The current coronavirus pandemic has made many of our normal routines anything but normal. The children are doing schoolwork at home, and in addition to not having enough toilet paper (or perhaps having too much?), no doubt you’ve encountered some unexpected parenting challenges. As I’m sure you’ve experienced in other seasons of your walk with the Lord, often it’s the challenging times that create new possibilities and times of growth. Let’s consider some practical ideas and resources to help us make the most of this extended time together in our homes.
Start a purposeful time of connection outside of school work. Sometimes (for our own sanity!) we all need to take a break away from each other in different parts of the house with our own books or screens. Kids also need some unstructured time. But they also need time to connect in meaningful ways to other family members outside of the time focused on school work.
One such way is to initiate a family game time each day—dust off the old Monopoly game board, find a puzzle, card games and/or other group activities you can do together. Deliberately make time to have some fun (set aside the cell phones, TV, computers, etc.)—make it a priority to enjoy spending time together and talking and listening to each other. If you make this a purposeful time of your day, you may actually create a healthy habit you want to incorporate in your family lifestyle in the future.
Also, keep in mind, the best “toys” for children are actually simple things you have around your house (when coupled with curiosity and imagination) that can be used in multiple ways. Put older children in charge of using their creativity with things around the house to create fun, safe games and activities to do with their younger siblings. You may be surprised at how much older children will enjoy this challenge and have fun themselves once they get started.
Here are a few websites* with ideas and resources to help. Even if the exact ideas shared below aren’t things you want to try, just reading through the suggestions may prompt other ideas or modifications that will work better for your family.
- 101 Ways to Keep Kids Busy
- Teaching Kids to Think
- How to Help Older Kids Develop a Sense of Imagination
Get outside. If you have outside space where you can maintain social distancing, consider a few outdoor ideas to start with for your younger children: gather different sized-balls, plastic Easter eggs, buckets or large plastic containers, etc. that can be used to create relay races or tossing/throwing activities; use old socks or dish/hand towels (clean ones, please) that can be tossed at each other or if multiple pairs of socks, separate them and throw them around a room, then have young children match up the pairs of socks. Use hula hoops, Frisbees, pool noodles, etc. to create out-door games and/or simple obstacle courses for younger children to maneuver. For more ideas for simple childhood games, check out Good Old-Fashioned Outdoor Games for Kids.
Schooling at home. For many adults, schooling their children at home is not the norm, so here are a few tips from other homeschooling parents:
- Create a daily schedule in order to cover all the needed areas of study based on what your child received from their school. Invite children to decide which subjects they want to study first–if they have input into the schedule, they are more likely to adhere to it.
- Help kids create a learning environment–even a clear kitchen table will work as long as they have space for all the study materials they need. Help children limit distractions and set reasonable timeframes to focus on the work at hand. Take breaks from time to time to refresh and recharge the brain (remember, a short time of physical movement in between study times does wonders for the brain!).
- As much as possible, make learning fun. Is there a way to create a learning game from the material to be studied? Or, invite your child to “teach” the lesson to you or someone else in the home (teaching the material is one of the best ways to ensure the information is understood).
- Give yourself (and your child) grace as you figure out what works best for everyone involved in this new learning mode. You may need to make changes to your daily schedule or think outside the box to come up with new ideas for helping your child complete their school work successfully. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what isn’t working well and invite your child to help you problem-solve a better way to accomplish what needs to be done.
For other ideas, check out this article from Crosswalk, Suddenly Home Schooling? 9 Ways to Help Keep Your Sanity.
Watch for stress. Concerns with our health (both physically and emotionally) are normal and to be expected at such a time as this. With more people at home and normal routines disrupted, it’s easy to give in to the stress we are all feeling; however, learning to deal with stress in productive ways can make a positive difference for you and your children. Here are some ideas oriented toward both adults and kids:
Worship together. While having fun times together is important, regardless of the ages of your children, it’s also a great time to communicate spiritual and biblical truths about God, His sovereignty, and how as Christians we can find hope and trust at this challenging time. You may find a new pattern for family worship as so many extracurriculars are cleared away. Feel free to start simple, with a brief reading or singing together. Here are some Christian resources you may find helpful for yourself, and for your children and your family.
- 10 Ways Christians Can Exemplify Faith and Peace during COVID-19
- Family Worship Resources from PCA Discipleship Ministries
- Trusting God During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Need personalized help? If you find you are in need of more specific parenting encouragement or resources from Blue Ridge Christian Counseling, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss other more individualized parenting support options.
*Note these activities are shared from sound child development educational principles based on my background and experience as a certified family life educator. In this posting, I have focused on resources from one website in particular, Better Kid Care from Penn State Extension from The Pennsylvania State University). While the website resources were created as a professional resource for child care providers, you can search for topics and ideas that will also be helpful to you as a parent (from the home page, you can search through the “family resources” tab on the left, or the “content areas” listed on the right related to children’s development).