Looking for ways to get out of the house with the kids, stay sane and stay healthy, and stick to the commonsense rules of social distancing that have become such a focus of our everyday lives? Maintaining positive mental and physical well-being, for children as well as adults, is especially important during these challenging times, but there are plenty of creative ways we can keep our families entertained and active during this unplanned period – and gift – of together time.
The Joy of Gardening With Children
There’s no better time than early spring to plant and care for a vegetable garden. Cultivating a garden together with our kids is not just a great way to get outside during some of the most pleasant months of the year, but the process of growing edible plants – vegetables, herbs, fruit – also teaches kids all about food, nutrition, discipline and the importance of hard work. Seeds or starter plants, tools, pots and other gardening supplies are always available to order online, and plenty of videos will help get the kids excited about the prospect of growing – and eating! – their own delicious produce.
A variety of quick-growing vegetables including zucchini, radishes, spinach, green beans and turnips will keep the kids busy and engaged, while squash and pumpkins are fun to plant because they’re impressive to grow – large and colorful on their fast-growing vines. Tomatoes, lettuce and certain herbs are easily grown in pots and will continue to flourish as they are picked throughout the season, and alfalfa or bean sprouts can even be grown on the back porch or kitchen counter, with sprouts sometimes beginning to appear in as few as 3-4 days.
Spring is also the best time of year for birdwatching, as the millions of migratory birds that have spent their winter months in warm southern regions migrate back north again to build nests, explore and communicate with one another as they re-acclimate to life in the Northern Hemisphere. Sparrows, warblers, thrushes and woodpeckers are at their most active in late March and early April, staking out territories and singing their very distinct songs in an effort to find and attract mates.
Bird feeders in the backyard are a great place to start growing your children’s interest in birdwatching and identification, but even a short walk down a park path or into the woods will open their eyes as to the enormous range of birds in the area. Keeping a bird journal, spotting different species with a pair of binoculars and learning how to identify them based on size, color, song and behavior are all activities that are not just fun, but educational.
Go on a Turkey Hunt
Another great way to get older kids out of the house and into the great outdoors is by taking them on a spring turkey shoot. Beginning April 4th, youth under the age of 18 are able to hunt turkeys (male or bearded turkeys) statewide. Several restrictions exist, of course, which may result in heavy fines if violated; hunting with dogs during spring turkey season, for instance, is prohibited, as is hunting with any sort of handgun. But learning to call or scout out a turkey, handle a gun and even build a hunting blind are all hunting skills that your children will be able to use for years to come.
Go For a Run or a Nature Walk
There are ways to run safely during these times of social distancing that have everything to do with running on your own rather than in a group and sticking to areas or trails that are not likely to have much other foot traffic. It’s a prime time to explore some less-traveled routes – parks, paths or neighborhoods – that might be new to you as a runner or to try running at a time of day you may not be accustomed to.
Children, once again, are dying to get outdoors, and a nature walk with the kids might involve asking them to listen to and describe the sounds of the forest, the types of trees they see or signs of animal life – animal tracks, insects, animal droppings or bird nests – along the way. Even if the walk turns into a simple opportunity for some fresh air and change of scenery, the precious memories of these times spent as a family are likely to stick with them – and you – forever.