We will keep this intro short, we all know the information overload we are facing in the world right now; it is overwhelming. Last night here in Michigan, Governor Whitmer announced the closure of all K-12 schools. We are still processing this information but knowing that it is for the best for many reasons. Paired with our scheduled Spring Break, all this news means my 5 and 6 year olds are home for the next month. The word Homeschool is reverberating stronger and stronger in our minds!
The former teacher in me likes to take action because feeling helpless gives me anxiety. Below you will find a variety of activities and ideas to do at home with your children. After all, they are your students now and iPads need charging time, right? Somehow, we all have to find our new normal and transition, whether it’s working from home with our children running around and learning ways to be teachers too. Please keep in mind that I am compiling the below from various sources of information out there and sprinkling in many of my own ideas.
There is a difference between keeping kids “busy” and keeping them “engaged.” It’s easy to throw something at them just to keep them doing something and to consume time, but it doesn’t take much more effort to come up with a few ideas that you can alter to give your children meaningful activities. Telling them to go read versus taking two minutes to sit down to talk about the cover of the book, ask a few questions, and them getting them going with purpose goes a long way. Once you get going, habits will develop quickly! When you plan an activity, ask yourself “is this busy work or an engaging activity?” There are so many resources, many of which are listed below for your use, that have already done the planning work for us. All you need to do is take a few minutes to look them over and decide what you want your children to work on. It is all so much easier when it’s laid out in front of you and ready at your fingertips! You can choose topics that your children are currently working on in school or you can send you kids’ teacher an email and ask for recommendations on what topics to take up. Better yet, choose topics that your kids are interested in or want to explore.
First, How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus
There are various resources coming out on this every day and we need to be careful what we allow into our lives. Even though our kids are little, they can sense the stress when they hear constant talk on the same topic, new terms being used all around them and they see and experience changes in their daily routine and possibly changes to near future plans. Daniel the Tiger always seems to have it figured out, so why not use his help? With all of the quick changes happening, children will surely need reassurance and explanation. They may especially have questions about words that sounds long and scary to them, such as coronavirus, COVID-19, critical, quarantine, emergency, epidemic, pandemic, transmission, disease, infection, isolation, etc. Check out this resource from PBS and get the conversations rolling. Most importantly, keep as much of your routine as possible; the less change to it, the more stability for your little ones. And always keep the communication channels open!
The New Normal, Creating a Schedule
As parents, we know just how important it is to have schedule. When children and students know what to expect, they are more comfortable, perform better, and have clear expectations. Getting a schedule and routine together from the start will help eliminate frustrations later. You don’t have to follow a specific one to the minute, but having a general outline like the one below gives you a starting point. Click here to download the daily schedule for kids.
Even though you may not need to wake up at a certain time, unless you are working from home, it’s important to keep a similar bedtime and eating schedule. Everything else can be arranged around those more firm time frames. Letting kids have their own copy of the schedule helps too, as they can checks things off and follow along, gaining more independence.
I have to say, I adjusted this a little bit. We still use our basic schedule above, but I met a little friend called the sticky note. Each day, I write specific activity tasks on a fresh sticky note and give it to each child. This way, they can follow along themselves and keep track of where they are in their day. This has actually helped a ton to keep us organized and has stopped the kids from asking “what’s next”? I can also create these little sticky notes the night before and easily tailor them to what the weather will be, the mood we were in the day prior, how they are feeling and responding, etc. SO simple, yet SO helpful, and you’ll love watching them walk around with it, empowering them! I will take photos of a few little notes and post below.
If you haven’t started these, or even if you have, now is the perfect time to really make them a routine. Children can do more than we think, and we have to make our expectations high! When children understand that chipping in and working together as a family is important, they are gaining an entirely different perspective on what it means to be a part of a family. Not only are they truly part of a team, but they love feeling successful and like that they’re helping in significant ways. They learn a lot too, like responsibility, being part of a team, individual success, seeing direct results of their work and efforts, building confidence and life skills. Plus, the research is on your side! It shows that kids who do chores on a regular basis starting at a young age end up with better overall health and well being later in life. You’ll also start to notice that once they start having the responsibility of chores in life, they are more conscious of the mess being made while its happening. Before you know it, they will be ready for harder chores.
Educational Companies Offering Free Subscriptions due to School Closings
There are a variety of companies offering wonderful resources for you to keep learning going at home. If you haven’t seen this list circulating yet, it is worth saving! These range from fun educational online games to learning through reading and informational videos. Download the free educational subscription list here and use it for those times you have set aside for screens. BrainPop, Discovery Ed, Seesaw, and Mystery Science are just a few of the 130+ links available. This list is a treasure cove! Take some time to explore these links and show them to your kids. You never know what will peak their interest!
