Many of us — parents, grandparents, and others — are finding ourselves in isolation with children home from school, probably for an extended period. Play dates are out, and no one wants the kids on their devices all day long.
Meanwhile, most of us are concerned and anxious. Children know that, even when we try not to speak of our fears in front of them. It can be hard to set a course. But we don’t have much choice. As Gandalf advised in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Here is one decision, reached with Helena, my 10-year-old: we would go on a scavenger hunt. It is also an invitation for you to share your own creative activities as a way for us to help each other get through the weeks ahead.
One of the ways human beings have always drawn strength in difficult times is the belief that we are supported by supernatural powers. On our hunt outdoors, Helena found the makings of a super-heroine.
We decided to drive to the beach, though scavenging could be just as good at your home, in your garden, or the woods nearby (just be careful of ticks!). We parked a few spots away from the one other vehicle in the parking lot and only waved to the couple walking in the distance along the shore.
Simply being on the beach improved our moods. Sunshine and exercise in the fresh air boosts our immunity. During the 1918 influenza pandemic, patients treated in the open air recovered faster than those treated indoors.
We stood and stretched our arms high toward the sun, then touched our toes. We took deep breaths of fresh air, filling our lungs. We yelled a bit to release tension.
Then we started our scavenger hunt. We had made a list together at home of the items we were going to look for. Adapt your list to your child’s age and the location of your scavenger hunt. Our list looked like this:
- A crab leg
- A stone with a piece of seaweed attached
- A piece of sea glass
- A piece of driftwood
- One shell attached to another
- A shell with stripes
- A shell with a hole
- A perfect shell
- A treasure
- Something really ugly
- Something you wouldn’t think to find on the beach
- A stone with two lines
- A stone with a monster face in it
- A stone shaped like an animal
We spent a good hour on the beach occupied with our search. Back home, Helena and I discussed super-heroes, mythological heroes, and spirit animals. We even did some research online. Helena decided to create a super-heroine out of her collected objects. She named her Oceana Waterfall.
Oceana Waterfall took shape when we laid out our materials on the table. Helena assembled them into a mosaic. You could glue your items to a piece of cardboard or construction paper. You could also paint them.
We discussed the ways Oceana helps people. And talked about Oceana’s greatest enemy, “Lorona, who poisoned the world and made many people sick so everyone was scared.” I was surprised, yet I should not have been, for this is how children process scary experiences, through fantasy and imagination.
Afterwards, Helena wrote down the story of Oceana. Younger children might want to tell their stories and illustrate the pages.
“It was really fun to go to the beach and find rocks,” Helena said. “I really liked making Oceana and imagining her powers.”
Do you have a suggestion for a creative activity that is healthy for our bodies, minds, and spirits and adaptable for children of various ages? We are collecting ideas and photos to share. Submit yours to [email protected]