No need to be bored while hanging out at home

“I’m bored!”

That phrase likely is reverberating off of the walls of many homes this spring during the stay-at-home restrictions meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses in Hornell, Wellsville and Dansville are coming to the rescue of parents struggling to keep kids entertained. Artists, bakers and pizza makers are offering do-it-yourself kits providing creative outlets for families.

In Hornell, Cindy Giovanniello, the manager of Giovanni's Pizzeria Restaurant, drew on her own experience as a parent when she and a friend came up with the idea for DIY pizza kits last month. Giovanni’s sells dough, sauce, cheese and pepperoni, enough for a personal pizza, for $5.99.

“I remembered doing those with my kids when they were little for their birthday parties and stuff, and I was like, yeah, they had a great time doing that because it was hands on. It kept them busy. And we just went with that,” Giovanniello said.

It took just a single post on the restaurant’s Facebook page for the idea to take off.

“Within minutes we were getting hits for four, five kits at a time. My father had to start dough and make one full batch just for pizza kits just to keep up. We had no idea the amount of kits we were going to sell. The first day we sold 162 kits.”

“I think we hit it at the right time. We kept seeing where parents were making comments on Facebook and how they’re going crazy and stuff. We were just like, let’s give them something to do,” Giovanniello said.

The idea has been adopted by the Giovanniello family’s Pizza King restaurants in Wellsville and Dansville.

Like the pizza kits, do-it-yourself cookie kits became an instant success for two Wellsville bakers. Chelsea’s Catering and Confections sells cutout cookies with frosting and sprinkles. Owner Chelsea Burdick said her staff came up with the idea to deal with a potential slowdown in business due to the stay-at-home restrictions.

“(We were) thinking of new ideas to generate some more business during this slow time. My assistant baker came up with the idea. Customers loved it – we sold out the same day,” Burdick said.

Linda Stevens, owner of Sugary Crumbs in Wellsville, said that she began offering DIY cookie kits in mid-March when schools closed as a precaution against the pandemic. Stevens, a veteran teacher in Allegany County, explained, “I realize how hard it is to have kids at home and help them with schoolwork, as well as trying to work and maintain a house as well. I knew that this was something that could help break up the monotony of being at home all the time.

“These kits can just keep our kids actively engaged in thinking and being creative. School can be extremely overwhelming in the new online fashion that people are trying to figure out and this is just plain fun,” Stevens said.

Another teacher, Wellsville Secondary School art teacher Kristy McNulty, is also encouraging creativity. Her business, KLH Artwork, is selling art kits including a wooden panel, a stencil, three colors of paint, brushes and instructions for 20 dollars, delivered to the buyer’s door. She said that art can bring a sense of calm in these chaotic times.

“For my students art is so important. I feel like it gives them a peace of mind where they can create something and escape from all that is happening,” she said.

As any shopper knows, getting supplies during the pandemic can be difficult, but McNulty said that can make an artist more innovative.

“As a business it’s hard getting supplies you need at your fingertips. Usually if you need something you go get it. Now you have to either come up with a different way or use a different material – which could be positive because you could create something even more original.”

At least one parent of “bored,” stuck-at-home children is hoping that the DIY kits continue even after the pandemic isolation ends.

“My kids love this! You guys should continue this after this is over,” she wrote on Giovanni’s Facebook page.

Editor’s note: reporter Simon and McNulty are colleagues at Wellsville Secondary School.