Let’s face it… being stuck home all day with the kids is tough. And the temptation to plop them in front of a screen for entertainment is strong. We can either look at this situation as a depressing, drive-each-other-crazy event, or we can embrace this gift of time and make the most of it.
Here are some ideas for giving your kids quality time while you are stuck at home. It doesn’t have to be difficult and you are not in this alone.
Create a schedule
Unless you have a background in homeschooling, handling the bulk of your child’s schoolwork can be incredibly overwhelming. It doesn’t need to take over your household though. Instead, work on putting school work on a schedule. It is important to note that your child may not need to be working on school work at home as long as they might in school. Remember that there are things like recesses, behavior checks, lunches, and electives to utilize a lot of the day. If your child can finish their work in a timely manner and do it correctly, don’t feel like you are short changing them on their education.
*Pro tip - You are not alone here. If you struggle to understand a concept your child is learning or the way it is taught, reach out to their teacher, other parents, or head to YouTube for help. It’s completely ok if you don’t know all the material being taught in the way it has been taught.
Create work spaces
If you already work remotely, then you know the importance of having a space to work. However, if this is new for you, then you might take some time to create a tiny office space that is free of distractions. The same goes for your children. Create a special “classroom” for your kids, with as few distractions as possible. No TV, no pets, and even space from siblings. Be sure to have headphones on hand if needed for the virtual lessons.
Build in rewards
Your kids are under their own kind of stress right now, so focusing on schoolwork may be difficult. Consider building in some rewards for their staying focused. For example, if they work quietly on their math for 20 minutes (or 40 minutes, depending on the age) perhaps they get a snack or short amount of playing or free time. It’s the “divide and conquer” theory for keeping kids on track.
With a great deal of the world shut down, it can field like you are trapped at home. However, there are a lot of virtual field trips you can take from the comfort of your home. This can be a great time to explore the world and learn new things. Here are a few options.
During this time setting a special family night tradition may help to spend time together without feeling obligated to spend every moment of the day together. It can be special to set a time when you will all come together at the end of the day for something special. This might mean everyone reads a book together, plays a favorite board game, or builds a puzzle together. The idea is to set aside a little bit of your evening to end the day with something special to everyone. Some other ideas might include basketball in the driveway, catch in the backyard, or spending some time stargazing. Whatever you do, make sure it is a time where the family can unwind and relax at the end of a long day.
Set quiet times
When you are together all day every day it can get a bit overwhelming. Instead of letting this time cause a strain on your family relationship, set daily quiet times. This could mean having thirty minutes to an hour every day where everyone is expected to head to their rooms and read, play with toys, take a nap, or do something on their own. While this may be an adjustment at first, this could be a great time to separate everyone and give them a chance to reset for the rest of the day.
Get out the crafting supplies
It may be time to get out the crafting supplies. However, it doesn’t mean you need to design a special craft. Instead, give kids a chance to explore and create in a way that is fun for them. If you are worried about a mess, lay down old newspapers before letting them craft. However, crafting can be a great screen-free activity for kids to enjoy together. Some ideas might include drawing, painting, sculpting with clay, or just good old fashioned coloring. It is less about the craft and more about the time spent creating.
Challenge their imaginations
Many children have humongous imaginations they aren’t using. Challenge their imaginations with a story starter. For instance, “You have only the toys in your room. I need you to build me the world’s most amazing superhero city. Give each here their own story and decide who wins at the end.” This kind of prompt can launch children into an all-day imagination adventure. You might also challenge them to do things like build a fort or play hide and seek with flashlights. These small imagination challenges can prompt some huge fun.
Taking time to cook with kids can seem intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Get your children in the kitchen with you. Teach them how to measure ingredients, stir the pot, or finish preparing a meal. Not only are you teaching them a life skill, but you are also spending quality time together. With younger children, this may mean simple tasks like dumping ingredients into a recipe. With older children, this can be your time to teach them cooking skills they will need for their future. By bringing them alongside you while you cook you are able to teach them valuable life skills that will help them long after this situation passes. And once you finish cooking? Have a picnic in the backyard!
Say yes more than you normally might
Children are great at asking for time and communicating in some way that they are interested in quality time with you. While it can be easy to say no when life is busy, now is your chance to say yes more. This doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every idea. However, it does give you the chance to say yes more than you normally might. Take this time to go play dress up, spend time on Lego, or be the audience for the show they build. Make this your season of one more yes.
Sitting around the house and eating can be a bad combination, leading to that dreaded “dad bod.” And it’s not good for your kids either. So make sure you find time each day to get up and move.
Walk the dog
Even if you are currently under a “stay at home” order, you can go out to walk the dog or exercise. You can make the walk into a fun activity by having a scavenger hunt while out. Make a list ahead of time of things to look for while walking -- stop sign, a cardinal, a cat, a minivan, etc. This will help keep your kids motivated to continue walking.
Have a dance off
While dancing might not be your thing, it’s a great way to get up and get moving. Make a special Spotify playlist just for dancing, or turn on your favorite music video. And, dads, be sure you are joining in the fun!
Kids actually love a challenge, even a physical one. Let them see you working out, even if it is just body weight exercises, and allow them to join in, or even “coach” you. Find a YouTube video you like that takes your family through a 20-minute workout--there are thousands of videos available to choose from! You can even create special “gym bags” for each child, that contains their own water bottle, towel, and other equipment.
Being stuck at home and in charge of “schooling” your children might make you think we need to schedule every single moment, but we don’t. Free time and unstructured play is important to develop imagination and relieve stress. And so is learning to sit still for a few moments.
Let your child pick the activity
Use this time at home to join in with your children’s playtime,. If they want to build a fort, grab the blankets and pillows. If they just want to sit and read a book, grab one, too. Let them see your willingness to let them take the lead and see your enjoyment at what they picked to do. This is a key confidence builder for your kids.
There are plenty of meditation apps that your whole family can try to go through the steps of decompressing, relaxing, and finding some mental balance. For younger children, choose no more than just a few minutes at a time, and be sure to model the right behavior. Children do what we do, not necessarily what we say.
And finally, we can look at this unusual time of everyone being at home as a burden or an obligation, or we can flip it upside down and look at it as a gift of time with our family that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
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