What to Do With Your Kids During School Closures

March 17, 2020

Hey parent friends, how are you doing??

Your children are out of school for the next two weeks (with the possibility of it lasting longer).  We are unfortunately living in the midst of a stressful, scary and uncertain time.  And your children are home… with you… for two weeks.  Do not despair!  I spend 8 to 10 hours a day, five days a week, with approximately 16 children between the ages of two to five, every single week, and I’m still (mostly) sane!  You can handle this!!!

After hearing from a few of you trying to survive this social distancing thing, and thinking about all the moms (and their crazy adorable kids) that I know, I decided to throw together some resources that I’ve used as well as ones I’ve found or seen suggested.  I have been compiling a list of ways to keep your children engaged and busy while trying to include ideas for a variety of subjects/categories and for children from multiple age groups.  I’ve also tried to come up with a good mix of both non-screen and screen related activities if you’re concerned about screen time.

All of that being said, obviously engaging with your kids as much as possible is ideal (if you’re engaged in the activity, they are more likely to be engaged, too), BUT go easy on yourselves. A lot of parents are now trying to navigate working from home while having their kids home with them for the first time. This is uncharted territory for most of us, so just make sure to create (or enforce, if necessary haha) some down time for both you and your kids.  Everyone needs some quiet time, amiright?!

Also, if you have any suggestions for resources that you’ve been utilizing, please chime in and I’ll add them to the list. And if you find this list useful, please feel free to share it with any of your parent friends who might also be looking for things to do!

Hang in there and don’t forget to reach out – we are all in this together!!!

Okay, here we go!

Arts / Creative:

Cassie Stephens, Art Teacher, Art projects at home, Resources for Parents
Cassie Stephens – I’m pretty sure I couldn’t picture a more art-teachery looking art teacher if I tried!
  • Cassie Stephens (an AMAZING elementary school art teacher) has put together this blog post of her favorite lessons for home based art projects! I would also just check out more of her website if you get the chance, she’s a super inspiring art teacher AND she is hilarious in her videos!
  • Coloring pages!  There are about a million coloring pages to be found online, from just plain fun to pseudo-educational ones like alphabet based coloring pages – just do a google search! If you’re looking for something a little extra special, however, look no further than ‘Color Happy‘. It’s a subscription of monthly coloring pages created by Tara of Rad & Happy. It only costs $5 per month and this month she released all kinds of bonus pages (and good ones, too) just for all of you – parents at home with their kids for the foreseeable future! I cannot recommend these coloring pages enough (for kids AND adults), and I also think you should just go follow Tara on Instagram because she’s, well, rad!
  • Pinterest – I mean this one is kind of a no-brainer, but using search terms like ‘easy crafts for preschool’ or ‘keeping toddlers busy at home’ or literally whatever it is you need / are looking for, will bring up hundreds of ideas… I use it all the time haha!
  • Sensory play – For younger kids especially (and even not so young kids) sensory activities are particularly helpful in regulating emotions particularly stress and anxiety – and it doesn’t have to be super messy! Sensory related things can include play dough, moon sand, sensory bags or bottles, all stuff you can easily make with things you probably already have at home. And if you’re really worried about a big mess, put it in a plastic bin and remind them to keep it contained, or play with it outside!  Just google recipes for homemade play dough or moon sand (I’ll try to find my favorites and add the links), or sensory bags or bottles!

Movement:

Cosmic Kids Yoga, Yoga for Kids YouTuvbe channel, Resources for Parents
If you aren’t doing Cosmic Kids Yoga, what are you even doing??
  • Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube channel – these videos are super fun and go through entire yoga routines that kids totally love because they are integrated into fun & popular stories, like Frozen! Check out the channel here.
  • GoNoodle is a website with TONS of videos that are designed to get kids up and moving that incorporate dance and exercise and such in a fun way, so if the weather is bad and you’re stuck in the house for what feels like the millionth hour, these are great videos to get some wiggles out and get moving! https://family.gonoodle.com/
  • If the weather is nice, go outside!  Yes, we are supposed to maintain social distancing, so the playground may not be ideal, BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t go for a walk in your neighborhood, ride bikes, play in the backyard (if you have one), etc.  Getting outside and being in nature is proven to reduce stress for everyone!
  • If the weather is not so great, there are always indoor activities like building an awesome pillow or blanket fort or a super fun living room obstacle course, along the same lines you can play the classic the-floor-is-lava game (admit it, you totally miss playing that game!), or turn all the lights out and have a disco dance party with flash lights, come up with all the animal movements you can think of (hop like a bunny, march like ants, slither like snakes, make some up!). There are a ton of ways to get moving; and, as the famous Elle Woods taught us in Legally Blonde, exercise produces endorphins and endorphins make you happy!

