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Play in the Age of Quarantine: 11 Creative Ways to Create the Connection We So Desperately Need

These past few weeks have been jam-packed on the Jewish calendar: we went from the Jewish New Year to the 10 Days of Awe, then came the Day of Atonement and finally we are in the midst of a beautiful Harvest Celebration. But instead of the uplifting moments of community and connection that bring me to new heights each year, the only way I could describe the fall of 2020 is with a "wah, wah"

And it's because of the lack of connection.

Many community centers, places of gathering, and public spaces are still closed.

Places of worship are online.

There is a lot of tension in the air.

And the reality is, the way things are going, this strange disconnected zoom community way of life isn't going anywhere for the time being. I know for me, I am SO craving one on one physical exchanges. And I know our children are too.

So as we move into colder weather here in the northern hemisphere, I've come up with some creative ways to reconnect, in this season or otherwise. It might sound a bit controversial, but for me, immunity boosting trumps the dangers of small bubble communities. So in our home, reconnection has reincarnated with the idea of a "germ bubble."

Let me share a bit more about how that works, and some other creative ways to live in community, even in these disconnected times.

IDEA #1: Create a "Germ Bubble"

In our home, the term "germ bubble" has become a pet name for all of the people that we're already exposed to on a constant basis who we might as well enjoy. Because if you're like most people, even if you're in the most isolated of circumstances, there more than likely is at least one other family or neighbor or connection that you've connected with over these past months, whether by choice or from necessity.

So why not capitalize on that?

For us, our germ bubble consists of the few other families who have committed to the amazing preschool where we send our daughter.

The reasoning goes like this: "Our kids are playing together and exposed anyway, so we might as well get together!"

We're still being very careful, and it's only with a few households, but it has made SUCH a big difference in our day to day. I honestly feel like a real person again.

Since making this decision, we've gone back to:

dinner & playdates (with separate BYO food)

hiking together

outdoor playdates

the possibility of date night ( we haven't done this one yet, but we're trying to figure out a new babysitting share like we've done in the past - contact me if you want to know about setting these up!)

We've shared a bottle of wine. Laughed with friends. Watched our children socialize (because they do in school anyway) and it feels SO. GOOD. With masks and much the hand washing. But we were together!!

I would argue that fresh air, socializing, laughter, and connection with others are the top ways to boost our immunity and balance our lives, therefore also boosting our immunity. Sometimes the lesser thought of solution like that of the germ bubble is less risky than the consequences of continuing to sequester ourselves for who knows how long.

IDEA #2: The Playground

If you have any sort of outdoor public gathering space that has reopened - take advantage of it! The sense of normalcy, new possibilities, and kids simply getting to be kids is so important. Our children's brains won't have a redo for making the connections that set the foundation for the rest of their lives. Don't prevent them from this opportunity.

We can go to the playground creatively too: we can wear gloves in addition to masks. We can cycle through play structures in order to limit how many little bodies are on each of them at once. In the meantime, how about some outdoor painting? Or easier yet - water painting with a brush and bucket?

If there's no access to a playground, might you come out with the kids in the neighborhood to collect leaves or sticks? What about for cloud gazing? All of these activities can be practiced at a social distance. And are an imperative piece of childhood.

IDEA #3: Share The Bounty

Have you recently picked apples or gone to a pumpkin patch? Collected leaves? Or simply gone to the farmers market? Buy extra!

Then, leave some in a basket for neighbors with a handwritten sign. I got this amazing idea from @littlestneighbor and just ADORED the concept from the moment I saw it!

It's a way to connect with community, give of ourselves, teach empathy and supporting one another and to simply spread cheer.

If you're collecting leaves, you can create forest fairies to beautify your home and celebrate the season, simply making more so you can gift them to others.

IDEA #4: Snail Mail

The power and joy of the letter has almost been lost - and maybe these days it is the perfect chance to revitalize it! You can preprint labels with the addresses of your favorite friends and family members to make it super easy for you.

