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8 fun ways to help high-risk kids feel connected this summer

For children with medical conditions or special needs, this summer is complicated.

high-risk children summer activities

When COVID-19 hit, parenting our kids with medical needs became especially complicated—and the current reopening phase is proving to be just as complex in its own way.

Most families quarantined similarly through the first few weeks of the pandemic. But now that many areas are beginning to re-open, people have started socializing again. For families of high-risk children, however, our quarantines continue. Just as their friends begin going to pools, sleepovers and socially-distanced sports practice, our high-risk kids are staying home and trying to stay healthy.

High-risk kids of all ages are, understandably, feeling left out and frustrated when they see their friends socializing. Younger children may see the neighborhood kids biking together or playing in yards through their windows, while older children may see their friends spending time together via social media.

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Keeping high-risk kids connected to their friends is important for social development and emotional health, but keeping them apart is essential for physical health. How can parents manage both?


Here are some simple tips for helping your high-risk child still feel connected to peers while maintaining social distancing this summer.

1. Virtual camp

This year, many activities have gone online—lessons, camps and classes. Look into something that sparks your child's interest and see if you can find a camp or group lesson online. These kinds of activities can help kids feel connected to existing friends, while also helping them build new friendships with children who have similar interests.

2. Facetime

Although talking on the phone is an easy way for kids to stay in touch, it just doesn't feel the same as seeing a friend's face. Talking via a video conferencing app, like Facetime, Skype or Zoom, may help kids feel more connected to one another.

Pre-schedule chats just as you would schedule a play date. Make the chats even more interesting by adding activities. There are tons of online apps to let kids play with one another while video conferencing, from online Uno to Battleship to puzzles and trivia games.

Kids can also engage in real activities while chatting. They can paint matching pictures, or build the same creation out of blocks while they talk. Giving kids a shared goal adds some extra excitement and engagement to their chat.

3. Multiplayer games

Depending on your child's interests, consider allowing a little extra video game time for them to engage in child-safe multiplayer games. Some systems allow users to wear headsets so kids can talk to one another while they play. Allowing kids to play preferred games with friends, while actually talking to them, can make a huge difference in how connected they feel to their buddies.

4. Parking lot chats + sidewalk socializing

If your child's medical condition allows, you can find creative ways for them to see friends in person from a safe distance. Meet another family at a local parking lot where you can park at a distance, and allow kids to roll down the windows and talk, open the hatch and sit in the back of an SUV, or sit in a parking spot while talking with friends. Or if your friends live in your neighborhood, have kids stay on their driveway or sidewalk while they talk to friends across the street or across the yard.

During outside chats like these, it's important to supervise children to ensure they're both safe, and safely apart, at all times.

5. Six feet a-party

If you're okay with your child seeing friends from a distance, consider having a "six feet a-party." All guests at the party must stay at least 6 feet apart from one another (you can require them to wear masks, too). For younger children, it can help to mark out a space for each child—draw a large circle with chalk—and encourage everyone to bring their own chair (so nobody touches anyone else's stuff). Kids can talk, listen to music, watch a movie on an outside screen, draw with chalk, eat snacks they brought from home or play word games.

6. Zoom parties

If you're uncomfortable with an "in real life" party, try a Zoom party. Kids can decorate their rooms and then sign in to a video conferencing app at the same time. They can see lots of friends at once while they dance, talk or play games. For younger kids, build in some activities, like Mad Libs, show and tell or Lego building contests. For older kids, let them plan the agenda and have fun reconnecting.

7. Pandemic parades

Pandemic parades have been all over the internet, and for good reason—they're so much fun! If your child loves being the center of attention, coordinate a group of friends to all drive by at the same time. Your child can sit in a chair on the front porch, driveway, or sidewalk—far enough back from the cars to be safe—and chat with friends as they drive by. Extra points for funny or creative signs in car windows!

8. Snail mail

We live in a digital age, but there's still nothing better than getting actual, real mail. Encourage your child and their friends to mail each other letters, drawings or small items. Getting something directly from a bestie is a great way for kids to know their friends are thinking of them. They can also send a letter or drawing back, which helps your child extend that connection while doing a project at home.

Being unable to see friends during this pandemic has been hard for everyone, but it's even harder for kids who are now watching their friends start to go out while they still can't. Remember that developing friendships is a key milestone of childhood, and encouraging kids to stay connected to their friends is important. With a little creativity, you can help your kids continue to stay safe while feeling like part of the group again!

In This Article

    14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $100

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

    $100

    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

    $45

    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

    $179

    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

    $100

    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $33

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $88

    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

    $75

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

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    This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

    One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

    If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

    Stylish storage cabinet

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    With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

    Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

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    Laminated world map

    I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

    Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

    When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

    Letterboard

    From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

    Expandable tablet stand

    Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

    Neutral pocket chart

    Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

    Totable fabric bins

    My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

    Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

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