Given all that could go wrong during the coronavirus epidemic, it might seem crazy to think about having fun. But children need fun. They need it when they’re well, and they need it when they’re sick. They need it, especially, when things are grim.

Here in Ohio, lots of children are out of school for the next three weeks, at least. And school closures are going to happen everywhere as the epidemic picks up. So here you are, at home, with a 9 year old, and a 7 year old and the 4 year old twins. There’s only so much TV kids can watch before it’s just boring. And even computer games and YouTube videos have their limits. And too many hours staring at screens is bad for children. It was bad for them before coronavirus, and it’s still bad for them.

So what can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Have a daily routine, like they do in preschool: a time for breakfast, for mid-morning snack, for lunch, for afternoon snack, for dinner. Stick to the schedule if you can, and give the children assignments: preparing the food, setting the table, clearing up, washing up. Let them take responsibility. Create a structure that is predictable, so they have a sense of being in control.
  2. Brainstorm fun things to do with your kids: Reading aloud; playing board games; building a fort in the living room; drawing; practicing Yoga; dancing; learning a new language together; playing cards; and free play.
  3. Set some rules: everyone has to look out for everyone else; no put-downs; time each day for
    sharing ideas and feelings; everyone talks, and everyone listens.
  4. Do things outside if you can. Go for early walks and late ones as a family.
  5. Sing together. If you are religious, pray together.
  6. Build time for learning into your schedule. Some children will have school assignments, and you can make up assignments for younger ones. If you need lessons, check out Khan Academy at
    www.khanacademy.org. It’s a very good nonprofit that offers lots and lots of online courses at
    all levels. For Very young children, check out https://kidshealth.org/ and
    http://www.readingbrightstart.org, which are from Nemours, an excellent nonprofit hospital
    chain which does a lot to support education.
  7. Check out your public library. Library branches are likely to be closed during the epidemic, but some will have “drive through” service, where you can get books without leaving your car. The books will be germ-free, and free for you to use. A big book of stories, a couple of picture
    books, and maybe a Harry Potter book for reading aloud, or something like it. The epidemic is
    scary for everyone. One antidote for fear is togetherness. Another is fun. Another is learning
    together, preparing for a better future.