The novel coronavirus has affected the way kids play. Organized team sports, such as baseball, soccer and lacrosse, have been canceled. Kids can’t get together with friends on a playground to play pickup basketball or other games.
I see kids riding bikes and scooters in my neighborhood, but I figured after two months of this crisis, kids (and their parents) might need advice about how to keep playing — while keeping at a safe distance of at least six feet from others.
So I called the “Play Lady.”
Pat Rumbaugh is a former teacher and coach who has lived in Takoma Park for more than 30 years. Since 2009, Rumbaugh has organized 27 “Play Days,” where kids and adults play board games, do craft projects and play floor hockey, soccer and work on their pitching and batting skills.
I asked Rumbaugh what kids can do during the pandemic to keep having fun. She had lots of ideas. (Check with a parent to make sure anything you do is safe.)
Rumbaugh suggested old-time favorites such as hopscotch, Hula Hoops and jump rope.
“Five minutes of jumping rope will really get your heart going,” Rumbaugh said.
She also said it is good to challenge yourself or compete with a friend, which you can do during a video chat. “See how many times you can jump rope in a minute or how long you can keep a Hula Hoop spinning.”
It’s true. I always found when I was coaching teams that the kids loved it when I took out a stopwatch and made running around the bases or dribbling downcourt into a race or another type of contest.
Another suggestion of Rumbaugh is to look around your neighborhood for opportunities to play. “The other day I saw a kid practicing hockey by shooting a ball into a recycling container. That was great.”
A brick wall at a school or a concrete surface at an unoccupied tennis court may be a good place to practice throwing and catching a ball or to work on your stickhandling skills in lacrosse.
I remember taking my son and daughter to a local baseball field with a bat and three baseballs. I pitched and they hit. After they hit all three balls, they would run to the balls and throw them back to me. A simple “family-only” game had them practicing hitting, running and throwing.
Rumbaugh also said to check your neighborhood for other “play experts.” Who are they? Parents, grandparents and older neighbors. Ask them what they did for fun when they were young. Many adults grew up before most people had a smartphone or video games. They had to make their own fun.
Even during this pandemic, there are lots of ways to play. Just ask the Play Lady.