As a child, I remember being snowed in for days at a time, often without power. Things were different then. We didn't have iPads and intense video games, but we also didn't have to abide by social distancing and homeschooling for the foreseeable future.
First and foremost, we need to remember why schools were cancelled. People are not to be in groups of 10 or larger. Sending your children to the neighborhood playground is not a good idea. Take it from this mom in Italy and read about her experiences. You simply cannot assume everyone you see is healthy. In fact, based on my experience in hospitals, it is far safer to assume they are infected and every surface has a fresh sneeze on it. We simply cannot be too safe, you know what they say about putting toothpaste back in the tube...
I'm going to say it again, because I see it out my window as I'm typing this
STAY OUT OF THE PLAYGROUNDS.
The what do we do? I'm going to give 5 tips and 14 activities to get you started.
Tips on Parenting In The Moment
1) Ditch the screen-time priority
I always advocate for little to no screen time but these weeks we will need to give that up some. Sure, let's still be mindful and try to encourage other activities, like the ones I'll list below, but ultimately that iPad screen is a lot safer than a public slide in the present time. Be flexible.
2) Don't follow what other parents are doing
But all the other parents are sending their kids outside and to group gatherings, it must be safe. Remember the game Lemmings? The one where you had to save the line of little animals from all following each other off the cliff. Don't be a lemming. Just because other parents are doing something doesn't mean it's safe or something you should allow your child to do. Exercise your own judgment, even in these unknown waters where we are looking to others for advice.
3) Make a routine
We need routines and structure to keep us feeling sane and to help us focus on tasks. Our routines have changed now, and for some children I cannot imagine how difficult this has been. Think about the strategies your teachers use in their classroom for visuals and use them at home to give your children a familiar structure as best as you can. Is your child used to art class from 11:00-11:45? Break out the markers and paper from 11:00-11:45. See how you can keep them on a schedule each day and talk to them about this schedule. Let them have input in what priorities and activities they want. To Do lists are also very helpful. If you can afford to, get them dressed each day too, just like you should be doing if you're working from home. This will add to your laundry burden, and maybe you'd like to lessen that. Just consider it as it will help keep a sense of normalcy.
4) Moderate your news
Set up designated times when you will "plug into" the news and social media. You need to stay informed, but you also need to avoid becoming addicted to the apocalyptic reality show that's unfolding around us. Ensure you're getting news from your local and state authorities first. Check with the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control as recommendations are changing quicker than any other website can keep up. Lastly, if you're feeling up to it, check the national news cycle for the latest. Be cautious of blogs, Twitter and reddit, although they may have helpful information anecdotally.
5) Above all, STAY CALM
This is going to push us all to our limits. It's important that we keep a level head through it all. Our children need to feel safe, secure and stable in order to focus, develop and learn. If we allow our homes to disintegrate into chaos, our children will truly be harmed. If we keep a confident mind, even as we embark into the unknown, our children will be able to look to us for guidance, reassurance and hope.
Activities to Keep their Mind and Bodies Busy
As a child, we'd spend days indoors due to snowstorms and maybe you can relate. Well, think back to those days and the things you would do to entertain yourselves. Below I'm giving you a list of my favorites with a few modern ideas as well.
1) Board and Card Games
Chances are you have a pile of games somewhere in your house and you might not ever use them. Now is the reason why you have that stockpile! Here's also a list of card games for kids using simply a deck of cards. If you have older children and teens, teach them how to play poker and blackjack. There are great skills to be learned in these games as well.
Getting into a yoga routine will help calm your mind while keeping your body active. I definitely recommend checking out Yoga with Adriene for yoga sequences at all levels. Stay calm and stay healthy with yoga!
3) Coloring, Drawing and Painting
There are numerous websites with great coloring pages, or just break out the white paper and let your child's imagination go for a ride! I also recommend check out coloring mandalas as another way to help keep everyone relaxed. Try coloring your mandala using only one crayon or colored pencil for an interested exercise in "gray area thinking".
4) Fort Building
Who doesn't love to build a fort? Seriously, this was probably one of the rarest treats and most fun activities of my childhood. You may even have some large boxes around from recent Prime deliveries. These make excellent cubbies and houses to cut windows in and decorate. Let your child's inner architect go wild!
5) Puppet Making
If you have some old socks, and a few buttons to sew for eyes, why not make sock puppets? Or maybe use brown paper lunch bags, or cut a paper plate as a mask? Look around and see what materials you have to make a few puppets. You could use them to make a video or play!
You're going to be spending more time at home and less time going out to eat, that's a fact right now. Might as well enjoy it. Bring your children in the kitchen with you and teach them some of your favorite recipes, or even just simple recipes they need to know like mac'n'cheese, making a sandwich, etc. Keep in mind their developmental levels, but all children can help and learn to cook once they start using utensils.
7) Video/Movie Making
This isn't the days of my past! We have power and can use technology to help us pass the time. Enjoy that. Let your child(ren) create a movie together and see where their plot goes. Maybe even consider sharing it on YouTube?
8) Theatrical/Drama Plays
Plays are different than movies in that your children have to think about what they can do within one space. If you have siblings, encourage them to create a play together and see where this plot goes.
9) Journal Writing or Story Making
Your child is going to have a lot of feelings about what is going on right now. Encourage them to journal daily about what's going on. If all our children do this, imagine the amazing time capsule we will have of this historic event? If your child isn't into journaling, or too young for the concept, encourage them to write a story with you.
Another simple craft that takes time and patience. There are plenty of tutorials and videos to help you learn this ancient craft. Here's one to get you started. And while it's preferred to have origami paper, no it's not necessary. Paper airplanes are a great idea too!
You might have a stockpile of craft materials laying around. If you do, break that out! You can google or search Pinterest for inspiration based on your supplies, or just let your kids imagination be the guide.
12) Slime Making and Sensory Tubs
Pinterest will have some great ideas here for slime recipes and sensory tubs. Let your children collect their favorite toys and design a sensory tub around it. Dig up some dirt from the garden if you really want to get messy in that dino jungle adventure.
13) TV or Household Scavenger Hunt
Your kids will be watching a lot of TV, might as well give it some purpose with a scavenger hunt. If they find all the things on the list, they can earn a prize like an extra cookie. Keep in mind your prizes need to be something in the house or that still follow the rules of social distancing.
14) Video Calling
One of my favorite things about these days is how distance has gotten so much smaller with technology. I live hours from my parents and, 15 years ago, that would have been much harder. But now with FaceTime, Alexa Show, Skype, etc. there are so many ways to video call your friends and loved ones. Zoom allows for free video conferencing for large groups up to 40 minutes! Have a digital party. Safely check in on grandparents. Safely check in on neighbors. Stay connected with the ones you care about while still practicing safe measures.
How are you getting through these days? What activities are you keeping sane and busy with? Share your ideas and resources below! We're all community here, we can only get through this together.
Stay Strong. Stay Sane. Stay Safe.