Families during the COVID-19: Together in Close Quarters

Now that all schools in Italy have been closed for several weeks and restrictions are tightening up even further, parents and children must be getting bored, losing patience, bickering, starting to tear their hair out and searching for things to do to remedy the situation.  Last week playgrounds were a possibility, but now they are closed, and visits to grandparents are strongly ill advised.

Italian families are not alone.  In addition to schools in Italy, UNESCO now reports 56 countries have announced nationwide closures and a in a total of 73 countries officials have mandatory closures in some affected areas.  Parents, now beginning to fear their children might spend way too much time looking at screens, can find some hope in creative solutions.


Many parents, rightfully concerned about too much screen time, try limiting the number of video games played, but screen time can be educational as well as unite families in observing nature.  Imagine watching the progress of a nesting eagle waiting for the eggs to hatch.  To see eagles, gorillas, puffins in their daily activities as well as Alaskan grizzly bears catching salmon, look for www.explore.org/livecams

The Philadelphia Zoo is closed during the virus outbreak, but one can still watch penguins on the Penguin Point webcam.  www.philadelphiazoo.org/penguin-point-cam/

The Smithsonian Institute’s web cameras are some of the most famous in the world.  Tune in to watch lions, elephants and pandas. www.nationalzoo.si.edu

See otters, tropical fish in a coral reef and even sharks in action from the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium on www.montereybayaquarium.org


Many games and projects are available which are not only fun, but kids can also learn about science, math, language arts or geography. The website  www.sheppardsoftware.com contains a huge amount of materials for learning ranging from kindergarten through high school levels.


Sticker books, Play Dough and puzzles can occupy a lot of time for younger children and never underestimate the power and creativity of markers, finger paints and crayons.  Children’s books in English can be ordered online and through social media from the Paperback Exchange,

Bring out those stored away costumes from Carnival and Halloween and encourage kids to dress up, put on a performance or sing and dance.

Make a batch of “slime” for young children to play with.  You can make it at home if you have the ingredients on hand.  Here is a basic recipe:

½ cup (120 ml.) washable school glue

½ teaspoon (2 ½ ml.) baking soda

1-2 drops food coloring

At this point optional sparkle can be added with glitter or scent.

Stir in 1 ½ tablespoon (20 ml.) contact solution or an eyewash containing sodium borate

Adding a few drops baby oil or cooking oil can prevent slime from sticking to hands.  Knead it for a bit to make the slime more pliable.

Adults may think this slime is too icky, but kids love it and it gives them a sensory play experience.  They can draw on it with markers, stretch it into magical shapes or insert a plastic straw and blow bubbles.


Books for children in English can be ordered at online or via the shop’s social media at Florence’s Paperback Exchange, which has organized home delivery.

The website www.adaptedmind.com offers games and exercises in math and reading for 1st through 8th grade levels.  A subscription service, the first month is free with subsequent months costing $9.95 US.


There are so many online games that teach geography creatively.  ClueFinders for PC and Mac leads kids from age 8-12 to solve puzzles and follow clues to stop an evil archeologist.

In GeoNet players choose a continent or US region and then quizzes players on a variety of topics.

Mission Possible World Geography (PC and MAC) for 12 and over entices players with a spy theme to learn more about geography


The website www.pbskids.org has many free science and nature games for kids of all ages.

Older children and teens can use time at home to study another language with the numerous online language courses available.

WOW KIDS Channel on You Tube offers free games in Italian for children.


Since restaurants and bars are closed, one thinks of the delicious and imaginative meals prepared these days in a country renowned for cuisine.  Being confined at home also offers a wonderful opportunity to cook with children.  Even a two-year-old can help make cookies and muffins.  With some ingredients in short supply, chefs can explore their creativity in making meals.


One of the saddest downsides of the lockdown would be the lack of family gatherings so vital to Italians.  By downloading What’s App, FaceTime or Skype apps, children can share bedtime story time with grandparents reading their favorite books to them.

As the days pass, the world witnesses the strength, adaptability and even humor of the people of Italy.  If one good thing results in the lockdown of 60 million people, it just might be the joy of families spending more time together.   (rita kungel)