How To Keep Neighborhoods Connected While Social Distancing
At this point of the quarantine that feels like it will never end, your kids are probably (most definitely) missing their friends and social interactions at school and the neighborhood kids. Parents are actively searching for ways to keep kids connected with their neighbors during quarantine not only for their kids to nurture friendships and get some socialization in, but also for said parents to get a little break.
But things get tricky when you can't just throw your kids outside on their bikes and tell them to go over to Susie's house to ask her to come play. Now they have to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from each other, and even better if they all stay in their own yards. With the one added bonus of not having to feed all of your snacks to the neighborhood kids while this is going on, believe it or not, there are a lot of fun social activities and games kids can play on their own or with an adult while still social distancing and remaining at least 6 feet apart.
From virtual playdates to scavenger hunts, to sidewalk chalk drawings and messages, to even having bike races on opposite sides of the road, there's an activity for kids of all ages that will help pass the time while keeping your kids social.
1. Sidewalk Chalk Activities
Whether it's creating a #chalkyourwalk inspirational message, making a hopscotch for each other, or taking turns creating a large-scale art scene each day by adding to the picture, sidewalk chalk is where it's at. Just make sure nobody is out there at the same time.
2. I-Spy Games
At first, our neighborhood used Nextdoor and the neighborhood Facebook page to organize an activity where everyone created four-leaf clovers and tape them in windows for kids to "spot" when they were walking with their families.
Since that was way back during Saint Patrick's Day (oh god, have we been in quarantine for that long?), the new object to look for is a heart. Now whenever kids and families go for walks around our neighborhood, they're encouraged to look for hearts in windows. Parents of younger kids have their children count the hearts, name the colors, etc., for a little game.
3. Dance parties
I'm sure someone still has a boombox or some speakers to connect to their smart phones, right? Play some music loud and proud (at a reasonable hour, of course) and have your kids and the kids across the street have a dance party.
4. A No-Touching Scavenger Hunt
Using Nextdoor or a neighborhood Facebook group, come up with a plan for people to put up random objects all over the neighborhood. On Newton Massachusetts' "virtual village" page, neighbors are saying they're hanging random objects from trees, making silly things to put on mailboxes, etc., and then having a Google Docs page featuring the items and their locations for kids to find. People are printing the list and walking around their neighborhoods looking for the items.
5. Simon Says
This is for neighbors who are closer in proximity like next door or across the street. But have either an adult or older child be Simon and yell across the way to each other to play the game.
6. Virtual Playdates
There are a ton of apps you can use to have a successful virtual playdate. So if the kids can't come outside to play, whether it's due to weather, sickness, etc., they can still "play" together virtually and be connected.
7. Virtual Lunch Dates
In the same vein as a virtual playdate, set up a videoconference for a picnic in your living room and eat together with neighborhood friends who will also be eating in their living rooms.
8. Snail Mail
Teach your kids how to write a letter, address an envelope, and drop it in the mailbox for their friends. If that's too much, just simply have your child write notes and stick them in the mailbox for their friends to find.
Another option would be to have your child write and draw cards with sweet encouraging messages for elderly neighbors on your street.
By the way, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the WHO (World Health Organization) say the likelihood of contamination with packages and mail is very low.
9. Yoga Class
Is one of your neighbors a yogi or have you been watching some Yoga with Adriene on YouTube while the kids nap and do schoolwork? Have your kids and the neighborhood kids line up (in their own respective yards of course) and lead them in a kid-friendly group yoga class outside. Or you can always do this virtually with Zoom or another app.
10. Put On Plays
Writing and creating a play will take up at least an afternoon, and then performing it for the neighbors across the street will take up some time and be fun, too! If you really want to get into it, have the kids create DIY props and backdrops and even costumes to really bring it together.
This homeschooling website provides free scripts for kids if they're having a little trouble coming up with their own play ideas.
11. Bike Races
Either with a stopwatch or having the kids simultaneously go down their own portions of the sidewalk on their sides of the street until they reach a designated "finish line," they'll have a blast and burn a ton of energy having bike races with each other.
12. Learn Sign Language
Once your kids get a bit of a grasp on it, have them try to communicate to the kids across the street who have been practicing, too.
13. Freeze Dance Game
Similar to the dance party idea above, play music so kids on both sides can hear it. Have someone yell, "Freeze," or turn the music off to get the kids to freeze in place. The first kid that moves after "freezing" loses. Last kid standing is the winner.
Put that Frozen CD to good use. Have the kids play karaoke with each other from afar. They can even use hairbrushes or spoons as "microphones" and they can either sing together or have a singing audition American Idol-style where they perform for each other across the street or across the fence.
This might take some parental planning, but not much. Text the neighbor parent a word for their kid to act out and have your kids try to guess what the word is, and vice versa.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.