Have you recently found yourself at home with kids due to the Coronavirus pandemic? Are you also wondering what the heck you’re going to do with them all day, every day, for the next few weeks (or longer) – while maintaining your sanity and hopefully helping them to learn too? You’re not alone and I’ve got some great ideas here for you!
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With the heightened anxiety in our communities over the last month due to the spreading of CoVid19, have you been struggling to stay calm and reassuring as a role-model for your kids?
On a daily basis over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself regularly clarifying misinformation for my son, as well as working hard to provide a calm, positive presence. I’ve needed to take extra measures to keep myself emotionally and mentally healthy so I can best support my family. These are definitely challenging times as a parent.
Get Your Mental Game On
If you find that you’re feeling challenged by fears or a sense of overwhelm, be kind to yourself and remember that our bodies are designed to pick up on the feelings of others, especially fear, in order to help protect us and keep us safe. It’s totally normal to feel this way. Fear is contagious. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to believe everything our minds are telling us.
We can challenge fearful thoughts by finding calm and peace ourselves each day, and by repeating to ourselves mantras like, “I am strong and healthy. My family is safe.” whenever disturbing or irrational thoughts pop into our heads.
I also find it helps to remind myself that when I ponder on the scary possibilities of a future that hasn’t yet happened, it creates stress in my body that can negatively affect my health right now.
I try to remember that all I really have to do right now is focus on… right now. I am always strong enough to do that. Whenever I find my mind drifting to the future, I tell myself that those are just predictions that may never come to be, and I return myself to where I am right now and what I’m doing now. Because this I can deal with. And you can too.
If you’re looking for more ways to get your mental game in shape – check out my friend Jill’s post here on parenting through a pandemic. She’s got great tips for taking a challenging situation and turning it into something positive.
“But I’m Not a Teacher!”
For myself, I didn’t feel the twinges of real anxiety until our schools decided to close here in Ontario. Then, suddenly the weight of the responsibility of not only occupying, but teaching my son lowered onto my shoulders.
I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Lots of moms right now are having the same thoughts and feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and worry. Last week an acquaintance of mine threw up her hands and exclaimed she wasn’t sure what to do with her three kids to keep their learning going because she “wasn’t a teacher!”
My advice to her at the time, (and to myself) is the same. Trust yourself.
Parents were the primary teachers for their children for thousands and thousands of years before there were schools. We know our kids the best. We are capable of teaching them. And basically, there is no right or wrong way to do it, when we make the effort to care and connect with them.
I figure, I can choose to look at this as an opportunity to catch up with my child and see where he’s at, what he’s interested in, capable of, and willing to pursue with his learning. This can be a gift!
One way I’ve found to start doing this is to talk to my son in the morning and really listen to what he tells me he’s interested in doing. “What would you like to do or learn today?” can start a great discussion. Be open to the answers and see if you can work these things into your day – even if the answer is “Minecraft.” 😉
Ways to Take Care of Yourself Alongside Your Kids
It can be difficult sometimes to find, let alone remember, to take care of yourself when faced with the sudden unexpected whirlwind of life at home with kids.
Just remember, you won’t be able to support your kids or your family very well if you are exhausted or run down. It’s not only okay to take time for yourself, it’s essential that you do! Here are some of my favourite ideas for taking care of yourself while you are taking care of your kids.
Help yourself and the kids feel more grounded by making it a priority to get outside every day. Try exploring new local hikes, or just even your neighbourhood together. Embrace the weather each day as an adventure and an opportunity to see new things like how the local birds adapt, and whether bugs and plants and trees are starting to grow. You could even set a goal for your outside time – like doing a spring garbage cleanup while you walk.
Enjoy daily D.E.A.R. time
DEAR stands for Drop Everything and Read time where everyone in the house, including you, stops and reads quietly and independently for a certain amount of time. Even young children who are not yet reading words can do this if you tell them that they can “read the pictures.”
Hint: If this is a new routine in your house, try starting for only a short amount of time and building it up each day. Pick a regular time to do it. Get a comfy spot in the same room together. Find something you can enjoy reading even with distractions like a magazine, or short story collection.
Build body awareness
To build more awareness of your body and the messages it’s sending you about your feelings and health, as well as to boost your immunity, you can try doing some yoga together with your children. My favourite parent/child yoga video is this 20 minute one by Passion Fit. My son joins me sometimes with it, and I even do it when he’s not around. It’s a great, short workout that can be done every day to build core strength and to keep you feeling connected and grounded.
Hint: Worry less about your child doing the poses correctly, and more about having fun together and feeling each part of your body relax as you stretch and bring awareness to it.
