With the spread of coronavirus and increasing number of schools and offices closing, there are plenty of resources popping up with schedules and strategies to optimize your time at home with your kids in the coming weeks. I’ve not only summarized and linked to some of the ones I’ve found most helpful, but I’ve also added in some ideas and structure by age. Please share any other ideas you might have - it’s time for us to band together!
NO MATTER WHAT AGE YOUR KIDS ARE....
Make a schedule. According to the Centers for Disease Control, "one way to keep control and help children learn is to create structure. Structure is created by consistent routines and rules. Rules teach children what behaviors are okay and not okay. Routines teach children what to expect throughout the day." Your schedule should be broken up into 15-45 minute blocks depending on age. Sure, you can tease the Pinterest moms making perfect color coded charts and schedules for their time at home with their kids, but don’t judge! A schedule can really help ease the stress and make your days more controlled and predictable, even if you don’t follow it to a tee. You can use your child’s school schedule as a base point, but don’t forget to include breaks, snacks, and independent play no matter what age they are.
It’s also SO important that you make the daily schedule work for YOU and your partner, too. If you know you need to work at least 6 hours a day, doing intensive crafts all day is not going to be realistic and will just stress you out. Meanwhile, letting your child watch 6-8 hours of TV all day while you work might make them antsy and may backfire. Breaking up your day in a way that serves your schedule, keeps kids working on fun and different activities, and schedules in breaks to laugh, eat, and take care of yourselves will be a gamechanger. It’s all about balance, right?
And, don’t be afraid to make changes! If it’s 3-4 days in and your schedule is just NOT going to plan, rather than get frustrated, revise it! Find what WORKS.
Last, don’t forget time on the schedule for self-care, alone time, and fun!
A NOTE ON WORKING FROM HOME...
The best tip I’ve ever received about working from home with a little one: wake up at 5 am. The first time someone told me to do this I CRACKED up. I am NOT a morning person and waking up at 5 sounded like a joke. But, Those quiet morning hours can completely change my day. Being able to not only get a solid hour plus of work done before my daughter wakes up, but also have some alone time for myself gets my day off on the right foot every time. This will make days with the whole family home much less overwhelming and make you more productive at work with fewer hours.
When working from home, it’s also important to encourage and trust in independent (supervised!) play. No matter the age, from babies to teens, your kids need some time to be independent every day. Not necessarily alone/unsupervised (please always supervise babes, tots, and young kids!), but independent to explore their toys and imagination on their own.
Last, if your partner is also home and available, make sure you two are taking turns working so you both have time with your kids and both have uninterrupted time to work. Working in 2-4 hour shifts works best for my husband and I, but do what works best for you and schedule it!
IDEAS AND INSPIRATION TO EDUCATE AND ENTERTAIN YOUR KIDS BASED ON THEIR AGE....
Babies: Being at home really is nothing new for them, but being with them full-time at home may be new for you! So, this transition is moreso about giving yourself space and grace without childcare/nanny/breaks, as well as balancing working from home and baby care. Babies can be independent and supervised at the same time - embracing this could be really helpful. For instance, they can play in an activity chair while you work, or on their backs on a playmat with you nearby working. Please do not let them do tummy time without your undivided attention. When it comes to naps, be sure to work hard and hustle during one of their naps, but maybe utilize time during their second nap for some self-care and quiet time!
Tots: There are SO many fun activities and ideas for toddler-friendly fun at home. My daughter and I have been doing daily themes thanks to Studio DIY’s inspiration on Instagram. Each day, we pick a theme (shapes, colors, ABCs, music, space, farm, puzzles, etc), and plan activities and entertainment around it. Scavenger hunts have been a BIG hit so far (ex. hiding letters around the house that she has to search for; running around the house looking for everything blue we have, etc). These are great because while she’s searching our home for 26 little pieces of paper, I’m able to get a few things done with work-wise or around the house. We’ve also been doing some baking and cooking together every day. Putting on a little apron has been so empowering for her, and she loves adding to sprinkles to everything we make. Things like snickerdoodles, which include rolling dough in cinnamon sugar, are also fantastic sensory activities.
Importantly, toddlers learn through PLAY. So, be sure they have ample time to just play freely on their own. Maybe get them started by encouraging a tea party, playing pretend doctor with their stuffed animals, or asking them to make you lunch in their play kitchen.
You can also have some fun getting your workout in with your tots. My favorite is pretending to be different animals and “taking over” the house. For instance, we pretend to become monkeys and swing our arms oh eee ahhing and jumping around, or maybe we’re elephants stomping on all fours, or lizards lunging near the floor. Whatever animals we are, she is giggling like crazy, I’m sweating, and we’re both ready for nap time afterward. Going on an adventure to find different flowers in your neighborhood and make a bouquet is also a great option to get some fresh air!
My personal favorite toddler and young kid activity: opening up the Bumpin Blends packaging! The dry ice makes for endless fun science experiments and the cooler dissolves in water - another fun science experiment that entertains for at least 30 minutes!
Young school aged children: Kids this age will likely have a school schedule and some work sent home with them to work on. Scheduling this in around some fun at-home play throughout the day will keep everyone sane. Young kids thrive on being empowered, and have more independence at school, so letting them call the shots may really help. For instance, letting them choose a cool Pinterest craft or recipe to try, or picking a hobby to learn or skill to strengthen (helloooo playing guitar, knitting, and scrapbooking!). It also may be a great opportunity to learn some new chores and help out around the house, like how to Marie Kondo their closet or cleaning the baseboards. Picking out a couple good books you can read together and talk about, especially challenging ones, would be fun too!
For some destressing and movement: at-home workouts! Your young kids might have a blast doing that video workout of yours along with you. Another option would be creating a relay race in your home or backyard. Family hikes and long walks would also be a fun way to get some fresh air.
Pre teens and teens: Like with young kids, they were probably sent some schoolwork to work on, and they probably want to text their friends and play video games, but to switch it up for them and keep everyone happy and not-too-bored at home, here are some more creative ideas to try out: some fun, complicated recipes to make together, like homemade pasta (only 2-3 ingredients so no need to brave grocery stores!), or trying to copy a pinterest baking success; letting them help and be invested in a big home project, like building a shelving unit or starting a garden; family book club (let them pick the book and the whole family reads it), board games, charades, at-home workouts and yoga, hikes and long walks, learning a new skill or hobby (guitar, scrapbooking, knitting…), and allllll the chores. Mamas, take advantage of this extra time at home and let your kids get to work learning more about what it takes to keep a home in order. They’ll forever appreciate all that you do!
HERE ARE SOME MORE RESOURCES I’VE FOUND THAT YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL!