Contemplating the social and economic effects of a pandemic may seem like an adult matter, but children are experiencing feelings of COVID-19-related stress and uncertainty at least as much as their parents are. And just like adults, kids can benefit from feeling that they’re making a contribution and helping others. Here are a few ways even young children can safely help their family and community during the pandemic.
“Chalk Your Walk”
Being outside for walks and exercise (while social distancing with a face covering) is a very different experience right now, and for kids it may feel a little strange or lonely. “Chalk Your Walk” is a national trend that encourages families to spend time safely outside while decorating the sidewalks with creative drawings, hopscotch, or inspirational words. This can be an uplifting experience for kids to participate in. Seeing colorful images and positive messages like “We are going to be okay” and “We are in this together” can be very reassuring for children. Writing messages or drawing pictures themselves is a way that they can help their neighbors feel better too.
Plant flowers and recycle
Earth Day celebrations this year got sidetracked by the coronavirus, and with kids out of school, the event may have gone by unnoticed. Planting flowers is a simple and easy way to get children thinking about stewardship of the Earth while also keeping them occupied and learning. This is also the perfect opportunity to teach them about reusing materials: an empty egg carton makes a great planter to start off seedlings. You can also brainstorm ideas with your kids about other ways in which they can make a difference. For example, a preschool age child can set up a recycling box in their room for old papers and coloring books, while an older child can be in charge of separating household items for recycling.
Take the time to (virtually) cheer someone up
Between remote learning and virtual playdates, your kids have probably gotten to be pros at communicating via video. So if your child’s classmate invites them to a virtual birthday party, emphasize how special it is that they get to celebrate with them (even if they’re not best friends). Call up or video chat with relatives, particularly those who may be feeling isolated and lonely. There are also ways that kids can help those outside their own family. They can create videos with messages of love and support for nursing home and assisted living residents through #carenotCOVID. View this as an opportunity to talk with your children about being kind to others in the community, particularly seniors.
Make a special breakfast for the family
For some families, lockdown may be the first time that everyone is actually eating their meals together. And what better way for a child to celebrate this than by making everyone breakfast? They can also feel good about helping out their busy family. For the younger kids, there are easy breakfasts that children can safely prepare on their own. And for older kids who know their way around the kitchen, this is a great time to learn a new recipe and build up their cooking skills.
Take on a new “big kid” chore to help around the house
Being given ownership of an important task makes a child feel independent and more in control of the situation—a feeling that they may be missing in the current climate. Give your child a few options for an age-appropriate chore that you know they’ll be able to master. Be sure to remind them that they just need to do their best and that the end result doesn’t have to be perfect. Not only will they feel the satisfaction of learning a new skill, the added responsibility makes up for any classroom jobs that they might be missing out on.
Have you found any creative ways for your kids to pitch in? Let us know on Facebook!
Lakshmi Hutchinson is a freelance writer with experience in the nonprofit, education, and HR fields. She is particularly interested in issues of educational and workplace equity, and in empowering women to reach their professional goals. She lives in Glendale, California with her husband, twin girls, and tuxedo cat.