The coronavirus has literally halted education, social gatherings, and day-to-day work operations. Parents are at home trying to maintain a full workload remotely while also now having to juggle three meals a day, snacks, entertainment, education, and a large amount of support for children who likely don’t understand the extent of what is going on in the world.
Social media is floating around ideas for schedules, activities, educational material and other ‘how to keep the kids busy’ guides, but for those of us who are also balancing a full or part-time job, all of these suggestions and options can be absolutely exhausting and overwhelming.
Suddenly, we have no “work/life” balance, because everything is combined and confined to the walls of our home with all members of our family - whether we like it or not! Sure, we love and adore our children and this additional time we get to spend with them is invaluable. Realistically, however, this additional time spent with them means our work must take a backseat and that likely isn’t OK with your boss on the other end of the computer, pushing deadlines that are just hours or days away!
So we took a hard look at the components of a well-rounded activity and came up with some suggestions for other parents who might be struggling with balancing their workload and new demands at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. These activities are meant to last at least 20-30 minutes and can help while you are struggling to concentrate and get your professional work done. Just remember to breathe, take things slow and get tasks done in smaller chunks than normal to avoid overwhelming or frustrating yourself!
Yoga is an awesome way to get your kids moving, breathing, and concentrated for chunks of time! Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube has small to medium-length (7 to 30 minutes) segments of fun yoga for kids. She has various themes such as underwater, at the farm, outdoors, etc. and she tells an enchanting, animated story throughout the session while kids follow along by doing fluid, simple yoga movements.
Kids strive to do the moves perfectly, keeping their attention completely focused on the screen and their bodies. Even the younger toddlers enjoy listening and watching a unique, real-life story. The best part is the free YouTube app and channels are on nearly every electronic device and platform, so it can be set up on iPads, Playstation gaming systems, Xbox, AppleTV and similar devices.
Looking to help your children get a little more energy out within the confines of your home? GoNoodle is another screen-based program that uses games, songs, and activities to gets kids up and moving. Often used in classrooms, the content has been created alongside child development experts, choreographers, and athletes to ensure quality, health-promotion programming.
If you’re in search of more activities away from a screen, they also offer downloadable curricular, do-at-home activities for a wide range of abilities, interests, ages, and subjects. The best part? This resource is completely free!
Take a Virtual Field Trip
As many common family outing destinations are no longer an option during this time, zoos, museums, national parks, Disneyland, and other popular stops have made themselves available online. Taking a trip to another planet or watching animals is a great way to break out of your house without having to set foot outside! A few of these popular options include:
- Animals everywhere - A little tired of seeing the same faces everyday? Try for some furrier ones at the San Diego Zoo; this site includes videos, activities, and games just for kids! If you’ve seen all there is to see here, there are plenty more animals to be found at the Georgia Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Houston Zoo, and Zoo Atlanta, just to name a few.
- National Parks - Craving a taste of nature? Tour any of the following national parks to get your fix: Yellowstone, Kenai Fjords, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas.
- Mars - Take it really far out of the house by heading to Mars to exploring the planet on the Curiosity Rover.
- Discovery Education Virtual Field Trips - Explore a wide variety of topics on Discovery’s educational trips ranging from polar bears to unique looks into the worlds of social-emotional skills, STEM, and manufacturing.
- The Louvre - Take a trip to France and view breathtaking art here at the Louvre’s virtual field trip.
- Boston Children’s Museum - Brought to you by Google Maps, this virtual tour takes kids through three floors of a museum experience.
- The Great Wall of China - Learn some great history while experiencing this beautiful virtual tour.
Sensory Bins/ Buckets
Test your confidence level with any material you are brave enough to try! Get super simple with Play-Doh or slime or take it to the next level and use:
- water beads
From experience, we’ve found that the messier it is, the longer it will last! Before you try this, grab a floor cover/mat such as an old bed sheet or towels to protect the floors. For added/extended play, also provide materials such as:
- baking whisks
- measuring cups
- coffee scoops
- egg cartons
- toilet paper tubes
As a friendly reminder, please do NOT leave your toddler unattended with these loose materials as most present a choking hazard!
Reading Apps on Electronic Devices (yes, even for the littles)!
There are many engaging, fun reading apps for all ages on electronic devices that you should definitely take advantage of. Toddlers have apps designed specifically for their age group where they have books read to them and even acted out right before their eyes! Check out apps such as:
- NickJr Books
- Fairytale Stories
- Bedtime Stories
For Kindergarteners, there are educational apps designed to help them learn their ABCs, basic addition, early vocabulary, and similar topics. They can also utilize apps that are easy-to-read and first-level reader books to them to help identify sight words and then apps that have simple, age and ability-appropriate books to help them begin reading independently. Check out apps such as:
- Homer Reading
- Endless Reader
- Hooked on Phonics
For children at the beginning to intermediate stages of reading, there are applications with books specific to their interests to keep learning fun and engaging for them. Try out:
As always, don’t forget to check out your local library’s site for resources - many have a wide variety available on their online platforms!
Stay healthy & safe; this too shall pass!
Ashley Lavoie is a mom of 3 and manages both child and adult ADHD and Neonatal Diabetes. She is advocating for awareness and loves writing and connecting with other families like hers.
Editor's note: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as needed, with a qualified healthcare provider and/or BCBA.