The pandemic and the lockdown (most recently known as the stay-at-home order) have added lots of extra stress for parents who are trying to juggle regular daily activities while keeping their kids focused on learning when in “school” and keeping them entertained when not. This can get tough! Especially as we’re nearing the end of ANOTHER school year at home, many of us are running short on ideas as we may feel like we’ve exhausted them all already!
Don’t worry, we have some suggestions for you – some great ways to keep your kids busy during the lockdown and hopefully make things a little easier on you!
Most important recommendation – BE PRESENT WITH YOUR KIDS
We know it is hard to complete all the things you need to do in a day, and your kids’ constant need for attention can definitely make it harder to focus.
Build regular breaks into your day that your kids can count on (depending how old they are) and when you take a break, TAKE A BREAK! If you spend 10 minutes of quality time with your kids being present and attuned, you will satisfy them faster than if you try to meet their needs while sending an email on your phone or making one last phone call.
Add breaks to their visual/printed schedule so that they can count on predictable times to have your full attention.
During the lockdown, create a space conducive to learning
It can be hard to concentrate with everyone at home doing their own thing! If space allows, create an office for your kids – if you can manage it, order a trifold presentation board from a local craft store for curbside pickup, and have them decorate it with things that they like. When these boards are on display, it will limit visual distractions from others and create an interesting space just for them filled with things that they like.
Noise cancelling headphones, therapy ball chairs, a piece of Velcro under the desk/table, a water bottle, and a fan (if tolerated) can help kids stay focused on learning. As we head into summer, this can also be a space for them to engage in “quiet time” activities like colouring, crafts, or reading, staying separate while still staying close enough for supervision if needed.
One of our Occupational Therapists can help if you need more sensory-based strategies!
As much as possible, create structure
Try to keep the same schedule every day. Having predictable schedule helps kids know what to expect and can facilitate their cooperation
Create a Visual schedule
Instead of telling your kids what is happening that day, show them. Many kids retain visual information better than auditory, and a visual schedule can save you from answering the “how long” or “what’s next” questions! Check out this link for some good ideas of how to make a visual schedule:
Believe it or not, chores are a great way to add structure to a child’s day. Research has suggested children as young as three can benefit from doing chores and that having chores at home influences kids’ organization, time management, and engagement in school activities – really! This would be a great thing to build into your visual schedule! Having a separate chore chart can also be helpful, and many kids love working towards special rewards – try it!
Your mental health is important
Talk to someone who is a great listener
Limit screen time
Here’s what the experts say: for optimum development, it is recommended that children under 5 have no screen time and children over 5 are limited to 1 hour of screen time a day.
Realistically, we all know that those numbers are basically impossible to manage, pandemic or not. Especially when an adult is working from home or attending to another small child (or two or three) at home, screentime is going to be key to managing through all of this. We recognize that.
That being said, we’ve all likely experienced what happens to kiddos when they’ve had a little too much screen time. It’s not fun. So you do you, and work with what you’ve got. If you can, do your best to limit screen time outside of school and social visits. If you are able to take the time in your day to get your kiddo off a screen to do something outside with them (or just inside off the screen), that’s awesome. If a day goes by and you can’t make this happen, that’s ok too. We are all just doing our best to get by here.
Remember: while we can’t be face to face with each other in person, it is critical that kids maintain relationships with close family and friends. If ZOOM or FaceTime is the only way to do it, the benefits far outweigh the cons to extra screen time. There are some great apps available that will let your kiddo chat with grandparents or friends online, too.
Being outside every day will help your kids unwind from their school day and there are proven benefits to being outdoors for adults’ mental health as well. Build some outdoor play into every day on your visual schedule.
If you have a fenced in backyard – turn ’em loose! If not, a walk or bike ride around the block or some playtime at a local park will do wonders for the whole family.
Need other ideas for outdoor play? Nature hikes, bird watching, leaf collections, scavenger hunts, and gardening are all great ideas for engaging your kids outdoors.
Get Them Busy in the Kitchen
Use this time to teach your kids a thing or two about cooking or baking basics. In addition to being a great sensory activity, it’s loads of fun. Added benefits are reading practice, math practice (fractions and measurement!), following directions, sequencing, and planning.
If you have a garden, using vegetables that they’ve grown themselves can be a great motivator to try cooking or maintaining good eating habits!
The Lockdown is the Perfect Time to Start a Family Project
This can be as simple as working on a puzzle to designing a board game, creating a bird/flower/critter guide for your area for nature walks, building a birdhouse, creating an obstacle course outside or in the house, playing the floor is lava, building a playhouse outside, colouring a big poster – anything that your family would enjoy doing together. Try something new!
Life Skills Training
Use this time to teach your older children some life skills like laundry, how to change a tire, or budgeting. These are great skills to learn. Be creative – think of what you wished you had known when you were their age.
We know that all families are different and that some of these ideas will work better for some children than others – understandable. Give some of these a try – we bet that as you’re thinking about it you can come up with other ideas that fit your family and will help with the boredom and stir craziness of isolating during the pandemic!
Remember: we’re all doing our best here – do the best you can with what you’ve got, give yourself a load of grace through all of this, and remember that we’re here to help.
Please get in touch if there are other ways we can support you!