Like most of the world, our school district (and state) recently announced that schools and daycares will be closed for the coming weeks. For some people, this news comes as a relief. For others, this kind of an announcement creates panic at the thought of being stuck at home for weeks on end with young kids. It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the idea of having to entertain children all day long (especially if you can’t leave the house). And, if you’ve ever spent any time with little people, you know that while unstructured time can be welcomed for adults, it can cause chaos in kids.
Many people end up begging for school to go back in session, often praising the hard work of teachers for being able to put up with mayhem every day. But here’s the thing; the reason teachers are able to survive the day in day out energy level of kids is because our days are meticulously planned. Even “downtime” has a purpose and procedures. We schedule times for movement, creative play, and rest. While I don’t think you have to take this exact approach to your home life, there isn’t an early childhood educator out there that wouldn’t suggest structure and routine as a huge piece of advice for the coming weeks. So how do you make that happen in these weird, unprecedented times with kids?
Whether you are a hardcore planner or a complete free spirit, your best bet for surviving these next coming weeks with young children, is to make structure and planning your thing. You don’t have to be as detailed as a classroom teacher making lesson plans, but giving kids a clear idea of what to expect for the day, will help them thrive (and you keep your sanity.) Make a list together of what you’d like to accomplish.
Consider these ideas as a jumping off point of how to fill your day to make sure you are getting in some educational fun (not worksheets or flashcards), not relying too heavily on screen time, and making the most of your time at home with your little ones.
- Morning Time: Eat breakfast. Watch morning cartoons. Discuss your plans for the day. Check the weather. Get dressed, brush teeth. Make the bed.
- Get outside: Go on a bike ride. Play at the park. Do sidewalk chalk. Play with bubbles. Free play! (think recess time at school)
- Do some science: Plant some new flowers in your garden. Get a bird feeder and record what type of birds come to visit it. Order caterpillars and a butterfly kit to observe. Make slime. Make cloud dough. Make elephant toothpaste. (Pinterest is full of amazing, SIMPLE ideas.)
- Lunch and reading time: After you eat, schedule in some downtime. Give your kid a laundry basket to sit in and a pile of new books. Sit together and read your tried and true favorites while listening to calm music. Take a blanket outside and read under a tree.
- Schedule (limited) screen time: Play an educational app on a device. (Set a timer so they don’t stay on it too long!) Check out some free educational websites. Do an online yoga video for kids. Watch an episode of Magic School Bus, Sid the Science Kid, or Dinosaur Train.
- STEM challenge: Pull out the Lego bricks and make a building competition out of it. See who can make the tallest tower with Solo Cups. Get the Hot Wheels tracks out and challenge your kiddos to come up with a creative design. Use your dominoes to make a huge set up to record knocking down in slow motion.
- Food activity: Create a cute snack together. Bake muffins. Decorate cookies. Make smoothies. Pop popcorn on the stove.
- Creative play: Find your construction paper and crayons. Get out the glitter glue and stickers. Give your kids a big box, scissors and markers and challenge them to turn it into something creative. Get some play-dough and cookie cutters out. Messes are totally okay and it’s how kids learn best! (Just have clean up time built in there too!)
- Sensory play: Get out the water table and fill it with water, measuring cups and buckets. Order some water beads on Amazon for extra fun. For indoor sensory play, try kinetic sand, rice, or dry beans in a big Rubbermaid container.
- Play board games: Games such as Chutes and Ladders, Pop the Pig, Hi Ho Cherry-o, and Trouble are fantastic for number practice with little learners.
- Bath/Shower Time: Use this time to wind down. Add bath bombs. Dump all your toy dinosaurs in the tub. Get out the finger paint soap. Fill the shower with shaving cream. Make silly words with foam alphabet letters stuck to the walls.
I know this unexpected time at home with kids is strange and stressful. Our routines are all off. But, with a little extra planning and thinking ahead, it could just be the extra quality time you didn’t know you needed. Make the most of it, friends!