This seems so simple, and please, if your library is still accessible and you feel safe going, get a stack of books checked out for the next few weeks! Since many of us left school during March is Reading Month, it is now our duty to continue lots of reading at home. For any age range, research supports the importance and impact of reading on a regular basis. Luckily, I wrote an entire piece on ways to easily incorporate reading time at home here a few weeks ago! In fact, if your little one isn’t a fluent reader yet, our reading blog will help you teach them. We just took a quick trip to the library to stock up but if you did not get the opportunity to do so, don’t worry! There are so many books you can explore with your kids online! Our library offers Libby and Overdrive, both of which allow us to get e-books and audio books. Win!
Supplies to Stock
If you still feel comfortable or have time, stock up on some easy activity supplies and crafts! In my area, we have some amazing local dollar stores and of course the Target dollar section. Amazon is always an option too. One of my favorite recent purchases during our last airplane flight was a “paint by sticker” book, which kept my two kids busy for hours. They were determined to complete the image which required a lot of patience, matching, and fine motor skills. Some simple things for crafts and creative art are the following:
- colored pens
- paint by sticker
- sticker variety
- popsicle sticks
- plastic cups
- tin foil
- pipe cleaners
- empty boxes
- flash cards
- work books
- coloring books
- paint by water
Kids can use their imagination and make art out of anything! Take a look at the below image of my very busy son Sebastian. His art consisted of using painter’s tape and shredding up old papers; BUSY for a couple hours! Another absolute favorite of my kids are empty boxes, which with all of the online shipments resulting from the avoidance of stores should make that very easy. A couple boxes can keep my kids engaged for hours! We have made cat houses, cars, forts, mazes and magnificent art pieces out of simple boxes. Go ahead, give them an empty box and a container of crayons, you’ll be amazed at what happens! Oh, and don’t forget the paper towel rolls and used bottle caps, which all make great craft supplies! What, a space ship? A castle? Endless possibilities. Who knows what your little ones will imagine!
Without stating the obvious that we have all heard, technology advancements have been amazing in keeping us informed and connected, but can also become addictive to little brains. Overuse can lead to anger, depression, and even anxiety. Starting healthy habits at a young age will help later, as statistics show that by age 12, over 40% of parents find it hard to control their child’s screen time. For regularly updated statistics and information, we love to follow along with Ebony from Internet Wellness Advocate, who compiles all of the latest best readings so you don’t have to go searching! Download the screen time chart below here as a pdf to print and use. if you’re feeling fancy, print in color, laminate or place in a plastic sleeve, and have your child keep track with a dry erase marker.
Easy Indoor Home Activity Ideas (Download Full List Here)
- Write your teacher a letter
- Look outside and draw the weather
- Build a lego maze using a marble
- Clean your room and gather toys to donate
- Write a story, you’re the main character
- Find something around the house in every shape
- Make something out of a box
- Write your name in bubble letters
- Learn one new vocabulary word each day
- Make creations out of playdough
- Play lots of board games
- Have a newspaper scavenger hunt, find rhyming words
- Practice typing on a computer
- Make someone a thank you card
- Make and eat a fun creative snack
- Make a vision board from magazines
- Think of five sayings to use instead of no
- Write another chapter to a favorite book
- Choose something you see and draw it in detail
- Make the coolest fort to read in
- Take a long bubble bath
- Create a boat out of a laundry basket
- Create a card for the mail carrier
- Make your own slime
- Face time someone in your family
- Build lego cars and race
- Play dress up and dance
- Ask someone if they need help with something
- Make and race paper airplanes
- Play UNO
- Enjoy some kids yoga
- Bake with mom or dad
- Reorganize your books
- Call grandma and interview her
- Organize something into a pattern
- Make cards and mail to senior homes
- See how tall you can make a block structure
- Create your own matching card game
- Listen to music
- Draw a future profession that interests you
- Learn to count in a new language
- Make dry pasta or cereal necklaces
- Build a structure out of mini marshmallows and toothpicks
- Read to a group of stuffed animals
- Play with a flashlight in a dark room
- Make boats out of aluminum foil and test them in water
- Hide something and create a treasure map
- Use tablet to create a stop action lego movie
- Plant something at home and watch it grow
- Label rooms in your home
- Use binoculars to make observations through the window
- Create a mural out of plastic bottle caps
- Write or discuss an alternate ending for a book
- Do a few pages in a work book
- Get creative with an egg carton
- Play a fun matching card game
- Create some ink pad and stamp art
- Draw a self portrait
- Sharpen all of your colored pencils
- Create secret code language and make riddles
- Have a dance party
- Create and perform a puppet show
- Cut up mail scraps and make a collage
- Put together a puzzle
- Make your own flash cards
- Color with crayons or markers
- Take turns adding a sentence to a story with someone
- Sort unneeded clothes, cut it up and re-purpose
- Make your own reading log
- Write your own rhyming song
- Make silly faces in the mirror
- Create a summer idea list
Outdoor Activity Learning Opportunities (Download Full List Here)
- Complete an outdoor scavenger hunt
- Paint on the sidewalk with a paintbrush and water
- Start a nature journal
- Make a list of living and non living things
- Collect at least 5 types of leaves
- Lay down and draw the clouds you see
- Read a book under a tree
- Write down all of the sounds you hear
- Find and compare 5 rocks
- Measure the front of your house
- Use chalk to write words
- Make a fort out of sticks
- Do 20 jumping jacks
- Throw some crumbs outside and watt for the ants
- How many shapes can you identify outside?
