Coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the world hard over the last several months. Social distancing, quarantines, and lack of food and supplies has suddenly become a real thing for all of us. And it’s something that we are all in together.
Many of us, including myself, have been working from home for well over a week now. (Shout out to all the medical teams, law enforcement, grocers, and delivery drivers who are on the front lines trying to keep us safe, healthy, and supplied!) Kids are home from school and all activities are cancelled. It’s been creating a lot of time together in close quarters and the cabin fever is just starting.
With spring here and warm weather just around the corner, I am definitely itching to get outside and explore a volcano. With travel restrictions and many closures in place, most volcanoes in the world are currently out of reach. So how do people like you and me get our volcano fix while we’re all hanging out at home?
Here is a list of 10 volcanic boredom busters that you (and your kids!) can do to get your volcano fix and stave off the cabin fever:
1. Make Your Own Volcanic Eruption
I love to watch professionals like the Mythbusters make things explode! Now, I’m not telling you to go get dynamite or fireworks and blow things up. (Nope. Don’t do it. The last thing you need right now is to catch your house on fire.) But you canbuild your own volcano and make it erupt!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Paper Mache Materials (newspaper cut into strips, glue, and water), Plaster, Clay, or even a pile of dirt out in the backyard.
- Plastic cup, old pill bottle, empty jar, etc.
- Baking Soda.
- Dish Soap.
- Yellow and/or Red Food Coloring.
First, build your very own custom volcano with the paper mache, plaster, or clay. It can be as big or small as you like, and look any way you want. When you’re building it, make sure to tuck the plastic cup or jar into the middle so that your lava has a place to erupt. If you want to be extra creative, you can also paint your volcano with acrylic paint.
When the volcano is ready, pour some baking soda into the cup. Add about 5-10 drops of yellow and red food coloring to the mix, then a small squirt of dish soap. When you’re ready, pour in ¼ cup of vinegar and watch your volcano erupt!
Okay, so this isn’t remotely how a real volcano works, but there’s some solid chemistry behind it. It’s a great chance to take a quick chemistry refresher course or teach your kids how chemical reactions work. And besides, making things erupt is just plain fun.
2. Myths and Legends
Volcanoes have been around a very long time. Modern science, well, not so long. Have you ever wondered what humans must have thought of volcanoes before we knew so much about them? How many of those volcanic stories and traditions have continued in culture today?
There are great stories out there about volcanoes and how the myths and legends surrounding them shaped entire cultures. Here are some interesting places to start:
- Who did the First People say Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and Mount Adams were? What about Mount Rainier?
- How are Mauna Loa, Kilauea, and the other Hawaiian volcanoes tied deeply into Hawaiian culture? What are the stories behind them?
- What do the Maori believe about the volcanoes in New Zealand?
- How did the Aztecs describle Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl?
The possibilities are endless! Oregon State University also has a great list of stories that cultures once told about volcanoes. Enjoy reading the stories. If you’re feeling creative, why not create your own legend about a favorite volcano?
3. Get to Know a Volcano
It’s always a good time to get acquainted with a new volcano. Perhaps it’s a volcano that has always fascinated you and want to learn more about. Or maybe it’s a volcano you’ve never even heard of. Having trouble deciding? You can throw some names into a jar and pick one. There are so many great resources online to help you discover explore the volcano remotely. Most active volcanoes have observatories monitoring them and webcams so that you watch the volcano from the comfort of your couch.
4. Start Planning a Trip
Does your bucket list include visiting a volcano someday? Which volcano is it? Why not take this time to start planning the trip? I’d recommend holding off on booking airlines and hotels until quarantines are no longer in place, but you can still start choosing which airlines you want to fly and where you want to stay. Start studying the volcano that you want to explore. Buy maps. Plan out your hiking routes. Learn what safety equipment and permits may be required to visit the volcano. Start talking to the people who know the volcano really well. It’s a great way to learn and you might even strike up a new friendship!
5. Play “The Floor Is Lava”
This game was one of our favorites growing up. The premise is simple: the players must pretend that the floor (or whatever else has been deemed as “lava”) is made of hot lava. Touching the lava would “kill” the player. The last person alive wins.
Adults and kids can play this game anywhere. The living room is usually a good place on a rainy day. When the weather is good, you can expand this game to the yard or local park. My brother and I used to pretend that the playground equipment was a ship in an ocean of lava. We had “safe zones” that we could leap-frog across to get to other equipment, but it any of us touched the sand or gravel in between, we were burned up by the lava. I’ll admit – I may have pushed my brother into the lava once or twice. But it was a fun game and helped us burn off a lot of energy and be creative at the same time.
