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12 ways to keep kids from going crazy (and stay safe) while schools are closed

Schools being closed due to COVID-19 fears throws a serious wrench into the lives of parents and children. (Let’s not even get into child care difficulties.) And even though packets of work have been sent home with most kids, there is plenty of downtime. 

Looking for ways to keep the kids occupied while (mostly) avoiding physical contact with friends and other adults? Here are 12 social distancing ideas that will pass the time, safely. 

Find some Little Free Libraries. While visits to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library branches might not be in the cards, there are numerous Little Free Libraries in the area. Visit littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap, search your ZIP code, and you’ll find a listing with a walkable route. Remember, though, to wipe down any books you bring to leave behind and any that you took home.  

Watch “Lego Masters,” then work on some builds together. The Fox series “Lego Masters” is a family reality show treat, featuring teams of two working together on epic brick builds. Watch it after its Wednesday night airing on the Fox app, and then make your own family Lego projects.

Take a nature hike. Buffalo Harbor State Park, Tifft Nature Preserve, Reinstein Woods in Depew, Chestnut Ridge in Orchard Park and the Burchfield Nature and Art Center in West Seneca are unlikely to be over-crowded. The trails offer a nice way to get outside without too much worry.

Families can watch the fun Netflix baking series "Nailed It" and then head to the kitchen to try their own recipes. (Adam Rose/Netflix)

Watch “Nailed It,” then do some baking together. Similarly, Netflix’s hilarious “Nailed It” is fab family viewing. The concept – amateur bakers try to re-create expert desserts – could encourage kids to find some recipes and try them at home, with parental help, of course. 

Paint and hide rocks. Are you aware of the painted rock craze? If not, do a quick Google search or join facebook.com/groups/sweetbuffalorocks for ideas, paint some rocks at home and hide them during your nature hike. 

Board game or card game marathon. My 5-year-old daughter could play Uno for hours, and my 9-year-old son loves Life and Monopoly. You’ll feel far better about the kids playing these than games on the Xbox.

Write letters to friends or out-of-town relatives. That’s right — actual letters. If your kids are missing their buddies or just want to say hello to relatives, this a neat way to keep in touch and keep them writing. 

Have an outdoor fire and make s’mores. Get the fire pit back into action – just remember to have some graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows in stock. 

Make a graham cracker house. Like s’mores, graham cracker houses require a few items: frosting, maybe some Peeps, gumdrops, M&Ms and jellybeans. Construct some gingerbread-style houses, and then let the kids dig in afterward. 

The kids can't get enough of "Frozen 2" – now on Disney+ and home video. (Disney)

Watch "Frozen 2." Again. Disney made the seriously wise decision to bring Anna and Elsa to Disney+ months early. Yes, your children have seen it before. No, they’re not sick of it yet. 

Dye their hair with Kool-Aid. Hey, your guys aren’t seeing anyone for a bit, right? Now is the time to let them go crazy with their hair color. Buy or order some Kool-Aid packets, check the directions at spoonuniversity.com/recipe/kool-aid-as-hair-dye, and get ready to cringe at the results. 

Play school – and come up with a daily instruction schedule. Before diving into the worksheets your kids’ schools sent home, “play” school. And use that opportunity to come up with a rough homeschooling schedule together. Make gym class fun by incorporating TikTok songs, make chalk drawings on the driveway for art class – whatever keeps everyone engaged. 

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