Inside: During Coronavirus and distance learning, help your kids connect with friends during social distancing with these fun and simple tips.
But can we have playdates and sleepovers?
It was the first question out of my kids’ mouths right after the last bell rang for school.
With the Coronavirus sweeping the world and now the US, schools everywhere have shut down.
So as parents we’re trying to work from home, manage our stress, search for milk and toilet paper and keep our kids calm and happy.
It’s not easy what we’re all doing.
And as someone pointed out, the Coronavirus and how we handle this will go down in the history books. We are part of history.
But since we’re in the middle of it, we have no way to know how long our social distancing and home learning and shelter in place is going to last.
There are whispers of it lasting well into 2021.
Most schools have already canceled in-person learning until at least next fall.
And while some of our kids love not having school and some of our kids hate missing school, most of our kids really miss their friends.
Related: How to Help Kids Be a Good Friend
Especially when the novelty of this early Spring break, early summer break wears off, our kids will be left feeling sad.
They’re going to be desperate to see and play and connect with their friends.
Even though we can’t say yes to those playdates and sleepovers.
So parents need ideas in our back pocket to help our kids stay connected with their friends while we’re social distancing.
Why connection and friendship is so crucial, especially during this quarantine
Being socially isolated from people for long periods of time can be dangerous for our mental health.
Plenty of people like being alone. But no one wants to feel lonely.
We are social creatures. We are meant to live and play in groups, in packs, in social groups.
For our introverted kids or kids who have sensory processing issues, this time away from loud and busy classrooms may be a welcome relief.
But for our extroverted kids, only children, or kids who rely heavily on their friendships, this will be an especially hard time. Their alone time will become lonely time even quicker.
So while we have to physically keep our distance from people not living in our immediate homes, we can still connect with others in meaningful ways so we maintain our friendships, keep our mental health strong, and bolster our resolve as we wait out these months at home away from others.
Because the Coronavirus is already causing worry and confusion and anxiety and stress and fear.
But connecting with others, sharing a smile or a laugh or kind gesture can go a long way to relieving and lessening those big, overwhelming emotions.
But since the “normal” ways of playing with friends are off-limits due to our self-imposed quarantines, we need to get creative.
We need to use what we have at our disposal to our advantage.
And we need to take the time to connect with the people in our lives that we miss.
Screen-Free Ways to Connect with Friends During Social Distancing
**Please note: If you or a family member is sick or has been exposed to the Coronavirus, please avoid these suggestions and skip down to the section on the digital connection. The virus has been known to live on material for a few days, even on a craft project or a letter. You can also take a photo of the craft and send the photo or leave it for them to get in a few days.
**Also please note: This list was made while we were still permitted to be outside as long as we maintain social distancing and stay away from other people. If that changes due to necessity and the CDC or WHO protocols for our safety, please choose activities accordingly. Always choose safety first and err on the side of caution.
1. Make a Craft and Drop it Off in a Friend’s Mailbox
My kids love creating art and doing crafts. And they love giving away their art as gifts to friends.
During this social distancing time, arts and crafts are a great activity to keep our kids busy and entertained AND connect with their friends.
Some of our favorite crafts to make and then giveaway are these Friendship Flowers:
And these Shrinky Dink Friendship Keychains:
2. Chalk their driveaway
If you have sidewalk chalk, go chalk a friend’s driveaway (as long as they’re inside when you do it!)
We went to several friends’ houses and left uplifting messages and drawings letting them know we missed them and can’t wait to see them soon.
For houses with young kids, we drew their names in bubble letters so they could come outside and color after we had left.
You can also draw a hopscotch pattern or obstacle course on their driveway so they have something fun to do once you’re gone.
OR, you can leave messages on your driveway for others.
3. Old Fashioned Pen Pals
Our kids can bring back the old fashioned art of writing letters to friends. They can draw pictures or write letters and either mail the letters or drop them off in mailboxes.
