I recently saw a post that read something like, “I am half way through the first day of my kids out of school. We already baked cookies, painted, played pirates, read a half dozen books and built a fort in the living room. I am hoping this rhythm kicks in because I am EXHAUSTED!” As lovely as all these activities sound, I'm sure many of us identify with the feeling and want to find a way to support our children without quickly getting burnt out.
Here are some tools that can make your days easier, more organized yet still allow everyone’s needs to be met:
1. Don’t feel you have to entertain your child every second. The real goal in this situation is to give children the tools to work independently. Children are more capable of doing this than we think. I know you're at home all day as well, but this should not turn you into your child’s sole focus of activity. This is the environment’s job. If you offer a well-set environment and routine, your child will be able to do self-directed activities and move through the day without needing you 24/7. Help your children understand both your work and their school are closed, so you will both be doing your daily activities at home. Your children need to continue developing their skills, and for this they don’t need you next to them every second. They need materials that allow them practice these skills. I will offer some examples below, and will continue to do so throughout this difficult time.
2. Keep your child’s routine as close to the school routine as possible. This is vital for two reasons: 1) When children get back to school, it will be easier for them to resume their activities if they haven’t completely fallen out of their routine. 2) A clear routine will allow both parents and children to move smoothly through the day. Otherwise, children will be in constant uncertainty, and parents will be exhausted, scrambling for the next way to keep them entertained. This set routine will also give children clarity of the times they will get parents' attention, and the times parents also need to do their work. Connect with your child’s teacher if you don’t know this schedule; this way you can keep activities like eating, sleeping and outdoor time consistent. Actually writing something out like the example below can give your family the structure it needs.
Example of daily routine (4 year old child)
7:30 Wake u
8:00 Breakfast: this is a good moment for family time
9:00 Work time: both you and your child will go to your
own space of work
10:00 Snack time: you can take a break with your child, or
have snacks available so he or she can eat any time
during their work period
12:00 Lunch: another family activity. Use the bathroom
1:00 Nap time: you may have to sit next to your child
and rub his or her back for a few minutes, but this
will give you a couple hours to focus on your work
3:00 Wake up
Outdoor time: this can be going for a walk, playing
in the backyard, etc.
4:00 Independent play/work time
5:00 Family time: one parent can spend time with the
child while the other prepares dinner or you can
involve the child in dinner prep
6:00 Dinner: Family activity
7:00 Use bathroom
Take a bath
8:00 Read a book
3. Set your environment with activities your child can use and clean independently. Children have not only the ability, but also the need to work with self-guided activities. This allows them to build concentration and gain independence. Even in small spaces, we can set appropriate activities and work spaces for children. We want to shift our role as adults from doing every single thing with our children to preparing their environment so they can work independently while we do the same. This may require some rearranging of your home. There should be a clear delineation of the adult's work space and the child's work space. In the child's space, be sure to keep all materials at the child's level and all materials should be complete and intact. This not only applies to the child's work materials, but any items the child may use for clean up or snacks should also be easily accessible .
4. All activities don’t have to be academic. Since you're at home, integrate activities that make sense and contribute to the house. When children reach a certain age, they are able to follow teachers’ instructions online and continue with their academic obligations. However, for very young children, who benefit from hands-on learning, there are many activities that can still support their appropriate development and be done at home.
Example activities (4 year old child)
It is important that you always show the child how to use the activity before inviting him or her to work with it.
Open and close locks
A basket or box to contain the activity, 5 locks of different sizes and/or ways to open, small container for keys and/or combinations.
1. To start the activity, you will have inside of the basket or box 5 closed locks and a small container (box/bag) with the keys and/or pieces of paper with combinations (one strip of paper per combination).
2. Take the box to your child’s table, sit next to your child and tell him or her you will show him or her how to do this activity.
3. Take the locks one at a time, show them to your child and place them on the left side of the table forming a column.
4. Grab the bag with keys and start taking them out one at a time. Show them to your child and place them to the right of the locks in a column. If you take out a piece of paper, let the child know that combination of numbers will work like the key for one of the locks.
5. Grab one key and start looking for the lock this one opens. Start by choosing a lock that doesn’t match. This will show your child what to do in this situation. When you find a lock where the key fits, show the child how to open it. Place the open lock back to its spot in the column. Repeat this process with all locks.
6. When done, show your child how to close the locks one at a time. Place the closed lock inside of the basket and the key or combination in the small bag. When you have all the keys and combinations, close the container and place it in the basket.
7. Let your child know it is his or her turn now.
A pitcher or watering can your child can carry and refill independently
1. Let your child know the plants may need some water and invite him or her to check them with you.
2. Depending on the plants you have at home, show your child how to check the water level of the plant, e.g. touch the dirt and feel if it's dry or wet, the bamboo plant should have water covering the rocks, etc.
3. Show the child where the pitcher is. Model for the child how to carry the pitcher, how much to fill it with water, how to walk with it and exactly how much water to put in each plant.
4. After you have done it with a couple plants bring the pitcher to its spot and let your child know it is his or her turn.
Small cutting board, peeler, table or sandwich knife, small plate, napkin or container for scraps, a vegetable such as a cucumber, carrot or squash. You can have these materials preset on a tray, or have them in your kitchen at child’s reach.
1. Take the tray or the materials one at a time to the table where your child will be doing the activity and let the child know you will show him or her and then it will be his or her turn.
2. Place the cutting board on the table (in front of the child so he or she can see), vegetable on the cutting board, small plate above cutting board on the left side, peeler to the right of the plate, knife to the right of the peeler and container for scraps to the right of the cutting board.
3. Take the peeler and show the child how to peel the vegetable, after you peel each strip, place that piece of skin in the scrap container. When done, place the peeler back on the table.
4. Grab the knife and show the child how to slice the vegetable. It is important you exaggerate and drastically slow your movements so your child can absorb the process. After you have 2 or 3 slices, place the knife down and put the slices on the plate. Repeat the process until you chop the full cucumber.
5. When you are done, invite your child to have a turn.
6. After your child is done, show him or her how to clean every piece of material.
Activities like these can keep children concentrated and occupied for long periods of time. They support the child's development and allow parents the time to take care of their own work and daily activities.
Contact me if you need one-on-one support with your family’s daily routine and/or appropriate activities for your children. I am available for consultations via Zoom. Also, stay tuned for videos with new activities and their variations to serve different ages.