A Social Distancing Toolkit for Parents, Guardians, and Educarers
As officials and medical experts work tirelessly to "flatten the curve" of COVID-19 cases, kiddos and their adults are facing some MAJOR changes - school closings, activity cancellations, less play-dates, more emphasis on personal hygiene, virtual work, trying to work with kiddos at home, piecemeal childcare as we scramble to get to work and ensure our children are cared for, nutritional changes for those reliant on free and reduced cost lunches, etc. Children thrive on routine and these changes and our stress in facing them will be noticed, so my aim through this post is to provide parents, guardians, and educarers with tools to make these transitions less stressful and to make surprise time together more meaningful. In this blog post, I'll offer what I can, which is small in turbulent times like these. I'll provide some ideas for immersing kiddos in play so you can work if you're working virtually, activity ideas if you find yourself cooped up more or if you're relying on a new caregiver who might need some ideas, and additional resources.
Immersive Independent Play Ideas and Tips:
Plan a daily schedule. Be ready to move between play together to independent play, inside play to outside play. Be sure to plan for some time for you - that can be quiet rest time for kiddos in their rooms, reading time, or a movie if that works better for the kiddos in your life.
Do something together. Go for a walk and collect flowers. Turn a cardboard box into a simple dollhouse. Make forest putty. Start a project together that kiddos can do on their own for a little bit (recently, we added tape to paper together and then HG colored over the tape while I snuck in some work - we removed it to make some cool art). Work together to brainstorm how kiddos can keep this project going and share that you need to get some work done on your own.
Set up a simple invitation to play. Move a dollhouse to the center of your living room. Lay out a towel on the floor with a bowl of water over it (add some aluminum foil for boat making, cups for dumping and scooping, etc). Put a new board game on the table. Lay out some water color paints and paper over cardboard. Think of a way kids can work alongside you. If I'm writing in my planner, HG likes to write in a notebook. If I'm gathering supplies for a class (which I won't be for a bit...), HG likes to help. Working on a computer? Give your kiddo a thing with buttons (remote maybe) or make something that looks like a computer out of a cardboard box and ask your kiddo what work they are doing from time to time :).
Avoid interrupting play. Notice that the kiddos are disconcertingly quiet? Walk over, make sure no one is up to no good, but avoid shouting over to them or saying, "HEY! HG, what are you working on?". This often interrupts the flow of play as kids think of their response (younger kids) or become defensive (older kids).
Accept less than perfect. Prioritize your work tasks and what you really want for your kiddo each day. If other things are less than perfect, that's okay! So, for work, I might have to check that all other teachers in my learning community know our response to COVID-19 which means a lot of time answering questions online. I might want to get a blog post done with pictures. For my kiddo, I want to get outside, read a story, and make a mess and clean it up :). I also like to limit screen time. Screen time might go up a tad and my blog post might get done later than ideal (or never... y'all know me...).
Talk to other adults. If you are new to virtual work, ensure you get some time for adult converation. Video chat with a colleague or take a social media moment even if you don't normally. Check out a virtual group for people with similar interests (shout out to the #Outdoorsall4 by Tinkergarten, Slumberkins Social, and Floral and Fawna Co. VIP groups on Facebook - some of these are products but the interaction in the groups is highly supportive of all members!).
Activity Planning Resources: Here are a few of my favorite activity resources!
Tinkergarten's DIY Section: Get outside in your own yard or go for a walk at nearby park. It's easy to have space between people and limit virus sharing when we're outside. Time outside is also good for our general mental and physical health which is super important now.
Start with a Book: Use these ideas to basically do a do-it-yourself summer camp at home. You choose a topic of interest (you can have your kids take a look and choose one) and then there are book lists and hands-on activity ideas and more!
Cosmic Kids Yoga: Can't get outside? Allergies got you cooped up? Already spent 2919200 hours on the trampoline? Try out some fun, story themed kids' yoga! You can use the app or YouTube. Also... now is a WONDERFUL time to invest in your own yoga mat and props to avoid the spread of bacteria and viruses year long!
Watch Wonder Bloom: Just gonna take a minute to promote other blog posts on here :). I post monthly activity calendars with book lists, supply lists, and daily activity ideas. Can't get to the library? See if your library has a digital reading platform! Ours uses Hoopla. You can also find read alouds of most children's stories on YouTube. To see all of these navigate to the "Explore and Gather" tab and look for any blog post with "Month in Moments" in the title. Use this month's and get excited about spring and start a garden or check out any other month's. You can also find tips for starting your own play projects here.
See what's up online! One of our favorite musicians, Emily Arrow, is doing daily educational, musical story times for the week of March 16. Let us know what else you find!
Design your own subscription box. Check out ideas from different subscription boxes and order one (for a month or more - often old boxes are available on sale!) OR create your own. We like ideas from Kiwi Co and KidArtLit. Looking for something for older kids? Give your teens a $20 budget and a trip to Target or a local independent book store and let them make a 2-week-no-school survival kit. Consider making an extra and donating it to a local agency that supports kiddos and families.
More ideas for teens: When/IF teens get sick of social media/Netflix/videogames/reading/homework packets, I found that my high schoolers loved artsy tasks or throwbacks to when they were younger. Break out some old LEGOs. Get older siblings to make home made play dough (see forest putty above - wayyyyy less messy than slime) for younger siblings. Blackout poetry or magazine collages can kill some time in fun, slightly educational ways. Mindful coloring pages might be perfect. I cut them down to bookmark size for kiddos who couldn't sit still forever and a day AND to reduce cost.
Keep in touch! Send letters to friends, but more importantly to older family members or friends with compromised immune systems who are probably being faced with more drastic isolation measures.
Know when to seek medical attention. Check out this cold/flu/COVID19/allergies comparison here (scroll to the chart).
Get access to free lunches for school age kiddos in you area by checking local district websites. Hopewell City Schools here in VA is ON IT! Here's their info!
Finishing a degree? Have college-aged kiddos? Check here for closure information + financial aid information for colleges and career schools.
More tips for families and learners as they face school closures (see idea 1 - GO OUTSIDE :).