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With schools closed, parks and playgrounds off limits and group activities banned, parents everywhere are struggling to find new and creative ways to keep their children active.

They’re turning to Facebook groups with names like Activities for Children During Isolation, Virtual Activities for Children and Youth and Best Ideas for Kids. Google tells us that searches for “activities for kids” zoomed up in mid-March when schools nationwide announced they were closing.

As play professionals, we’ve come across some ideas we thought we’d share with you. No need to tell the kids that these are as educational as they are fun. Those involving crafts are simple to construct, using materials most of us already have or are readily obtainable.

NASA has several ideas for children from kindergarten through high school. Younger children – with help from mom or dad – can build a cloud mobile out of nothing more than paper, sticks, tape and Styrofoam. Older kids can make their own stretchy universe slime.

Meghan Talarowski and her team at StudioLudo created a series of downloadable play resources appropriate for young children and pre-schoolers. Among them are coloring pages, yarn monster and bug building craft projects and an “Adventure Journal.” The Journal has a few pages specific to Philadelphia, where the studio is located, but it’s easily adaptable for your neighborhood.

From Amsterdam, artist and designer Noa Haim sent us her Spaceship Heart Cutout. Not a paper rocket-building project, this is a cleverly creative way for children to learn about architecture and the way shapes can be assembled to build a variety of different structures. Haim provided us two downloadable patterns. One is full-color. The black and white version is perfect for coloring. A video shows you what to do. Download the patterns here.

In her note, Haim suggests parents click into Amag, the online architecture magazine for children. There are several other ideas and projects, including a few sophisticated enough for older children.

An activity that has gained wide popularity because it engages an entire neighborhood is the stuffed animal hunt. The idea popped up on Facebook then spread through NextDoor. Neighbors put a stuffed animal in a streetside window or in another easily visible spot. Then, as families take their young children on a walk, they play “spot the animal.” You might find a giraffe on a porch or a hippo in a tree.

Sidewalk art with messages of support and hope is showing up across the country. From South Florida to New York to Southern California, kids are chalk painting sidewalks, drawing designs, pictures and often including a hopeful note. It’s similar to the popular inspirational rock painting, but much more visible.

Besides being a simple diversion for walkers, the sidewalk art is prompting people to meet their neighbors. As one Southern Californian told a reporter, “It only took a pandemic for us to meet face-to-face – from six feet away.”