Find a game that you all enjoy and can relax and play together – whether it’s chess, checkers, tic tac toe, simple card games like Crazy 8s, or a new game you’re learning together. We’ve been breaking out the Yahtzee this week.
Most of these games allow kids to practise their turn-taking, attentional, and problem solving skills while strengthening memory – basically the entire executive functioning suite that help kids become effective learners!
Hint: If you want this time to be relaxing for you, be sure to choose a game you genuinely enjoy. Your enthusiasm will spread to your child. Try to pick games that are less competitive and more focused on fun!
When You Really Need a Break
When you need some time alone – even just to drink a hot beverage and have a mental break from your kids, there are some terrific activities that kids can do to keep themselves busy and learning at the same time. Here are my favourites:
I have a “Maker’s Table” activity in my elementary school library that is honestly the favourite center for most kids ages 4 to 12. It even beats out the robots! I usually put out a bin of clean recyclables (think paper towel tubes, small boxes, cardboard pieces, clean plastic containers) along with popsicle sticks, pipe-cleaners and a few tools like scissors, glue sticks, and lots of masking tape! Other materials like markers, or pompoms are always fun but not necessary.
The kids always come up with things to make on their own, from models of vehicles to homemade toys and decorations. This activity strengthens kids’ creativity and problem-solving skills and is fun!
Hint: Resist the urge to tell your kids what to make or even to make suggestions. Let them look at the materials and decide. Having that choice is a big part of the attraction of this activity!
Building for all ages
An easy activity with KEVA blocks, Magnatiles, or Lego is to have kids Google the word “structures” (search under Images) and then pick a tower, bridge, or building that interests them and work to re-create it using the materials.
I also really like these KEVA Challenge Cardsthat show pictures of structures from the top and side views and kids have to work to reproduce the structure with the blocks. These activities help develop children’s 3D visualization skills, planning, perseverance and understanding of forces.
I know the temptation can be to let kids watch more TV or play more video-games than normal so you can have a break and that’s okay when you need some time. However, there are definitely some online learning activities that are way more enriching than others. I don’t mind my son spending more screen-time if he’s actively learning.
Book Creator is an amazing online program (also available as an app) that easily allows kids of all ages to create their own books or comics. I’ve had grade 7 students use Book Creator to create professional looking magazines and my own son has used it since Kindergarten to create more than 100 books now.
Book Creator allows kids to dictate or type their text, record sound effects and their voice, include copyright free videos and images from google, and to even draw and create their own illustrations. Check out this post to see how to make a basic book.
Check out the video below to see a super simple book that I made a few years ago. You’d be surprised at what kids can do with this program!
Scratch is a program created by MIT to teach kids how to code.
If your kids are young (ages 4 to 8) you might want to start them on ScratchJr (available as an app) to let them learn how to create an animation using very basic drag and drop block coding.
Ages 8 and up can go to Scratch online and watch the online tutorials to learn how to code using blocks. They can create animations, games, art, stories and more. It’s worth exploring and there is tons of support online for learning how to use the program and how to create with it.
Take a podcast break
My family have been podcast fans for a while now, and we’ve definitely got some favourites to share. I find that podcasts are the perfect entertainment for long car trips, or for a late afternoon downtime. My son even likes to listen to them as he is getting ready for bed!
The folks at Stories Podcast are highly talented story tellers that tend to choose fictional tales, both current and classic, that always have a great moral or lesson. There’s usually an upbeat song sung by the fabulous Amanda Weldon, and Daniel Hines’ writing always make me laugh!
For an experience without ads, we subscribe for $1.00 a month, or you can listen with ads for free. Episodes tend to run 10 to 20 minutes long and we’ve been known to tune in for hours! Our family favourite eps are any of the “Dog King” stories, “The Golden Screw” and the “Firefly” chronicles.
The BrainsOn podcast is another super-fun and educational listening experience. With each episode running about a half hour long, and over 100 episodes to choose from – this podcast will give you time to kick back and relax while your kiddo is entertained and learning. Each episode has a child co-hosting alongside regular host Molly Bloom, and the topics are new each week and driven by listener questions.
Our family favourite eps are “Black Holes, Wormholes and Donut Holes,” “Plastic: Why It’s Everywhere” and there’s even a new episode all about the Coronavirus that will help reassure your child about their ability to fight off viruses. If you’re worried about the content, you can always read the transcript ahead of time before listening.
Wishing you a calm, safe, and connected time at home with your kids. We’ll all get through this and be much stronger for it. Sending you much love!