Category Archives: COVID-19 children’s enrichment activities

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.

Enrichment During Shutdowns. Rowling’s World.

June 3-June 5.

Did you know that Jk Rowling is releasing a new children’s fantasy novel, one chapter at time, at no charge as a gift to us all during social distancing? New chapters of The Ickabog are posted daily, but you can start at the beginning, not matter when you first access her website.

It gets even more exciting, because for each chapter, Rowling provides suggestions for illustrations. Children between the ages of seven and twelve can enter their drawings in a competition to have their illustrations included in the book when it is published in November!!! All royalties of of the book will go to people impacted by COVID-19.

So let’s load you up with some great tools for illustrating a child’s fantasy tale. We’re picking a few links on drawing fantasy beasts, followed by a few general links to some of the items listed in her suggestions. These links are deliberately selected for children of all abilities, so if one looks too hard or too easy, just check out a different link.

Rowling’s new book is not a part of the Harry Potter world, however it does feature a legendary beast. Some videos on drawing fantastic beasts might help get those creative ideas rolling (pun intended).To get some more basics on monster drawing, visit this wikihow.

Drawing dragons is always a useful skill, is it not? And some say the Ickabog is like a dragon. Try a simple step-by-step dragon, perfect for any age. Or, if you are up for a challenge, create a more intricate dragon, using the same techniques professionals employ.

Now, let’s look at just a few of the specific items Rowling lists in her suggestions.

Royalty, Simple.

King, Moderate Difficulty.

Cheese, Very Simple.

French Pastries, advanced. (Don’t do this on an empty stomach).

Peacock, Simple. Peacock, Moderate Difficulty. Peacock, Advanced. Dog, Simple. Bush, simple.


For more ideas to get you going, enter “how to draw” plus the name of the item, and you are likely to get a useful hit. These are tutorials: just a place to get you started. Try them out. Master some skills. Then start having fun by changing things up. This is YOUR art, not anyone else’s. Now that you have learned how one person draws a king, what’s your own very unique way?

Enrichment at home: It’s a Rap

May 20 – 21

Rap is basically spoken poetry with a strong emphasis on rhythm and rhyme. Below is an incredibly moving music video made by Carrie Underwood and Ludacris for the 2018 Super Bowl. Ludacris’s rap is embedded in the song. It’s a special kind of poem: an acrostic. Each line emphasizes one letter from the word “Champion”, so that reading the first letter of each of these words down a page of lyrics would spell the word,

Although the next video may be most suited to preschoolers, the truth is anyone would love this rap of Fox in Sox. And fortunately, it’s one of a series. Younger kids will love listening. Here’s a challenge for older kids: see if YOU can rap a rhyming children’s book. A great way to connect with younger cousins or other tots you are missing right now would be rap the a book by video chat or record a book for them.

As discussed, rap is essentially spoken word poetry with a strong instrumental beat. Not all poetry places the emphasis on rhyme and rhythm found in rap and other spoken word poetry. So what makes a poem a poem?

Next is a link to a video on how to rap that adults may want to view before before sharing. It is a clean video with excellent tips on rhyme and rhythm. This was chosen for it’s emphasis on language, however in contains sales pitches and refers viewers to other rappers families may not be comfortable with. Parents can look for other resources using the search terms “rap beginners kids.” For teens, drop “kids” but parents may especially want to screen for content. There are some wonderful videos on the poetics of rap, but they may contain violent language or other material that is not suitable.

Movement

Rock Podcast.  Spare the Rock is a weekly radio show out of  KUTX 98.9, Austin.  This web link takes you to their blog, where if you scroll down you will find their most recent playlist.  Now, we put this under movement for a reason, so grab your phone, connect with your friends, and throw a virtual dance party.

Science and Math

But Why This semi-weekly NPR “kids and family” podcast digs into life’s pressing questions, like “How Do People Fall Asleep?” and “Do Animals Get Married?” This podcast does cover some topical issues, such as the COVID-19, so some parents might want to pre-screen or discuss the podcasts. Technically, these aren’t all Science and Math podcasts, but … close enough.

Art and Literature

Today’s reading subscriptions will appeal to younger children. To make this suitable for older readers, consider having them create their own read aloud recordings to share with younger children. They should think about how they would introduce and conclude their reading, and how they will use vocal tone to make it interesting.

Story Podcast Circleround is a weekly podcast from WBUR 90.9 Boston.  The website includes links to coloring books and soundtracks. 

