What To Do With Your Kids During a Pandemic

School’s out for summer—oh wait, its not summer, it’s just the COVID-19 pandemic. Moms and Dads everywhere are panicking as they try and figure out what they will do with their kids for the next month or two while we are quarantined. Some will say, “We’ve been here before, it’s no different than summer break or Christmas break.” But I assure you, it is different. Summer break is filled with swimming, camps, and tons of outdoor play. Christmas break is filled with parties and family visits, but none of those things will be happening (unless you live somewhere with a pool). Bounce houses, movie theaters, and play spaces are ghost towns, and most families are choosing to skip the playdates.

As a former teacher, here is what I can tell you: kids thrive on structure. There is something comforting about knowing what is going to come next. It makes them feel safe. Allowing your kids to stay in their PJs and just play all day aint gonna work for a month; I don’t care if you’re a stay-at-home mom or a working mom who has a nanny taking care of your kids. Of course, this is always fun for a couple days and I highly suggest it to show your fun side, but then you’ve got to get cracking on a plan.

The first thing I thought of when I got the news that school was cancelled is, “What the hell am I going to do with these crazy kids?” We have to prepare and here’s why. Once our kids become stir crazy or bored they begin to misbehave. If you have siblings in your home you will soon see the fighting increase. I’m on your side parents, so I’ll propose to you what I’m thinking, and I want you to understand that this is good for everyone in the long run. This is not coming from the #momoftheyear or the #pinterestperfect mom, this is coming from a place of, “We need to do what’s best for our kids and ourselves.” No amount of CBD is gonna get us through this.

Let me introduce you to Corona Camp…

This doesn’t have to be boot camp, heck it doesn’t even have to be as strict as a school schedule would be, but I propose you create your own family calendar for the next month. Create it on poster board so the kids can see it. If you have little ones, draw pictures so they can understand the plan. I think we all know how hard it is to get back into the groove after summer break, so keep ALL routines in place. This includes a wake up time (if needed and not too early) and a bedtime. It also includes getting dressed for the day. It’s YOUR camp, so you can decide how you want to run it and structure it. Try to make it fun! For us, we don’t plan on starting anything until 9am and the very first thing on the agenda is a morning walk—rain or shine.

I decided that Friday would be a “free day,” one where they can stay in PJs all day, watch movies, or really make the choices about what they do for that day. Something fun to look forward to! Monday–Thursday we will be following a schedule. Our schedule will include some of the things they do at school, but also some fun things too. This is your chance to show your children just how much you value education. Do you only value it if someone else is teaching it? I didn’t think so. You might find during your reading time, that you learn just how behind your child actually is, or maybe you learn of some things they seem to be excelling at.

Reading

This is a great time to find a fun chapter book and read aloud to your kids. You can pick leveled books and have each kid read out loud to each other. I have one non-reader, so I will be tweaking what he does by having him tell a story based on the pictures. Have them practice letter identification or sight word flash cards. This also might be a great time to do a family read. Everyone go into one room together and read at the same time silently.

Gym

If you are inside, you can do a freeze dance or teach them to square dance. Go down to the basement and practice somersaults. Blow up some balloons and see if you can keep them in the air for as long as possible. If you are outside, play things like red light green light. Maybe kick a soccer ball into a net. Even playing catch is great for hand eye coordination.

Writing

This is such an easy one to have kids practice. They make handwriting sheets online and sell books at most teacher stores. Even Target sells them. You can even get out the shaving cream and have them practice writing there. I know I will take this opportunity to practice name writing for my younger 2-year-old. I’m also planning to grab journals and give them fun prompts to write about. If they can’t write then they can draw pictures, and if they are new to writing you can have them write a few words and draw a picture.

Math

You can make this as fun or as simple as you want. Simply print our math sheets at their level or get out some fun manipulatives like M&M’s or LEGO. Have the little ones sort colored LEGO and the older kids create word problems with those exact same LEGO.

Arts & Crafts

Oh, the list goes on and on here… I know I will certainly be getting out the paint at least once, but some days we will simply be tracing our hands and cutting them out to make peacocks. Easy and self directed equals more free time for you. Pinterest is your best friend for this kind of stuff.

Science & Social Studies

These will be hands-on projects. Maybe have the kids work together to research a new state (I have one kid who can read to the younger ones). Or maybe have the kids find information on an animal and work as a team to make a book about that animal. There are so many easy and simple science experiments on the world wide web. Keyword: SIMPLE.

Recess

As you can see, this is not written into the schedule because you might find that the sun is peeking out at different times throughout the day. Take advantage of that fresh air when you can, and pop recess into the schedule when you see fit. I plan to stop and head outside at least two times in the schedule.

Specials

Feel free to get creative here! I added cooking, yoga, TV time, iPad time, game time, free time, and quiet/alone time.

Now, I know you might be thinking this mom is SUCH AN OVERACHIEVER! I assure you I’m not! There is a way to have this wonderful schedule and still get plenty of time to yourself. Put some yoga on YouTube and have them do it while you clean the kitchen or send emails. iPad time and TV time will give you more free time. Quiet/alone time is great for kids, so don’t feel like sending them to their rooms to be alone is a bad thing. It’s wonderful for them to learn independence.

I’m just as shocked as you are about these coronavirus shelter-in-place orders. It’s stressful, but we are all in this together. Pop your teacher hat on and show those kids just how awesome you are. I know it seems overwhelming, but the more prepared you are, the better this time will be. So grab the wine and Godspeed.

This article originally appeared on GraytMama.

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Shannon Norwood

Shannon Norwood currently lives in windy Chicago with her husband and children. Her blog, GraytMama, was born back in 2014 with the goal of giving moms the CliffsNotes to raising babies. As a former teacher, she loves learning and passing on what she's learned to others, especially parents.

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