Category Archives: COVID-19 activities for children

Enrichment to Go

Two of the pictures referenced in the note. We’ve left out the faces for confidentiality reasons, but boy we wish you could see the smiles!!!!

When the schools closed last March, so did the afterschool programs. Children were now home all day, every day, not even allowed to go to one another’s homes.  Knowing that many of children don’t have enough nourishing food to develop healthy bodies, we wondered how they could have access to enough nourishing materials to developing healthy minds.

Without afterschool programs and day camps, how would under-resourced children spend all that unstructured time?

The only materials we didn’t buy locally were the art supplies we sent to the Buck Mountain Food Pantry.

Would they be pestering already overstressed parents with choruses of “I’m bored, I’m bored?”  Or would they be on screen all afternoon and every Saturday and Sunday? How would the time spent by children of low-income families differ from the time spent by families that can afford Legos, art supplies, creative board games, science kits, puzzles–the many things that develop creativity, strategic thinking, and interpersonal skills? We didn’t know for sure, but our experiences suggest that access to these materials is typically very limited in homes struggling just to buy groceries and pay the electricity bills.

How children spend their out-of-school time is related to positive outcomes. The gap is becoming the gulf.

Magnets from Shenanigans.

We called a special meeting of our board of directors to discuss how we could get quality enrichment materials into the homes of children with limited resources.  We decided we would purchase the materials locally, because supporting the local economy supports local children. Our board members got very busy reaching out to food distribution centers and toy stores to develop a plan for getting affordable, enriching supplies into homes all summer and beyond.

Volunteers at Buck Mt. Episcopal Church receive sidewalk chalk.

Since then we have distributed just shy of 600 items through food distribution centers.

Our primary partnerships were with Buck Mountain Episcopal Church and New Beginnings Christian Community Center, but we also donated through Ivy Creek Methodist Church, The Unitarian Universalist Church, and by way of Shenanigans to Albemarle County Schools Food Distribution Programs.  Shenanigans and  Alakazam Toys have been critical partners in the process, offering discounts, delivering products, and patiently taking the time to problem solve and share ideas with us. We also very much appreciated a donation of books from The Free Book Bus.  Other than the books, all of the materials distributed were covered by cash donations, for which we are beyond grateful.

The generosity of our community during these very tough times has been heartening. That generosity has supplied art materials, science kits, puzzles, construction toys, games, and puppets to engage children’s imaginations, awaken their curiosity, and challenge and delight their developing minds.

Origami paper from Alakazam

We love this program and have decided to keep it going, at least through March and possibly beyond. We are currently making plans to add Hope House, which provides housing to families facing homelessness. We will be providing each unit with age appropriate board games selected because they develop strategic, creative, and collaborative thinking skills—AND ARE FUN!

Because we want to keep this program going, and to reach more children than only one small non-profit can reach alone, in the coming months I will be sharing more information about the program, the rationale behind it and the types of materials we are selecting. Please, steal our ideas.  And contact staff@enrichmentalliance.org directly if you are interested in starting a similar initiative through your program.

Enriching Children’s Lives During a Global Pandemic

September 21, 2020.

Looking back on the last day of the strangest summer most of us have known.

Early in March, I went to the beach with my family, thinking that when I got back it would be time to start focusing on our summer inclusion collaboration with Charlottesville Parks and Recreation. I felt pretty relaxed about it, because so many of last summer’s Inclusion Counselors were returning, and one would be stepping into a new role to help coordinate the program.

These are just some of the emails my inbox contained in March of 2020.

By the time our four days at the beach were over, COVID-19 had been declared a pandemic. By the end of the week, Governor Northam had closed the public schools for two weeks, and we had no idea if they would re-open nor how summer would play out for the children of our community.

It soon became obvious that we needed to plan for a summer like no other. Our work is about out-of-school time, and man were the kids in our community out of school!

Crises and tragedies have a way of forcing people to think outside the proverbial box.

It is our hope that these three actions we took in response to the pandemic will be of lasting value to children and families with limited access to enriching activities:

  • Blog Posts Featuring Affordable, Inclusive Enrichment Activities for Social Distancing
  • Enrichment to Go: Delivery of Enrichment Materials to Families Through Food Distribution Programs
  • A Zoom Poetry Workshop

Our next few posts will talk about each of these activities, starting today with

A brief tour of the our 2020 Spring/Summer Blogs.

