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Mandatory Family Time

Our Folio Kids columnist entertains and educates the young ‘uns

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Last week, my youngest daughter planned on attending the SwampCon cosplay convention in Gainesville. This week, she had tickets to see her favorite Broadway musical, Hamilton. Now both of those events—along with hundreds of others in Jacksonville—have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. The CDC recommends cancelling any gatherings expected to have 50 people or more, for the next eight weeks. None of us, including (and especially) our political leaders, were prepared for a pandemic of such frightening proportions. On the bright side, we live in Florida, and researchers believe high temperatures and high humidity just might slow the spread of the virus.

In the meantime, social media and news outlets are advising those who are symptomatic to “self-quarantine” and suggesting that the rest of us practice “social distancing” to prevent infection and transmission. Staying at home is the order of the day. It’s every introvert’s dream! This pandemic also happens to coincide with Duval County Public Schools’ spring break, which has been extended in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading. Parents weren’t expecting an extended vacation, and many aren’t prepared for extended child care costs either. Those costs are a moot point for others, who are unable to return to work due to forced business closures.

For those of you who aren’t thrilled about being homebound with no toilet paper for weeks on end, creativity will be your greatest—and possibly only—ally. My kids and I are working through a list of my favorite zombie apocalypse and germ warfare movies: Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, 12 Monkeys, 28 Days Later and Resident Evil. Serendipitously, Netflix has added Outbreak and Pandemic to its queue this month (how did they know?) while Amazon Prime features The Andromeda Strain.

Sitting around watching movies will eventually grow tiresome, however, so it will be wise to have some activities planned for the kids once cabin fever sets in. If your kids are like mine, nothing bores them like board games. On occasion, I have convinced them to play “Cards Against Humanity” and the “Exploding Kittens” card game. “How?” you ask. By bribing them with snacks, that’s how. You do what you have to do.

Need more ideas? You can make thousands of crafts, art projects and science experiments from common household objects. Teach the young ones how to concoct homemade hand sanitizer using rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel and essential oil. The stuff is selling for upwards of $100 per bottle online, so this may be your new cottage industry.

Fun and games aside, use this mandatory family time to talk to your kids in an age-appropriate way about how germs are spread. It’s never too early to learn the importance of clean hands. The most common way for this and other viruses to spread is from the hands to the face. Now please go wash your hands!

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