You’d have to be living in a remote cave in the Himalayas with no outside contact to not be aware of the world-wide corona virus pandemic and the travel restrictions, self-isolation and quarantines spreading rapidly across the globe. Schools in many regions are closing for a month or more and parents often have to stay or work at home. While many schools are replacing classes with online teaching, this may just cover part of the normal school day. My daughter, for example, is expected to log into her Google Classroom and show attendance through the class What’s App group. However, her teachers will only be holding class from 8 am to 11 am, instead of her normal school day that runs from 8 am to 3 pm. So what is a parent to do in these highly unusual times to keep kids busy, focused, entertained, learning and above all, not bored.
First, I would strongly advise that if you haven’t already talked with your kids about COVID19 and steps that each of us can take to protect others, and ourselves then you need to have that talk right now. Choose age-appropriate language and concepts. Children are highly intuitive and they will have seen adults around them getting stressed, anxious or worried, or talking incessantly about this Corona Virus-thing. They already known there is something serious going on. Stress to kids that they are at very low risk of getting sick but explain to them the need for staying at home, why classes and gatherings are being cancelled, so that the disease doesn’t spread. Explain that it’s just for a while, not forever (although it will seem like forever to them!). Show them how to wash their hands properly and make sure they are washing their hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) before eating, after using the toilet or after going out. Experts advise cancelling play dates, group activities and visits with friends or other families, and ideally to stay at home, except for trips to buy food and supplies. Talk to your kids about social distancing – and why it’s not a good idea to hug or kiss people right now, or even shake hands. Kids really get into the idea of using the elbow or foot bump instead. Kids will feel calmer if you are straight with them about what’s going on. My teenager wanted to know how social distancing works to “flatten the curve.” Her peers had already been talking online about people getting sick and dying so this wasn’t a revelation to her. Again, age appropriate. You know best what your kids can handle and understand. The Coronavirus Parenting Hacks Facebook Group has a good video for kids explaining the virus and every-day precautions that you can both watch together.
If you are at home all day with the kids, here is a list of ideas and online activities to keep kids occupied and learning, instead of watching endless movies or zoning out on social media. Time Magazine recommends establishing a routine at home with kids as they are used to following a daily schedule, especially if they’re already at school.
1) Spend some time reading every day with younger kids or encouraging older kids to read by themselves. Stories are circulating of kids in quarantine reading so much that their literacy levels and language skills are jumping whole levels. Give young children audio books to listen to. Amazon has a good selection of audio books for kids and you can join Kindle Unlimited for a low monthly fee to download an unlimited number of Kindle books for older kids.
2) Many libraries around the world, although closed to the public, have set up virtual story times or live-streamed reading events on the Internet. The Brooklyn Public libraries are offering both recorded and streamed events or search online for others.
3) Get older kids to engage in learning play. Challenge kids to set up a tent or build a fort in the yard, working together. This is a good time to find some simple science projects online: create salt or sugar crystals, see how many insects they can find in the yard and look them up on the internet, examine parts of plants under a microscope or magnifying glass, do simple experiments with water and acoustics – fill a series of empty glass bottles to different levels with water and see how the sounds are different in each bottle when you tap the bottle with a spoon. Just Google simple science experiments with kids for more ideas.
4) Cook with your kids and get them to help you follow a recipe so they can learn about measuring.
5) Do a puzzle with your kids or get them to work on a puzzle by themselves.
6) Set younger kids up with Play Doh and art or craft supplies so they can happily create by themselves.
7) Get your kids to write letters to the people they can’t visit or to their friends. This way, they can practice writing skills.
8) Talk to friends and family often on the Internet so everyone stays connected.
9) Go for long walks with your kids. Be sure to keep your distance from others, but getting outdoors and being in nature is a great way for all ages to cope with being shut up at home. This also ensures that you are both getting regular exercise, sunshine and fresh air, all of which have been shown to help mild cases of COVID19 and to boost the immune system.
10) Scholastic has set up structured on-line learning programs for kids from pre-school to high school. Khan Academy also has self-paced video tutorials on a range of subjects. Khan Academy has also created schedule templates for parents to keep the days filled for older kids who are normally at school, to keep them learning and stay focused.
11) Join the Coronavirus Parenting Hacks Facebook Group to get more ideas or to share some that are working for you.
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