From our popNpoems posts.

Our first response was to share activities that are enriching, inclusive, and available even while quarantined or social distancing. I wrote up the blogs, but I had great help from board member Sue Smith and volunteers Amy Vandenburg and Lily Zhou-Mei Ji  who identified many of the activities shared. Lily even got in her car and took a picture of Beta Bridge for one post. Thanks so much to you three imaginative people.

When we began posting, we were all under stay at home orders, which is reflected in our earliest posts. We looked primarily for activities that actively engaged children and youth in movement, science, and the arts. We also included games that promote strategic thinking, creativity, and collaboration. Ideas for transformative staycations were posted three times. Here are just a few examples of the activities we found or created and shared: build-your-own theme park; sidewalk art; escape rooms; magic tricks; forts, shelters, and cities; backyard naturalists; converting regular board games to cooperative games; recycling art.

Inclusion is a core value and we made every effort to find activities for a wide range of abilities and interests. You will also find some stories in ASL and on audio files, and some movement activities suitable for people with limited mobility. We would be very interested in hearing from you if you have links to inclusive enrichment activities.

With 60 posts typically featuring 4 activities each, we feel that we have a good supply of activities to help children stay engaged in meaningful activities outside of their regular school hours. We will add a few seasonal COVID friendly activities as fall and winter go on, but will be focusing on new activities less frequently. Most of our activities are not age specific, but because of our efforts to offer a wide range of activities as well as ideas for adapting activities, you should be able to find activities suitable for different age groups.

Although these posts went up during the pandemic, they will always be relevant. They were specifically posted for children stuck at home, but most of them would also make great activities for afterschool and week-end programs. Sharing information about out-of-school time curricula has been identified as a strategic goal in our three year plan, so expect to see more links to awesome out-of-school time activities for all children in the year and years to come.

Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay devoted to making the world an enriching place for all children–Mary Anna Dunn, Director.

Virtual and Social Distancing Enrichment Fall 2020

AREA ENRICHMENT PROGRAMS DURING COVID-19

Access to enriching activities for all children and youth has never been more important. And it has never been more challenging. Out-of-school time providers have outdone themselves in rising to the challenge. We’ve created a new web-page to share what we learn about programs offering virtual and social distancing activities, with regular updates through the fall.

This list is not exhaustive. We are reaching out to local programs and will update this post regularly. If you know of a program that should be added to this list, please contact us at mail@enrichmentalliance.org. Please also contact us if we have missing or inaccurate information about your program.

Poetry and Pop, Part 1

July 26, Sound in Firework

We just finished a poetry workshop with Charlottesville Parks and Recreation’s Adaptive Rec Day Camp. The workshop was so much fun I thought I’d share our activities here.

Our workshops always starts with a pop song, chosen by participants in current and past workshops. We look at devices lyricists use to make their writing powerful. Then we read a poem that uses similar techniques. Finally, participants write poems of their own.

The different options provided with these activities are intended to make them accessible to children and youth of all ages, all interests, and all abilities. Materials are included to assist writers with developmental differences.

For the first two posts, I will share activities based on “Firework”, by Kate Perry. Next, I will share activities based on a song our Adaptive Rec campers chose.

Repeating Sounds

Kate Perry  often uses near (or slant rhyme) instead of full rhyme. The “in” in “wind” is repeated in “again.” The words almost rhyme, but they are not “full rhymes” because they don’t have the same final letter.

Listen to “Firework” by Kate Perry, reading the lyrics as you go.

Notice how she repeats the short “i” as in wind and the long “i” as in “light.”  Listen for other repeated sounds, too, as well as repeated words and phrases. Repetition makes poetry and lyrics sound good.

Poets also use near rhyme. Read and listen to rhyme in “Snail” by Langston Hughes, What full and near rhymes pair with “go?”

If you would like to know more about repeating vowel and consonant sounds in song lyrics and poetry, read about assonance, consonance, and alliteration.

