Keep Your Toddlers Engaged While Quarantined

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Sheltering at home. Social distancing. Flattening the curve. These are concepts that didn’t exist in vernacular English as recently as February. Today, they rule our lives.

And so, we are cooped up in our homes, many of us with young children who must be kept engaged in activities lest their brains shrivel and our nerves fray. The good news is, we have never been better positioned to conduct our lives from our living rooms. We are connected to the entire world via electronic devices, and that world is intent on providing us with all the information and entertainment we could possibly want.

Let’s consider some possibilities for preschoolers and we’ll address resources for older children in subsequent posts.

Would you like to bring your children to the zoo? Well, you can’t. But you can bring the zoo to your children. Zoos and aquariums around the nation offer live video feeds of animals in their habitats. Discussion and play can be developed around the identities of the animals, the sounds they make, and the activities they are engaged in while you’re watching. Among the zoos with webcams, are the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Seattle, Houston, San Diego, Maryland, and Memphis. The penguin exhibit at the Kansas City Zoo will entertain children of all ages.

Reading to children, particularly ages 0-6, is critical to their brain development. The Lowcountry Graduate Center was proud to support Begin With Books, a local non-profit that provides young children with books, as it expanded its reach into North Charleston’s homes. These books come from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which also provides nightly readings to children by the singer herself. Videos of her reading Llama Llama Red Pajama, The Little Engine That Could, and a host of other books are now available on her site.

Educate your children online with the company most synonymous with children’s reading – Scholastic. The company has assembled a free online curriculum for pre-school children that includes online books and video book presentations that span four weeks of daily readings.

The Charleston County Public Library website includes links to a host of online educational tools.  They include children’s book authors reading their favorite books, playing music, doodling, and more. Visit here for all the options.

Your home likely offers a cornucopia of ideas for play and adventure. Consider taking household items and turning them into fun. Find a wooden spoon and a pot, and allow your child to channel their inner Ringo Starr. If you have modeling clay, Play-Doh, or even just flour and water for homemade modeling clay, you can keep your child’s creative juices flowing for hours. Some colored chalk and a sidewalk are all you need to keep children engaged (and outside!) without a clean-up mess afterward. The more colors, the better. Socks can be puppets, particularly when combined creatively with buttons, Styrofoam, construction paper, lipstick, or almost anything else that might serve to create a face.

Find commiseration and best practices from an online support group spearheaded by the College of Charleston staff. It is “truly a grassroots effort for everything from brainstorming ideas to venting to sympathizing,” says Sarah Myers, director of Admissions Operations at C of C. It meets every Wednesday at 1:00 pm via Zoom and sessions last about 45 minutes but is limited to College of Charleston staff.

There are a million more ideas you can cook up yourself – including cooking! – to keep the kids occupied, entertained, and learning. Don’t forget physical activities too: children need exercise to stay in good physical and mental shape, right alongside their parents.