Your Coronavirus Educational Activity Toolbox: 10 Tips to Help Parents Weather School Closing

School is out.

But it’s not a snow day nor a vacation week. 

You may be tempted to dump your daily routine and transition to a vacation mentality. 

But this coronavirus hiatus from school and work has no definite end date, a cause for anxiety.

It’s also an opportunity. 

While our older children will be immersed in distance learning, we can reframe and restructure our younger children’s schedule to create a daily routine. The learning experience will be different than the formal school one, but I have created 10 tips to make the process easier for you and for them.

  1. Get them dressed… and dress yourself as well: We all do better with routine which sets expectations. While it may be tempting to lounge in your pajamas and allow your children to do the same, the lack of routine for everyone can be confusing, particularly when it lasts more than a few days. Lose the snow day mentality and think more long term.
  2. Create a schedule: Do it with the kids or for them, depending on their age. Use timers to allow for digital/TV time and digital detox time. The timer is the equivalent of the school bell which helps children of all ages define the class “period.” Try to model their day at home to their day at school (as much as possible) with specified times for different activities. And don’t hesitate to give them jobs…they are used to having them at school.
  3. Redefine learning: Unexpected prolonged school closing forces us to rethink learning expectations. 

Involving children in daily chores like setting the table or going to the supermarket gives us the opportunity to teach some of the same skills they learn in school but in a different way.

For example, setting the table involves sequencing (what comes first, second, third), going to the supermarket teaches to make lists, feel the textures of the fruits and veggies (rough and smooth), count the items on the conveyor belt, estimate the total cost of the total purchases and of course promote vocabulary. Baking brownies is a science lesson bathed in chocolate with the opportunity to teach shapes as you cut them for consumption.

There is so much opportunity for informal learning. This is an important time to seize it.

  1. Create a theme: Teachers often design their weekly curriculum around a theme. Follow their example and keep it up at home. Your theme could incorporate letters, numbers, colors, holidays and animals to name a few. For inspiration, email your teacher or Google.
  2. Reshuffle the shelf: Put away all the books and toys and then take out five each day to match your theme or your mood (if you have no time to have a theme). This way old toys and books will feel new and you will avoid the temptation of ordering new ones.
  3. Do good: Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are restricting visitors to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Offer your children the opportunity to ”do good” by making cards for others. You can use your theme in choosing colors, letters etc. in the design or just let their imagination run wild.
  4. Think out of the box: While we stock up on toilet paper and cans of tuna, there should be plenty of boxes lying around. Refrain from throwing them out since they can become part of valuable learning tools. Tape them up and turn them into blocks. Paint them in the color of the day, decoupage them with magazine pics which follow your theme.
  5. Download audio books for kids to read while you are doing your work or catching up on chores. Look into learning apps and websites. Here are some of the ones we use in our telespeech sessions like PBS and ABCmouse
  6. Stock up on basic art supplies:Big rolls of paper, crayons, markers, paints and play dough can be part of a lesson or suggested tools for free play.
  7. Refrain from recycling:Instead of putting the newspapers and magazines in the recycling bin, put them to good use. In the hands of your children, those recyclables can be a great medium for practicing scissor cutting, finding pictures or letters for a theme or covering a card or box for decoupage. 

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Spread the word NOT the virus.