Educational:

Scholastic Learn at Home - daily lessons for Pre-K and up; Resources for Parents
If you only check out one of the websites listed below, go check out Scholastic Learn at Home – they have daily lessons for Pre-K and up!
  • National Geographic Kids has a ton of activities and resources on their website from awesome videos to games and all kinds of interesting info on animals and our planet! https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/
  • PBS Kids also has a ton of great education games on their website, particularly for younger children, that include themes like feelings and teamwork, so even if your child isn’t able to practice their social-emotional skills at school with real kids they can practice them virtually! https://pbskids.org/games/
  • Scholastic has created an amazing landing page specifically for the enforced school closures with easy to follow lessons for children of all ages, like seriously, it is fantastic and I may be stealing some of their ideas for my class!!! Scholastic Learn at Home https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html
  • BrainPOP Jr. and PebbleGo are typically resources specifically for teachers and schools, but they are both currently offering free access to anyone – both are full of videos, games and educational info; these are both also more appropriate for older (elementary age) children https://pebblego.com/  & https://jr.brainpop.com/

Quiet Time:

Mindful Moments for Kids by Kira Willey - for quiet time and emotional regulation - Resources for Parents
My absolute favorite children’s music is from Kira Willey and this CD is GOLD! Mindful Moments to help calm, relax, refocus and practice self-regulation – it doesn’t get better than that!
  • Kira Willey has an awesome album called ‘Mindful Moments for Kids’ if you’re looking for something to help settle the kiddos – I usually start with some fun dancey songs like ‘Animal Freeze Dance’ and ‘Shake Your Sillies Out’ and then transition to sitting on the floor and doing a few of Kira Willey’s tracks (Rainstorm, Hot Chocolate and Lion Breath are some faves), and then finish up with everyone lying on their backs and listening to either ‘Just Be’ or ‘Namaste Song’ also by Kira Willey.
  • Here are two youtube playlists with Kira Willey tracks:
  • Another great way to transition to nap/quiet time, and to bond, is to read aloud.  The benefits of reading aloud and sharing a book together are exponential.  Plus, there is no better way to get your kids interested in books themselves.  And if your kids don’t nap anymore, give them quiet activities like books, Legos, coloring pages, etc. as options of things they can do while you do what you need to do! (If you’re at all interested in why early childhood educators read books aloud to children – other than the obvious reasons – there is a fantastic, and short, book called ‘Reading Magic’ that I highly recommend!)

Daily Schedule

Lastly, I wanted to include a typical schedule that we follow at our preschool so that parents who are looking for some ideas for structuring the day can get an idea of how we do it.  Keeping a routine and having structure helps everyone feel like things are more normalized (as much as they can be anyway). But it also particularly helps children feel like their world is safer when there is some structure and predictability to it. That being said, do whatever works for you and your kids. This is just a suggestion and by no means is anyone expecting you to become a home school teacher overnight!

7:00 – 9:30 AM Arrivals and ‘choosing time’ – this is when we have simple activities set up on the tables and certain learning centers open for children to choose between; also when we serve breakfast
9:30 – 9:45 AM Morning snack (usually fruit & cheese or crackers)
9:45 – 10:30 AM Outside play time
10:30 – 11:00 AM Project time – this is when we guide children through a more structured activity that involves at least one (usually several) areas of the curriculum, such as art, math, science, cooking, literacy, etc.
11:00 – 11:30 AM Group time – the children are allowed a small amount of time to look at books together or separately on the rug and then we all sit together to read stories, sing songs, do finger plays, etc.
11:30 – 12:00 PM Lunch
12:00 – 12:30 PM Outside play time OR indoor music & movement followed by mindfulness – basically a time to get any wiggles out before transitioning to nap/quiet time
12:30 – 2:30 PM Nap / quiet time (the length of this is obviously going to depend on your child’s age and individual needs)
2:30 – 3:30 PM Afternoon choosing time (same as AM choosing time pretty much)
3:30 – 3:45 PM Afternoon snack (again, same as AM snack)
After 3:45 PM More outside play time, which depends on weather, but as long as it’s nice we try to stay outside until parents arrive, otherwise we transition to low-key, self-directed activities inside such as blocks, books, coloring, etc.

Final Note

I wanted to end with this post I found online as a reminder that we are all just doing the best we can, so don’t ever be too hard on yourself! You’re doing great! And thank you for helping us all be safe by practicing social distancing.

Lots of Love! – Miss Kristi

PS. Are you currently home with your kid(s) while their school is closed in an effort to practice social distancing? If so, what is helping you and your family get through it? Share your best tip in the comments and let’s all help each other out!

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