Greetings from the Bay Area where a new Shelter in Place order has us all hunkered down for the foreseeable future. Sadly, we all saw this coming. For someone as introverted as myself, socially distancing has been a pretty big part of my life for the past thirty or so years. I’m a pro. The biggest change, however, came when the schools shut down. Suddenly, my wife and I are stuck at home with three slightly feral young children whose attention spans range from sixty-two seconds to ninety seconds max.
While all my single friends are trying to mask their work-from-home glee, parents all over the US are finding themselves in a similar situation – kids at home who still need to learn and be entertained – and a lot of quality time in which to do it. As I write this, I can hear my kids clawing at my office door begging for pieces of gum like a bunch of miniature zombies, so I get it. Times are tough. The future may seem bleak. But together, we can get through this. Here are some tips that can help.
Remember, structure is your best friend.
The most important thing you can do right now is to create a structured environment for your kids. You’re going to see a lot of schedule ideas circulating around social media. As a battle-hardened parent, I can assure you that most of these are completely unrealistic and will drive you up a wall faster than your kids will.
Keep your structure simple and routine. Begin with your same sleep schedule and eating schedule. Then divide your day into manageable sections with learning time, exercise time, and playtime.
Let them run.
Your kids don’t have gym memberships because exercise is already such a natural part of their everyday lives. In the absence of structured physical education time, it’s important to create room for them to run and play. Set aside an hour a day for your kids to run around outside, play soccer, or just take them on a walk. And don’t forget to treat yourself to an hour of exercise, too. It’s easy to lose focus on your own personal needs as you take care of kids all day. But your health and sanity have never needed you more.
Create a piece of art with household items.
We’ve found that art projects have become our biggest ally over the past week. DIY art projects tend to engage kids’ attention longer than traditional toys because art promotes creativity, encourages neural connections, builds fine motor skills, develops problem-solving skills, helps kids understand themselves and the world around them. Plus, there’s no end to what you can do on a limited budget and a few odds and ends around your house. You can check out some of our favorite DIY art projects here.
With a little bit of training and practice, kids are only just a few steps away from becoming your own personal chefs as you’re under lockdown. Ok, not really. BUT cooking together helps kids develop a palate that extends beyond mac and cheese, and with enough of the right, nutritious foods, they might develop an aversion to the processed stuff.
Cooking also exposes your kids to other education lessons, like nutrition facts, counting, science, language, fractions, measurements, and reading. Making one meal together could dish up an entire day’s worth of learning.
Do some puzzles.
Brain training games like sudoku, crossword puzzles, word finders, and jigsaw puzzles are great at teaching kids about the concept of a ‘whole’ and that each piece is a fraction of the bigger picture. It also helps develop basic skills such as shape recognition, concentration, goal setting, patience and a sense of achievement. And for parents staring at long-term school closures, those skills can keep their childrens’ minds sharp in the interim.
We live in the golden age of digital – where virtual field trips and learning experiences are just a computer, tablet, or smartphone away. Right now companies like Scholastic are offering online courses for free. You can visit virtual museums. Your kids can visit the Mud Volcano, Mammoth Hot Springs, and so much more with a digital field trip to Yellowstone right from the living room. There are so many options to continue their education at home. The point here is to get creative with your kids’ school lessons. You don’t always have to limit them to textbooks and notepads. There’s an entire virtual world waiting for them.
Stay sane out there.
The late FDR once said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself – and being stuck at home all day with our kids.” Or something like that. I can’t remember because I’m too busy disinfecting everything and picking up toys.
Don’t feel like you have to entertain your kids the entire day. And don’t forget about yourself during the process. Instead of letting them binge television shows, make them earn media time. Instead of filling every single minute of the day with activities, teach them how to practice mindfulness and quiet time. Make the most out of your time with them. We’re certainly trying over here. With a little bit of effort and planning, effort, and love, we can all come out of this closer than ever before.
Most importantly, stay safe and healthy wherever you are.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author
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