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Sandy Journal

Painting rocks, playing hopscotch popular with school children during quarantine

Jun 15, 2020 12:20PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

On almost any given day this spring, Melissa Glade has taken her four boys, ranging from a 6-month-old to a second-grader, out for a walk and typically, along Sandy’s Canal trail where a portion of it runs alongside Altara Elementary School.

Just south of the school is a hot spot for coronavirus art—a collection of painted rocks including the boys’ favorites: animals, superheroes, and characters found in “Monsters, Inc.” movies and in M&M’s candies.

“My boys love looking at all the new rocks that we find each day,” Melissa Glade said. “It’s just fun to see.”

While nobody has taken credit for starting the artwork, which has spread color and messages of hope along the trail, many people have added to it or plan to, including the Glade boys, who selected rocks to paint.

Alta High counselor Christine Astle said that she has visited the trail’s rock collection with “themes from Disney to Utah Jazz to Spiderman.” 

“The rocks are a way for people to feel more connected at a time we miss things,” she said. “Without our normal lifestyles, there’s more time to be creative and paint rocks. They make us feel like we’re all in this together and it makes people happy. We miss some of those big things (that are painted on the rocks), but the feeling of relating to those and being connected brings joy to people.”

Astle said that many pastimes of yesteryear have made a comeback during the social distancing response of COVID-19.

“Board games and puzzles have been picked up again as families combat boredom,” she said. “Comic books, listening to albums and other activities they’re learning from their parents and grandparents have been taking place as children are learning from them while at home. Before, everyone was so busy that they just did the things that they fit in, like sports practice after school. As the weather warms up, we’ll likely see more of a shift to outdoor activities we can do as families, such as biking, playing basketball and tennis, and fishing.”

Nationwide, the demand for jigsaw puzzles is surging and companies are scrambling to meet the rising demand as millions of Americans are sheltering in place.

According to a CNBC report, one company reported that 20 puzzles were selling per minute, another said it is shipping puzzles around the clock and a historian compares it to the demand of puzzles that were rented and sold during The Great Depression. 

Even the demand for puzzles and games on eBay is soaring as buyers seek ways to entertain families at home.

Crossword puzzles, hopscotch and reading print books also have been noted to making a comeback, although creating TikToks and playing video games still are popular.

“It’s hard being on electronics all day, with school or work,” Astle said. “Some people are finding they’re getting sick of playing games on technology and need the change of pace and sense of community.”

Sandy resident Loisann Fellows has put together puzzles and painted rocks for the canal trail with her grandchildren, but she also created fun for her Eastridge neighborhood near Sprucewood Elementary. 

In a note distributed to her neighbors this spring, she outlined “some easy, no pressure, no-contact activities” that kids could do in their leisure time. 

“I had seen the idea before, so I thought, ‘why don’t we try here?’” Fellows said. “I made it so we didn’t have to change themes every day and that the activities would be fun, but there wasn’t any need for contact.”

During April and May, she provided neighbors with themes to create in their yards every couple days. Some themes included a safari day, where students could take a break from their studies to search for as many stuffed animals they could find displayed in the neighborhood yards, or having students ride their bikes on chalk day, where they could read inspiring chalk messages and pictures on the sidewalks, such as “kindness is free.” 

About a dozen households signed on to not only provide displays these theme days, but to also select a character—a gnome, monster, Japanese forest spirit, Ace Ventura, animal—and display it “hanging out” for the day, every day in a different manner. These characters ziplined, held picnics, mowed the yard, had a kissing booth, got haircuts, rock climbed, flew kites, parachuted, and did about every activity imaginable, she said.

Neighbor Karla-Ann Whitkaer was one of the neighbors who took part, displaying skeletons every day in her yard.

“Some neighbors say we were crazy spending hours creating these displays,” she said. “But it was fun and brought about so much joy to everyone.”

Her family, from her dad to teenage son to elementary daughter to 5-year-old Max, helped Whitkaer with the displays.

“The best part about helping set up skeletons is seeing when it’s all done every day and people walk by and smile at them,” Max said.

Fellows said it surprised her to not just find youngsters looking at the displays, but adults as well. 

“I saw adults out taking a walk while taking a break from working at home or together, as families, strolling in the evening,” she said. “It seemed to lift everyone’s spirits and connect us all together.”