20 Outdoor Play Activities That Don’t Include Parks

Are you desperate for things to play outside but hate that you can’t go to the park?

The necessary closing of all public parks, including state parks, has left many of us moms wondering how to get out kids outdoors for fresh air and get out all their energy. I relate so hard, and I’ve seen a lot of you asking the same thing. Although you’re probably very creative, two heads are better than one, so I created a big, easy list for you to use!

1. Chalk Your Walk

Neighborhoods all around the country, including right here in Columbia, are leaving uplifting messages and safely distanced hellos to brighten the walks of their neighbors. There are a ton of cute photo opportunities with this as well, so do not miss out. 

2. Bubbles

Babies especially love bubbles, but who doesn’t? You can teach older kids to make their own bubbles.

3. Participate in a Teddy Bear Hunt

Many communities are leaving teddy bears in their front windows or outside for people to spot on their walks. Set up your own bear and then go look for others. This is sweet and fun!

4. Water and Sand Play

Water tables and sand tables are the only thing my kids can do uninterrupted for hours. If you can get one or make your own, I highly suggest it. It’s especially great for toddlers and children with sensory issues.

5. Gardening

Now that spring is here, it’s planting season! And with grocery stores being unpredictable at places, now is a good a time as any to learn right alongside your kids how to grow your own fruits and veggies. Gardening is a vital skill. With hard economic times, even an inexperienced gardener can save grocery money. But even if you fail, your kids will learn so much and always remember it. Here’s a great way to get started.

6. Outdoor Games

Classic games like Tag, Hide and Seek, and Simon Says take no equipment, and you can do them with only two people if needed. Freeze tag, Red Light Green Light, and Marco Polo are more great options! Since you don’t need many people to play, this makes these possibly the easiest option on this list.

7. Scavenger Hunts

There are literary hundred of different scavenger hunts for all ages online. Or, you can always make up your own. For example, you can just say the next thing on the “list” and keep it to the theme of colors, the five senses, sizes, nature, etc.

8. Fly a Kite

Use your own backyard, or maybe even a nearby empty field, to fly a kite or paper airplanes. You can even make them yourself first, which uses up even more time. 

9. Go for a Walk or a Bike Ride

While many are enjoying family walks, family rides are too good to overlook. Skates, scooters, bikes, and trikes are all ways to get around faster, be healthy, and kill time. 

10. Rock Painting and Painted Rock Hunts

Rock painting and going on rock hunts have been popular for a few years now. And there’s no better time to join the party! Creative and fairly quiet, this activity is very popular for a reason.

Irmo Rocks | Columbia SC Moms Blog11. Have a Ball!

Whether it’s a simple game of catch or hoops, or a giant inflatable soccer or bowling set, there are literally dozens of sports you can set up outside for all ages.

12. Prepare and Share a Family Picnic Right at Home

While fairly simple, my kids really adore this idea. The weather is perfect right now for an outdoor picnic. When our family did this, it was very peaceful. I’ve also been impressed by parents taking this opportunity to let kids experiment in the kitchen or to hand down family recipes, and this is a great chance to do that. 

13. Hula Hoops and Jump Rope

Get that cardio going with hula hoops and jump ropes! You’ll be surprised how much of a workout this vintage play is. 

14. On Your Mark, Get Set, Race!

There are many ways to make things fast, competitive, and exciting. Kids can race each other, or they can race you. You can do boys versus girls, sack races, a one-legged race, or more! You can even make or buy awards for winners. Or you can use dirt to create a marble race outside or race toy cars down a hill.

15. Bouncy House or Trampoline

While expensive, a bouncy house or trampoline can be a lifesaver for people with energetic kids, like me. Some stores, like Sams Club and Walmart, offer small inflatables for a couple of hundred dollars that include all parts. And, they can easily inflate and deflate in just two minutes. 

16. Water Play

Don’t forget about your hoses, sprinklers, pools, slip and slides, squirt guns, and water balloons! Hang a bunch of water balloons on a tree and grab a stick and blindfold for a fun water-filled version of a pinata. Get wet and wild!

17. Outdoor Quiet Time

It’s so peaceful to just sit outside with a book, journal, sketch pad, music, or pillow and blanket and nap, do yoga, or just relax. You can even cookout in this nice weather! 

18. Do Yard Work Together as a Family

No time like the present to catch up on things that have been neglected. Why not spruce up your yard, and teach your kids how to take care of a house and yard at the same time?

19. Nature Activities

Outdoor science experiments, making bird feeders, painting birdhouses, making and building time capsules, and other building projects are fun ways to learn outside during this time. Why not incorporate these activities into your homeschool efforts? You won’t just be having fun and learning, you’ll be making unforgettable memories. 

20. Be a Photographer!

Let your child use their own camera, yours, or a phone to photograph the world around them from their point of view. Then go through them together while you cool off inside with a drink and snack. You might be surprised at their perspective or cool shots.

What outdoor activities would you add to this list?

It’s OK to Not Be OK

I am not OK.

It has taken me several weeks to even put my thoughts into writing. I definitely have anxiety and do not do well with even minor changes, much less something this unexpected.

