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7 Activities For An Only Child During Quarantine, According To A Real Mom

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Like many parents of only children, I am feeling both stressed and sad that my kid can't play with buddies in this time of social distancing. It's heartbreaking to take a walk and have your kid look longingly at other children, knowing they can't go play. Which is why I've rounded up some ideas for how to keep only children entertained. (Note: these ideas are mainly for younger kids.)

Parents of only children are in a particularly tight spot right now. Not only do we worry about our child being lonely, we are also struggling with how to keep them busy so that we can attempt to get some work done, or take breaks, or do any of the million other things we were used to doing back when our kids were in school or at day care.

It's hard not to worry about your kid's isolation. How long will it be before they can once again play a carefree game of tag with their cousins? Yes, we can romp with them as much as possible, but it isn't the same as being with another 4-foot-tall person who also thinks wasps are the coolest insect ever, and that poop jokes are riotously funny.

In my lighter moments, I try to remind myself that personal challenges can sometimes reveal a hidden beauty or new discovery, or teach us something powerful about ourselves or others. I have no idea how my kid will look back on this time in his life, but perhaps it will teach him immense gratitude for his pals. Or his boredom will blossom into even more imaginative play. Perhaps it will bring us all closer together as a family. Or maybe it will simply remind me that yes, poop jokes really are the height of humor, and how did I ever forget this?

As I write this, my kid has just shut himself into a cabinet beside my desk and asked me to play magician. So. OK. This morning I'm a magician. Who needs to pull another cup of coffee out of her hat.

1. Pointless projects. That's right — pointless.

Projects do not have to be fancy. They can be utterly pointless. So find some rocks from the yard and ask your child to paint them. Give them a pile of stickers and have them make a sticker book. These can be any stickers you have on hand, including address labels. (Though if you are able to order from Target, these Big Stickers for Little Hands books are kind of great.) Give them some flour and let them make dough. The point is, don't get bogged down that these projects must be educational or Instagram-worthy. Just open your cabinets and get creative.

2. Zoom in some buddies.

OK, so zooming outside together on their scooters would be much more preferable. But arranging a Zoom call for your kid is another simple way for them to stay connected to their pals. Seeing their buddies' faces on the screen can be comforting and fun for them in the same way it is for us right now, and can offer them some reassurance that yes, there are still other little people in the world right now, even if they can't meet up at the playground.

3. Let them be helpers.

Just like us, kids like to feel useful. So let them "help you" with chores. Or give them a task that's just right for them. Maybe they can sort socks or LEGOs, or just give them a bunch of Tupperware and some spoons, and let them "organize." Hand them a broom and let them pretend to sweep. Let them "wash" windows. Take them outside, fill a bucket with water, and give them a paintbrush so they can "paint" the house. Give them a pile of papers and some folders, so they can "help you" in the office. And of course, be sure to praise them for all of their hard work!

4. Have a soiree with some stuffed pals.

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When you're an only child, your imagination is sometimes your best friend. Gather up some stuffed animals, dolls, action figures — whatever your kid is into — and set up a little birthday party for Elmo, complete with cookies, homemade decorations, and some presents. (Which can be whatever your child decides to wrap up.)

5. Make a mural.

OK, now hear me out. I know this might sound a little wild, but we are living in wild times, no? Which is why I think you should pick a wall in your home (maybe in your kid's room?) and let them draw, paint — do whatever they want to the wall. Obviously, this is risky depending on the child's age, as you want them to understand that only one wall is the mural wall, lest they drag a marker over every surface in the house. But if your kid is old enough to grasp this idea, this is something they could work on every day. Maybe show them some pics of Wynwood Walls for inspiration. When this is all over, you can always either leave the wall as is, or paint over it. Paint is cheap. Keeping your kid entertained right now is priceless.

6. The iPad isn't the enemy.

Let's be real — the iPad is an extremely useful tool right now. Yes, you don't want your kid on it 24/7, but giving them a bit more screen-time now may be necessary for everyone's sanity. And it doesn't all have to be learning Spanish or Common Core, so cut yourself some slack. Here are my top five fun, silly, mildly educational little kid's apps: Toca Hair Salon, Toca Life Office, Toca Kitchen Monsters, Endless Alphabet, My PlayHome.

7. Fully unleash your inner goofball.

Now is the time to really get silly with your kids. Yes, we are the parents, and yes we are in charge, but without any other playmates around, our kids really need us to get down in the dirt with them and pretend to be space worms. Or panda wizards. Or fairy princesses made of spaghetti. I know this is hard, when our brains are already so overloaded with worrying information and stress, but trust me, letting yourself forget your troubles for a second and being ridiculous with your kids will be good for everyone. Here's a fun list of pretend play ideas if you need a little inspiration.