(And not die of exhaustion!)
It’s quarantine playtime! And first of all, we want to honor those directors, caregivers and volunteers that are working tirelessly with 20+ children. The Covid-19 virus has all of us staying home with our kids, who are out of school, and with loads of time together on our hands. The pressure is on to keep everyone happy and healthy until systems (and the world) are back in place.
But even when days are normal and calm, we all come up to this gem of a question regularly: How do we entertain 20+ children without dying of exhaustion? I’m sure most of us have our own unique tips and tricks, so let us know what yours are in the comments! But for those of us in need of a little inspiration for the coming days and weeks (hopefully not longer), here are some fun tips and ideas for building the perfect activities that you can enjoy with your kiddos.
Tip #1 – The Innovated Game
You don’t always have to come up with a completely new game. We’ve all heard it before, but it’s very true: Put a new spin on an old classic. When our kids perceive that there is a unique challenge or variable experience to be had, they won’t notice or care that the essential bits of the activity aren’t new. Getting good at this gaming strategy can create endless possibilities of fun within only a few settings. Not to mention, it takes the burden off of the “gamemaker” to constantly come up with brand new games every 20 minutes. Save yourself some energy!
For example, do the activity again, but:
Pretending they’re dinosaurs
Replace a key object with something ‘gross’
Set a “record time”
Make it a competition
Do it in the dark
Do it in pairs
Tip #2 – The “Stick Together” Rule
If you don’t already, we highly recommend making “stick together” an official rule when an activity is happening. Why? Well, there are several reasons. First, it’s very healthy for any kids that have a difficult time connecting or socializing with others. This is a very common symptom in children who have experienced extensive neglect or abuse in key relationships in the past. Because game or activity time is such a fun, light-hearted atmosphere, it is the perfect moment to require some level of participation and help those children overcome relational anxiety.
Secondly, the ‘stick together’ rule prevents 20+ children from doing 20+ activities all at once! While structured ‘alone time’ is, obviously, important, high-energy game time is not when you want every child doing his/her own thing! The more activities happening at once, the more supervision backflips you’ll be doing. Keep it simple, keep everyone together, and keep your sanity! Not to mention, fun together-activities with you, the parent, fosters a family atmosphere!
Tip #3 – The Team Leader
Every great leader knows that one major key to success is delegation. There’s no need to do everything yourself! If you try, you’ll lose your energy and effectiveness very quickly. Game time with the kids is no exception. Here, the goal is to identify the most mature and responsible of your eldest children, and set them to be your ‘assistant to the director,’ so to speak.
This game tactic actually works in a couple directions. First, by nominating a team leader, you are demonstrating trust and teaching responsibility, not only to that child, but to everyone in the group. Secondly, this draws in older children who might find the activity at hand to be “boring” or below their maturity level. A good idea is to pull them aside, ask them for their help, and explain the activity to them in advance. They can be assigned to explain the rules, pick teams, supervise younger siblings, serve as “referee” or manage the items in play. Hey! That’s one less aspect of the activity you have to worry about. And you just might find a deeper level of connection with that child afterwards.
Tip #4 – The Wind Down
Have you ever experienced a tremendous amount of energy in your children just after you’ve been running around for hours? It’s a strange phenomenon, but in order for our kids to crash in the seamless, no-stress way we want them to, we have to walk them through the transition. If you travel directly from the soccer field to dinner time, your kids will most certainly be kicking each other under the table.
Cue “the wind down.” This is any simple destressor that signals to your child’s mind and body that you are entering into a calmer atmosphere . We have found that group deep breathing, even if just for 30 seconds, can help relax everyone. You can also do a few minutes of stretches, or play a more stationary game or activity that doesn’t require high-energy movement. This will help you avoid a collective crash that burns.
And for us, the gamemakers, our final wish in any afternoon of play is that we still have the energy to manage dinner and bedtime routines when it’s all over. Can anyone relate? It is easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when regular schedules and school days have been put on hold. With everyone in the house at once, there is a need to encourage our children to stay positive, ordered and active. Hopefully these tips and caregiver hacks will help you create times of family play that bond everyone together, but don’t leave you dead from exhaustion!