There are many aspects to being ready for a disaster and we have discussed many of them. One of the areas we have not touched on is the question of entertaining children during or after a disaster. As summer winds down we are all too aware just how short a child’s attention span is and have heard too often, “there’s nothing to do.” Now imagine you are stuck in your home during a week-long power outage, after an earthquake or during a pandemic. What do you do?
- Play games. Let’s just get the most obvious out of the way. But, are you really ready to play? Do you have paper, pencils, a dictionary, a timer, and a pencil sharpener? When choosing games for your General Store, yes your General Store should have an entertainment department, consider the ages of the children and interests of the adults in your family and those you may be hosting. Store games to meet all those interests and ages.
- Play cards. You can play Rummy, War, Solitaire, or similar game. You can also learn magic tricks or build a house of cards. Now would be a good time to purchase a packs of cards and a book with directions for card games and a magic trick book.
- Make crafts. Crafts are a great pastime, but you need to purchase needed supplies ahead of time. Consider making scrapbooks or mobiles, or using potato stamps to create wrapping paper or stationery. Not everything needs to cost money, however. I know a family who has a large box in the garage full of items which would normally be trashed. The box includes empty toilet paper rolls, small plastic fruit baskets, scraps of twine, small boxes, packing materials, and anything else that can be used to create. Just add a roll or two of tape and some glue and little imagination.
- Camp inside. Try setting up your family tent in a large room in your house. During a winter crisis, your body heat will warm the area and give you a “snug” place to play games or read. Pretend the tent is a pirate’s cave or a spaceship bound for Mars. During the summer months “go camping” and do all those things you would do at your favorite campground; tell ghost stories and make s’mores.
- Play party games. Play your favorite kid games, even if your kids are teens. All will enjoy Red Light-Green Light, Simon Says, and Duck, Duck, Goose.
- Put together a puzzle. Puzzles are great way to spend time together and pass time. If you want to make it more interesting, purchase blank puzzles from the craft store and have each family member draw a picture on one of them. Once the pictures are finished have each person take apart the puzzle they have created and pass it to another to reconstruct.
- Make crossword puzzles. Many computers have programs that generate crossword puzzles or you could search online for a place to create crossword puzzles for free. Choose a topic close to your family, such as sports or movies, and create a puzzle. You can create a family history puzzle or puzzles about your favorite stories in the Book of Mormon or the Bible. Once you have created your masterpieces, make two copies for each family member and place them in your disaster binders and your emergency kits.
- Play bingo. Again, take the time now to create a master Bingo card. Place a large band at the top of the page with “(Your family name) Bingo”. Next create a table which has five squares across and five squares down. Above the first row place the letter B, the next an I and continue until each row has a letter spelling out the word Bingo. Draw a star or place the word free in the center square. It’s time to make several copies and to fill in the blank squares. Give each family member a card and begin asking questions; ask one or more members of the group their favorite color, middle name, favorite sports team, etc. When they have answered, everyone chooses a square to write the answer. Keep asking questions until all the squares are filled. Since everyone chooses which square to write answers in, all cards will be different. Finally, write all the answers on pieces of paper and place papers in a bowl. If one of the answers was “green” the papers should read B Green, I Green, N Green and so on. Now you are ready to play.
- Build Lego or block masterpieces. Hold a Lego/block Olympics and compete for prizes for the best car, boat, or castle.
- Star gazing. There is nothing quite like laying on the grass and looking up at the stars. If the power is out, you will have an entirely new experience and see more stars than you have ever seen from your own front yard.
- Go on a treasure hunt. Create a treasure hunt with some of the comfort food you have been storing in your General Store as the prize at the end. Write clues based on scripture stories or lessons your children have been learning in school.
- Make goal posters. Have each family member create a poster using drawings or pictures cut from magazines which depict their hopes, dreams, and goals for the future. These can enable you to gain real insight into what family members are thinking and feeling.
- Make plans. What a perfect time to look to the future and plan. Plan a birthday party or a holiday party. Decide on a guest list, a theme, what the invitations will be, what games or entertainment there will be, and what you will eat and drink. Move on to designing and making decorations and invitations. Planning for a future event can help your family stay positive and optimistic.
- Have a talent show. Host a family talent show. This will keep family members busy for hours as they plan and practice. If children don’t think they can participate, teach them a few jokes they can tell or ask them to create a play based on a family history story, a scripture story, a story they have learned in their history class or based on a favorite book.
- Play dress-up. With the power out and stress levels high, do something silly for an hour or two. Get out the box of dress-ups and get everyone involved, even the adults. If you don’t have a box of dress-ups already, get old coats, clothes, and accessories from closets that people can wear.
- Host family olympics. Create an obstacle course, balance beam, and high jump. Pull out the jump rope, bean bags and strips of fabric for three legged races. Make medals and hold an awards ceremony topping it off with another of the treats from your General Store.
- Conduct science experiments. Cut flowers, place them in glasses of water with different colors of food coloring in the water and watch as the flowers change color over the next several days. Experiment with various formulas for making bubbles. Start a fire (and make foil dinners later) using a magnifying glass, prescription glasses, a drinking glass, a mirror…see what works! Again, now is the perfect time to copy directions for a few experiments and place them in your preparedness binders.
- Learn or teach a skill. This is the perfect time to teach the kids, or have a friend teach you a new skill such as knitting, knot tying, or playing chess.
- Play family pursuit. For a family home evening now, create a list of family-related questions such as: Where did Mom and Dad meet? What is Grandma’s favorite dessert? Who is Susie’s best friend? Create a table and type each question into a box on the table. Make copies on cardstock. Cut the cards apart and write the question on one side and the family members’ answer on the other. You can mail these now to grandparents and ask them to return them filled out. Keep these in a safe place and play the game often with each person receiving a point for a correct answer. During an emergency playing a game focused on family can bring great comfort.
- Keep a journal. Each family member should keep a journal during this time. Journals can be expanded to become scrapbooks or they can be simple binder paper, but will be important for family members to be able to go back and reflect on the challenges of your experience.
Now that you have a few ideas it’s time to prepare and to accumulate the items you might need to make those ideas a reality. Begin today by making a copy of this article and placing it in your preparedness binder so when you are facing that challenge and you are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, you can pull it out for ideas.
If you are a grandparent, or favorite aunt with no children at home, why not take a few of the ideas and create a Christmas gift for a family, or several families? Create crossword puzzles, print Bingo cards on cardstock that families can fill-in during a family home evening, create a family pursuit game with cards already filled out; all of these will be loved and appreciated by friends and family, even those you are still trying to convince of the importance of self-reliance.