Did I ever think I would be writing a blog post to help parents deal with a global pandemic? No, I did not. But here we are. With Coronavirus spreading and schools all over the world shutting down, many parents are finding themselves suddenly at home with young children and nothing to do. Some schools are closed just for a couple of weeks. Others have shut down indefinitely. My own daughter’s school has closed for the next 4 weeks, possibly more.
I am so lucky that this won’t affect our family too much. I work from home in my spare time, and I am used to home educating and caring for young children. I don’t have to suddenly find childcare or take an unpaid leave from my job. I honestly don’t know how families with two parents who work outside the home [or families with single parents] do it — so I’m going to try to make it easier for you.
I asked for input on Instagram to find out what I could provide to help you along in these next few weeks. Most people asked for some kind of daily schedule to follow or activities to do with their children. There is no one schedule or set of activities that will work for everyone, so I will be sharing several different options that you can look through to put together something that will work for you.
Keeping a consistent schedule during COVID-19 social distancing:
The main thing children will be missing when they are suddenly taking several weeks off of school is having a consistent schedule each day. Consistency helps young children to feel safe — they know what to expect at all times because it is the same every single day. Coming up with a general schedule to follow can help as you suddenly find yourself at home for weeks on end — for your children, as well as for your own sanity!
If you have children in Kindergarten and above, I highly recommend developing a schedule with your child’s input in mind. This will make it more likely for you child to be willing to stick to the schedule and help her take ownership of it.
I already have a general schedule that we follow at home since we do Montessori homeschool preschool year-round while my oldest daughter attends elementary school. We are going to be using the same general schedule while her school is closed. This is what we do:
7-9:00am: Eat breakfast, get ready for the day. The girls get their own food, eat it, unload their clean dishes from the dishwasher, and put their dirty dishes into the dishwasher. Then they get dressed and brush teeth.
9-11:30am: Homeschool Preschool Time. We head up to our Homeschool Preschool Room for a work cycle. My 4-year-old is in this room most of the time and it is set up for her. She will continue to choose work as she usually does. Now that my 6-year-old will be joining us for a few weeks, I will add a few materials that are at her age level. She will also be invited to conduct her own research projects using reference books and other materials we have while she is home from school. Her school has not sent materials to work on during the closure.
11:30am-12:30pm: Make and eat lunch. The girls will make their lunches and eat, then put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
12:30-2:30pm: Quiet Time. The girls will each go to their rooms and read or play quietly by themselves for a bit. Sometimes, my 4-year-old climbs into bed and takes a nap. This is when I work from home in my office.
2:30-5:00pm: Outside Time. If it’s not raining, we try to play outside during this time. Luckily, this coronavirus pandemic has reached us just as the weather is starting to warm up. If we cannot go outside for some reason, this is free play time inside — the girls usually build with blocks, play in the dollhouse, or make art.
5-6:00pm: Eat dinner. We eat dinner together as a family. The girls put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
6-7:00pm: Showers and quiet play time. The girls take showers and do some art work or play quietly until it’s time for bed. If we have any screen time during the day, it would probably happen here.
7-7:30pm: Bedtime for the 4-year-old. We have early bedtimes in this house! This is because my girls wake up very early naturally. When we have school the next day, my 6-year-old will also get ready for bed at this time.
7-8:00pm: Quiet reading time and bedtime. When there is no school the next day, my 6-year-old can read until she is tired — until 8:00pm at the latest.
That’s our daily schedule, but that might not work for you! Here’s a way you could do it if you have an elementary-aged child who is suddenly home from school for a few weeks:
7-9:00am: Eat breakfast, get ready for the day.
9-11:30am: School work. If your school sent home some work to complete during the closure, do that here! If they didn’t, allow your child to conduct her own research into a topic using reference books or the internet (with your supervision). You could also use some of this time for educational screen time — I will link my favorites a bit later on in this article. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can get some work done now.
12:30-1:30pm: Quiet reading time. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can get some work done now.
1:30-3:30pm: Outside play time. Go for a walk together, or just watch the kids play in the backyard. Get some fresh air. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can take your work outside with you.
3:30-dinner: Free play. Stay outside a bit longer, go in and get some chores done, or let your children play with whatever toys you usually have available. You can follow your regular after school routine here, sans extracurricular activities.
Or you may have younger children who are home from day care or preschool due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a simple routine you could use for younger children without school work to do:
7-9:00am: Eat breakfast, get ready.
9-11:30am: Free play time. Set up some “stations” around your living room with different activities your child can complete independently so you can work from home if necessary. Activity ideas will be listed a bit farther on in this article.
12:30-2:00pm: Nap or quiet time. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can get some work done now.
2-4:00pm: Outside time. Go for a nature walk. Play in your own backyard. Dig in the dirt. If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can take your work outside with you.
4-dinner: Free play. Stay outside, or head inside to get some chores done. You can follow your regular routine from here.
What activities can we do while we’re practicing social distancing?
The whole point of social distancing is to stay at home, away from other people, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and make it easier for hospitals to handle the influx over time. That means you are going to be spending a lot of time at home with your little ones. What do you do with all that time?
Quality Time Together
There are a lot of formal activities you can do together, but first I want to encourage you to make the most of this unexpected time with your children. Have fun! Bake cookies, read books together. Have a random dance party in the living room just because. Clean your home together. Cook something new for breakfast every day. It may not seem like it right now, but this time together is a gift. Use it well.
Tray/Activity Ideas for Preschoolers
Learning Resources for Elementary-Aged Children
My favorite place to go for learning resources for older children is Every Star is Different! Renae makes huge bundles that actually work with a wide age range — I have many of them, but I’ve never had to use the elementary materials before since my oldest daughter goes to school. Now I’m planning on making use of them while she’s home! To help other parents who are in this situation, Renae is offering all of her bundles at 75% off! These bundles have already been retired and aren’t usually offered all together at such a discount, but they’re available for a limited time only and are perfect for the elementary aged child.
Check out the sale HERE.
Crafts & Science Experiments for All Ages
Educational Screen Time Recommendations
Handling Sibling Bickering
Good luck! You can do this!