I am a very scheduled person. I like to know what I’m doing for the month and color code my planner based on work, kids’ events and socials with friends. Kids soccer written in blue, work meetings written in red, socials written in green, all in a neat monthly view so I know what to expect.

Rewind to earlier this month when I crossed out pretty much everything from March’s calendar as events got canceled one by one. I haven’t even put anything in April and it’s driving me crazy.

Part of me is like OK, the world is giving me a sign to take a break and enjoy some quiet time. But, it’s like now that we’re told to stay at home, the last thing we want to do is all the things we said we didn’t have time to do. My stack of books I want to read has still gone untouched. I wanted to start my own blog, be an influencer, and all these other grand things on my 2020 list that I haven’t given another thought about.

I realize as I’ve gotten older how much I thrive around people. To be truly candid, this past year, I’ve become a co-parenting mom who lives in a new place by herself. And for the safety of my kids, we felt it best they stay in the house with their dad for the time being. And while I’m sure I would probably be one of those moms who would be all over the ways to keep your kids busy when you’re stuck at the house, I’m the opposite currently.

Living alone for the first time this past year has made me enjoy human interaction even more. That makes social distancing even harder for me. Just going to work every day and talking to my coworkers would help me get through the day. Dinner and drinks out with friends have been coping mechanisms for me this past year, and things I looked forward to.

Right up until all this, I thought I had my life finally coming together. I got a promotion at work, was working out consistently, and even finished a 21-day sugar detox. I felt pretty great. 

Now, I’m busy working remotely for most of the day, haven’t even thought about working out in a few weeks (even though my gym has virtual classes and YouTube classes), and I’m missing real social interaction with all my friends and my kids. 

With all this said, I’m saying it’s OK to not be OK.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not doing all the things that you COULD be doing with this time just because you have this time.

I think that part of my struggle lately is that I feel like I should be accomplishing more now that we have a new normal. However, I’m giving myself the grace to sleep in on the weekends, enjoy the sun and great weather, make new recipes and do a puzzle by myself to take my mind off of current events and the world right now.

The things on my 2020 list can wait. I know I’ll read that pile of books when I’m ready. I will possibly try a virtual workout this week or go for a run.

Until then, I will try to accept that it’s OK to binge-watch ridiculous shows like The Tiger King and have virtual happy hours with my friends. I’ll also make sure to check on my friends as well.

We’re all in this together and regardless of how we cope, we will get through this. 

How are you coping during this time?

Lessons Learned :: Transitioning to Work at Home Mom During COVID-19

Over the last few weeks, many of us have had some serious changes in our daily lives. For me, the biggest change has been from spending the last 21 years of motherhood working away from home, to now working at home with my youngest kiddos right beside me.

Working from home has been my dream since the day my firstborn came into this world. Truly, all I’ve ever wanted was to be able to spend my days with my babies right beside me where I could watch them grow and keep them safe, while also providing shelter over their heads and food in their mouths. 

Let me tell you, having to leave them every day has never gotten any easier.

I have wished and prayed to be able to work from home for 21 years. Now that my oldest has graduated and moved away, my middle child is starting to drive, and my youngest just started preschool this year, I am finally getting to live my dream; even if only temporarily. 

The day I was told that I could work from home while the schools are shut down because of the Coronavirus, I couldn’t contain my happiness. I just couldn’t believe it. I danced around the house with my preschooler for hours. 

That first week, I took full advantage of the “easy-going” lifestyle. I slept in way past my usual 4 a.m. wake up call, and only got up when my little one did around 7:30 a.m. It gave me just enough time to get some coffee and head to my new “office.” I set myself up on top of my treadmill so that I could still have a standing desk, as I do at work, and could also be able to keep moving during the day. 

From there, I can log in to start my day and begin my work while also keeping an eye on my youngest and helping him when needed.

The problem is that I completely let go of my regular routine.

I stopped working out before everyone got up in the morning, so I lost that time alone to myself. That alone time is what always helped me get motivated for the day. 

I also stopped showering immediately after my workout, stopped getting dressed in something other than my PJs, and stopped being careful of what and how much I ate during the day. 

When I say I really took advantage of being at home, it’s almost an understatement. 

Around the middle of the second week, when I realized this was going to be a much longer arrangement than first believed, I had somewhat of an awakening. It hit me that this wasn’t really sustainable because it honestly wasn’t good for anyone. I mean who wants to see mom walking around in her PJ’s all day looking like she just crawled out of a four-day binger? 

It’s so easy to let yourself go when you never have to leave the house, but that’s not healthy. Not to mention my teenager decided to tell me I really needed to wash my PJs because they were starting to stink. HA!  

So here I am heading into week four now with a new mindset and daily routine plan based on what I’ve learned from my experiences so far. 

First and foremost, sleeping in is great but it should only be a weekend thing for me. I not only need it, but I crave, time to myself every day. The only way for me to get this in is to get up before everyone else as I did before. 

Second, I have to start my day off with my workout and shower. Otherwise, I feel lazy and out of it all day long. Time to add it back to my morning routine instead of trying to fit it in later in the day!

Third, having a standing desk is awesome and I’ve always enjoyed that. But over the past two weeks, I have learned that it is not wise to stand or walk all day on a treadmill barefoot or in just your socks. It is torturous on your feet! Trust me! 

