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Cooped-Up Kids in Quarantine
Eight-year-old Sienna Von Hase works in her coronavirus victory garden. Photo courtesy of Hilda Von Hase

Cooped-Up Kids in Quarantine 

School is out on June 12 for LA Unified School District students, which may not matter so much if you’ve been remote-learning since mid-March. 

But anyway, Summer 2020 is on! Days grow longer as we approach the June 20 solstice. More hours of daylight to fill for kids who have limited options for camps and activities and who must still practice physical distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. And a further restriction, many children do not see their friends, to prevent spreading the virus to elderly family members.   

While there’s no shortage of ideas and activities for a good time on the internet, a kid has to be old enough to read about them, have the assumed backyard, an adult to purchase and set up materials, or a sibling with whom to conspire or oppose. 

Are cooped up kids rediscovering simple pleasures—a garden hose on a hot day?  Or are they getting bored? Do isolated youth cling more tenaciously than ever to the electronic devices that entertain and connect socially?  

Boredom may not be a bad thing. According to a recent article in Psychology Today,  boredom is not a moment less-than-fully lived, or a sign of parental neglect. It’s an opportunity to develop imagination, a creative mode of thinking more important, Einstein said, than knowledge.   

Boredom—the gap between focused activities—allows a kid to learn to tolerate, or even take an interest in, her own thoughts and feelings, his own company. 

Topanga Canyon’s Hilda Von Hase, who runs ABC Playcenter in West Hills, closed her business’ doors when the pandemic struck, and doesn’t plan to reopen the preschool until September (she does, however, continue to care for certain kids, whose parents are front-line health workers).

“Nothing really changed [on account of the pandemic] for the little ones,” Von Hase told the Topanga New Times. “Older ones have a harder time.”

Von Hase’s own daughter, Sienna, is eight years old, an age by which many kids are already hooked on electronic games. But since the stay-at-home orders, Von Hase—for the first time in her daughter’s life—has had time to help her daughter use the family’s ceramics studio, and plant a vegetable garden. 

Eight-year-old Sienna Von Hase works on her mother’s pottery wheel. Photo courtesy of Hilda Von Hase

 “It’s nice for little kids to plant seeds and watch them grow and turn into something,” Von Hase said. “Topanga is so beautiful. We’re so lucky we can go outside and walk.”  

For another Topanga family, whose four young boys have been observed helping to build an above-ground backyard swimming pool, the pandemic may also have spawned a project there wasn’t time for before. 

 To while away the hours, here are some summertime diversions for cooped-up kids.  

Take a virtual vacation

Parks and beaches in Los Angeles County are open again, but the crowds and coronavirus concerns are making some families less enthused about day trips, and many vacation plans are on hold. However, you can go on a virtual California State Park field trip and visit California’s state beaches, parks and trails online. 

Marvel at the jellyfish and marine mammals living along California’s 659 miles of stunning shoreline; admire the redwoods, bears, monarch butterflies, rattlers, Sutter’s Fort and missions from the comfort of your own home, without a sunburn, and for free, through the California State Parks webinar series PORTS . Check out the K-12 virtual tours and project-based learning units on the PORTS program calendar. And register, as space is limited.   

Build an indoor fort

Most kids possess an innate blueprint for blanket forts, but if inspiration is needed, Ikea has released six architecturally-sound blanket fort plans: the Förtress, Wigwåm, Cåstle, Cåve, Cåmpingtent and Höuse—using items that may be found around the house (or purchased from Ikea), to which fairy lights and teddy bears add a nice touch   

Pitch your tent! 

Whether you camp in the backyard or living room, REI has tips for a stay-at-home camping experience . Add a wilderness view with posters and pictures. Check out the sound generating website to stream birdsong, forest sounds,  cricket chorus, or a crackling fire on your wifi device. Play board games or read in the tent, and make s’mores, if even in your microwave.

Build a Backyard Sandcastle

Grab your bucket and shovel. Master sand sculptor Andy Hancock will show you, in a series of three YouTube videos how to make a sand castle with one trashcan full of sand! The necessary tools–sand trowel, shapers, straws, spatulas, brushes–can be found around the house or purchased from Hancock. He’ll explain the science of interstitial molecular bonds between sand crystals, and demonstrate how to form a towering turret. When the beaches are safe, you’ll be ready to return with master sandcastle skills.

Birds are not on lockdown. 

With access to a window, you can start bird-watching. Identify your sightings with the aid of a field guide, a phone app such as Smart Bird ID, or the excellent photos of Chris Tosdevin and other birders with the Topanga Canyon Docent . Be patient, stay well, and one day you’ll again be free as a…   

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