Passing the time

Since early yesterday most Jamaicans would have been focussed on the threat posed by Tropical Storm Sandy. And with the order from authorities for families living in some flood prone areas to evacuate to emergency shelters by 6 p.m. yesterday, a number of households would now be experiencing some discomfort.

What must be clear to some families by now is that while they would have focussed on making sure they have adequate supplies for food, water, clothing, medication and other essential items, no thought would have been given to keeping children occupied, especially the smallest ones.

So what to the experts advice: “If you’re not prepared, children will likely find their own creative ways to occupy their time – whining about how bored they are, harassing siblings, or tearing up whatever is nearby.

“With a bit of advance preparation and some simple toys, you can create an emergency entertainment kit that makes downtime pass quickly and gives kids something creative and stimulating to do.”

Things to Pack:

Here are some inexpensive, easy-to-find items you can choose from to put in an emergency entertainment kit.

* A deck of playing cards

* A small guide to card games and rules of play

* A handkerchief to use as a blindfold, a flag, a blanket, a headband, etc.

* Sidewalk chalk

* A couple of ping-pong balls for playing catch, spoon races, table tennis, etc. Alternatively a ball for road tennis.

* A notepad and pens, pencils, crayons, or washable markers

* A Chinese jump rope

* A bag of balloons for playing catch, etc.

* A tape measure for marking off playing areas, measuring things in the room, etc.

* Jacks

* A yo-yo

* Dice

* A Frisbee or Nerf ball

* Nail polish, cotton balls, barrettes, clips, comb and brush for playing salon

* Comfort items, like small stuffed animals

* Paper plates to draw on, for flying discs, masks, etc.

* A book of read-aloud stories

* Small packages of nonperishable snacks.

Keep your entertainment kit in a waterproof bag or backpack near other emergency supplies.


When it comes to activities that can occupy groups in a shelter, here are some low-tech fun approaches that require little or no equipment and can keep kids — or whole families — busy for hours.

* Playing school or office.

* Putting on a play.

* Putting on a talent show.

* Having a sing-along.

* Telling a chain story.

* Taking a walk, but not straying too far from the shelter.

Why Play Is Important:

Along with keeping children constructively occupied, an emergency entertainment kit can help kids in other ways:

* Sports and large-motor activities have been proven to be an effective form of trauma therapy and stress relief.

* Structured activities provide a sense of comfort and security to children whose regular lives have been turned upside-down.

* Interacting with parents and siblings in a new pastime can bring families closer together and open up new lines of communication, which is especially important when a family is under stress.

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