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Stay at home, stay busy: Parents can keep kids active during stay-at-home order

Mattias Taylor, 4, left, and Sauli Taylor, 1, grandsons of Upper Peninsula ChildrenÕs Museum Director Nheena Weyer Ittner, take part in a fun activity at their home in East Lansing. Ittner has lots of ideas for parents to occupy their kids during the stay-at-home order. (Photo courtesy of Nheena Weyer Ittner)

MARQUETTE — The Alice Cooper song “School’s Out” typically is sung a lot in May or June, when elementary, middle and high schools wind down their years.

However, with Michigan schools closed for the remainder of the semester due to the COVID-19 crisis, the song can be sung now.

Although virtual learning should be paramount now, kids are at home a lot more than they normally would be, which leaves many parents with the dilemma of how to keep them busy.

Nheena Weyer Ittner, director of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, is in the business of keeping kids busy while learning at the same time, and in a fun way.

“We’re all at home together, which provides a host of challenges, but keeping our little ones happy, busy and feeling safe must be a priority,” Ittner said in an email. “While technology is a phenomenal, simple hands-on crafts help little brains flourish with creative thinking and problem solving.

“Creating a museum of treasures found outside or creating a village from boxes in the cupboard, letting children imagine with the world around them will keep them active and happy.”

She shared some ideas on how kids can be occupied – and educated.

“I prefer the activities that are away from screens,” Ittner said.

She recommended the website, https://handsonaswegrow.com/the-activity-room/, which includes links to activities for preschool children, preschool activities for toddlers, fun kids’ activities and printable activities for kids. Want to make frosty hot dog soup? Here you can. It also has a link from Education.com where free worksheets on math, reading and writing can be found.

Ittner also recommends https://www.storynory.com/ and https://home.oxfordowl.co.uk/.

Art of Framing of Marquette, she said, is holding an art competition with four age categories. Entrants may draw or paint the subject of their choice on a piece of paper or substrate measuring 11 inches by 14 inches, or smaller. Once finished, the pieces should be uploaded with a comment.

The closing date for entries is May 1. For details, visit the store’s Facebook page.

Ittner said Grandparents Teach has an amazing wealth of information at http://grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com.

Now also might be a good time to check out the NASA Kids’ Club at https://www.nasa.gov/kidsclub/index.html, or its Facebook page.

Other websites Ittner suggested are: busytoddler.com, www.dso,org, www.metmuseum,org and https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/.

Staying active important

Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said in a news release that the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend children ages 6 to 17 perform 60 minutes of physical activity per day. That includes moderate to vigorous aerobic exercises such as walking and running, and anaerobic exercises such as weightlifting and push-ups.

“This guideline is often met through school and after school activities such as gym, team sports and dance classes,” Derocha said. “But what happens when those options are no longer available?”

She has a few tips:

It’s important to create a schedule that makes physical fitness a priority. Set aside an hour each day to engage in some type of exercise, traditional or otherwise.

Reduce screen time or use it to promote physical activity, such as fitness apps or other digital programs.

Rethink the traditional definition of exercise and consider ways to use the house as a gym. Dancing is an effective and fun cardiovascular exercise.

Do body weight exercises: Workouts incorporating high-intensity interval training are a fast way to fit in a workout during a busy week. Better yet, kids can mirror the exercises in a way that is easy for them. Jumping jacks, burpees, lunges or star jumps are quick to get the heart rate pumping.

Parents can use screens to stream workouts or play active video games via platforms like the Go Noodle app.

Use a common household item, such as a deck of cards, to create a workout. For every suit, assign a specific exercise. Another idea is to find two dice. One can be for the chosen workout and the other can determine the number of times the exercise must be done.

Try a chore workout: The family does not have to sacrifice exercise time to fit in household chores. Create a game out of sweeping or vacuuming to burn some extra calories. When folding laundry, turn it into an ab workout. Twist at the waist from the basket of clothes toward the pile of folded laundry.

With a little focus and a lot of imagination, Derocha said, parents can keep children active while at home.

Christie Mastric can be reached at cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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