It's also a fantastic way to reuse your child's artwork while also staying in contact with those you love. While writing the letters and cutting out the envelopes, you also get an added opportunity to introduce letter writing format and have some organic reasons to practice reading and writing that truly motivates.

Plus isn't a letter one of the most heartwarming things you can receive?

IDEA #5: Scheduled Calls & Remote Experience Dates

Now this one does use screens, but it is the most whole child way I can think of to use them. In our home, we have a daily "babysitting read aloud hour" between my daughter and her grandmother. They have so much fun together and I get to get some more work done (I am literally taking advantage of one of these as I type). Plus, even though we're far away, we all know what's going on each day and don't have to chase one another around to catch up on missed calls.

A twist on this idea is what I'm calling the "remote experience date." Essentially, it involves agreeing with a good friend to go to the same type of place on the same day and time, so that even if we're far away, we get to kind of "feel" like we've been there together. We can choose to facetime during or simply catch up later about how it was. Some places we've done this with have been creeks and streams, the arboretum bird sanctuary, and even for ice cream (the kids decided ahead of time that they'd get the same flavor & toppings then we "ate together" on zoom while us parents chatted). It almost felt like a real life outing.

IDEA #6: Storytelling & Music Exchanges

This one takes a bit of coordination but is super fun. So here's how it works: one person makes up the beginning of a story or a song and records and sends it to the other person, who then records the next part, and then another person records the next part, and so on, until we have a complete story!

You can do this with little video or audio snippets and even edit them together. Or make use of an app I've discovered during this time that I LOVE called Marco Polo, which is essentially like a video walkie talkie so you can record your share on your time and your friends can listen on theirs. No more coordination of schedules needed.

IDEA #7: The Remote Book Swap

This idea is a twist on the original book swap to still get to psuedo-connect even if you don't yet feel comfortable getting together for real. So here's how it works: arrange a place to house the books - in someone's garage or a box in the hallway of your apartment building or somewhere central that people can gather around one at a time.

Then, post a sign with the guidelines, say, "take as many books as you return" or something like that and enjoy! You can create a box specifically devoted to children's books and a second for adult reading. Enjoy knowing that you're reading something that you're friends have recently enjoyed.

IDEA #8: BYO Outdoor Potluck

My community has been doing weekly potlucks for years, and in the days of quarantine, they have morphed from cooking for one another to simply eating in one another's company, outdoors. We've also taken it as an opportunity to support local businesses, especially ones that might be suffering, and enjoy a night each week where we know we won't be cooking and we get to be with friends. Establishing a set day and time each week has worked really well. Then whoever can make it does, and if they don't, we know we'll get to see them again next week!

Once the cold weather sets in, I hope to do more of these indoors with my pre-established germ bubble.

IDEA #9: Remote Dance Parties

This is what it sounds like: simply facetime or zoom then one person let's the music rock! We get to move our bodies all together and feel like we're all in one room. Maybe have a rotation so each family gets to choose a song.

IDEA #10: Some Tree Fairy Magic

I've spoken about these before, but now I'm thinking they can be even more uplifting than ever before: choose a tree your children pass by each day as THE fairy tree. It helps if there's a low space between two branches to place things on. Paint a wooden sign (fun project with your kids!) and put out a jar with a lid. This is our fairy tree before it was decorated. Maybe even add some battery powered lights or fairy figurines. When the kids aren't around, you and your fellow neighbors can fill the jar with sweet little mysterious letters, baked goods, and nature treasures for the children to discover. In our community, the kids have been known to write letters back!

IDEA #11: Forest Bathing

If you can't get together with people, then at least commune with the trees. If you are able, get out to a forest. If possible, take off your shoes and move your feet in the mother earth. Find a spot of sun to soak up. Stand still and listen. The forest will greet you with her bounty. And you will discover connection in a way you never have before :)

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