ARTICLE

Have a list ready when mental health starts waning

To-do list. (Gazette file)
To-do list. (Gazette file)

With my kids home with me 24/7, I have found that if I don’t have something planned for the day, my mental health wanes — same for my kids. Here are some fun ideas to help keep children busy. Some of these ideas you can take outside in the shade, or stay cool inside with the air conditioning if you prefer.

Clean the toys

This weekend I filled up a plastic storage container of water and dish soap and gave my young children sponges and washcloths and they played “clean the toys” for close to an hour in the shade. (The kids especially loved cleaning the sandy toys from the sandbox.)

2-ingredient Oobleck

One of my favorite childhood memories is playing with Oobleck. Mix 2 cups of cornstarch to 1 cup water in a bowl. The consistency is magical to play with — form a ball of the mixture in your hand and then let go and watch it melt through your fingertips. It’s messy, but this “science experiment” is guaranteed to keep the kids captivated.

Create roads from Painter’s tape

Our family had fun with this while stuck inside this winter. My 3-year-old especially loved it. We moved our kitchen table and my children and I made “roads” for their Hot Wheels cars out of painter’s tape. We even made a parking lot, so they could “park” their cars.

Color magic

Pour water into three large containers. Using a couple drops of food dye (or bath color drops), dye the water: yellow, blue and red. We used clear plastic cups and my son had fun scooping the dyed water into separate cups and making different colors. It was so fun to see their faces light up when they watch the colors change.

Seeing my children light up with these new experiences, got me thinking about what lights me up. At the beginning of quarantine, I joined a 90-day challenge where all participants were asked to create a “joy list” as part of the challenge. The idea was to create a go-to list of all the things that bring you joy so you have the list handy if or when you start to feel down, bored or isolated.

A couple things on my list include: listening to a podcast while cleaning, walking or running, uninterrupted time with my hubby at the end of the day, a cup of coffee with my parents, connecting with friends.

When I asked my mom about her joy list, donating blood was on it. I couldn’t believe it.

Her response was, “Well, I don’t really love needles, but the satisfaction of knowing I am helping someone in need is so rewarding.”

Doing something kind for someone else multiplies joy — joy for ourselves and joy for others — causing a ripple effect of kindness and joy.

Actions you can take today to begin a ripple effect:

• Donate blood

• Give money to a local charity or family in need

• Write a thoughtful letter to a friend or family member

• Support local business

• Send an anonymous note to a lonely senior at HappyGram.org

Kylie Alger is a certified wellness coach and co-owner of the Well-Woman: Body, Mind & Spirit. Comments: kylie@thewellwoman.org

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