COVID and quarantining have taken a toll on everyone in many different ways this year. Many adults have had to make their homes into workspaces and classrooms for their children all at the same time. Not only can this lead to stress and chaos for all party’s involved but it can also take a toll on children’s activity level, nutrition, and social wellbeing. Kids are used to being at school with all of their friends presumedly having recess, gym class, or organized sports where they get their daily physical activity. COVID has eliminated all of these, in some states since March. Keeping children healthy and active during these times of endless zoom classes and busy work can be tiresome but is a necessity. All it takes is a little creativity and time and the benefits can be more than just for kids.
One of the biggest losses to children’s daily lives since COVID began is the daily physical activity and extracurricular activities that were built into their school days. Kids went from playing at recess and after school with their friends to sitting inside on zoom all day. Physical activity and exercise are necessary to maintain a healthy immune system to fight off illness. Even if children have 5-7 hours of zoom classes and homework every day it is still possible to get some exercise and it’s even possible without leaving the house if you do not feel comfortable in the outside world right now. First of all, the outdoors is a safe place to be even with the pandemic happening assuming that masks are worn, and social distancing is in play. There is plenty of fresh air to circulate the virus away from you. So, take a walk, jog, or run, enjoy some fresh air, and get away from the laptop screen you have all been staring at since breakfast. Some sports, biking, basketball, soccer, etc., can still be played as long as they do not include coming into contact with someone outside of your quarantine gang.
If venturing outside is not in your bag right now you can still be active inside it will just take a little more creativity. For the less creative types, there is plenty of fun, interactive online workout options to get kids (and yourself) moving inside the home. However, this puts everyone in front of a screen for even more time during the day. Playing games like hide and seek can get a little movement without risking damage to the house. The most fun and intense (possibly dangerous) option is to create an obstacle course. This could be done either inside or outside. Take everyday objects that you are not afraid of breaking and create some kind of course for the children (and again, you) to go through as fast as possible and see who can get the best time or create the hardest course. Endless entertainment for all ages.
Nutrition has taken a turn for the worse since COVID began and not just for children. Many did not have their nutrition under control in the first place, but quarantining has led to an increase in consumption of unhealthy snack foods and mindless eating. Also, many families have become professional bakers since entering quarantine which has led to more sweet and starchy foods being present in households. Previously, even if they did not have the greatest nutrition, kids were at least partially regulated on when they could eat during the day with classes breaking up meals and snacks. Now at home, they can graze on carb-loaded snacks freely throughout the day.
The first step to getting nutrition back on track is to limit the number of calories that go into the body. This does not mean do not eat. It simply means only eat as much as you need to. After this is under control, eating quality food is the next step. Basically, this means eating real, unprocessed foods like some meats, fruits, and vegetables. For example, instead of having frozen chicken nuggets and mac and cheese for lunch prepare homemade chicken nuggets with real chicken breast that you can leave un-breaded or bread with breadcrumbs made from all of that bread you have recently learned how to bake or panko breadcrumbs for a healthier alternative to store-bought breadcrumbs. Serve it with an assortment of vegetables such as broccoli, onion, and sweet potatoes mixed in olive oil and roasted in the oven making them crispy so the kids may enjoy eating them better than plain old, steamed vegetables. For snack time throw that bag of chips to the raccoons and have the children help make a healthy version of ants on a log with celery, peanut butter, and raisins.
We are all aware that physical health has taken a hit during COVID but so has mental health for many of us including children. They no longer have daily social interaction with other kids and adults at school and many of their new, hastily thrown together virtual classrooms do not create as good of a learning environment as the physical classroom did. Many cannot go outside to play with their friends after they get done with zoom classes all day. Unfortunately, this pushes eyes to screens for even more hours of the day than in the before times of no COVID as boredom runs rampant and facetime is the only contact some have with their friends. Being in front of screens all day can negatively affect sleep patterns with many other possible consequences (Lissak, 2018). There are not many ways around the lack of social interaction during this time but perhaps a socially distanced walk with a neighbor's family could knock out two birds with one stone. During this time, it is necessary to stress the importance of proper physical activity and nutrition so that when we can all go back to “normal” we do not have to worry as much about the physical health of the children.
COVID has taken a toll on all of us in many ways both mentally and physically. During this time of no built-in daily physical activity, it is necessary to get kids out from in front of their screens and get moving. If you can get outside simply go for a walk or play a sport that does not involve contact with someone outside of your quarantine gang. If you are stuck inside the walls of your prison home, then get creative with an obstacle course or game to get everyone moving. Nutrition is also key to keep on the rails during COVID. With the lack of structure to daily activity and the recent home baking epidemic, there is a lot of room for consumption of carb-loaded snacking. To get back on track limit the amounts of total calories during the day and swap out unhealthy, processed meals and snacks for real, homemade foods. Not only has physical health taken a hit but so has mental health. This is not as easy a fix as physical health but is equally, if not more important. Get kids out from in front of screens and if possible, get them interacting with the outside world socially distanced and mask covered of course. COVID has put immense strain on all of our lives but with some creativity and discipline we can come out the end stronger and wiser.
Lissak, G. (2018, February 27). Adverse physiological and psychological effects of screen time on children and adolescents: Literature review and case study. Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001393511830015X