Fourth, I need to take the advice of my preschooler’s teacher, and not let my kids, or myself, graze all day on whatever is in the fridge or pantry. Self-discipline is absolutely a MUST for working from home!

Finally, I have learned that working from home truly is everything I always imagined it would be. I’m not gonna lie, it’s not easy working with a little one running around and wanting your attention. But heck, even in the office people are always wanting your attention. In this case, your coworkers are just much smaller and want you to do simpler things like getting them something to drink or play kickball. 

This is a scary and stressful time for all of us.

Our household is keeping to ourselves and staying home as recommended. Although what’s happening in the world right now does increase my anxiety a great bit, there is absolutely no other place I would rather be during this time than right here with my babies doing what I can to keep them safe. 

I’ll take working from home over working from afar any day! 

Are you a working mom who transitioned from the office to home? What has your experience been like?

The Mental Diet :: Maintaining Your Sanity During Social Distancing

We are all in the same boat. We have been ordered to socially distance ourselves from others, and stay at home as much as possible.

Why are so many of us losing it? Is it really that difficult to just stay home and be still? For some, yes. For all of us in this situation, I’d like to introduce you to the “Mental Diet.”

It doesn’t have much to do with food, except I feel that right now you should eat what makes you happy (considering any dietary restrictions, of course).

I personally do not have an issue with staying home. I love my house. I love being home with my daughter, even as we test each others’ limits. However, I have fallen into a few moments of humdrum where I did not know what to do next.

In order to maintain my regular level of sanity, here are a few things I am doing to sustain, my mental diet.

I am not obsessively cleaning my house.

I have a busy six-year-old who is apparently making it her business to clutter up as much space as humanly possible. I am washing the dishes often, doing laundry more often (especially if we go out to the store), and wiping down the most used areas with disinfectant. 

I am taking the time to relax.

My relaxing has been binge-watching TV shows that I have been behind on, reading, and coloring. Coloring is a great activity to do with or without kids. It’s a great stress reliever!

I am not beating myself up about snacking.

I’m eating cookies. 

I am turning off the news.

The news can be overwhelming and draining. It can also cause anxiety and stress. Give your brain a break and turn it off. You do not need to watch the news every day to know what is happening. 

I am being mindful to move.

I am stretching, and I am going outside and walking up and down my driveway. I’m working my way up to doing yoga. This wasn’t something I did on a regular day so, I’m not being too hard on myself about this either.

I am reading more books with my daughter.

I think this is her favorite time of the day. She has learned very quickly why we don’t read many Dr. Seuss books (a lot of them are very lengthy).

With all of this, I am also working from home and homeschooling. (Bless you, teachers!)

These times are so uncertain. We don’t know what the coming weeks or months will look like. Remember to be kind to yourself and your family as we adjust to a new (hopefully temporary) normal. Take breaks as you need to, meditate, journal, and/or pray. Find your happy place and get to that place as much as you can. Maintain your mental diet.

What does your mental diet look like?

10 Simple and Fun Activities to Bond With Your Kids While Stuck at Home

Schools are closed and kids are at home. So how do you keep your children entertained while educating them too? Here are ten suggestions that will not only keep your children busy but also help you bond with them.

These fun activities will brighten their stay at home. When we interact with our kids and show them that we are interested in spending time with them, it builds their self-esteem and they cherish these moments of shared play.

Recently I read a poem by Dina Loomans. The first few lines of her poem read,

“If I had my child to raise over again, I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less. I’d do less correcting, and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I would care to know less and know to care more. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.”

These words stayed with me. The universe has conspired to give all of us the gift of extra time with our kids. Let us enjoy each day mindfully with our children.

All of these activities are very simple, we just have to make an effort to include them in our day to day lives.

1. Indoor Scavenger Hunts

One Easter it was raining and I thought I may have to cancel our outdoor egg hunt. But my son told me we could do it indoors. So I hid the candy-filled eggs in desk drawers, inside pillow covers, under sofa cushions, under the mattress, under the bed, under the fruits in the fruit basket and many other places.

I gave each of my children a bag and said ready set go, and off they went. They found each and every egg I had hidden. I always have one extra big golden egg with multiple candies in it, which is the prized egg, and the child who finds it feels extra victorious! Every year my youngest finds it and it makes him very happy.

You can create an indoor scavenger hunt list that includes searching the house for things like a fridge magnet, something of a specific color, a soft toy, dice from a board game, an envelope, a candle, an object which starts with the first letter of your name, a toy that makes a sound, a coin and so on.

2. Growing Flowers or Vegetables Together

Gardening is good for the soul. Plant something in a pot or an outdoor garden with your child. All you need is soil and a small plant from the garden shop. Container gardening is very easy; there is no digging or creating a flower bed involved. Let your child water the plant each day and watch it grow. Children feel very happy and proud to spot the buds, and then watch the buds turn into flowers. They are happy to grow vegetables too and will excitedly help you pluck them.

3. Coloring Together

Have you ever sat down and colored with your child? Try it sometime. It’s actually very relaxing and soothing to sit together and fill color on a big sheet of images or designs. You can use crayons, markers, or paint. There are many printable coloring sheets available for free online and you can find something which matches the interest your child; superheroes, Disney princesses, dinosaurs, sharks and so on….

