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9 Essential Items to Get Your Family Through Quarantine

Lara McCaffrey  |  April 1, 2020

Safe, sane, entertained, healthy and happy — these are the must-have quarantine items for families under stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 lockdown.

With roughly 75% of the U.S. under stay-at-home orders — trying to work, homeschool children and keep everyone healthy, happy and entertained in close quarters — families are figuring out quickly that “togetherness” has its limits. 

We asked family and parenting experts to recommend ways to get households through the coronavirus crisis in one piece. Here are their suggestions paired with some essential quarantine items to help you stay safe and sane while doing your part to flatten the curve.

1. A board game for competition/conversation

Developmental psychologist and family coach Cameron “Dr. Cam” Caswell PhD encourages families to see stay-at-home orders in a different light: “I think the silver lining in this is that so many families that have been disconnected because of their busy schedules now have a time to reconnect,” she says. “That’s why I love the idea of doing games where you have to talk … really engage in conversation.”

Caswell recommends strategy games — her family plays Catan (previously known as Settlers of Catan) — that take time to finish and fuels conversation (and friendly competition) among players. It’s an extremely popular board game where up to four players build and control their own civilizations.

2. A dry erase activity chart

Life coach Elizabeth Pearson stresses the importance of a schedule for children during quarantine. “The happier the children are with their daily structure the less likely they may be to act out towards each other, either physically or verbally,” she says. Another tip from her household: Schedule more difficult school work — like reading comprehension and math — earlier in the day when children are more productive and focused.

This scheduling chart with pockets from Amazon will keep track of your child’s daily schedule (and to help plan it). It’s actually designed for classrooms, but the living room is a classroom now, making this an essential quarantine item.

3. A stationary bike to pedal away stress

Exercise — getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat — is especially important for families under stay-at-home orders. Family therapist DeAnna Crosby set up an at-home gym for her husband when his gym closed. 

A stationary bike is a great home gym staple. This bike is a Men’s Health Editor’s Choice is easy to set up and use, and folds away for storage when you’re not embarking on your home fitness journey.

4. Soothing balm for dry overly washed hands

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can prevent you from getting sick. After all that hand washing and hand sanitizer, a heavy duty hand lotion is a must-have quarantine item to prevent dry, itchy skin.

Enter Aquaphor Healing Ointment, a brand dermatologists often recommend. It takes a little while to absorb into your skin but the wait is worth it. It keeps your mitts smoother for longer than regular lotions. Plus, it can double as a lip balm.

5. A weighted blanket for anxious (and tired) teens

Caswell says this is an opportunity for teens to reset their biological clocks and start getting a full night’s sleep. Teenagers need about nine to nine and half hours of sleep per night. But early school  start times plus mountains of homework leaves many parents with groggy teens. On top of that, the natural shifts in their circadian rhythms makes it hard for them to hit a bedtime early enough to catch all the necessary Zs, according to John Hopkins Medicine

If the precarious state of the world is causing your teen more anxiety than usual, a weighted blanket might help. Some anxious people have found relief replacing the weight of the world with the weight of a 15-pound blanket like this one provides comfort and aids with sleep. 

6. A diffuser to spread a calming scent

The 24-hour news cycle can take a toll on mental health. “We had the news on almost constantly and we felt drained, overwhelmed, and depressed,” says Pearson, the life coach. “We were also concerned that the kids were overhearing things they didn’t need to hear and feeding off our anxious energy.” Pearson found that limiting her family’s news consumption drastically lowered their stress.

Comforting scents like lavender and rosemary can also ease stress and send calming signals to your brain. Instead of staring at the TV put this aesthetically pleasing oil diffuser from Muji in your sights and take a deep breath. 

7. Walkie talkies to play and stay in touch

This worldwide pandemic isn’t quite Mad Max survivalist mode yet, but having a walkie talkie set is still useful for a couple reasons:

It provides an easy way to communicate with a relative that might be quarantined in a separate room away from the family. If they’ve been infected by or exposed to COVID-19, they could be forced to stay separated for two weeks or more. The silliness and convenience of a walkie talkie might brighten the 14 long, boring days.

Secondly, kids. What kid doesn’t love walkie talkies? They’ll kill at least an hour or two running around to test the talkies’ range, keeping them entertained and out of your hair during restless days of stay-at-home orders. This walkie-talkie four pack lets the entire family get in on the fun.

8. A first aid kit for minor boo boos

Pandemic or not, a first aid kit is good to have in the house. A fully stocked first aid kit like this 298-piece one from Amazon ensures you’re able to treat minor injuries at home quickly without leaving the house for band aids and risking exposure. (It’s recommended by several government agencies to have two weeks worth of supplies and groceries at home.)

An added plus: A first aid kit is a qualified expense for both health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA). These are accounts you might get from your employer to use tax-free income on medical-related expenses like prescriptions, copays, and more.

9. A book for kids about staying inside

It might be hard to find the words to explain the pandemic and stay-at-home order to children. Where Did Everybody Go?: A book about staying at home by writer/illustrator Iain S. Thomas may be an essential quarantine item.

Available on Kindle (free if you use the Kindle app), Thomas created this short book for children (and adults!) to understand why we’re staying indoors to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“So because we care about each other so much, we’ve decided that the best way to show each other how much we love each other, is just to spend a bit of time apart, while those of us who aren’t feeling well get better,” he writes.  

Sometimes, all you need is love! And some hand balm.

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