- Find a cool treasure and write a story about it
- Grab a shovel and do some digging
- Make letters out of sticks and create words
- Go on a nature walk
- Make observations with a magnifying glass
- Jump rope and count how many jumps
- Compare two leaves; how are they the same and different?
- Count how many skips it takes to get somewhere
- Listen and identify at least 2 birds
- Observe a squirrel
- Make a nature collage
- Create mud soup
- Blow bubbles and compare sizes
- Use sticks to make shapes
- Build a toy car wash
- Find a special rock, name it and keep it
- Dig up a worm and wait for a Robin
- Do rock math and create problems
- Collect as many feathers as you can find
- Challenge yourself, try to climb something
- Hug a tree or two, which is bigger?
- See how far you can jump, mark with chalk
- Look up, what do you see?
- Make words out of grass blades
- Draw and color flowers you see
- Create an outdoor treasure hunt
- Find the smallest and largest leaf you can
- Have a picnic with your favorite stuffed animals
- Find a book and safely follow and observe it
- Find shapes in the clouds
- How tall can you stack pinecones?
- Have a race and measure distances
- Make recycled bird feeders and observe
- Paint messages on rocks
- Take a walk with someone and pick up litter
Some Favorite Toys
There are a few toys that our kindergarten boy and 1st grade girl play with on a regular basis and we highly recommend them! These items have been used again and again for hours of engaging hands on fun!
- Picasso tiles – best magnetic blocks ever, they even work on garage doors!
- Legos – of course, we never skip a day. Latest fascination are building mazes and making lego animation stop motion clips
- K’nex – actually found my husband’s old container and the the kids love building robots and structures
- Marble maze – hours and hours of engineering fun
- Forts – instantly transform any room into an imagination station, got our set at Aldi
“I Am Bored”
My own kids know not to even try this statement on me, but I think that the former teacher in me prepped them. I remember in my classroom days students coming up to me saying “I’m Done!” with work, and saying they had nothing to do. That coupled with bored students getting themselves into trouble, I immediately started implementing “I Am Done, What Now?” idea charts in my classrooms. Well, I found out that this definitely relates to your own children too. I always tell them that everything has a place and there’s a place for everything. This always rings true with whenever they are bored, they have a place or resource to check for ideas. This can be a little reminder slip of ideas, a hanging chart they can walk to and check, or even a jar of popsicle sticks with ideas written on them.
This doesn’t have to be fancy, you can simply take a white sheet of computer paper and with marker jot down some ideas and hang it on the fridge. Kids can have ownership too if you brainstorm things to do with them. Below is an example, but I highly encourage you to make your own. Here is a winning response if they continue to approach you with the whole I am bored whine: “Awesome! I really need help cleaning the bathrooms!” This will surely turn them right back around.
This next month will be frustrating and challenging at times and this is to be expected. Becoming homeschooling parents can be unnerving! As we manage our feelings, process information overload and create a new normal for our families, there will be ups and downs. Make sure you keep in touch with family and friends as this can be super supportive for all of us. Sharing hardships and good times is healing! Be easy on yourself and remember that your children are processing everything too. Enjoy the time together, take it all in. Try to speak in positive language, instead of don’t run, say walk please. Give the kids so much love but give them space when they need it too. Below are some great little reminders to keep handy.
Favorite Educational Pages to Follow
Activity & Learning Websites – Education Online
Craft Ideas for Home
- Ideas & Activities | Learn and Teach at Home - March 13, 2020
- March is Reading Month: Easy Home Activity Ideas for Kids - March 11, 2020
- Learning Fun Educational Blankets for Teaching Kids - December 3, 2019