Today is the Sunday after the day we were all told to stay away from each other and not treat this concept of “flattening the curve” like a snow day (week/month/semester). Amen to the person who came up with that. HOWEVER, this also means kids and parents are now faced with a very 21st Century issue: “Can we play on our tablet/phone/PS/XBox?”
If I’ve learned anything about families during the time I’ve spent in airports stocking bookshelves for Read On the Fly, it’s the fact that we’ve fallen into a trap of allowing devices to be come the “default activity.” As in, I have empty time, so I shall fill it with an automatic reach into my pocket for the little black machine. This is an opportunity to resist and persist and perhaps turn over a new leaf with your kids, and possibly yourself.
Plus, I don’t know about you, but hopping on social media to see the latest bad news is really dragging me down. So take a break, breathe in some fresh air, and get through today, which will help your family get through tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. We’ve got this. Alaskans, remember the earthquake? We got through that together, so how about we come out the other side of COVID-19 as winners, too?
ACTIVITIES FOR OLDER KIDS (TWEEN/TEEN)
Alaska Zoo: Open every day, but with no indoor programs/events. Even if your older kid bucks at the idea of going to the zoo, take him or her. Assign an animal to research, and compare and contrast the behaviors of the animal(s) they see in front of them.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: Open every day, with a huge expanse of property to walk. Make sure to get way back toward the end of Turnagain Arm, near the pavilion, and watch the tide roll in (sometimes with belugas, too). Arnold the Moose says you should come say hi to him, too.
Hiking: We’re lucky, truly lucky, that Southcentral Alaska (and the rest of the state, too), has so many trails from which to choose a spring hike. Pack a lunch, water, and take off. Teens like to explore new places, so while it may be tempting to stick to your favorites close to home, go bold and try a new one.
Public Use Cabins: Speaking of going bold, how about really getting away at an Alaska State Park public use cabin? There are so many to choose from, and it is the perfect introduction to winter-ish camping during this time of self-isolation. Ask your older kid to do much of the planning, from gear to menus to the location itself.
Ice skating: The parks and recreation department has been hot mopping and making sure outdoor rinks are set for family fun. Go early or later to avoid crowds, and explore rinks you haven’t, yet. See a list HERE.
Cross-country skiing: Is fabulous right now, according to those in the know. My favorite? Hit up the frozen lakes and just kick and glide your way to serenity. Or, drive south along the Seward Highway toward Portage Valley and up to Turnagain Pass. REMEMBER to check avalanche conditions before you go.
Alaska Botanical Garden: quiet retreat in east Anchorage that rarely has more than a few people in it, especially in the winter. Ski, walk, or snowshoe around the inner sanctum, or do the perimeter on the outside of the fence line. Lots of moose there, however, so be wary. There’s a moose-teen-duo that always seems to be hanging out wherever I want to be. Kids.
Photography: For any of these activities, add an extra element of learning. For example: capture action photos of wildlife or birds. Learn about landscapes and lighting with an online tutorial, and become a better macro photog with a phone.
Watercolor painting a winter landscape can be a tremendous learning opportunity, and is very calming. Snap a photo, take it home, and have at it. Or, if the nice weather persists, take your watercolor paper and paints outdoors for a plein air (painting outdoors) session. Read what Monet had to say about winter painting, above. Right?
Read real books. You know, ones with pages. Assign the whole family one book, read it and discuss. Yes, yes, I can hear the eye rolling from here, kids. But this is a good thing, and hey, we won’t make you write an essay on it unless you defy us. Some suggestions? Try TeenReads.com. It’s great.
Knitting: I am not blessed with this skill, but I do know many who are, and this online tutorial gives great tips. And really, parents, we know kids pick up these things quickly.
Finally, go to the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service website and take a look at the hundreds of online publications, offering ideas and projects for EVERYTHING. Build a planter? Yep. Starting seeds? Hey, great timing! Fixing a leaky faucet? No problemo. Cooking projects? Oh yes, we’re assigning our son a few evenings a week to make dinner (thank you, home ec teacher).
The key to this new, hopefully-temporary lifestyle is routine. Our kids, teens included, thrive on it. When we provide parameters to their day, we give them a sense of security. Make a schedule together and turn a stressful time into a chance to get to know your older child. You might be surprised at how they rise to the occasion.
Good luck, and feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.