4. Exercising Together

Exercising can be a shared activity. My husband does yoga with the kids every morning and it is a great start to the day. When the elliptical machine at our home broke, my daughter and I started doing Zumba together from free tutorials on YouTube. As a family, you can go for walks together, jump rope, create an obstacle course in your backyard, or just simply put on some music and dance together. Exercise also helps build a strong immune system. Something we could all use right now! 

5. Cooking and Baking Together

Children are the best sous chefs who can be your little helpers in the kitchen. They love whisking, mixing dough and then eating the freshly baked cookies. Let them help you bake cupcakes and then decorate with their own choice of frosting and toppings. If you make or buy pizza dough, children love to put the toppings on their own personal pizza.

6. Pretend Play

Children love pretend play and it’s a great opportunity to teach them life skills. You can have a grocery store and let them be the cashier so they learn how to use money, including how to return change. They can choose their own clothing, dress up creatively, and have a fashion show. Recently, I saw the most adorable video of a friend doing the catwalk with her eight-year-old daughter who loves choosing colorful and coordinated outfits. You can have a pretend café where a waiter takes orders and brings you food. The children can  make a printed menu of food served.

7. Movie Nights at Home

With the current state of affairs, most movie theaters are closed. So, what’s the next best (or even better) thing? Family movie night at home! It’s so much fun to watch a movie together as a family. You can talk and discuss the movie and laugh loudly without the fear of disturbing others. You can have popcorn, drinks, and your favorite snacks, and cuddle together in a blanket while watching the movie. And with all the streaming services out there like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, etc., the possibilities are endless!

8. Board Games

Good old fashioned board games never go out of style! There are so many classic games like Chutes and Ladders, Chinese Checkers, Monopoly, and Scrabble that are a lot of fun. And, there are a plethora of new board games out there as well. I bet that most of the time those board games are collecting dust in some corner of your house. Get them out and play! You will love the leg-pulling, the cheating, and the sheer camaraderie that is a part of playing together.

9. Make Something Creative and Crafty

Children love a good DIY project. YouTube has many free tutorials on how to make soap, candles, paper lampshades, etc. at home. You can buy ingredients online for home delivery. There are many starter kits available with instructions. You can also turn to YouTube to learn how to do needlework, croquet, knitting, origami, art from recyclable materials, different hairstyles and so on. Richland Library cardholders can also log into Creativebug for free videos, ideas, and tutorials.

10. Story Time

Children never tire of listening to stories. You can read to them from books with expression and theatrics or just narrate to them tales you were told by your own parents and grandparents. You can incorporate sing-alongs and they will be happy to participate. My older children love to listen to stories of what we did when we were kids, ghost stories, stories about the lives of their grandparents, and so on.

Some excellent resources from Richland Library on helping you with storytime include:

Children grow up so quickly. Let’s stay calm in these uncertain times and spend quality one on one moments together. And when they’re older, they will remember these times fondly. Let’s create wonderful memories.

What would you add to this list?

8 Weird Documentaries to Watch If You Liked The Tiger King

While we are all stuck at home looking for something to utterly distract us from our reality, there is perhaps no better time to explore other weird realities. I’m talking about documentaries.

Some documentaries are purely informative, some inspirational, and some truly heartbreaking. If you can handle a touch of human tragedy and a whole lot of bizarre, like the insanely popular The Tiger King on Netflix, you will love these as well. They are stories more than exposes, and they are incredibly human and entertaining. 

So here is a list of eight weird documentaries to watch. (And here’s a way to keep your kids occupied so you can actually watch them.)

1. Boy Band Con: The Lou Perlman Story

Remember NSYNC and Backstreet Boys? Remember their feud? What about Aaron Carter, O-Town, and the show Making the Band? I’ll bet you didn’t know that was all pulled off by one man who knew absolutely nothing about music.

Both how this story starts and how it ends are unbelievable. You can watch some of these stars and their families in this well-done documentary on YouTube. If you’re still not convinced, just give the trailer a shot. 

2. Catfish

You have probably seen or heard of the MTV show Catfish. But did you know the filmmaker and star actually coined that term, and it all began this with a documentary? Watch step by step as Nev begins filming an online friendship turned love story, and ultimately unearths the very first known catfish – his.

3. Evil Genius

If you like high stakes tension, there isn’t anything more nail-biting than a bank robbery hostage and a bomb. But in this case, everything is not as it seems. While this true story is now widely known from the documentary, it has been in law school books for quite a while – that’s how unique it is. 

4. Fyre

The same people who brought you The Tiger King broke down the absolute marketing genius turned disaster in a completely new way. Fyre is the story of the infamous unraveling of the Fyre music festival. The details in this documentary are shocking; the story well woven and easy to follow, suspenseful, and surprising, even if you think you know the story.

5. Hellier

I am a sucker for ghost hunting and the like, but this is the weirdest, most convoluted, yell-at-your-TV documentary out there. I could not resist something with a title this perfect. It can be watched as a paranormal or psychological documentary. View it all on HULU. My personal favorite quote is: “Everything is tangentially related to the Kentucky Goblins.”

