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What kids can do during the coronavirus

Meditation can help ease the anxiety families are feeling from the coronavirus outbreak. (Courtesy)

A friend said she is losing her mind since she’s run out of ideas about how to safely entertain her sequestered children. Every parent can relate since the coronavirus has led to an unprecedented crisis, which requires a lack of social contact.

Play dates are verboten, outdoor activity has restrictions, and time on devices should be limited, according to health care professionals.

A day after schools announced what will be an indefinite closure, my 10-year-old daughter Jane started a “Corona Squad,” a network for communication via her classmates’ Chrome Books.

“Eighteen of the girls I go to school with are part of the group, and we get together daily,” Jane said. “It’s the closest way we can get to hanging out.”

Dr. Abisola Olulade, who practices with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego, gives Jane’s concept the thumbs up. “It’s a good idea since children are feeling lonely and isolated,” Olulade said. “The coronavirus can’t keep us from connecting.”

Dr. Jacqueline Jones, the author of the recently released “Medical Parenting: How to Navigate the Health, Wellness & Medical System With Your Child,” concurs.

“We just had a virtual cocktail party via Zoom,” a video conferencing tool, Jones said from her Manhattan apartment. “It was good for us adults, and so it is great for children to use our technology to communicate. We have to find novel ways to connect with other people. We may as well use the tools that we have. It’s easy to look at what we can’t do. Why not look at what we can do?”

There are a number of safe and productive activities we can engage in during life in quarantine.

There’s no reason to avoid the great outdoors. Hike through the woods, play catch, or work in the garden.

“In this time in which so many people are indoors, I can’t think of anything better to do than working on that flower bed,” Dr. Paul Sherman, chief medical officer of Community Healthy Plan of Washington, said from his Seattle office. Though in Spokane, that might mean planting inside for now. “This isn’t just something to do for now, but it’s about the future. You can chart the progress of new life by digging into the garden.”

A number of museums and zoos are doing virtual tours. “I grew up in Cincinnati, and they have a great zoo,” Sherman said. “They’re doing an online thing where they focus on one animal, and it’s a virtual safari. They have an activity related to a different animal every day.”

Jones suggested meditation isfor children and families. “I can’t think of anything that would be better for everyone considering how much panic there is out there,” she said. “An hour of meditation, quiet time that we don’t normally have, will take us to a peaceful place. Focus on something positive such as that the coronavirus will eventually pass.”

There’s plenty of time to be creative. Kids can learn a musical instrument, work on poetry or create art,” Dr. David Hill said while calling from his Wilmington, North Carolina, office. “It’s a perfect time to work on getting better at what you’re interested in with the arts. You can go for it by working on an instrument or just have fun and make music with boxes and spoons.”

For kids, who are device-driven, Hill, the author of “Co-Parenting Through Separation and Divorce: Putting Your Children First,” has suggestions.

“The internet is brimming with self-study options right now, from games and puzzles at PBS Kids to college-level instruction at Coursera,” Hill said. “Now is a great time to work on art, writing, music and athletic training, anything that doesn’t require close contact or large groups.”

Since children and families are in lock step, why not cook dinners together? “The internet is full of recipe ideas for kids of all ages,” Hill said. “Young children can toss salad and craft meatballs, and older kids and teens can take on increasingly sophisticated aspects of cooking, always with an eye to safety.”

Many adults are working from home. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for children to see what their parents do for a living. Perhaps they can even lend a hand.

“With many of us working from home, ‘Take Your Kids to Work Day’ might be be every day,” Hill said. “If your children have always wondered what you do all day, now’s their chance to find out. Can they shuffle papers or search the internet for you? Congratulations, you now have a personal assistant!”

There is a lack of structure for some, and that’s a negative for children who tend to thrive with a routine, Olulade said. “Having that in place is significant for kids,” she said. “We all can use some normalcy now.”

However, Hill believes bedtimes can fluctuate during this period. “Bedtimes may float some based on your family’s schedule. Teens are programmed to stay up late and wake up late, so how much of that you allow depends on how disruptive it might be to the family. As schools crank up online offerings, a degree of scheduling is likely to resume. We all work best with adequate sleep, however, and one of the best ways to keep everyone in the house sane is to ensure that everyone is getting all the sleep they need.”

Parents and children should embrace their togetherness no matter what they do, according to Jones, since she believes this is a once in a lifetime pandemic. “Families who escape unscathed will look back on this period, and it won’t all be in a negative manner,” Jones said.

“When are we ever going to spend this amount of time with each other ever again? The answer may be never. So no matter what you do, embrace your child, and have fun with whatever you do as long it’s safe. There are enough activities that will not put you at risk. Just enjoy everything you do.”