Kids’ Books Read Aloud. Adapted. If listening to read-alouds doesn’t work for you, this YouTube series features books you can read along with.

March 26

Podcasts and Subscriptions

Movement

Rock Podcast.  Spare the Rock is a weekly radio show out of  KUTX 98.9, Austin.  This web link takes you to their blog, where if you scroll down you will find their most recent playlist.  Now, we put this under movement for a reason, so grab your phone, connect with your friends, and throw a virtual dance party.

Science and Math

But Why This semi-weekly NPR “kids and family” podcast digs into life’s pressing questions, like “How Do People Fall Asleep?” and “Do Animals Get Married?” This podcast does cover some topical issues, such as the COVID-19, so some parents might want to pre-screen or discuss the podcasts. Technically, these aren’t all Science and Math podcasts, but … close enough.

Art and Literature

Today’s reading subscriptions will appeal to younger children. To make this suitable for older readers, consider having them create their own read aloud recordings to share with younger children. They should think about how they would introduce and conclude their reading, and how they will use vocal tone to make it interesting.

Story Podcast Circleround is a weekly podcast from WBUR 90.9 Boston.  The website includes links to coloring books and soundtracks. 

Kids’ Books Read Aloud. Adapted. If listening to read-alouds doesn’t work for you, this YouTube series features books you can read along with.

March 25

Science and Math

Zoo Live Cams.  Take a virtual field trip to the San Diego Zoo.  Visit koalas, polar bears, tigers, and many more animals in real time.  This website also has a wide selection of activities including video games and arts and crafts activities.

Art and Literature

Dioranimal   Now create your own zoo. Look at this Pinterest Board to get some ideas and create a zoo in your own home. Take US on a field trip. Tag enrichmentalliance on Instagram.

Dioramas Adapted.  If you like a little more direction when you make things, this video walks you through the steps of creating a diorama with cardboard and magazines. If you don’t have access to magazines, print or draw your animals.

Movement

BE an Animal. Here’s a game you can play with your friends, even while you are social distancing. Learn some animal moves from this exercise video and use FaceTime or other social media to create a “live cam”.  Act out an animal and ask your friends to guess what you are.

March 24

Anansi and The Turtle Younger children will enjoy the video for its own sake, but older children will probably appreciate this more as an introduction to storytelling. How does the story teller use her voice and body to engage the viewer? See the Movement link below to connect this video to a storytelling activity.

Movement

Storytelling  Scroll through these lesson plans from Scholastic to get ideas retelling a story.  Focus on exaggerated movements..  The Fox and The Stork would be a great one to pair with Anansi and The Turtle.

Science and Math

Turtle Salad.  Scale this down and make a Turtle Salad for your family.  But leave out the turtle meal!

Turtle Salad Adapted.  This salad recipe is pretty similar, but includes step-by-step instructions with pictures.

March 23

Art and Literature

Story Generator. On this intriguing website by Scholastic, an animated machine generates story prompts at the pull of a lever.  The settings can be adjusted by grade level.

Adapted.   The level of the story generator above can be adjusted, but if you need a more concrete activity, try these “meaningful story prompts” from Old Dominion University. Scroll down to Story Jars and you will find an activity similar in nature to the story generator. Unfortunately, there seem to be some formatting issues on the document, but the idea still comes through.

Science and Math

Hand sanitizer is no substitute for good old fashioned hand washing, but your kids can make their own hand sanitizer to have in a pinch if you have access to these ingredients. The essential oils are optional.

Movement

Indoors bowling.  Recycle empty bottles into an indoors bowling alley. This website recommends adding a little water if the bottles tip too easily, but you might want to substitute something less messy, like pennies or a few pebbles.

March 22

Science and Math

Rube Goldberg Inventions Ideas for zany inventions inspired by the Rube Goldberg, the cartoonist whose ridiculous “time-savers” were more trouble to put together than the task itself ever might have been.  This site offers video examples, ideas to get you started, and lists of materials you might find around the house.  If you don’t have one of these items, just try something else. Maybe small books will work as well as dominoes. Try paper towel rolls if you don’t have plastic tubes.  And we sure will want to see your pictures and videos for this one, so please tag us on Instagram. Just google Rube Goldberg Inventions if you want to see more.

Movement

Obstacle Courses This website lists 25 ideas for obstacle courses, several of them themed.  You may not have all the items suggested, but they should give you some ideas for using the materials you do have.