6. The Imposter

This film may be the best on this list. Basically, it is the story of a man who poses as a boy who went missing years before, but that’s not even the crazy part. I cannot give much away, but from why he did it to how the family was fooled, will have you hooked. You will not be disappointed with this amazing film!

7. The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley

An HBO documentary available on may streaming platforms, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley is the story of a woman who invented a product to revolutionize medicine except…that she actually didn’t. Not only was she not a doctor, even her voice was being faked! Even The Tiger King, may not have had a con that holds its own against Elizabeth Holmes. 

8. The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia/ The Dancin’ Outlaw

I love to people-watch, and reality TV lets me do that in ways never before possible. But for me, it isn’t about judgement or mockery; it truly lets us experience how different our lives are and how universal other things are. While parts of this are painful, others are hilarious, and still, others are mind-blowing truths.

The Dancin’ Outlaw focuses on a dying art in a dying place, while the subsequent Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia focuses on a damaged yet lovable family. Both are available on multiple streaming services, but Google Play and YouTube have the lowest rates to watch. 

What is your favorite documentary?

4 Neighborhood Activities (Social Distancing Style) to Organize in April

Right now we are all going through some difficult times. Whether you’re home with your kiddos in your new role as parent/teacher, or you’re still having to go to work and worry about what health risks you might be taking on, we are all out here doing our best to find some new kind of normal.

Whenever major events like this take place I always think of one of my favorite Mr. Rogers quotes, “Look for the helpers.” Look for those trying to make the world around us a little bit better. 

I’m sure many of you have seen the posts circulating social media and the news about neighborhoods organizing bear hunts and decorating their sidewalks with chalk. The bear hunts are based on the popular children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. Each participating house would put a stuffed bear in their window and the neighborhood kids would walk around with their families and try to find all the bears. It was a great way for kids to get out of the house, have some fun, lighten the mood and still practice social distancing. So when a local mom reached out and asked us for some more ideas… we knew we had to come through! 

Here is your week by week guide of activities to organize with your own neighbors. If you use these ideas please share them with us, we would love to see them! You can tag us at @columbiascmom and use the hashtag #CMNeighborhoodFun. 

Week of April 5th: Birthday Porch Party

Who has a March or April birthday that is kind of getting overlooked or forgotten this year? Probably a lot of you and your kiddos! I’m sure some of you had to look your kids in the eyes and explain to them why they couldn’t have a party this year, and I’m sure they did their best to be understanding. But what if for just 1 day we celebrated everyone’s March and April birthdays? Coordinate a date and time with your neighbors and everyone can post up in their driveway or on their porch to celebrate each other from a safe distance. Play music, enjoy a treat, decorate your porch… however you want to celebrate your special loved one and/or your wonderful neighbors.  

Week (and Weekend) of April 12th: Easter Egg Hunt

Agree with your neighbors on how many eggs each family wants to hide in their front yard, everyone should hide the same number to keep it consistent. Choose a day and make sure everyone has their eggs hidden by morning. The eggs should be findable from the sidewalk/driveway of each house. Then families can walk around to the participating houses and try to spot the hidden eggs. The best part is since we aren’t actually collecting the eggs we don’t have to worry about touching anything and sanitizing our hands a million times. 

Another variation:

Or, take advantage of the Columbia Mom Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt (social distancing style)! Our egg hunt works best if lots of neighbors get in on the fun. So, spread the word to your friends and neighbors and get ready to go on an Easter egg hunt! Here’s how it works:

  1. Download and print the Easter egg coloring pages.
  2. Decorate your favorite egg any way that you want!
  3. Display your egg(s) in your windows by Wednesday, April 8.

Go on an egg hunt with your family (or by yourself 😊) April 9-12 to see how many eggs you can find! *Don’t forget* to take a picture of the beautiful eggs you find and share to Columbia Mom’s Facebook pageLet’s see how many neighborhoods get represented! And follow along on our Facebook event page for all the details! Use #columbiamom #colamom #columbiamomegghunt and follow us on Instagram for a chance to be featured!

Week of April 19th: Book Walk (National Library Week)

Since it’s possible libraries will still be closed, here is a way you can celebrate your favorite childhood books from home. Decorate your windows or front door to represent your favorite children’s book and see if your neighbors can guess what the books are. You can get really creative with this one… seriously the possibilities are endless! Who doesn’t want a Harry Potter front door or a living room window dedicated completely to Pete the Cat?

Week of April 26th: Chalk Challenge Course

Lastly, I got this idea from another writer mom on our site, thanks Tasheena! She did something similar with her girls and the whole neighborhood loved it. Use chalk to draw an obstacle path in front of your house. Maybe you’ll draw a moat with alligators that needs to be jumped over, or a bunch of zig zags that will test your agility, or perhaps even a space to practice your ABC’s. Get creative and see if you and your neighbors on each side can make connecting ones. How cool would it be for your neighborhood kids to have an entire neighborhood obstacle course to play on?

Photo Courtesy of Tasheena Ticer
Photo Courtesy of Tasheena Ticer

What fun activities would you add to the list?

Parenting Through the Tough Times

You didn’t see this coming when you brought your baby into this world. Things are pretty uncertain for so many people, and parents have the added burden of trying to maintain normalcy for our children while the world around us is anything but normal. 
 