They can use stationary you have or can make their own stationery with stickers or stamps or drawing with crayons.
You can also create a Pen Pal box like this one from GlueSticks.
4. Start a Neighborhood Hunt
So many neighborhoods decided to go on a shamrock hunt on St. Patrick’s Day. Families would make a shamrock and put it up in their window.
As families walk the neighborhood, they “hunted” for the shamrocks and counted to see how many they could find.
Here’s how Mama in the Now set it up with her neighbors.
With St. Pat’s behind us, there are no more shamrocks, but neighborhoods are coming up with other themes such as “uplifting messages day,” “smiley face day,” or “animal day.”
Connect with other families around you and come up with your own neighborhood hunt.
Or you can use these printable neighborhood scavenger hunts. You can of course do them with your family OR you can have one family walk on one side of the street and one family walk on the other side of the street searching for the items.
5. Make Kindness Rocks
On a walk around your neighborhood, search for rocks you can easily paint at home.
You can write or paint uplifting or kind messages on them and then leave them in friends’ yards.
Or you can hide them on your next neighborhood walk for others to find.
You can write anything you want on them, but we prefer Kindness Rocks like these:
6. Hang up Art in your Window for Friends to See
If you have friends who live near you, it can be hard to see them walk by but not be able to go outside to greet them.
Instead, take a poster board, construction paper or just computer paper and draw a picture or leave them a message. Tape it to the inside of your window where friends can see it and be brightened by it.
You can also leave each other personalized notes and pictures if your friends live nearby.
Using Digital Technology and Screens to Connect with Friends While We Are at Home
1. Video Chat
We’ll start with the obvious…with a twist.
Our kids are all pretty digital-savvy and know how to Facetime and connect with friends and family already using about 4 different types of devices.
Some of our kids use Google Classroom or Seesaw or Flipchart to connect with classmates and teachers during this distance learning time.
You can also use programs like Zoom that allow multiple people to talk at once so groups of friends can get together.
They can have a dance party together, a fashion show together, or a sing-along karaoke contest.
They can have themes for their calls and wear crazy hats or crazy socks or wear a different color of the rainbow for each day of the week.
Or they can chat while they play or bake or color or build alongside each other.
If they were in the same classroom at school, they can do their work “side by side” on a video screen if they help each other and can stay focused while they work.
Screen time doesn’t have to be mindless time.
2. Play Video Games Together
Another pretty obvious one is playing video games together. If our kids play games online, they probably already know how to connect with each other and talk while they play.
My kids enjoy playing Roblocks together but I prefer when they play Prodigy together. It’s a math game that lets them each complete math problems at their own levels but they can also work towards a common goal or challenge.
I honestly can’t stand Fortnight. But when I hear my son giggling with his friends who live 8 states away when they play together, it makes me feel a tiny bit better about Orange Justice.
3. Make Each Other Videos
So now they can make these videos and send them to their friends. And then they can ask for videos in return.
They can also read each other books and send videos of them reading the story.
My youngest read a silly St. Patrick’s Day book for a friend.
4. Play a Non-Digital Game Together, but Apart
Certain games you have to play sitting next to a friend, so those are obviously out.
But, there are many traditional games and board games that can be played over a video conference.
Other games are harder, but still possible to play remotely if you get creative.
Kids can play games like chess if they each have a board game and move both their piece and then mirror where their opponent moved their piece so the boards match.
My old neighborhood got super creative and they all played Bingo together using Zoom so they could video conference through the game. Over 15 families got together online to play together.
We are so very lucky to have this incredible technology at our disposal. We can use it to our advantage to help our kids connect and still enjoy each other’s company…even if it’s from a distance.
And that will have to be enough until we can bring back playdates and park visits and sleepovers once again.
In the meantime, stay calm, stay healthy and stay kind.
And help your kids connect to friends during social distancing as best as you can.
(And then go connect with your friends with a glass of wine on a video call when your kids are in bed. Or on a screen).