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These Israeli Parents Have Brilliant Ideas to Keep Young Kids Busy Right Now

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They’re 10 Israeli residents, hailing from all across the globe, from Australia to South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S. They are not getting paid — actually, many of them lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

And yet, this group of parents are all working very hard to keep your kids (and theirs!) entertained through Little Compass, a web site and a community full of activities for littles ages 2 to 6. It’s so named because, according to its founder, Dara Podjarski Marcus, its mission is to help “kids and parents navigate their way through this current reality.”

Podjarski Marcus, an Australian native who lives in Ra’anana with her two kids, ages 4 and 6, had just started a big job at a conference team for a cybersecurity firm when the coronavirus outbreak began. With no travel and no conferences, Porjdarski Marcus was suddenly out of a job, and stuck at home with two kids.

And so, for fun, she created an “Around the World” activity for her kids — with home-based activities like packing a suitcase, “visiting” Italy by making pizza, and exploring the culture of he Australian homeland by fashioning a toilet paper roll didgeridoo  — and sent it to a few local friends. “They sent it around, suddenly it reached Australia and South Africa and New York,” Podjarski Markus tells me over email, “and people asked for more.”

And more they got! Over the past few months, Little Compass has evolved into a beautiful website, built on Wix by one of the parent volunteers recruited to help with activities, Yoav Cohen. Originally from Johannesburg, Cohen is the head of training at the Israeli company web development firm. Cohen and his wife are both still working full-time, but Little Compass has been helpful for them in keeping their two young kids busy: “It made lemonade out of a pandemic-level lemon,” he tells Kveller.

The Little Compass website offers themed days and themed weeks that are chock full of fun kids’ activities, balancing between indoor and outdoor time. All the offerings are delightful and play-based, including a spa day, which involves making face masks with banana and honey; a camp day that entails building a tent in the living room, an activity all kids adore; as well as theme days for Jewish holidays. The lesson plans on Little Compass are in English, making them easily accessible to Jewish parents all over the globe.

Each theme comes in a handy, printable PDF, and along with it there are suggested books, physical activities, and sometimes even meals! And yes, the staff at Little Compass knows that for so many of us, screen time is inevitable, so they also offer thematic shows and videos to watch (yes, Yogi Bear is part of the Camp Day curriculum).

“I’m not a Pinterest mum,” Podjarski Marcus admits. “My kids watch TV. We live in an apartment without a yard or balcony. We are ordinary, middle-ground folk. So I think about what works for us and scale it to see how it can help others.”

What’s more, Little Compass has also helped to give purpose to the parents working on it. Dannii Bernstein Mazor, a 38-year-old mom of two, had just lost her job at a non-profit, which was “a huge thing for my family, financially,” she says. “Little Compass been a total blessing for me during the quarantine. It was serendipitous that Dara invited me on board right at the moment where I was flailing a little…  [Little Compass] has helped me shape all the creative projects and ideas that I save up for school holidays into something tangible, focused, and helpful for other parents at home during this crazy time.”

Things are slowly getting back to normal in Israel, with Israeli daycares and schools reopening. But that doesn’t mean that Little Compass is no longer of service: “It’s a part-time return for the foreseeable future, which means our theme days will be relevant and most helpful for the half-week non-gan [Hebrew for daycare] days.”

But for many of us here in the U.S., the end to social distancing, homeschooling (or, soon, home summer camp-ing) is not as foreseeable. For many of us with preschoolers, thankfully we have Little Compass to help us fill our days.

For Porjdarski Marcus, the most important thing is not to create more overwhelm for parents right now. The content “has to let parents not have to think but also empower them,” she says. Sounds pretty good to us.

Images courtesy of Dara Pojdarski Marcus

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