Empower kids and teens during COVID-19

girl looking out window at virus
girl looking out window at virus
Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay

Why empower kids and teens during COVID-19? They need it!

Taking action is one important way to make a problem seem more manageable and less frightening, so getting young people involved can actually help them cope with the situation we are all facing. Giving them a purpose gives them something else to focus on besides what they’ve lost or what they’re worried about. And reminding them that we are all in this together (even while six feet apart!), can help them feel less isolated and anxious during this challenging time.

We need them.

During a crisis, we need all hands on deck to get through it as well as we possibly can. And young people have a lot to offer, even in the case of the current COVID-19 crisis. But trying to come up with ways for a young person in your life to BE A CHANGEMAKER while complying with social distancing guidelines and keeping everyone safe during this COVID-19 crisis may feel like an impossible task. It’s true that life looks very different now for most people, but there are still many useful ways for kids and teens to give back.

So, how can we empower kids and teens during COVID-19 in a safe and responsible manner? Here are a few ideas and resources for them to choose from:

    • Do you play a musical instrument? Perhaps you can perform a “drive-by” concert to cheer up neighbors or schedule one for your apartment building. I’ve even heard of one group letting people “hire” them for this purpose, and then donating the money raised to organizations in need during the crisis — win, win!
    • Do you have some durable markers or paint? How about decorating some rocks with positive messages to leave along the sidewalk, in building entrances, or on trails in your area? I’ve also seen a lot of fantastic chalk art on streets, sidewalks, even the fronts of houses or buildings (be sure get permission before decorating someone else’s private property!). Art, especially that with messages of hope and connectedness, can go a long way toward lifting people’s spirits these days.
    • Write letters or draw pictures for senior citizens or anyone else who may be isolated now. Reach out to your local senior centers and ask if you can send photos of the letters and pictures for them to share with their residents.
    • Clean your room! Seriously. Now is a great time to tackle that overdue chore. Some items to consider purging include gently used clothing you no longer wear, sports equipment you’ve outgrown, toys, books, etc. You may not be able to donate them right now, but it’ll be nice to have them out of your way now, and organizations will appreciate them when things open back up again.
    • Check in on friends and family. Use the phone or other available technology just to see how they’re doing. Talk about how you’re doing. No matter how old or young you are, this is one that benefits everyone. It may seem trivial, but it may be just what the person on the other end needs.
    • Be kind to your teachers. Whether your current teachers are your usual teachers, your parents, your grandparents, or an older sibling, all of this is new to them (yes, even if you are homeschooled!) and they are doing their best to help you be successful while also doing all of the other things they need to do right now, many of which are also new to them. Offer a word of encouragement, a thank you note, or a genuine smile whenever you can.
    • Youth Service America has a bunch of other great ideas here, including holding a virtual dance-a-thon, organizing a teddy bear hunt, raising awareness for an issue you care about, and more!
    • For teens, look into mutual aid organizations in your area and see if you can contribute. Not familiar with mutual aid? The basic idea is that everyone has something to give and that we are all dependent on one another. You can read more about the idea here, but, in short, they are networks created by individual community organizers among specific groups of oppressed people or during local emergencies like natural disasters. With the current public health crisis, however, they’ve been sprouting everywhere. Paired with the power of today’s readily accessible technology, they are an even more powerful force. There’s a massive list of existing mutual aid organizations here. If you can’t find one that fits, start your own with this Mutual Aid 101 Toolkit, and be the hero of your community!

Whatever you do, be sure to check federal, state, and local guidelines to make sure you are complying with the most recent advice. And… stay safe, stay home!

It's PiBoIdMo time!

November is here, and that means it’s time for Picture Book Idea Month. So far, I’m two for two: woohoo!
PiBoIdMo 2014 banner
Remember the Howdy Doody theme song? Did you ever notice how PiBoIdMo has the same number of syllables as “Howdy Doody?” Now that I’ve noticed, I can’t get it out of my head. So, I thought I’d share my little earworm with you here:

It’s PiBoIdMo time.
It’s PiBoIdMo time.
Tara and her great crew
Wish PiBoIds to you.
Let’s give a rousing cheer,
Cause PiBoIdMo’s here,
It’s time for books to grow,
So here we go!

I love PiBoIdMo. Sometimes it’s a struggle to come up with ideas (okay, most times), other times they seem to flow faster than I can write them down (okay, rarely, but when it does it’s awesome!). Either way, it feels good to have those ideas tucked safely inside my notebook, ready to blossom when given a chance.
And yes, even nonfiction writers (like me!) can participate in PiBoIdMo! Christy Peterson has a great blog post on how to do that. I recommend reading it here (even if you write fiction!). I usually come up with about half nonfiction ideas and half fiction ideas, and I use all of the methods Christy mentions in her post.

sample Fiction Magic card
sample Fiction Magic card

This year I’ll also be using a new tool that just arrived (perfect timing!). My friend Deb Lund is a talented author, teacher, and creativity coach. She’s made a deck of cards, called Fiction Magic, which features prompts to inspire writers as well as a handy guidebook on how to use them. I drew one card today, played around with it for a while, and voila… I had two new ideas! You can get your own set of Fiction Magic cards here.
I probably shouldn’t be doing PiBoIdMo at all this year. I have too many projects calling to me at the moment, and the last thing I need right now is more ideas! But, PiBoIdMo is about so much more than the ideas for me. It’s about creativity, playfulness, freedom, and fun, and every year I end up rediscovering why I decided to write for children in the first place. In those ways, it’s good for my career. PiBoIdMo also reminds me to look at the world through a lens of discovery and curiosity, wonder, gratitude, and empathy. In those ways, it’s good for my soul.
I may not love all of the ideas I come up with during PiBoIdMo, but I love what PiBoIdMo does for me. If you want to write picture books, I hope you’ll give it a try, too! You can register through November 7th at this link.

Oodles of story ideas!

Picture Book Marathon 2011 Logo, by Nathan Hale

I’m behind on the Picture Book Marathon and have some serious catching up to do, so I’m going to make this short, but thanks to this Picture Book Marathon blog post, I discovered some great new story idea resources that I just have to share!
Author Rick Walton has some great tips for coming up with story ideas here. He lists a bunch of different ways you might get started with a story. For example, choose a character, a quest, or even just a phrase–just about anything that comes to mind–then follow it, and see where it goes.
To help with that, he’s also compiled lots and lots of amazing brainstorming lists for children’s book writers, which you can find here. A few of my favorites include:

If you can’t find some story ideas in there somewhere, you might want to try a new career. Maybe brick laying or air traffic control? (Oh wait, that’s what MY high school aptitude test said I should do. I guess you’re on your own.)

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