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Ways to spend time with young children during a pandemic

By Jennifer Bridge In this time of social distancing and quarantines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are missing out on time with our family members. This is a particularly trying time for grandparents and other relatives who are used to helping care for or visiting their grandchildren on a regular basis. And speaking from experience, I have missed spending time with my God daughter/great niece. She is two going on ten and like most children is having a difficult time not understanding why she can’t go bye-bye. Both grandparents and grandchildren benefit from spending time together. Research shows grandparents offer invaluable resources to grandchildren, including listening or offering advice, companionship, help with chores and transportation. Some grandparents may even offer financial support. Similarly, research indicates grandparents who support their grandchildren have fewer depressive symptoms than grandparents who were not involved in their grandchildren’s lives. Thanks to technology, there are still ways we can communicate and spend time together through web conferencing tools, such as FaceTime, Skype and Zoom. You can use these tools for more than just talking and seeing each other. Below are some activities that grandparents and grandchildren can do together through these conferencing apps. Plant a garden. Depending on available space, select a vegetable or flower seed to grow. Use this time together as a learning experiment. Let your grandchild help you identify the materials and equipment you need to plant and grow your garden. How long until the plant blooms or is harvested? How many plants should we plant? What is your favorite vegetable or flower? Discuss the healthy benefits of growing your own food. While planting a garden together can be a great time spent outdoors or indoors, it is also a great time to connect with your little one. Write a letter. We can all relate to the excitement of getting a letter from a friend or loved one. Help your grandchild write a letter. To whom are you going to write a letter? What are you going to say? Should you draw a pretty picture to include? Share a favorite memory of when you got a letter as a child that made you really happy. Who was it from? What did it say? Writing a letter to someone in the hospital or a retirement community can be extremely rewarding and impactful. Get crafty. There are several ways to be crafty with your grandchildren. What’s your favorite craft? Maybe you want to paint the flower pot that you are going to plant a seed in, or paint a rock that will mark your flower in the garden. Maybe your craft today will be baking a special treat or favorite cake. Lots of learning takes place when you share your favorite recipe with your grandchild. Crafts do not have to be extravagant, expensive or take a long time. It can be something as simple as teaching your grandchildren how to sew on a button. This is a great lesson they will use their whole life. Take a nature walk. Head outside with your phone and some homemade binoculars (two empty toilet tissue rolls taped together) to find that ever elusive orange-breasted robin, or to identify five different bugs robins like to eat. If you have older grandchildren, walking outdoors is a great way to teach them about healthy ways to deal with stress or pressures of the day. Taking a walk together can also be a great way to hear about what’s on your grandchild’s mind while you point out the daffodils or a brown-headed cowbird. More information on building strong families is available at the Meade County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.