Tips, Ideas For Keeping Kids Engaged

By: Cape Cod Chronicle

Games are a great way to keep kids engaged and keep the family connected. TIM WOOD PHOTO

Keeping kids both occupied and happy when everyone is stuck at home is a challenge. Even when distance learning kicks in on Monday, there will still be more many hours of the day to fill. Here are some activities, tips and websites for families to consider as they face the prospect of not only days, but weeks of confinement.

Get Outdoors

While it's best to avoid meeting up with more than a couple people, it's OK for individuals, families and friends to meet up outside for some fresh air. Heading for beaches and walking trails not only gets us outside in the fresh air, it reestablished our connection with nature and reassures us that some things in the world go on matter what.

Local conservation departments and land trusts offer guides to walking trails, some short and easily accessible, others—often the most rewarding—that require an effort to find. Visit chathamconservationfoundation.org, harwichconservationtrust.org, and orleansconservationtrust.org for info and trail maps. The Chatham and Orleans conservation departments also have maps of trails on town conservation lands on their town website pages. Bike trails are a great option for walks as well.

Geocaching is a fun activity that combines getting outdoors with the challenge of a treasure hunt. Download the app for your smartphone and choose one of the many geocaching sites in the area.

Connect Online

Pleasant Bay Community Boating (pbcb.cc) has a number of links to sailing- and outdoor-related websites. You can watch live presentations at the New England Aquarium website (www.neaq.org). NASA's Kids Club (www.nasa.gov/kidsclub/index.html) lets kids explore the moon, Mars and outer space in with interactive games and activities. National Geographic Kids (kids.nationalgeographic.com) also has a ton of activities, videos and games for kids. Scholastic has a free digital learning hub designed to support school virtual learning plans at www.scholastic.com/learnathome.

Research local history at the Atwood House Museum's website (www.chathamhistoricalsociety.org) and listen to oral history recordings, spoken histories recorded by community members in the 1950s and 1960s.

Sergent Bill Massey of the Chatham Police Department is reading kids books live on the department's Facebook page Monday through Friday around 7 or 7:30 p.m.; you can also watch previous stories on the page.  The Atlantic White Shark Conservation's Facebook Live stream will feature a staff member leading "Shark Story Hour" at 10 a.m. each day this week, followed by a question-and-answer session. 

“Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems” are being put out daily at 1 p.m. by the noted children's book author and illustrator (www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/). Actor Josh Gad is also reading children's stories live on his Twitter feed (@Joshgad).

Board games and puzzles

When was the last time the family broke out Monopoly, Risk or Scrabble? Dust them off and gather around the dining room table for daily marathons. Dig out some of those more obscure games as well, or find a new one like Code Names or Labyrinth. Or, if you're looking for something a bit simpler, how about shuffling a deck of cards and playing Crazy 8 or Hearts?

A nice 1,000-piece puzzle will keep the family engaged for hours.  Try local shops for availability, or swap puzzles you've already done with friends and neighbors.

If you have other suggestions for kids activities, email editor@capecodchronicle.com.