With the unprecedented closure of schools in the area in response to COVID-19, parents are faced with the challenge of keeping their children from boredom.

The struggle is real. We feel you.

We reached out through social media to Dubuque-area parents to find out what they were doing to keep gray matter and creative spirits engaged and — let’s face it — to keep others like them from losing their minds.

Create notes for Project Rooted. Whitney Sanger and Kevin Scharpf created the Dubuque nonprofit to distribute food to kids. In partnership with other area nonprofits, including Convivium Urban Farmstead and Resources Unite, the group will be distributing free sack lunches during the closure. Children are invited to create notes and cards, write letters or draw pictures to be included in the meals.

Go old-school. Stacy Kretz is breaking out the crayons, coloring books, crafts, puzzles, card games and board games.

Coloring pages can be found online and printed. Even card games like Uno and board games like Monopoly can be played online if you don’t have the physical game.

“We bought a tie dye shirt kit,” Melissa Neel said. “And we are also going to make dream catchers.”

Kids in the kitchen. Many parents suggested cooking. From baking cookies to making fresh pasta, there are thousands of kid-friendly recipes out there that can help you create culinary memories.

“The girls have started helping me make dinner,” Jake Tebbe said. “Never too early to learn how to cook.”

Mario’s Italian Restaurant, 1298 Main St., also is offering pizza kits that can be ordered and picked up. A Mario’s pizza kit includes two small dough balls, sauce, cheese and your choice of two ingredients. A family pizza kit includes two medium dough balls, sauce and a choice of four ingredients. Small, medium and large dough balls also are available. Call 563-556-9424 for more information or to place an order.

Take a virtual field trip. “We’ve been going to various zoo websites,” Melissa Stansbery said.

Many museums, aquariums and other attractions are offering virtual tours and live cameras. Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis., is hosting virtual “Ask a Zookeeper” events on Facebook. Post your questions on the zoo’s Facebook page, then join the zookeeper for the live video feed each day at 2 p.m.

Ozolio.com, normally a site geared towards marketing managers, was suggested by Yvette Valdez. The site is streaming the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and the Houston Zoo in Texas.

Stansbery also suggested the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Ohio, where live-streaming began on Monday with “Home Safari Facebook.” At 2 p.m. daily, the program features a different animal each day and includes a related at-home activity that kids and parents can do together.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Getting some fresh air should be an essential part of each day. As long as you continue to practice social distancing, take a walk and do some meandering — something few people do these days. Watch the squirrels and rabbits, talk to a tree, wave to the birds, see what you can find in the clouds, enjoy an afternoon picnic in your backyard, take photos, write stories, or create a neighborhood book. There are many ways to enjoy a world of just a few blocks.

Blanket fort. If you haven’t already, introduce your kids to that timeless activity of turning every piece of furniture in the house and every blanket from the linen closet into a fantastical world of imagination.

“Our basement, almost the entire thing, has been turned into a fort,” Lindsay Quam said.

A little screen time is OK. Introduce your kids to the movies and TV shows you loved when you were their age.

“I’m planning on forcing my teenage daughter to watch all the movies I loved in the '80s,” Kerry Sue Bowman said. “I want her to see ‘The Breakfast Club,’ ‘Maximum Overdrive’ and such.”

Disney+ released “Frozen 2” this week, three months ahead of schedule. And the Disney+ vault also is loaded with classics like “Lady and the Tramp,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and more.

As far as electronic devices like tablets and cellphones, educational and fun apps are abundant. Photoshop Sketch and Krita are two free art apps.

“Start learning a new language,” Amy Dunker said.

The original Duo Lingo app can teach anything from Arabic to Welsh, while a kids version offers English, Spanish or French.

Stay active. Melissa Hyde suggested Challenge to Change, a local yoga studio. It's offering virtual yoga classes for families and children. While there normally is a fee for access to the online program, owner Molly Andersen Schrieber is making it accessible to everyone during the school closures.

Grow some food. The Dubuque County Extension office is offering a free tomato seed program. Participation is done remotely, from sign-up to delivery of the seed package. You’ll receive growing tips and information throughout the growing season via email or postal mail, whichever you choose.

Keep them learning. Scholastic is offering free learn-at-home lessons accessible to anyone. Sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Free Booksy and Kids World Fun have thousands of free eBooks available to download. You don’t need an E-reader to access these books. Just download them to your device, and you’re good to go.

“Lots of reading,” Michele Legrand said. “Games with colors, shapes, numbers, so their learning continues.”

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