electronic thank-you card on behalf of your whole family.
2. For the whole family: Watch movies that spark empathy and talk about why that matters
We put together a handy list of our top five movies that teach empathy and compassion, which includes the likes of “E.T.”, “Inside Out” and ”Beauty and the Beast.” While we’re all stuck inside streaming TV shows and movies, switch up your family movie night routine with the kids by watching one (or more!) of the films in our list. Afterwards, ask your kids about what they felt for the characters in the movies. How did they feel about the Beast? Were they sad when Elliot said goodbye to E.T.? What would they do to help them?
3. For your video-gaming teen: Do some gaming for good
If you’ve got a teenager who likes video games, they are probably logging plenty of time while they’re stuck at home. Many games require chatting with friends, so set up a virtual fundraiser with your teen and while they play, they can encourage their friends to donate (with their parents’ permission and help, of course). Incentivize your teen by granting them more video game time based on how much they can raise – maybe for every $10 they get 10 more minutes of gaming. If they’re more advanced gamers who stream their sessions, encourage them to host a Charity Stream for Feeding America. This is also a great idea for adults who simply can’t get enough Animal Crossing right now.
4. For your elementary or middle-schooler: Set up a virtual scavenger hunt for good news
Now more than ever, we all need some good news. Seek it out! Set up a “virtual scavenger hunt” across the internet for your middle or elementary schooler. The goal? To find good news related to helping others during coronavirus. First, find a news story about food banks or other organizations that are helping, then give your child clues about how to get there. For example, give them the state the story happened in, or which food bank was involved. With your supervision, let them surf the internet until they find it. If they have siblings around the same age, add some friendly competition by timing each child to see how quickly they can locate the article. Afterwards, make sure they read the story and talk to them about how they could help their neighbors.
Looking for a good place to start? Try this story about a craftsman in Maine who found a unique way to give back to his community. Or this one about a Seattle 11-year-old who’s making face masks and donating the proceeds to different organizations.
5. More for the whole family: Start a gratitude journal
As an alternative to bringing your family together in front of the television, try gathering to discuss and write down what you’re most grateful for by starting a gratitude journal. Nowadays, reminding our children (and ourselves) what we’re thankful for is important – it keeps us grounded and keeps us hopeful. By engaging your kids in a conversation about gratitude, you can keep them grounded and also understanding of the challenges so many are facing right now.