More than ever, kids this year could use some help

For many kids and parents, 2020 is the year they'll remember as having the spring break that never ended, with many students going home for break then not returning to the hallways and lockers they're used to. Rather than a never-ending snow day daydream, many have experienced something more like learn-from-home growing pains. Restrictions have stretched parental patience and increased student stress. Kids finally get to say they need to be on the computer even as they concoct clever ways to skip class with pre-recorded Zoom windows and "connectivity issues."

More than ever, kids this year could use some help, not just with making their online lives more comfortable, but with reminders of the fun they can have away from the screen. From squishy fidget toys to affordable hands-on activities that won't feel like school while being educational, there are tons of ways to keep those home-learners entertained this season.

Whiz Kids is full of fun sensory and screen-free gifts, from NeeDoh stress balls filled with interesting textures ($3.99) to puzzles for all ages ranging from four pieces to 2,000 pieces ($10 to $27). Plus, they have board games, science kits, hands-on art kits and classic toys like Slinkys and marbles. One of their most unique coloring book options are the Mystery Mosaics, which have you color in squares and triangles by number. Before the squares are filled, the picture hidden in the grid is a total mystery! $7.99 • Whiz Kids808 W. Main Ave. Suite 320

At Huppin's you'll find a variety of tech options to help with this increasingly internet-connected life both in store and online. With the JBL Quantum 600 wireless gaming headphones, your online learner can also connect with friends via video games, as it comes with surround sound and a built-in microphone for online gaming. A dial allows you to balance the sound of the game with the voices of other players so you don't miss a thing. $99.95 (with rebate) • Huppin's • or 8016 N. Division

While isolating from friends and family has been hard on all of us, it's easy to miss the simple pleasures of things like a game of catch. Spokane-based Passback Sports makes it possible to practice a little football by yourself, no matter what's going on in the world. One end of the football is flattened so you can practice nearly anywhere there's a sturdy wall. With a variety of sizes and materials, Passback has options for everyone from newbies to the pros. $12.95 to $32.95 • Passback Sports •

Mobius Discovery Center may be closed for the time being, but they're still here to help kids and their families with hands-on science kits that are fun and educational without requiring screen time. Dissect flowers or owl pellets, create a sock monkey, or learn about space. There are a ton of options for all ages in the variety of kits offered by the center. $16 or $13 for Mobius members • Mobius Discovery Center •

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...