These are certainly challenging times, especially if you have children who are home because their schools and daycare facilities have been temporarily shut down due to COVID-19. Whether or not you are working from home yourself, many still need to figure out how to keep their kids busy and challenged – without the options of trips to parks, libraries, theaters, museums and other public gathering spaces. Here are some tips on how to keep your kids’ minds moving and motivated throughout however long this takes.
Create a schedule.
It is well-known that kids thrive on a routine. Get your kids involved with the planning of their daily schedule. Maintain regular meal and sleep times. If they have set online school course hours, plan other activities around them and include a couple of free-time breaks. Also assign at least one daily chore. Write up or print out their schedule and hang it up for them to see to set expectations.
Learning at home can be enjoyable as well as productive. Of course, there are the standard subjects of reading and writing, mathematics, social studies, science, etc. However, you now have the chance to introduce your kids to subjects that may not be offered anymore, such as art and music. Even if your children have online classes or are not of school age yet, you can still schedule special education time on a subject of your choice. Many educational companies are currently offering free subscriptions.
Keep kids occupied with creative projects using items from around your house. Set them up with a bunch of old magazines, settle on a theme and have them cut out corresponding pictures. Have them arrange the cut-outs on a sheet of paper, give them a glue stick – instant collage! Paint and write positive/ kind thoughts on rocks from your yard (which can be left around your neighborhood for others to discover). Make a batch of salt dough for hours of countless fun. Final pieces can be baked and decorated. Running out of coloring books? Print free coloring pages.
Have your kids help with the preparation of your meals. Keep to simple recipes for sandwiches, soups, pasta (spaghetti, macaroni and cheese), and casseroles. Even toddlers can participate by adding already measured ingredients into a bowl and giving a stir or two. Of course baking cookies, cupcakes and other sweets can be its own afternoon activity.
Take up hobbies.
Do any of your kids have a special interest? Expressed the desire to learn how to play a musical instrument? Anyone ever talked about learning to knit and/or crochet? Wanted to start a stamp or coin collection? Maybe one of your kids is a budding writer or filmmaker? Encourage them to document their experiences of these unprecedented times. Future generations will appreciate the first hand observations.
With libraries closed, it may be difficult to entice kids to read what books they already have. If this is the case, you can check out Amazon for affordable used books and e-books. Of course there are books which stand the test of time and are more easily up for a re-read (Harry Potter). Another option are audio books (especially for kids who are not reading on their own yet). Storyline Online is a children’s literacy resource featuring the world’s best storytellers reading books aloud and includes at-home activity guides with lessons for K-5 students. For additional educational learning, require kids to write book reports on what they listened to or read. Have a discussion about the book’s theme with younger children.
Clean-up and organize.
It’s never too early to encourage kids to keep their bedrooms clean and tidy. They should make their beds each morning. This is also a great time to de-clutter. Have your kids help you go through and pack up any no-longer-used toys or clothing for future donation. Go further and involve them in the reorganization of their closet and/or chest of drawers. Kids take pride in maintaining “their space.” Have a more motivated kid who wants to tackle redecorating their bedroom or just even rearranging the furniture? Let them at it.
Get fresh air.
Make your backyard an extension/ additional room of your home. Kids can spend quiet time outside with a book or writing in a journal. Consider having a family meal on your patio or a picnic on the lawn. Besides playing the usual athletic games, a well-planned scavenger hunt can provide both physical and mental exercise. Start a garden if you do not already have one. If your home does not include private outdoor space, take your kids for a walk or bike ride each day (still keeping six feet apart from others).
Ask for advice.
Don’t be hesitant to ask other parents how they are coping with keeping their kids’ minds moving during this strange time. Compare notes; chances are they may have thought of something you have not. Also check out social media for ideas. A few examples include Caitlyn Chase, In Honor of Design, Jessica Reed Kraus and Sophie Jaffe. You never know from where the good ideas can come.
Above all, remain positive.
Try not to exhibit any fears or anxiety in front of your kids. Children tend to pick up and then mimic their parents’ attitudes. Stay calm and positive.
Explain to your kids that “sheltering in place” and “physical/ social distancing” are situations over which we do have control. We can help in the fight against the spread of coronavirus. We are also presented with an opportunity to spend quality time together.
It is hard to be separated from friends and other family members. However, explain that we are six feet apart right now – so we can all be together when this is all over. Just keep your kids’ minds moving for the best motivation.