children, mental health, parenting, stress, young children

Surviving Social Distancing With Your Kids

There are a lot of worries in the world right now. What to do while being home with your child doesn’t have to be one of them. With a little planning you can turn this time into one that makes your family stronger. Here are 10 things to do right now to help you survive our current climate of social distancing.

Spring Cleaning

Clean: Now I know this doesn’t sound like fun, but it is! Kids love to feel grown up and important and cleaning teaches them life skills and builds the family team spirit. What kind of chores can young kids do? Learn to fold towels, wash windows, sweep/mop floors, really anything adults normally do as long as you use kid safe cleaning products. I love using cleaning vinegar, good old soap and water, or non-toxic brands like Lemi Shine and Clorox Anywhere spray. You can also fill up the sink or a large basin with soapy water and let them wash unbreakable dishes and toys. Sorting and organizing toys is another great activity. If you are going to be stuck inside it might as well be in a clean house

Set a Schedule

Set a Schedule: Its easy to let routine fly out the window when you are stuck at home. But DON’T! Think about your child’s normal routine and print out a schedule. I use visual schedules in my classroom to help kids know what’s coming next. Get your child involved by taking pictures of their daily routine. Pictures of them eating breakfast, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, and cleaning up can all be included. Print them out and put them on display for the whole family to see. You can make a second copy and put it in a small notebook or photo album for your child to keep with them. Remember this is about order of operation, not a strict timetable. Stick to a routine and your child will be less prone to outbursts and meltdowns.

Reading Chapter Books

Read: Thanks to kindle and online lending libraries you don’t have to go anywhere to get a good book. Children as young as 3 can start building reading comprehension through chapter books. Set a time every day for reading your chapter book. Start by asking your child what happened yesterday. Have them recap the story so far and help remind them of important characters and events. When the days chapter is finished, ask them what they think will happen next. I love mysteries like Nat the Great or Magic Treehouse to get children engaged in the story.

Adventure Awaits: Scavenger Hunts and DIY Mysteries

Scavenger/Mystery Hunt: Make books come alive by creating a scavenger hunt or leave clues to solve a mystery in and around your home. Look for a “lost” stuffed animal or even the next book in a series. Place clues far apart, if you find the first clue upstairs have it lead you downstairs. Don’t forget the front and back yard. Rhyming clues are great, but you don’t need to be a poet to make this a fun and exciting adventure. For non-readers, hide items around your home and provide them with a printed-out list of pictures. Give kids a clipboard and crayon to circle items as they find them.

Get Creative

Get creative: Look no further than the recycle bin for hours of imaginative play. Build a jetpack out of 3-liter soda bottle. Make a pinata out of old newspaper and a balloon. I know it will get messy, but you’ve already taught them how to clean up! Need help getting started? Try finding inspiration in books. Eric Carle creates his illustrations with torn and cut paper collages. Paint as many paintings as you want one day. Rip, tear, and cut them up on day two. And glue them together to make something new on day three. Art doesn’t have to happen in one day. Let it evolve over time and see where it takes your child.

Get Moving: Exercise as a Family

Get some exercise: Social distancing doesn’t have to mean turning into a couch potato. Go for a walk around the neighborhood. Try some mommy/daddy and me yoga online. Run races in the backyard. The point is to get kids moving. I use a variety of music and movement videos online to get the wiggles out.

Some of my favorites include:

Get Outside: Scenic Drives, Starry Nights, and Neighborhood Walks

Get out of the house: It can get a little boring staring at the same 4 walls. While children thrive on routine, they also need variety. Here in Texas the bluebonnets are starting to dot the roadside. Pack up a picnic and do a little scenic drive. Parks and greenbelts offer hours of fun while still avoiding large crowds. Try a little stargazing at night. Aps like Star Walk, Sky View, and Star Tracker will help you know where to look. If you get out to a dark enough location, you might even see a satellite or the international space station zoom overhead.

Next Level Movie Night

Movie Night: I know we’ve all done this before but take it to the next level. Build a blanket fort or camp out as a family in the TV room. Set up a popcorn stand and let your little one sell tickets and popcorn. Have a theme for the night. Watching Frozen? Everyone wears blue and have ice cream. In a Star Wars mood? Build your own lightsaber from old paper towel or wrapping paper rolls and have glow sticks. The point is to get your child excited about the planning and help create the adventure with you.

Get Cooking: Kids in the Kitchen

Get Cooking: Babies start out cautious with new foods for a reason. It’s mother natures way of making sure they don’t ingest something poisonous. But its our job as parents to keep introducing new foods and not reinforcing their tendency to avoid them. The way to get a child excited about any new thing is to give them ownership. Children who are active in the kitchen are more likely to try new things. Kids love to measure, pour, and mix ingredients. Let them help wash produce. Kid safe knives make chopping veggies fun. Feeling adventurous? Try making bread. Each child can make their own roll or bun for dinner that night.

Document Your Story: Family Journals

Make a family journal: Take photos of your daily adventures or have your child draw pictures. End each day by writing down your child’s favorite memory or activity. You can also do a video diary to capture their feelings. Children are so expressive with their body language and sound effects, its often hard to capture with just written text. Make this time one you want to remember. After all, they are only little once and it goes by fast.

Bonus: It’s OK to Let Them Be Bored

LET THEM BE BORED: Its ok to have a little down time during the day. You don’t have to schedule every minute and you don’t have to turn on the TV or computer to entertain them. Let kids be bored. Let them learn to self-regulate and problem solve. Set a timer and tell them you are having your quiet time. Creating some space is healthy. Use that time to read a book you love, chat with friends, or a favorite hobby. Taking care of yourself will mean you can better support your child and loved ones during this period of uncertainty.

Take this time to create memories as a family. Reach out to family and friends and keep your bonds strong while keeping your distance. This time will pass. What you get out of it is up to you.

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