Obstacle Courses Adapted  These are slides from a presentation on wheelchair obstacle courses in a school setting, so not all of these will be practical to create at home. There are, however, ample images that you could recreate or adapt for use in your house or apartment, so go ahead, try this at home.

Art and Literature

Cambodian Myth of Lightning, Thunder, And Rain. This TED animation is a beautiful presentation of a Cambodian Myth.  A lesson plan is available and there are additional TED animations of children’s tales from around the world.

March 21

Sticking with a spring theme a little longer, today’s enrichment activities allow children to play and create with the wind.

Movement

Be a Wind Dancer.  As March blows through, get outside and blow with it. Take along scarves, ribbons, anything that flows. Watch the wind blow on natural objects like trees, grass, flowers, leaves. Make up some dance moves based on how the wind moves these objects. 

Art and Literature

Wind Sculpture.  Create a fanciful wind sculpture and put it outside or in front of an air vent. First watch the video linked on the left for some inspiration.  Now watch this video on creating wind sculptures, and let your imagination go wild. Besides the materials in this video, what can you find around the house to create a kinetic sculpture at home?  Search YOUTUBE for “wind sculpture” and “kinetic sculpture” for more mesmerizing videos. And of course, please tag enrichmentalliance when you post your amazing pictures!

Science and Math

How fast is the wind? These simple directions show how to use household materials to make an anemometer, an instrument used by meteorologists to study wind speed.  If you can’t find the exact materials at home, try out different materials and let us know what works for you. 

Science and Math Adapted

Pinwheels. Step by step instructions, with pictures. Try different types of paper to make a variety of beautiful pinwheels, and show us what you made. You can take these outside and let the wind blow them, or run and dance with them.  Did you know that blowing on a pinwheel can make you feel less stressed?

March 20

This is the first full day of spring! All of our activities today are themed on nature. Use your science and movement activities as inspiration for writing poems about nature, and consider submitting to the Washington Post Nature Poem contest, linked below. The National Parks have opened to the public at no charge, so if you have a park nearby and a way to get there, you might do your nature studies there. Just remember social distancing.

Art and Literature

Nature Poetry Contest. Take a good look at this beautiful spring day. Maybe you’re looking out your window, maybe you’re taking a walk or a hike. Write down six things you see in nature (examples: bird, tree, cloud). Write down six things that are happening in nature (examples: soar, sway, float). Write down six things to describe what you see (peacefully, green, soft).  Now use these to write a poem.  If you are the kind of person who needs a little structure to write, see Arts and Literature Adapted below. PLEASE NOTE, IF YOU ARE SUBMITTING TO THE KIDSPOST CONTEST, DON’T SHARE THESE POEMS WITH US BEFORE APRIL 22.

Art and Literature Adapted

Nature Poem Activity.  Our POPnPOEMS workshops use pop songs suggested by participants to explore poetry.  This activity, built around “Deep in the Meadow” from “Hunger Games” includes visual aids, word banks, and patterns for creating poems.  If you are interested in submitting your poems, see the entry above. This entry is from our director’s personal website, which contains one additional poetry activity.

Science and Math

Nature Camera-Scavenger Hunt.  Grab a cell phone or a pencil and paper, look for items on this list, and draw or photograph them . Or create your own scavenger hunts and use social media to challenge your friends.  We’re dying  to see what you find, so please tag enrichmentalliance on Instagram. This website includes additional outdoors spring activities.

MOVEMENT

Nature Walk.  This blog offers great guidance for turning an everyday walk into  a nature museum.  Activities in this blog combine beautifully with the poetry and scavenger hunts described above.

Science and Math

March 19. Rain in a Jar. Can’t leave the house? Don’t let it RAIN on your parade. We chose this activity because it requires only a jar, ice, and hot water, and because it was a popular activity when our director taught elementary school. This requires parental involvement because it uses boiling water. For related activities, type “Science in a Jar” in your YOUTUBE search window.

Tag us to show off your #raininajar

#enrichmentalliance; #kidsscienceexperiments; #scienceathome; #covid19kidsathome; #covid19kidsactivities

Movement Adaptive

March 19. OT Sensory Dance Video. Set to “Uptown Funk,” these moves were designed for children and youth on the autism spectrum, but should work well for other Developmental Differences. Have fun. Don’t try to be perfect. Just enjoy these moves, and maybe make up some moves of your own.

Movement

March 19. Kids Hip Hop Class. An on-line dance studio offers lessons on dance moves. This sample lesson is just one of a series. Check out their other online lessons. Have fun. Don’t try to be perfect. Just enjoy these moves, and maybe make up some moves of your own.

