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Yes, You Can Take Your Kids For A Walk

Mar 19, 2020
Originally published on March 19, 2020 4:15 pm

Parents and caregivers face a daunting task right now: keeping their children safe, active and engaged for what will likely be several weeks of school closings. The good news is that all kinds of people — families, educators, artists — are sharing best practices.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for kids will be staying active, while at the same time staying socially distant, says pediatrician Dr. David Hill. He says families should get outside, but avoid playgrounds because they encourage children to play in close contact with one another.

"Definitely take a walk. Definitely go to the park. Definitely ride bikes," says Hill. "But if a crowd starts to form — as unsocial as it seems — back away a little bit. Find your own space."

There are also plenty of resources for children to stay active indoors: Apps, websites and YouTube videos that encourage children to move around. The interactive Cosmic Kids Yoga videos, for example, blend yoga with storytelling.

Writer and presenter Jaime Amor says more and more elementary schools now incorporate yoga into children's daily routines, and she says a number of schools use Cosmic Kids Yoga. She believes all of the school closings might explain why they've seen an uptick in the number of individual families watching her videos.

Jaime Amor says she's noticed increased interest in her Cosmic Kids yoga videos since the outbreak began.
Courtesy of Cosmic Kids

"It means they stay active. But it's sort of healthy screen time," says Amor. "They're doing mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises and relaxations. Kids need that sense of feeling safe and calm and no need to panic."

With so many adults and kids home together, coming up with a schedule is really important, says Kristine Mraz, a former elementary school teacher and author. She adds that parents should not feel as if they need to become their children's teachers.

"Ideally, the best way to go about that, is to see this time as not necessarily as a time to drill academics and buy workbooks and put kids on the iPad to practice spelling, but instead to see it as a time to cultivate your child's interests and curiosity and their own self-direction," says Mraz.

Given that we still don't know when life will get back to normal, Mraz urges long-term planning of projects that kids have a hand in designing.

"I'd almost set them up for it for a 10-day project. So have them think about 'What's the thing that I might want to learn more about? The thing I might want to do?' And honestly, it's anything. It's Fortnite. It's vacuum cleaners. It's 'Why does our neighbor make so much noise between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.?'" says Mraz.

Sandhya Nankani and her daughter Amrita, of the Story Seeds podcast — before they started practicing social distancing.
Krishna Kumar

Sandhya Nankani, executive producer of The Story Seeds Podcast, is still working on a schedule for her family. She says she's trying to "think about ways to organize time and build schedules that aren't sort of draconian or, you know, overwhelming for any of us." Her 10-year-old daughter Amrita Kumar already has a long term project in mind. She hopes to write a global pandemic diary.

"I want to do an I Survived kind of thing because, in the future, people won't really know about this and then they'll learn about it in history class. So then, when I'm older, I can read it and think about it," says Kumar.

Kumar is right in believing this crisis will be one for the history books. As the American Academy of Pediatrics puts it, it's also a time "to remind children of what they can do to help": Wash their hands often, cough into a tissue or sleeve — and get enough sleep.

This story was edited for radio by Ted Robbins and adapted for the Web by Petra Mayer

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Parents and caregivers are facing this daunting task - keeping their children safe, active and engaged for what will likely be at least several weeks of school closings. The good news is that all kinds of people - families, educators, artists - are helping each other out with ideas. Here's NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Perhaps the biggest challenge for kids will be staying active while at the same time staying socially distant, says pediatrician David Hill. He says families should get outside, but avoid playgrounds where kids come into close contact with one another.

DAVID HILL: Definitely take a walk. Definitely go to the park. Definitely ride bikes. But if a crowd starts to form, as unsocial as it seems, back away a little bit. Find your own space.

BLAIR: There are plenty of resources to keep kids active inside as well - apps, websites and YouTube videos that encourage children to move around. Cosmic Kids Yoga is an interactive site that blends yoga with storytelling.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAIME AMOR: The Gruffalo sees the mouse, and the mouse looks good. Hands on hips, he folds all the way forwards to get a better look.

BLAIR: Presenter Jaime Amor says more and more elementary schools include yoga as part of children's daily routine. She says school closings might explain why they've seen an uptick in the number of people watching their videos.

AMOR: They like it. They love it. And it means they stay active, but it's sort of healthy screen time. You know, they're learning life lessons along the way. They're doing mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises and relaxations. And kids need that sense of feeling safe and calm and no need to panic.

KRISTINE MRAZ: This is about balance, right? This is how do we, as a family, get all of our needs met?

BLAIR: Kristine Mraz is a former elementary school teacher and author. She says with so many adults and kids at home, parents need to come up with a schedule. She says parents should not feel as if they need to become their children's teachers.

MRAZ: Ideally, the best way to go about that is to see this time as not necessarily a time to drill academics and buy workbooks and put kids on the iPad to practice spelling, but instead to see this as a time to cultivate your child's interests and curiosity and their own self-direction.

BLAIR: And, she says, think long term.

MRAZ: I'd almost set them up for a 10-day project. So have them think about what's the thing that I might want to learn more about, the thing I might want to do. And honestly, it's anything - it's "Fortnite." It's vacuum cleaners. It's why does our neighbor make so much noise between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.? Like, any of that, be like, great, that's an interesting project; what do you need to do to figure that out?

BLAIR: In other words, let the kids set up the project as much as they can.

SANDHYA NANKANI: You were telling me you were going to keep a diary.

AMRITA: Oh, right. Yeah.

NANKANI: Do you want to tell her that?

AMRITA: It's something that...

BLAIR: Sandhya Nankani has a podcast called "The Story Seeds," which helps kids develop stories. But she's still trying to figure out a schedule for her 10-year-old daughter Amrita Kumar. But Amrita already has a project in mind related to the coronavirus pandemic.

AMRITA: I want to do, like, an "I Survived" kind of thing because it's like, in the future, people won't really, like, know about this, and then they'll, like, learn about it in history class. So maybe, like, when I'm older, I can read it and then think about it.

BLAIR: This global crisis will be one for the history books. As the American Academy of Pediatrics puts it, it's also a time to remind children what they can do to help - wash their hands often, cough into a tissue or sleeve and get enough sleep.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DORENA'S "THE MORNING BUS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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