As an active family that normally would spend as much time as possible outdoors, COVID-19 is posing quite a challenge when it comes to our normal activities. Which is why we did a family brainstorming to find activities that we can do while keeping at least 2 meters distance to other people AND avoiding touching surfaces. Sounds like mission impossible? Check the suggestions we came up with below.
Adding in safe activities with children outdoors
In a previous article, we have covered more than 50 resources to homeschool children while the coronavirus epidemic lasts. We have also created lists of children’s books as well as Netflix movies and Amazon movies that we are going to enjoy while spending a lot of time indoors during the next weeks. At the same time, being physically active has a positive effect on learning and concentration. Especially with extra stress on children from the coronavirus situation, it’s important to try to find safe activities outside.
COVID-19 surviving on surfaces
A lot is still unknown, but a study published by The Journal of Hospital Infection has revealed that pathogens similar to COVID-19 like SARS and MERS can survive and remain infectious on certain surfaces for up to nine days. The study found that Corona type of viruses survive the longest on plastic, which means that playgrounds can be very risky places right now. Moreover, every time you touch anything in public spaces frequented by people there is a risk of getting traces of virus on your hands.
The sun is our friend in the fight against coronavirus
On the other side, ultraviolet light from the sun is acting as a disinfectant killing the virus over time (assuming COVID-19 behaves similar to other coronaviruses) which should also help reduce the number of contaminated surfaces as the weather gets sunnier. However, it definitely makes sense to look for outdoor activities that limit the potential number of touch-points. According to an article in the German magazine Der Spiegel, cycling is an example of an outdoor activity that greatly reduce the risk of getting infected. Der Spiegel writes that cycling actually protects you twice; first because you are unlikely to touch public objects while also keeping you at a safe distance of others and secondly because it has a positive effect on your health strengthening your lungs.
Vitamin D strengthens the immune system
Another benefit of being outdoors is that sunlight will boost your D-vitamin levels. In an article in The New York Times, D-vitamin is mentioned as one of the most effective ways to boost your immune system and reduce respiratory infections. In northern Europe where there is less sunlight, it’s recommended to take a supplement during the winter months. Babies and younger kids typically get droplets while older kids get chewable D3 tablets. Vitamin D can also be found in fatty fish, such as salmon, and in milk or foods fortified with vitamin D. During winter our kids get a spoon of cod liver oil and a chewable multivitamin every morning, plus we usually eat fish for dinner at least twice per week.
20 activities with children during isolation
- Open your windows: If you are homeschooling your children like us, try to sit close to natural sunlight and open the windows to get fresh air. This is not really an outdoor activity, but if you are facing a lockdown situation, this might be your best option. And why not try playing some relaxing Nature sounds on Spotify to lift your spirits!
- Go for a walk: It’s time to discover the green space in your local area! Who would think that as much as 47% of London is green making London one of the cities with most parks and gardens around the world. Remember to plan your route to avoid crowds according to the latest Coronavirus rules and guidelines in your area.
- Cycling: In recent years, London like many other cities have been building more and more dedicated cycle paths shielded from traffic. On TfL’s website, you can find routes and maps to explore the city on dedicated paths. Our favourite safe route is along the Thames path which might not be an official cycle path, but for kids it works really well. While cycling you are also unlikely to touch public surfaces, and it’s easy to keep your distance to other people.
- Scooting: Our scooters are probably the most frequently used means of transportation in our family, especially on the school- and nursery runs. For our youngest kid, we feel that the scooter is safer, more stable, and easier to keep control over than when on a bike. Scooting in itself should be Coronavirus risk-free, but keep in mind that the virus can live on objects outdoors like the pedestrian crossing button for days!
- Skateboarding: We are by no means experts when it comes to skateboarding, but we are getting there. It’s actually a lot easier than we had expected, especially since the kids are used to scooting.
- Walk your dog: This is a no-brainer (if you have a dog), so make your dog happy while getting exercise outdoors and free D-vitamins from the sunlight included!
- Play in the woodlands: Our children just love our local woodlands. They are also great explorer, which means they frequently pick up sticks and rocks bringing home their “treasures”. We are not qualified to say if the Coronavirus is likely to be present on natural surfaces in our local woodlands, but we would probably take the risk letting them play if not very crowded. This, keeping in mind that sunlight and rain will kill the virus over time.
- Fly a kite: Several spots around London always seems windy, which is excellent for kiteflying! Our current favourites are Greenwich Park as well as Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath.
- Climb a tree: Research done by the Mayo Clinic has shown that bacteria survive for less time on porous surfaces like wood than hard surfaces like plastic and metal, so we prefer climbing trees rather than climbing frames in playgrounds. Wood also absorbs moisture (and microbes) much faster than completely hard surfaces.
- Go mudlarking: This is a very London centric suggestion for an outdoors activity; mudlarking is all about finding treasures (read knick-knack) along the Thames foreshore at low tide. We always use plastic gloves when doing this, and we also make sure to thoroughly wash any objects that we bring back to the flat.
- Go birdwatching: Birds are everywhere! The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds‘ website has plenty of resources to get you started. Our kids usually bring out their binoculars to get a closer look while daddy puts his big lens his camera to be able to admire all the details when we come back.
- Identify trees: Take along a book or use the app from Woodland Trust to identify British trees using leaves, bark, twigs, buds, flowers or fruit. Google lens is also a good alternative to assist you in finding the right name for the tree.
- Make a leaf book: Linked to the activity above, take advantage of your nearest green space and make a leaf book with all the different types that you can find!
- Go for a picnic: Get a boost of vitamin D by enjoying lunch with your family in the sun! Again, keep in mind your Coronavirus guidelines, keeping a safe distance to others.
- Orienteering: Learn to read a map and use a compass. Start by making a map of your local area, which makes it easier for children when they have something familiar to relate to.
- Gardening: If you are lucky enough to have a garden, this is a great time to inspire your kids to enjoy plants! The Royal Horticultural Society ‘s website provides plenty of
- Start your own herb garden: Herbs like chives, mint and basil are supposed to grow anywhere, so why not put up a small herb garden on your balcony or in the kitchen window! This is also great for families without their own garden.
- Put up a tent: Kids just love tents, so why not go camping in your own back garden or even on your balcony!
- Make pinecone animals: We have made pinecone sheep and cows, as well as boats made out of bark. Despite being very basic, our kids enjoy these toys more than their modern plastic ones.
- Build a bird feeder: Build or buy a bird feeder for your balcony or in your garden and make a list of all the birds visiting!
In the case of LOCKDOWN
If you read this post at a time when LOCKDOWN restrictions have been imposed by the government where you live, this is going to restrict the list of activities above drastically. Like we have seen from France and Spain, when there is a lockdown in place you are only allowed to go outside if you have specific essential reasons (i.e. you are a doctor going to work). A lockdown situation will most likely rule out any type of sports or recreational activities outside the boundaries of your own home. Luckily, a lockdown period would normally last only for a limited time. Don’t forget to check the UK government, NHS and WHO websites for the latest updates on coronavirus restrictions.