March 19. Epamdimonimous. (We can only guess at that spelling!) Donna Washington is a captivating NC storyteller who delighted our after-school students when she presented her engaging workshops here. To stream more stories, visit donnawashington.com and click videos.

Social Distancing Jam Sessions

May 15-17 This week-end’s blog post is dedicated to the community of roots musicians in and beyond Charlottesville/Albemarle who enrich the lives of everyone, young and old.

Have a jam session this weekend. Get your friends to join you on your favorite video chat app, or grab a mask and a measuring tape if you are starting to try a little physical distancing. Please do not share instruments.


This sistrum was made in one of our own workshops, using brass brackets and a coat hanger.

Of course, you’ll need some instruments. These instructions for ten instruments kids can make should get you started. You might not have the exact materials the instructions call for, so improvise. Try buttons for beads, two paper clips for bells. The ideas you come up with may be the best ones. Please see below for information on workshops with our frequent collaborators, Kim and Jimbo Cary.


You can jam with just about anything!!!!

While you’re working on your instruments, play a little roots music to get some inspiration. Some suggestions to look for when you stream music: Putumayo Kids, “American Folk Songs for Children” by Mike and Peggy Seeger, and “Classic Folk Songs for Kids,” Smithsonian Folkways Collection.


Carver Rec Center session with Kim and Jimbo.

When your instruments are finished, find a live stream concert and play along in your living room. Charlottesville’s Front Porch is streaming three times a week. The Atlanta Children’s Museum has Music Mondays. Or stream a video of a musician you like to play with and jump in. The Enrichment Alliance has had frequent collaborations with Kim and Jimbo Cary. For this post, they sent us a link to a video to a song Jimbo wrote for The Animal Rescue League.


Kim and Jimbo Cary collaborative concert.

Kim & Jimbo are available for online music workshops for children and families and also live  at-a-distance  performance/workshops for making and playing homemade instruments and more. Visit kimandjimbo.com or contact kimandjimbo@gmail.com


Now you’re ready for an old time jam Invite your friends to join you by way of a chat app, or jam with your family. Follow the social distancing guidelines. Finally, here’s one critical tip for jam sessions: they’re not supposed to be perfect; they’re supposed to be fun.

April 15. Home Quarantine Enrichment. We’re egging you on!

Okay, enough with the eggs already. Easter was three days ago. What to do with all those eggs? Well, you can put them in bottles. Or transform them into beautiful vases. Or just make them disappear.

Art and Literature

Egg Vases. Use your empty eggshells to create a lovely vase. This one uses a white egg, but shells from dyed Easter Eggs would be beautiful. Consider decorating your eggshells with bows or glitter.

Science and Math

Who knew eggs could be this fascinating?

Egg in a bottle. Make a hard boiled egg drop down into a bottle without even touching it. Don’t be a spoiler! This experiment is especially fun if you don’t tell the kids what’s going to happen to the egg. The activity is extremely popular with kids. It does require close adult supervision, because it involves burning a slip of paper.

Disappearing egg. This activity was posted earlier this week on the Virginia Discovery Museum website. They are posting activities daily, with a material list for the week also provided, so visit VDM@Home for more ideas.

Movement

Move the furniture if you try this inside!!! Your going to need a LOT of space. Better yet, take all that energy out of doors.

April 13. Inclusive Enrichment Activities During COVID-19. Field Trip Day.

Science and Math

NASA Virtual Tours of numerous facilities, many of these are truly out of this world. How about a visit to the Hubble Telescope or the International Space Station? But if you are looking for something a little more down to earth, virtual tours of several different NASA research centers can also be accessed.

Art and Literature

Gallery Hunt. If the International Space Station is a little too far from home for you, check out the tours and activities at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This site has a virtual backpack you can fill with treasurers as you tour the museum.

Movement

Yoga Studios. By now, you’ll probably be ready to stretch and relax a little, so drop in on a yoga studio for some soothing stretching.

YMCA360: Try the kids’ yoga classes at the YMCA, and while you are there, check out some of their other on-demand classes.

Yoga For Down Syndrome: Offers some modified postures and instructions. And although the name implies it’s for a specific audience, really it is good for anyone who could benefit from some simple modifications.

Wheelchair Yoga: Move along with the instructor in these postures, adapted for people with mobility differences.

April 10/11. Inclusive Game Night Ideas During Home Quarantine.

