Surviving Coronavirus with Tweens

If you are the parent of an elementary school aged kid or younger, you are currently being inundated with online resources for keeping them entertained and educated. But as the mom of 12 year olds, I’m finding it harder to find ideas and resources for kids their age.

My kids were thrilled when they heard “no school for a month!” But then they realized that meant they wouldn’t see their friends for a month, either. Socializing is so important at this age, so I’ve gathered some ideas on keeping them engaged and not too bored, so you can work if you need to.

Messenger Kids is a great app for kids to talk to their friends. The best part is that it works on any operating system. So if your kids have iPods and their friends have Android tablets, they can still chat.

I think we can all agree that we have to loosen our parenting standards a bit right now. Mine were already pretty loose, and I’m encouraging them to play Xbox with friends. Maybe they can’t get outside and toss the football around with their buddies but they can play Madden! (I think this requires some kind of subscription plan that my kids suckered me into paying for even before all this happened.)

Fortunately, we have a ton of half filled sketchbooks lying around the house from when the boys went through their artistic phase a few years ago. There are lots of websites where you can find prompts for drawing. The more random the better! This can buy you half an hour of quiet time, in my experience.

And yes, Mo Willems’ books are geared towards younger kids, but his Lunch Doodles videos are fantastic and fun for any age.

If your kid is 13 or older, you can set up a free blog at WordPress.com (disclosure: that’s where I work) and let them write about their days, or post photos, or whatever. You can make it private (or not, whatever you want.)

Now is the perfect time for your precious angels to start taking over some of the housework, if they aren’t already. Level up on their chores. Unloading the dishwasher, doing the laundry, sweeping? Of course, they were doing that already, right? How about cleaning the bathrooms? Organizing closets? Washing windows? (Okay, I’m crying laughing right now, but let’s dream big!) (See above statement about my loose parenting standards.)

But cooking – now that’s where they can truly shine. If they say they can’t do it, put on an episode of Masterchef Junior and show them what kids are capable of. Then, pull some random ingredients out of the depths of your pantry (now’s the time to use up those lentils, hearts of palm, and lemon curd that’s been lurking back there) and let them play Chopped. (Okay maybe you don’t have to get that creative with your choice of ingredients. You do want to end up with something edible.)

But in all seriousness, if you really want your kids to learn to cook, there are a lot of resources for getting kids into it, but I particularly like the look of America’s Test Kitchen for Kids.

I’ve seen lots of links for “virtual field trips” out there, and here’s a good list. I particularly like the animal cams at zoos around the country. When everyone gets too stressed out, I highly recommend putting on the Georgia Aquarium’s Jellyfish cam. Ahhhhhh….

Speaking of stress relief, exercise can be a great help. Smaller kids can run laps of the living room, but as they get bigger, this becomes less of an option if you have a smaller house like we do. Going outside is ideal as long as you can stay away from other people and don’t touch anything (forget the playground) but sometimes you have to stay inside. Look on YouTube together for exercise routines they can do inside. We got a small basketball hoop to hang in the boys’ room, and they spend hours playing with it.

They can also get a leg up on their future careers. Have any kids who want to learn to code? Scratch is one free option. Khan Academy is another.

This is now a great time to pull out the board games that are languishing in a closet somewhere. Monopoly will kill several hours, but that might also kill your relationships, so maybe save that one for when this is all over. Even if you don’t have a pile of games, pull out a deck of cards and teach them how to play gin rummy, spoons, or heck, poker. Here’s a great website for learning common and obscure card games.

My favorite way to spend the evenings with my boys is by watching movies. And now is the time to hook up the DVD player (I actually had to order a new one from Amazon last week) or fire up the streaming services and educate these kids on the movies of your youth (or young adulthood, depending on your age.)

Some favorites (and you have to decide if your kids can handle them): Princess Bride, Groundhog Day, Back to the Future, Austin Powers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Wayne’s World. And this is the perfect time to stream TV shows! My kids love The Office, Parks and Recreation, and I highly recommend The Good Place for this weird time. Yes, there is some more mature humor but what better way to educate them in these awkward subjects? (See lazy parenting references above.)

We’re only a week or so into this, with many more weeks to go. We’re all in this together (but six feet apart) so if you have any resources to share, please let us know in the comments!

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My name is Pam, and I live in Algiers Point with my husband George and my identical triplets Linus, Oliver, and Miles. I work from home as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic. I enjoy reading and photography and sewing (and blogging!)

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