Tag Archives: enrichment COVID-19

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.

April 17. Inclusive Enriching Activities During Home Quarantine: Cooperative Games.

Cooperative Games are games in which the players are not pitted against each other. Instead they work together to compete against an element of the game. It could be a time limit or a goal, or there could be chance elements that have the potential to defeat the players. For example, in Snow Storm, players turn up cards as they try to complete errands and get home during a winter storm. Sometimes they draw a helpful card, such as a snow plow, but other times they turn up ice. Cooperative board games are available for all ages, including adults.

Why Cooperative Games? The article we have linked discusses commonly cited reasons for adding cooperative games to your shelf. In addition, cooperative games make playing more accessible and fair. We used cooperative games in our inclusive after school program. The games created a more supportive playing environment for children with differing abilities and reduced the stress level for children with anxiety.

Creating new games and adapting old ones. If you’re stuck at home during the pandemic, you may not have access to cooperative games, but once you have the basic idea, you should be able to adapt some of your own games or create new ones. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Group Goals. Cooperative Scrabble. Cooperative Monopoly. Set a goal to reach collectively. For example, when playing Scrabble, set a goal of reaching a combined score of 500. Raise the goal every time the team wins. If you hit 515 points this time, can you hit 550 the next time you play? Similarly, set a group goal for cash earned in Monopoly. According to some sources, the original version of Monopoly, The Landlords Game, had cooperative options.

Beat the Clock. Cooperative Dragon Strike Game. Set a timer, and try to help all players reach a destination or accomplish a task before it goes off. For example, in Dragon Strike Game instead of trying to collect the treasure for yourself, change the game so that players must get all the treasures out before the timer goes off. This may require passing a treasure to another player if you are in trouble, which can actually be a more interesting way to play .

Adverse Cards or Dice Rolls. Cooperative Candy Land. Many cooperative games depend on all players competing with the game to complete a goal before something bad happens. What if the goal was to get everyone to the Candy Land house before mice ate it? Mark some of the playing cards with a small drawing of a mouse. Every time you turn up a mouse card, cover 1/10 of the house with a slip of paper. (You can adjust the amount of it takes to cover the house to increase or decrease the challenge.) All players simultaneously draw one card per round, and may strategically exchange cards to help one another advance. These more complex, strategic goals may make the game more fun for older children.

Create your own games using these templates.

Commercial cooperative board games are readily available, and you will be able to find several curated lists by googling “cooperative board game.” Games are available at all levels, from preschool through adult. Parental discretion and a trigger warning: some have violent and/or macabre themes, and the most popular game, Pandemic, just might not seem like the best idea to some families! Here is one list of family-friendly games.

Printable cooperative games. Parental Discretion. This list, like many lists we found, is leveled for all ages and does include some games that may not be appropriate for all players!