Due to a power outage, this post was delayed and will cover the 10th and 11th.

Drawing Room Games.

Today’s activities link you to games that involve drawing. You don’t have to be a great artist to play, in fact, a lot of the hilarity happens when the drawings are less than perfect. We have adapted one activity for players who are non-verbal or unable to hold a pencil. We also have additional suggestions for modifying these activities. All of these games can be played using apps like Zoom or FaceTime. Please tag us at enrichmentalliance when you share your fun.

Draw my picture. Two players back to back, each is drawing the same thing. Or are they?

Drawception. A personal favorite, this hilarious game is a little like “Telephone” but with a delightful twist that makes it ten times the fun.

And the list goes on. We gave you links to two great examples. Want to keep going? Here are 15 more! But why stop there? Invent your own drawing games. Find Enrichment Alliance of Virginia on Facebook and share your rules with us.

Adapting Drawception. For non-verbal players and participants with fine motor differences, fill a basket with objects, especially small figurines, matchbox cars, and other representative items. Set up a barrier such as a trifolded piece of cardboard large enough to conceal the scenes created by the players. Put the basket behind the barrier. For this modified game, begin with the image, not the caption, Have the player pick a small number of objects and arrange them behind the barrier. They may take a picture of the scene to share later or, if playing remotely, to send to a friend.

A second player looks behind the barrier and writes down or dictates a caption on a piece of paper which is then folded in half. The figures are returned to the basket and put out in view of other players. The caption is passed to the next player, who tries to illustrate the caption either by drawing or through same method of creating a scene behind the barrier. Proceed with the above rules for Drawception using these modifications.

Other Adaptations for Differing Abilities. Here are a few more ideas for adapting these games for people with fine motor challenges:

  • Engage gross motor skills instead by drawing with large chalk on a sidewalk or driveway,
  • Or using paint and cotton-balls, draw on chart paper or other large paper.
  • Work in pairs drawing side-by-side, step-by-step. (Team Member One draws a circle; team member two draws the circle, etc).
  • Work in pairs, taking term. Team Member One draws a circle; Team Member Two draws eyes in the circle.
  • Work in teams and let one person dictate while the other draws.
  • Use play-dough instead of drawing.
  • Copy paste images from the internet or Boardmaker
  • Use your assistive device.

April 8. Tapes and Shapes:Inclusive Enrichment Activities during COVID-19.

Tapes. Shapes. And LOTS of stories.

Movement

Tape Mazes and other cool gross motor activities. Who knew a roll of tape could be so much fun? No painters tape on hand? Try masking tape, string, or yard. Or go outside and create with sticks.

Science and Math

Tangrams offer intriguing activities for people of all ages and abilities.

Tangram patterns provide mind-stretching puzzles that develop spatial relationships and problem solving skills, but the most important thing: they are super fun. Tangram pieces can also be used to create freestyle artworks while developing the same skills. We’ve linked one set of printable patterns, but it will be simple to find your own, suited to your children’s skill levels, simply by entering “tangram patterns” in your search engine.

Art and Literature

Free Audible stories are available for download throughout the pandemic.

ASL Stories. For deaf and hard of hearing children, this YouTube channel has stories for readers of different ages.

Field Trip Day. April 6.

Science and Math

Home Safari at 3:00 Daily. Come on a Safari! The Cincinnati Zoo is hosting a daily tours highlighting different animals and sharing activities to do at home.

Art and Literature

The Art of Autism. Go on a gallery tour. During Autism Awareness month, Apple is offering a gallery of art works created on iPads by people with autism. These beautiful works will probably inspire you to create some art of your own.

Virtual Jam Session. And the Children’s Museum of Atlanta is offering a jam session today. Visit their website anytime for this and more daily virtual activities.

Movement

The Brooks Family YMCA Virtual Membership offers live youth fitness activities Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3:00. Visit their website to learn more about this and other great ways to get moving.

Movie Night. April 5.

More Magic. Yesterday, we suggested this quarantine would be a great time to read or re-read the Harry Potter Series. Here is a very diverse list of movies about magic. This list has movies suitable for everyone to from young children to adults with notes to help you decide if the themes are appropriate for you and your family.

Maybe you’d rather make your own magic.

Notice how the artist is tracing the figure from the previous page and then making a very small change.

The whole concept of “moving pictures” evolved from the illusion of motion caused by watching a rapid succession of images that are just barely changing. Make your own movie flip book with a few sheets of paper stapled in one corner.