Six Creative Ways for Kids to Stay Close to Friends, Online and Offline

Here are six creative ways kids can stay close to their friends online and offline.

At-Home Learning: PBS SoCal and KCET, in partnership with LAUSD and in collaboration with California PBS stations, are offering broadcast programming with digital resources that adhere to California’s state curriculum. Download this week’s schedule.

As our kids adjust to spending the majority of their time at home for the coming months, it’s understandable they will miss their daily interactions with classmates and friends, just as we, parents, miss our colleagues and friends. On an average school day, socializing with others — teachers included — enriched their daily lives upwards of seven hours a day. While our kids may have their own ideas about how to sustain these relationships through online means, such as social media, it doesn’t hurt to introduce them to other creative ways to stay close to their friends online and offline. Here are six ways to do just that — which we parents may find comforting to do as well.

Mailing Letters or Postcards to Friends

Let’s face it … we can all do this more. Once an essential way for us to keep up long-distance friendships, let’s bring back the excitement of waiting for, and the surprise of receiving, correspondence by mail. Our home lives will all be better if personal letters and postcards outnumber bills and credit card applications, right? Kids can get as creative or as basic as they wish. No one needs to spend extra money on a postcard when a printed picture or cutout from a cereal box can be used. Adobe Spark is also offering an easy way to design your own postcards for free, print them home and then send to a lucky recipient.

Doing a Project Together

Encourage your kids to team up with a friend or friends to take on the same kind of project together to problem-solve, compare notes and share progress. The complexity and theme of the project can take on many forms. The younger set might enjoy emailing, video chatting, or calling each other while caring for a caterpillar, for instance, as it becomes a butterfly. For older kids, it could be building a robot or a piece of furniture. The site Instructables has loads of projects of all ages. We are also enjoying this simple “Plastic to Pots” idea from local company Concrete Geometric. Owner Krizia Flores shows how easy it is to use plastic containers from home, such as cups and large juice bottles, to create concrete pots with Concrete Geometric’s Concrete Mix. If a simple wreath is something you and your kid’s friends would appreciate, here’s a roundup of DIY wreaths on design site Hunker to make at home.

Making the Same Recipe Together

Sure, this can get messy, but the reward is you get to eat whatever your kid makes — and hopefully it will be delicious. The popularity of cooking shows is a testament to how enjoyable it is to just watch people cook. Have your kids or their friends choose a recipe each week to make together via video chat. In the absence of being able to cook or bake it together, whether successful or not. “Nailed It!” has capitalized on how fun it is to also fail together — spending time in the kitchen is a fun and tasty way to keep in touch. And each party can assemble an in-house “judges’ panel” or critics to review the final dishes and share their hopefully positive, if not upbeat, feedback.

Making a recipe with family is so much fun | Teena Apeles

Taking an Online Class Together

The thought of adding another class and homework to their weekly to-dos may be the last thing your kids want, but there’s never been a better time to explore what’s out there. They could choose to take the same course live, such an online dance or drawing class, which many companies are now hosting on Zoom. Or there are some extraordinary free offerings that can be taken independently, so your kids and their friends can share their work after each. Skill Share has a great selection of free online art tutorials that run from 20 minutes to more than an hour for kids to watch together. Plus, you can upload your work afterwards to share widely with the community. Disney Imagineering just launched “Imagineering in a Box” on Khan Academy, which leads students through storytelling, character development, creating storyboards, as well as other components that go into designing a theme park attraction. NASA also has age-appropriate educational videos online such as its “Train Like an Astronaut” video series of activities that kids can do together virtually.

Collaborating on a Story

The tradition of individuals crafting stories together is a wonderful way for friends to exercise their imaginations as a group. Kids need not play what was called the Exquisite Corpse game in the way the Surrealists practiced it — each participant writes or draws on a piece of paper, conceals it, and then passes it on to the next player, and so on — to encourage collaboration and bring out strange creative turns of the mind. But rather, one kid kicks off the story (graphic novels encouraged too!) and then sends it to a friend by snail mail or email to write the next part, and it can continue to circulate after each contribution until t a conclusion everyone is happy with is reached. You can show the kids the The Exquisite Corpse Adventure hosted on the Library of Congress site, initiated by Jon Scieszka, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, for inspiration. It features nearly 30 writers adding their own bits to the story until they get one epic adventure.

A child helps draw a traditional Exquisite Corpse | hydra arts/Flickr/Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Show-and-Tell

This can take the form of a book club, or can we suggest no-holds-barred (family) fort building, which can be shared on the amusing Tour de Forts Instagram feed? While show-and-telling is perhaps the nature of personal interactions anyway, the plus with today’s technology is that we can maintain this virtually: seeing each other’s smiling faces, navigating each other’s spaces, laughing together and enjoying those often-unwelcome interruptions by family members (and pets). It’s all good as long as we can stay connected and close while apart.