It took a global pandemic to push me to try one of the hardest, most humbling sports on the planet. But I did it—I put on a wetsuit and attempted to surf this summer, and it was as they say, epic. I wasn’t on a mission to catch the perfect wave, but I wanted to catch up with my son Zak, a 22-year-old college sophomore, who has been living at home with me during COVID.

Zak is a longtime surfer who had often spoken about the restorative power of being on the water, but I had never shared this experience with him. As we found ourselves trapped under the same roof, filling our days with work and Zooms and trying to be productive citizens in lockdown, I knew it was time to take the plunge. We needed to hit the reset button; we needed to float out onto the Pacific away from it all—together.

                           

Sharing my son’s passion for surfing has been one of my most joyful experiences of the year. Seeing the beauty of the world through his eyes has inspired me to keep looking for new ways our family can slow down, be present, and play. We need not go all the way to the ocean; even a few minutes of fun in our living rooms, yards, and neighborhoods can be a chance for happiness and connection.

As we go into this winter season at home, our team put our heads together to share some playful ways of connecting with family and friends.

FOOD

Cook-a-Long: My three children and I have been meeting over Zoom to cook the same recipe together. On the first night of Hanukkah, we all made latkes.

“Chopped” Challenge: Everybody starts with the same ingredients. What can you make with them? Bonus fun for incorporating odd or unexpected ingredients! 

CRAFTS

Playing with Paper: Zak has taken to making beautiful origami paper flowers, using a technique he learned from a family friend. Snowflakes are another classic winter craft.

Playing with Paint: Painted rocks are a simple way to engage with your neighbors; leave these small beacons of hope and humor in unexpected places for others to discover. 

Playing with Fiber Arts: Friendship bracelets are a staple of sleepaway camps, but are fun to make at home at any age. Younger kiddos could try out finger knitting.   

STORIES

Family Book Club: Take turns reading and exploring your favorite books together. Even the youngest family members can play host with their favorites.

Family Film Festival: Choose a theme, and invite everyone to pick a film to screen. Then make your favorite snacks and cuddle up for a cozy afternoon. You might even write your own reviews.

Family History: Call up and interview your family members, especially elders, to record their life stories. You could also collaborate with your extended family to collect memories, or research your family ancestry.

Pandemic Time Capsule: Make a photo, video, or written journal of your days spent in quarantine. My sister initiated this project for our extended family, and we’ve had a great time sharing our experiences.

GAMES

Family Game Night: All you need is a pen and paper for classics like Charades and Pictionary—both are great in person or over Zoom.

Rube Goldberg Machine: A friend has hours of fun with her family making these. Get inspired by OK Go, and turn your household objects into a complex chain reaction! Check out what this family created during the COVID shutdown.

MUSIC

Family Pickup Band: It doesn’t matter if you’re musicians. Challenge yourselves to make music with ordinary household objects. Check out what this family did during quarantine. And it even works on Zoom—here’s some inspiration!

Dance Party: Turn down the lights and take turns playing DJ in your kitchen or living room! Download a Karaoke app to kick it up a notch.

NATURE

Planting Seeds: Tending to baby seedlings and watching them grow is a sweet way to spend the cold and sometimes-dreary months. You can even grow fresh salad greens and herbs to enjoy all winter long!

Geocaching: Turn an ordinary walk into a treasure hunt! Secret “caches” are hidden in every town and park in the U.S. (and beyond); joining the hunt connects you to thousands of seekers across the globe.

Soundwalking: Turn off the podcast and take a soundwalk to rediscover your surroundings. 

Stargazing: COVID has made things darker, and it’s hard to remember to look up and behold the stars. Grab your family, make some cocoa, put out a blanket, and soak in the wonder of our universe together.

 

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