6. Movie Time
If you’re feeling less energetic, movies and documentaries are a great way to get your volcano fix. Fantastic documentaries are constantly available to watch on all of the platforms. Pick a volcano and get whisked away on an adventure.
Not in the mood for a documentary? Several movies have volcanoes in starring roles. Keep in mind – most of them have no scientific grounding whatsoever. My favorite volcano movie of all time is Dante’s Peak. It’s not scientifically accurate, but it is so much fun to watch! And there are some beautiful views of Mount St. Helens tucked into the show.
Get out some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the volcanic eye candy that those movies and documentaries have to offer.
7. Start Digging
For Christmas, I bought my nephew a really cool volcano kit. It was a clay volcano that he had to dig through to find samples of volcanic rocks that were tucked inside. He found samples of basalt, andesite, and other lava while he was digging.
Not only was it fun for him to dig through the volcano and find the rocky treasures inside, but he enjoyed learning about what he had found. What type of lava was it? Does that lava explode? Or is it runny? What type of volcano does that sort of lava come from? What are examples of that type of volcano?
Whether you’re a kid or a big kid like me, getting one of these kits and digging around could be a fun way to pass the time and learn more about different types of lava.
8. Scavenger Hunt
The possibilities for scavenger hunts are endless. You can set up a scavenger hunt indoors or outside, and can play in teams or individually. Here are some fun scavenger hunt ideas:
1) Create a list of volcanic items that you and/or your kids need to find in photographs of volcanos. Some items to search for may include: lava flows, tephra jets, ash columns, pyroclastic flows, lahars, etc. Whoever finds examples of all the items on the list first wins.
2) If you’ve done the “start digging” idea (#7 on the list), you can take the pieces of lava that you found and hide them around the room or house. Whoever finds all of the pieces first wins a prize!
3) Buy a jigsaw puzzle of a volcano and hide ziplock bags full of pieces around the house or yard. You and/or your family will need to find all of them in order to complete the puzzle. Once they have all been found, sit down and spend time putting the jigsaw puzzle together.
4) Get outside and go on a walk or hike. If you live in an area that has had volcanic activity, look for rocks and landscapes that have been shaped by volcanoes. If you don’t live in an area that is volcanic, feel free to pretend that you’re searching for lava chunks. The important part here is to get out, get some sunshine (Vitamin D!), and get some exercise. You never know when you’ll discover something fun!
There are a bunch of online activities and simulations to discover when it comes to boredom busters. Here are a few fun ones to explore:
- University of Cambridge Earth Sciences– Play Volcano Island (where you have to decide when to evacuate your town) or explore the Interactive Earth simulation.
- Oregon State Universityhas some fun volcano games to play online.
- Want to see how well you would handle emergency disaster management in the face of a volcanic eruption? Try your hand at the Supervolcano Game.
- There are some fantastic 3D/Virtual Reality simulators out there too, if you have VR glasses.
Do you have a favorite game or volcanic simulator? Tell us what it is!
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at creating a piece of artwork or writing a story? This is a great opportunity to get started. Even if you only spend 15 minutes a day working on this project, in a matter of a couple weeks, you can have a completed piece of artwork or story.
If you’re aching to create a piece of artwork, here are some things you might want to try:
- Drawing – with pencils, or try a method where you lay down a layer of pencil lead and erase to create shapes and forms.
- Painting – watercolors, acrylics, even finger painting!
- Collage – cut pictures out of magazines or print your own off of the Internet to make a volcanic collage.
- Mixed Media – using different items found around the house (buttons, string, pieces of fabric, different colored paper, etc.) you can create your own unique piece of volcanic art. Remember, it doesn’t have to be 2 dimensional.
- Sculpture –using clay, plaster, or even play-doh, you can create your own volcanic sculptures. You can sculpt a volcano or a piece of pottery with volcanic designs.
If you’d rather try your hand at writing, here are some story prompts to get the wheels turning:
- Write a story about climbing or exploring your favorite volcano. What do you discover? Are you ever in danger?
- A volcano has just erupted and you are nearby! What do you do?
- You don’t know anything about volcanoes and have never seen an eruption before. A volcano erupts in front of you – what do you think? What do you do?
- Create your own volcano legend about a volcano.
- If you’ve visited a volcano before, write your memoirs about the trip.
These boredom busters, and many more, can help you get your volcano fix and stave off cabin fever while you’re spending a lot of time at home. What other ideas for fun boredom busters do you have? Share with us in the comments below!
Stay safe and healthy, everyone.
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