Maybe you’re missing your usual family routine. Maybe you worry that you’re missing out on valuable time raising and enjoying your children while you juggle the stress and uncertainty so many of us are feeling and experiencing right now. Maybe your heart is breaking for a child that will now miss out on prom, or possibly walking across a stage to reward years of hard work on their part, and yours.
 
Our mom hearts are heavy right now for so many reasons. 
 
This isn’t my first “parenting through a crisis” rodeo. I have dealt with this type of grief (yes — that’s a form of grief you may be feeling) for what I thought raising children would be like when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I had a 16-month-old, and when I lost my mom several years later we had added an extra cute little baby girl to the mix.
 
I couldn’t shake the feeling that raising my girls was going to forever be different than I expected it to be. I missed that care-free feeling of playing with my children without distraction and heartache. I felt uncertain about everything I used to feel confident about. Just getting through the day felt like a challenge, and I had such guilt from feeling distracted.
 
I thought I was missing out on time I could never get back. I was convinced that my grief was going to forever impact my daughters’ young lives — that they’d think of me as the “sad mom” and wish I could have done better by them. 
 
Here’s the thing though — I didn’t really miss out on a thing. And my girls are growing into happy, healthy little women who carry a great deal of empathy for those around them. I was parenting and raising my children under new and unexpected circumstances, but in hindsight, I realize that I was doing as much, if not more, to guide them than I ever expected. 
 
Even if you feel distracted, or worried, or flat out scared, you are more than likely shielding your child from those feelings as best you can. You are showing them what resilience looks like, or showing them how to find the bright spots in difficult times.
 
You are showing them love by shielding them from the hard stuff, and finding new ways to brighten their day while yours may feel pretty dim. You are showing them what hard work looks like, as you balance working from home, or going to work every day because not going isn’t an option for you.
 
You are showing them how to adapt to the hard stuff. Even after we come through this hard time — and we will — they will go forward into their lives having learned from the example you set now. 
 
So while parenting right now may look so much different than you expected, know that it IS still an important part of your time raising your children. Maybe more now than before. 

UPS Daddy or First Responder?

Heading into week three of staying home and social distancing, this mom of two has experienced every emotion I can think of over the course of this spreading pandemic.

Some days I feel like I have it all together. Other days I feel like I am falling apart.

What is usually my favorite time of year has quickly turned into a time of anxiety, fear, fleeting moments, learning, loneliness, and enlightenment. I think the most comforting fact is knowing I am not alone in my fears and that my strengths and weaknesses are shared among mothers, fathers, parents, children, grandparents, friends, and families all over the world.

There are so many unknown answers to questions we are all asking ourselves regarding COVID-19. Are we taking enough precautions? Is six feet apart enough? Did I just touch my face? Is it safe to go to the store or am I jeopardizing my family? My son has allergies, could he be more at risk? Am I doing the right thing by keeping my children away from their grandparents? So many questions…

But I think the question I am asking myself the most is, should my husband be shedding his browns in the garage and heading straight to the shower when he gets home from UPS?

Yes, I am a UPS wife. We are a UPS family. And right now my husband is on the front lines, which most certainly looks a little different than past disasters in history. 

He is handling hundreds and thousands of parcels from all over the world every single day. He is delivering to, and often entering hospitals, doctor’s offices, extended care facilities, nursing homes, schools, daycare centers, not to mention residences all day long.

My husband is delivering essential medical supplies, food, equipment, medicine, and so much more to everyone. The only person who can protect him is himself. There is no option for a full lockdown for him.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly thankful for UPS and his job security. I am thankful that UPS has a detailed plan of action for its employees in the case that they get diagnosed. They are working tirelessly to make things as safe as possible for their employees. But I am still terrified.

UPS has been such a blessing since my husband began working there. But I have never been this paranoid for him before. He has basically become a first responder overnight. Delivering those crucial medical supplies, medicines, and essentials that are an absolute MUST.

I am proud of him and how hard he works. His spirits and his work ethic have been especially noteworthy during this time. He is such an amazing example for our children. I am so thankful for the network of other UPS wives and families who are dealing with the same fears for their UPSer…at least we are not alone. 

When you are thanking all the doctors, nurses, medical personnel, police officers, national guard, teachers and more… give a warm thank you to your UPS delivery driver, or any delivery driver, who are also putting themselves at risk each day for all of us. Doing our due diligence and following the CDC guidelines will help keep them safe.

To all the “First Responders” during this pandemic…We stay home for you! 

Are you the spouse of a first responder? Share your story below!

A Thank You to Our Teachers

During these uncertain and difficult times, we all have fears and concerns racing through our minds on a daily basis. How long will this quarantine last? Will my family members get sick? Are my elderly loved ones taking extra precautions to keep themselves healthy? How will I pay my bills?

For me, it has been a daily battle to keep my rising anxiety in check in order to be the strong parent I need to be for my children.

Besides keeping my family safe and healthy, my number one concern right now is my daughter’s education. She was excelling in kindergarten and just learning to read and write sentences on her own. Then all of a sudden, with very little warning, our schools closed their doors and our children’s schedules and routines were out the window. Now, parents are left wondering if our children will return at all this school year.

