Saturday, March 21, 2020

Opportunities for Family Bonding, Closeness and Fun

Janis Keyser

Most of us are feeling some amount of stress with the COVID 19 epidemic. Our jobs, income, mobility, child care and many other aspects of our lives are changed. We may be feeling health, economic or other fear. There is lots of health advice available and growing resources for families about how to manage this time. Even though our worries and stresses are real, we can look at this time as an opportunity to spend some focused, present and undistracted time together with our families.

Many of us are balancing work at home with having our children at home. While this can be challenging and distracting, creating some well planned "together" time as well as some "work alone" time may make both of these more successful.

I want to offer several creative, simple, easy to do ideas that families can use to engage in fun activities that nurture family relationships and build lasting memories. These are meant as examples of the kinds of family time you can have and inspiration to invent your own activities.


Children are natural movers and often find ways to create chase or jumping games inside--some which don’t feel safe to their parents. With a little structure, planning and creativity, movement can happen in fun, safe and educational ways inside.


Use the internet to find some simple yoga poses children can do. They love the ones with animal names.
  • Create a space for each person (could use a bath towel) to do their poses.
  • Be playful and invite children to make the sound of the animal
  • Ask children if they can invent their own yoga pose and to teach it to the others
  • Invite children to draw their pose and write or dictate their instructions for how to do it.
  • You can take photos of the new poses, print them and children can make a book of all the new (and familiar) poses

Movement Games

Start by thinking about all the different ways your body can move, hop, jump, crawl, slither, wiggle.

  • Create a parade where one person leads doing different kinds of movement that others need to copy or one person can be the director and tell everyone how to move down the hallway or from one chair to another.
  • Invent an “obstacle course.” Use your own and children’s imagination. 
    • With instructions: First hop three times, then turn around, then crawl while we sing one verse of Baby Beluga, roll 3 times, then walk backwards 4 steps. (children will be wonderful at creating their own once they get the idea.)
    • Extend and Share: Write down the steps, illustrate them, make a book, send to friends on email
    • With obstacles: set up stools to climb over, couch cushions to jump on, small tables to crawl under, small islands (fabric, little rugs, paper) to jump to, hang something high for them to jump and touch.
    • Using Math and Representation concepts
      • Estimate how many hops to get down the hall
      • Graph how many hops it took each person to get down the hall
      • Draw a picture of everyone jumping down the hall

Treasure hunt

  • Inside treasure hunt
    • Pick a category or description and look for all the things in the house that fit the description: ie. green, wooden, round, old, alive, used to be alive, things that are good for carrying things, things that start with the letter "B". Use imagination--yours and children's
    • Draw or write the name of your treasures
    • Compare lists
    • Ask questions--How did you know this was wood? How is this good for carrying things?
  • Outside treasure hunt
    • Find different colored leaves, seeds, rocks, bugs, sticks, something that moves, food for birds. 
    • For older children categories can be more complicated: stores that provide services to people, 3 story buildings, insects that live in groups, etc.


This is your opportunity to engage in cooking and cooking with your children.
If you haven’t had your children in the kitchen before, you can start simply. They don’t need to make your grandmother’s Tres Leches cake first thing.
Here are some ideas:

  • Washing, tearing and spinning lettuce (and using the salad spinner)
  • Scrubbing root vegetables with a scrub brush
  • Spreading
    • cream cheese on toast,
    • Peanut butter on apples
  • Dipping vegetables in yogurt dressing
    • Making yogurt dressing (stirring in a few spices)
  • Using the blender
    • Making smoothies with pieces of fruit, yogurt, flax seeds
    • Making icey juice with ice and frozen juice concentrate
  • Simple cutting
    • Starting with soft food like banana, they can use a butter knife
    • For beginning cutters, cut potatoes and carrots in half to make a flat side and in strips so children can cut through with one cut.
  • Mashing
    • Children love mashing the potatoes they washed and steamed. Use a flat surface with sides like a cookie sheet or cake pan
    • Mashing cooked apples to make apple sauce

Story Telling

In addition to reading books, you and tell stories and write and illustrate books with children

  • Share stories from you own childhood and history, Do you have funny stories? stories of struggling to learn something? stories of having different kinds of feelings? Our children are fascinated with us and with stories that might reflect some of the experiences they have as children. 
    • Be thoughtful if your stories have a sad or unresolved ending. If you choose to use these stories you can offer a possible solution or think with your child about how the situation could be resolved. Our own stories can be ways of transmitting our family values: gratitude, persistence, empathy, compassion, curiosity, relationships with the natural world, ecology, generosity, caring for self and others, exploration, flexibility, problem-solving and more.
  • Tell stories about when your child was younger. You can use family photos or just tell the story with words.
  • Create a collaborative story. This can be done with 2 or more people. One person starts with the first line of the story and each person adds a line, continuing until the story seems done.
  • Tell stories about your current adventures. "Remember when we went to the park and saw the squirrel running through the trees?" Shall we tell the story about that? What happened first?
  • Many children love to draw and would be interested in creating a book to go along with a story. You can easily staple or lace pieces of paper together to make a simple book. Your child can write or dictate the words and draw the picture that goes along with each page.
  • You can create a book with photos from a family experience (it can be as simple as a family meal, cooking project or treasure hunt) and your child can write or dictate the story to go along with the photos.
  • You can engage technology and either use audio or video recording to record a story your child tells. Maybe your child wants to do some movement or action with their story. Once it is on tape, you child might want to make an illustrated book to go along with it.

About this Blog

I hope this blog will be a resource to families, both as a place for me to share ideas and for you to share ideas with each other. Please feel free to comment, question, offer ideas, struggles and successes. I am also available for consultation. 

Other Resources

All About Young Children (California Department of Education--Resource for Parents of children 0-5, available in 8 languages)

A Resource to Support Families with Young Children Who are Working from Home, Google Children's Center

Caring for Children During Extended Family Confinement


  1. Wonderful blog and ideas for families! Thank you Janis! Sending you a virtual ABARZO!

  2. I love this!!! Thank you for sharing and reminding us of the things we’ve done with you (but how could we ever forget). Cooking and story telling is what we are doing together most, the boys chase each other around and they’ve set up an obstacle course in our house complete with rope swing. lol. So far, we are doing great, but I’m sure I will be looking at this blog again in the next couple weeks. We love you! <3

  3. Thank you, Janis! Really appreciate this pragmatic approach and so many great ideas. Stay well!