How to entertain kids during the extended break

Some suggestions on what to do during the break, caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
4 min. read
Second graders stand in a circle for a game in Kari Notton’s class at Carson Elementary, March 13, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Before the Denver public school district started spring break two weeks early, kids had a chance to say farewell to their teachers and collect homework assignments, while parents hit social media to share links to online math and art tutorials and tips from the experts -- home-schoolers.

Spring break starts Monday for a total of three weeks with the extra two, to ensure students and their community are safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. Libraries and many museums and galleries, which are just the places to which we might turn for education and entertainment during a sudden holiday, are also closed amid warnings from public health officials against mingling in large crowds.

All Denver Public Library branches and the main library are closed indefinitely starting Monday. But patrons can access services online that include streaming music on a service called Volume, or classic films, indie cinema and documentaries on a service called Kanopy. Oh, and the library's ebooks can be downloaded. And you can dial 720-865-8500 for story time in English, Spanish, Amharic and Vietnamese.

The Denver Public Library is reflected in the concave windows of the Denver Art Museum's new Marin Building. Aug. 8, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science started an indefinite closure on Saturday. Museum spokeswoman Maura O'Neal directed parents to her institution's Facebook page and web site for "fun Scientist in Action videos." Conservationists, ornithologists and actual rocket scientists are among the stars of videos that range in length from under five minutes to close to a half hour.

O'Neal also shared ideas from members of the museum's educator-performer team that included a "micro hike." That involves getting your kids to crawl along the ground, magnifying glass in hand, to take a close look at the back yard, noting what they see in a field journal.

Another suggestion from the science museum: raid the recycling bin and turn discarded paper and cardboard into art.

Or you can just look at art. The Denver Art Museum, which closed Saturday and expects to reopen March 31, has a virtual gallery.

MCA Denver shut down Friday with plans to reopen April 24.

"Our goal in the interim is to try to bring the museum to people as best we can," said spokeswoman Courtney Law.

The contemporary museum planned to share artists lectures and other material on its Instagram account.

In a time of social distancing, "we do want to try to cultivate that sense of community," Law said.

The third-floor gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art is CLOSED FOR TEEN STUFF, April 30, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The public health term "social distancing" means staying out of crowds and keeping about six feet away from others when possible. That could lead to a sense of isolation, exacerbating stress and anxiety in troubled times.

Mark McIntosh has no app for that. His "A Stronger Cord" project puts physical fitness at the heart of community building. He says: "Just move."

And "just be smart about keeping your social distance. The more you move your body, the better it is for your brain," he added. Exercise is "just good for your body, mind and spirit."

It doesn't have to be elaborate. McIntosh suggests that families and friends get together to fly a kite or kick a soccer ball around.

Brien Darby, who manages the Denver Botanic Gardens urban food programs, has another outdoor option. She said her family tradition is to plant the first seeds for the garden on St. Patrick's Day, which is Tuesday.

Denver's was among St. Patrick's parades across the country canceled because of coronavirus. Celebrate instead by joining Darby in planting lettuce, spinach and, if it continues to be warm, carrots.

Free gardening advice can be downloaded from Denver Urban Gardens and the Colorado State University extension program, and many community garden programs offer free or low-cost seeds, Darby said.

Darby has already been out in her yard with her toddler. And while the little ones may be more interested in playing with worms, tweens and teens can get a work out -- and relieve stress -- tilling the soil. Darby chuckled at the suggestion that that may sound a bit like Tom Sawyer persuading his friends to paint the fence.

"I'm sure parents are going to be thinking of lots of these strategies," Darby said.

A yard with a sense of humor. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; residential real estate; garden; kevinjbeaty; denverite;

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