We all embarked on this eLearning and “Homeschool” journey many of us never saw coming. Parents all over social media are fearful, worried about their children’s future success, and questioning if they are cut out for this.

Then our superhero teachers and staff came to our rescue and reminded us all why they are such a critical part of the success of our children.

I opened my email and found words of wisdom, encouragement, and support I never knew I needed. Our schools compiled distance learning packets for students in all grade levels, along with countless enrichment activities and resources. Districts set up buses to distribute them to students who were unable to print them or pick them up. Teachers set up office hours where they would be available to answer any questions from parents and students, reminding us that we are not alone and they are here to support us.

There is so much I know we want to say to our wonderful, hardworking teachers.

Thank you for your unwavering love and support during this difficult time.

Thank you for taking time away from your own families to compile resources for us parents who are at home trying to educate our children the best we can.

Thank you for reminding us that “we got this,” and that our children are learning and growing every day even when they aren’t in their traditional classroom setting.

Thank you for being our children’s biggest cheerleader from a distance, and making sure they are using those academic skills and character traits you have instilled in them during this chaotic time.

We are reminded we have a village and that our teachers are and always will be a vital part of our lives and community even when our schools are closed.

Our children miss you dearly and can’t wait to run back into school and see your smiling faces, whenever that may be. 

What would you say to thank a teacher today?

Columbia Mom Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt {Social Distancing Style!}

Columbia area families may not be able to attend some of our favorite Easter egg hunts this year, but with a little help from our neighbors, we can go on an Easter egg hunt while still practicing social distancing. Similar to the ‘bear hunts’ and ‘chalk walks’ you may have seen popping up in neighborhoods all over America, our egg hunt works best if lots of neighbors get in on the fun. So, spread the word to your friends and neighbors and get ready to go on an Easter egg hunt! 

How It Works

  1. Download and print the Easter egg coloring pages.
  2. Decorate your favorite egg any way that you want!
  3. Display your egg(s) in your windows by Wednesday, April 8.

Egg Hunt April 9–12

Go on an egg hunt with your family (or by yourself 😊) to see how many eggs you can find! *Don’t forget* to take a picture of the beautiful eggs you find and share to Columbia Mom’s Facebook page! Let’s see how many neighborhoods get represented! And follow along on our Facebook event page for all the details! 

Use #columbiamom #colamom #columbiamomegghunt and follow us on Instagram for a chance to be featured!

FREE Routine + Activity Charts for Your Family

Schedules can help keep things normal in a situation where life is anything but normal. They help set clear expectations and guidelines for your child on what’s expected from them day to day. And children feel a sense of accomplishment checking off each task.

For many parents, having to work from home while also managing their kiddos and their school requirements is a whole new world. Routine and activity charts help keep mom and dad on track with where kids are in the process of the day while they are juggling all.the.things.

Thank you to Rochester Mom for creating these charts and allowing us to customize them for our community!

How to Use These Free Routine + Activity Charts

  • Download the PDFs, print and laminate these pages to be able to check items off with a dry erase marker each day and reuse the next.
  • Use the blank checklist for days when you want to focus on something in particular, like deep cleaning the house or accomplishing a scavenger hunt of some sort.
  • Mix it up! For school age kids, they are likely used to having different activities on each day, so follow suit.
  • Give yourself grace. This is a wild time for everyone, so allow yourself to throw out the checklist and be flexible if your kids and your sanity require it.

Below you will find a picture image of an example chart.  And below that is a link to a FREE PDF Download!

Let us know how you use your chart! Tag us on social media and we will reshare with our online community on Instagram!

Morning + Night Routine Chart

>>> Routine Chart :: Morning + Night | FREE Printable <<<

Daily Schedule Chart

>>> Routine Chart :: Daily Schedule | FREE Printable <<<

Blank Chart

>>> Routine Chart :: Blank | FREE Printable <<<

Somewhere WAY Over the Rainbow

I am holding my little’s hand as we make our way to the entrance of the Pediatric ER, being careful not to squeeze too tightly as her little fingers are swollen, part of some mystery illness that has appeared in the last 48 hours.

We walk to the entrance where two security guards sit at a small table wearing masks. They ask me to put my bag down, so it can be searched before I can walk through the metal detector; a reminder of the post 9/11 world we live in. 

“Here is a mask. Put it over your mouth and nose and make your way through the doors. The pediatric lounge will be on your right.”

As I make my way into the lobby, everyone has a mask on, including all the employees. All sitting at their computers or staring down at phones, faces covered like nothing unusual is going on. 

I sign my little Mary Hannah in and we take a seat, anxiously waiting to be called back. As I sit there, I think about how grateful I am for medical care, excellent doctors and nurses. I’m grateful we can come to a hospital and not be turned away, that we have access (for now anyway) to vaccines and drugs. 

At the same time, I ponder this picture replaying through my head: it looks like waiting rooms of covered faces, a world that has been brought to a screeching halt from an unknown virus. 

I think about this country: home of the free and the brave, but where we now have to be searched head to toe before boarding an airplane, or even walking into a hospital.

The changes in my short lifetime have been astounding. I think about the mama I see across the way signing her baby in, by herself – wondering what her story is, and what her struggles are. I begin to grieve, mourn it all – this place, these people, this world, my little and big problems. 