Some Poems Are Written to a Person or Thing

“Firework” and “Snail” are both examples of a kind of writing called an “apostrophe,” or an address to someone or something. “Do you ever feel….?” Kate Perry asks someone. We aren’t sure who it is — maybe the listener. When Langston Hughes says “Dreaming you go…” we know from the title and first line that he’s talking to a snail.

Write a Poem to an Animal

Write a poem to an animal. Think about where it is (the snail is on a rose) and what it does (the snail crawls along the rose, drinking dew). Here’s a “Talking to an Animal Think Sheet” if you’d like some help getting ideas for your poem.

Now the fun part. These “Poem Prompts” are options for you to use as you turn your ideas into poetry. The first is a very open-ended prompt. The next two provide more structure. For this poem, we ask you to focus on near rhyme and other forms of repeated sounds.

We’ve provided a Word Bank, in case you need it. The words are color-coded by sounds, so if you pick words that are the same color, you will have repeated sounds in your poem. If writing things by hand is a challenge, these words can be printed onto standard mailing labels, such as Avery 8160, so you can peel them off and paste them down to write your poem.

There are also numerous website to help you find rhymes and near rhyme. Rhymedesk is a family friendly website. Rhymezone is an uncensored website, but it offers options for poets looking only for near rhyme. You can find more options by entering “rhyming dictionary” in your search engine.

A Note to Helpers

Some poets may need support writing their poems, but of course we all want to allow the poets to express themselves. Our Notes to Helpers offer suggestions for providing support only to the extent it is needed.

Shadow Shows

July 19

You don’t need anything more than hands and a light source to create a magnificent theatrical production. Don’t believe it? Watch this video.

Now that you’ve got the idea, see what you can do.

Get started with some easy hand puppets that are not any less amazing for their simplicity.

Below are two videos that are more complex, including a panther, which you can use to make your own Pink Panther video.

This is just a beginning. Enter “hand shadow puppets” in your search engine, for more shows and tutorials. With no money and a cast of one, you can put on a fantastic show.

Drive Through Enrichment

Just Passing Through.

Virginia is opening up, but the number of new infections keeps increasing. If you’d rather stay in your car, you can still enjoy some fun summer activities.

Virginia Safari Park has always been a drive through experience. Although there are opportunities to get out of the car, they are by no means essential to having a great experience at a park where the animals roam outside your vehicle. You can buy a bucket of feed to offer the creatures through your window, but don’t come in a brand new car! You WILL get feed all over everything. Bring hand-wipes and plenty of coins for the nearest car vacuum. During the pandemic, tickets must be purchased online.

An Abbreviated African-American History tour in Alexandria may leave you eager to come back when more is open, but according to The Washington Post, there are some stops of the current tour that “are moving sites to be seen and history to be discovered, even if you’re just looking at explanatory markers outside the public library where a sit-in took place in 1939. What the driving tour and the guide do well is recount another side of the city’s story, which has so often been centered on names like Lee and Carlyle.” –Washington Post, July 9.

There’s virtually no limit to the number of scenic drives in Virginia. Enjoy the coast, the mountains, or historic battlegrounds and countryside. Or if you want to try something more random, type “Random Location” in your app store to find apps that will route you to a random location. On your app you can designate how far you are willing to drive.

4th of July During Covid-19

July 1-July 4

A Virtual Pot Luck! Share a meal with friends and family, even when you can’t be together. Pick a few families you want to celebrate with by way of phone or video platform. Before the fourth, each family can share one simple recipe so that everyone can enjoy one another’s contributions together. Since each family will have to prepare all the dishes in this virtual pot luck, keep it simple.

Social Distance Picnics. Or follow CDC guidelines and these ideas, if you are feeling ready to join a small group for an outdoors picnic.

Awesome 4th of July Sidewalk Art. Create a spectacular Independence Day Sidewalk Art Exhibition. Put on a chalk art fireworks show. Shoot yourself out of a cannon. Fly away on an eagle. With art, you can do anything.

Have a 4th of July parade on your street. Dress in red, white, and blue. Fill the holes of swim noodles with streamers and other decorations. You can march with them like a drum major’s baton, plus they have the added benefit of being useful to measure out social distance. (They’re short a few inches of 6 feet, so give’em a little allowance), Keeping that social distance, include some decorated bikes and trikes in your parade. Come up with your own ideas, serious or fun, for a social distance parade down your street. And don’t forget the dog!