They call our name, and we head back to our room as I explain the symptoms of fever, cough, and point to the mysterious rash covering her little body. I feel peace pass over me as the doctor checks her out, and begins to explain this is a very treatable illness – a reaction to the antibiotic she’s been on the past week. I am relieved as they prescribe a steroid, and tell me, “no more ‘cillin drugs” and send us on our way.

As we head home, the weight of the past year settles onto my shoulders, and travels down my spine – it almost paralyzes me.

This concoction of fear, excitement, hills, and valleys. I’ve never been to Cedar Point amusement park, but I can imagine what the roller coasters must be like there. The past several months I have found myself on the ride that goes way up, and then way down. The one that has the surprising twists and turns, and jerks you all around. The kind you find yourself wanting to get off of, but there’s no getting off. You’re on it until the ride decides it’s done. 

This life, it’s so paradoxical, as my friend Brooke used to say (albeit much more eloquently). So much beauty in the land of the living, and yet at the same time, so much grief.

I’m thinking of somewhere ‘far, far from here’, as Jenny from Forest Gump would pray. It’s a place where people are free, and they don’t wear masks, where children aren’t sick, and people aren’t trafficked. It’s a place where cars aren’t stolen, and your teenager doesn’t break your heart. It’s a place where you’re not just surviving and making it through another day. A place where cancer doesn’t return, and what kind of health insurance you have doesn’t matter.

It’s somewhere WAY over the rainbow, it’s far from all these things, and ever further from fear.

On some days, I am yearning for this place, yet hanging on so tightly to the here and now; letting my surrounding circumstances rock me to and fro, somehow convincing myself worry equals control.

My pastor once posted this quote, and I love it more with every trial that has come my way in recent months:

“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.” ~Charles Spurgeon 

This is it. This is where I want to be.  

Somewhere we find a way to make being quarantined an adventure, instead of torture. It is somewhere where we don’t trust our finances, abilities, and experts for our personal security. Somewhere where therapy appointments aren’t needed, but where brokenness opens the door to deep healing. 

This here and now, where little footsteps, nights without sleep, and sounds of sweet laughter are woven together. Messy. Beautiful. 

I guess you could say it’s somewhere between way over the rainbow and this moment in time. 

I think it’s exactly where we’re supposed to be. 

50 Ways to Keep Kids Busy When You’re Stuck at Home

While there’s no reason to panic, daily life is definitely changing. South Carolina closed schools through the end of April and my email inbox is full of notices that all of our classes and activities will be postponed, too. The best thing to do right now is to limit contact with others as much as possible.

It might not be convenient or comfortable, but there’s a high likelihood that you’re now looking forward to a lot more time at home with your family. And if you’re not used to spending every single day with your little ones, you’re probably also wondering how in the world you’re going to survive.

The good news is that half the stress of parenting is trying to get places on time. Now you have an opportunity to slow down, be present with your family, and look for as much humor as you can.

I put together a list of 50 ways that you can keep your family occupied while you’re stuck at home. They are super simple, back to the basics ideas that are intended to promote fun and bonding. And if weather permits, most of these activities can be taken to your yard and enjoyed in the fresh air.

Here we go:

  1. Build a couch fort
  2. Have a dance party
  3. Draw a chalk mural
  4. Read a book
  5. Write a book
  6. Bake cookies
  7. Cook a new dinner recipe together
  8. Make play-dough (try this recipe)
  9. Play games on the tablet
  10. GoNoodle Dances
  11. Cosmic Kids Yoga
  12. Play board games
  13. Play cards
  14. Build the tallest possible block or LEGO tower
  15. Put on a fashion show
  16. Have a costume contest
  17. Make sock puppets and put on a play
  18. Stream a new movie together
  19. Stream an old movie together
  20. Go on a nature hunt
  21. Take a walk
  22. Play hopscotch
  23. Have a talent show
  24. Learn a TikTok dance
  25. Make a TikTok dance
  26. Kick a ball around
  27. Play hide and seek
  28. Clean out the toy box
  29. Organize your bookshelf by color, height, or author
  30. Write thank you letters to healthcare workers and first responders
  31. Write thank you letters to community helpers, like sanitation engineers and mail carriers
  32. Write a letter to anyone
  33. Make masks
  34. Cotton ball painting
  35. Learn how to play an instrument on YouTube
  36. Learn a new language on Duolingo
  37. Try new hairdos
  38. Home manicures and pedicures
  39. Draw or color in coloring books
  40. Go cloud watching
  41. Set up an obstacle course
  42. Play in the bathtub
  43. Living room karaoke
  44. Make mosaics or collages
  45. Have an “Easter Egg Hunt” with toys
  46. Online lessons
  47. Build a box spaceship or car
  48. Start a kitchen band with pots and wooden spoons
  49. Make a time capsule
  50. Take a virtual museum tour

If you’re someone who enjoys planning, stick some of these ideas into your daily schedule. And if you prefer spontaneity, save this list for later and come back to it when you’re ready.

As we’re all facing our current reality, just remember to stay calm, be responsible and compassionate. Count your blessings and know that we’ll get through this together!

What would you add to this list?

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