The Museum of the American Revolution’s Virtual Tour not only offers tours of their galleries, but also links you to other sites of special historic significance as we celebrate Independence Day and explore our ever evolving understanding of equality.

There will be a virtual celebration at Monticello on Saturday, from 11:00 – 11:45.

Charlottesville/Albemarle Fireworks will be held in the county this year, and will be visible in the direction of Monticello and Carter’s Mountains. Viewers are asked to watch from their cars.

ESCAPE ROOMS DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING

Escape in Place. June 27-30

Ready to escape? Aren’t we all? You can escape in place by creating your own Escape Room. It can be as simple or complicated as you want. If you have never been to an Escape Room, it could be helpful to view a few videos of live Escape Rooms to get the general idea. The video below is a bit long, so you may want to scroll through.

Virtual Escape Rooms


Here is a simple, but creative homemade Escape Room to give you some ideas. Unlike some DIY Escape Rooms, it is not themed.


Locks aren’t the only material used in Escape Rooms, but they are heavily relied on.This mom delighted her kids with fancy new locks, which might not always work for families on budgets. Consider putting the word out to friends that you would like to borrow locks, or look on eBay. Puzzles are also essential. Puzzles and plans are available at several sites, including Lock Paper Scissors and Big Escape Rooms. Using a pre-made plan is recommended as a good way to get started on creating home Escape Rooms.


When you are are ready to jump into design, you can get guidance from escape-kit. Engaging your children in designing Escape Rooms for each other, or virtual Escape Rooms for friends, will not only be enormous fun, but also a great way to develop creative and critical thinking skills. Not to mentioned the content knowledge that can be worked into the creation of your room.


When the time is right for you to visit live Escape Rooms, there are two facilities in the Charlottesville. Check their sites for information on COVID-19 opening plans.

https://www.cvilleescaperoom.com/ Unlocked History Escape Room

Family Staycations, Part Three

June 13-16 Virtual Tours and Activities In and Around Charlottesville

To give a little glimpse of what you can look forward, here are some COVID-19 posts from local attractions. To make this a true vacation, you’ll want:

A Gift Shop.

  • Buy some blank post cards and draw a picture of the sites you visited. Send them to a friend.
  • Make some small models of objects you saw on your visit.
  • Create some books. Gift shops typically have not only books about the site you visited, but also non-fiction and fiction related to the site.
  • Get some fabric markers and make tee-shirts, hats, and tote-bags with images from your visit.

A Snack Bar

Be sure to include a few selections related to the site you are visiting. For example, maybe serve some watercress or other Maori foods.

A Hands-on Learning Section

Some of these sites already have an activity section, but here are a few more:

  • Create a costume room. Look at some old clothes, clothes, and accessories in your closets and WITH PERMISSION :), the closets of people bigger than you. Can you transform some of these into period clothes or clothes from another part of the world?
  • Set out some materials to try out crafts or music related to the site.
  • Put out some construction materials, such as Lego’s, Plus Tubes, and Lincoln Logs to make models of the place you visit.

Now Enjoy Your Tour.

These are a few local attractions I found with online offerings. I’m sure to have missed some great ones. Message us on Facebook or write to mail@enrichmentalliance.org if you have additions.

Enjoy your staycation. Send us a card!

Gifts Kids Can Make at Home, Part Two

June 10-13

Some of these ideas feature Dads, but they would really make great gifts for any important adult in your life, male or female. Make a gift for an adult who means the world you you.

Calm key chaos with a beautiful cardboard key holder.

Transform an Altoids Tin. Love this. Take any tin box, it doesn’t have to be an Altoids box really, and turn it into…. a case for something small that needs organizing, a game, a work of art, just a few ideas offered on this website and you’ll probably think of more cool ideas.

Mustache Mugs are easy and trendy. Just don’t paint someone’s favorite mug without asking 🙂

Homemade Cards can be truly awesome. This link provides instructions for cards that go WAY beyond your classic folded piece of paper with a drawing in crayon.