I’ll admit I panicked a little. Ok, a lot. Ok, I might have stomped my feet and pouted.
I’m a planner so when it was suddenly announced that schools were going to be closed for an indefinite period of time, I didn’t feel prepared. Now, this shouldn’t have come as a shock but, at the time, there was only one case of COVID-19 in all of New Brunswick.
So, while most people in our province immediately rushed to the stores to stock up on toilet paper and bottled water, my first thoughts were:
1. Buy more chocolate.
2. Raid the dollar store for craft supplies. Because what the heck am I going to do to keep my kids entertained, active, learning, off screens and most importantly — from uttering the dreaded words: “I’m bored”?
A friend once told me, “Only boring people get bored.” And while this may be true, it is nice to have a few boredom busters up your sleeve when your kids insist on wearing their cranky pants.
So, what’s my secret? Keeping a schedule. Whether you’re under mandatory quarantine or simply avoiding the crowds, here’s a few suggestions to create a routine to keep your kids entertained, active and learning.
Keeping a Routine with Google Calendar
As many of you know, I like to make plans and detailed to-do lists. So, of course, once I found out the kids would be at home over the next few weeks, I quickly made a daily routine using my favourite scheduling tool – Google Calendar. Here’s how I patterned our day:
1. Schedule what you need to do first
First, I entered all our “fixed” activities such as when we sleep and eat as well as the mornings I work from home teaching English online. Basically, all the things we “need” to do.
2. Schedule what you want to do next
Teaching the kids at home
Next, I blocked off time for things I would like to do such as home schooling. The kids were so excited when I told them they could continue their studies. Ok, maybe not. But I am thrilled!
There are many online learning options available. I enrolled the kids in https://ca.ixl.com/, which follows our provincial curriculum and offers training in both English and Math.
ABC Mouse is another great option for ages two to eight and the first month is free.
Ted Talks for Kids
If you’re looking for some educational screen time, I love TED Talks. Here is a list of talks to watch with kids.
“Outschool” has 8000+ video chat classes for K-12 science, art, mindfulness, English, social studies, life skills, and more!
Older kids may enjoy Masterclass, which has many easy-to-watch 12-minute lessons.
There are several great educational YouTube channels. I love the Encyclopedia Britannica’s channel where your kids will find answers to everything from: “Why is the Mona Lisa so famous?” to “Is Pluto a Planet?”
I also stocked up on grade level activity books and books from the public library. If your public library is still open, stock up now or go to your virtual library and take out ebooks or audio books.
Bonus: You can download unlimited audiobooks and ebooks from “All You can books” for free for 30 days.
Reading lists by grade level
Learn a new skill
This is also a great time to extend upon your child’s special interests. Jack loves learning about animals (especially sharks) and Ella likes to make slimy, squishy things in the name of science. What does your child want to learn more about and be sure to sign out extra books on those topics or check out related online learning through sites such as “Outschool” or “Masterclass“
Hint: Now is the perfect time to start your seeds indoors and is a great learning activity that will keep your kids entertained.
Make a mess (aka cooking)
Cooking may not be an official subject at school, but there is a lot kids can learn from whipping up a batch of their favourite cookies or even homemade yogurt. Bonus: The probiotics will help boost your immune system! Older children can even make a simple meal such as this one. Check out this post for a guide to cooking skills by age.
Time to be Creative
Next, I blocked off another hour for crafts and creative play. My kids love to draw, paint and create a mess. Here are some ideas to keep your kids entertained:
“Save your sanity” supplies
I may not have stocked up on toilet paper, but I definitely stocked up on craft supplies from the dollar store. I may or may not have spent over $50.
- Markers, crayons and paint supplies
- Grade level activity books
- Stickers, “make a funny face” books and a few treats as rewards for completing their school work
- Bead kits
- Melting beads
- Bouncy balls
- Playdoh and clay
- Origami paper
- Craft kits
- Notebooks (especially for older kids who may want to journal their thoughts)
- Mini trampoline (Unfortunately, they didn’t have one. But I would have bought one if they did!)
My daughter is so obsessed with slime and making other gooey things that we bought the book – “Mason Jar Science”, which has lots of sticky recipes to keep your kids entertained. Here are also a few fun, easy projects you can make with items from around the house.
Although our kids love story time, they also enjoy making up their own stories. One fun way to do this is using story rocks. Find some rocks or other objects the kids can use to paint pictures on and place them in a box. Everyone can take turns choosing a rock and incorporating it into a story. You can also simply have fun counting the rocks and making piles of numbered groups or pulling a rock out of the box and seeing how many things in the room are the same shape or colour.
Get out the sillies!
I blocked off another hour simply for rough housing and play. Here are some ideas:
We have a library of board games and puzzles we purchased over the years at thrift stores that have been gathering dust. Our plan is to take one out a day and battle it out. The winner gets to choose the following day’s game.
Music may just be the ticket to lift the mood in your home. Now may be the time to sign up for that free month on Spotify and take advantage of their music playlists.
Make a fort
Grab some boxes, blankets, pillows and couch cushions and make a fort.
Active for Life is an awesome website that has tonnes of ideas to get your kids moving based on age and skill.
Bonus: Exercise helps boost the immune system!
Need more screen-free activities?
Check out this list of 27 screen free activities for kids.
Get out of the house!
Just like at school my kids are enjoying at least an hour of forced time outdoors. If you happen to live on a homestead like us, this is a great time to clean out the sheep (goat, donkey, etc) pen. Or maybe just enjoy a nature hike followed by a campfire and roasting marshmallows.
Reading and snacks (aka: quiet time for parents)
If you can encourage even the youngest ones in your household to settle down with a book, the afternoon is a great time for a cup of tea while the kids hopefully munch on snacks and enjoy some quiet time.
Clean up and chores
The last hour of the day before supper is reserved for clean up and chores because supermom can’t do it all. Even the youngest in your household can help with chores. Here is a great list of things your kids can do by age.
This is not for the kids, but for parents. Since most gyms are closed, you might want to consider heading online for your workout. I love the pop pilates workouts from blogilates.com. She has a monthly calendar so all you have to do is follow along with the exercise routine of the day.
I hope this schedule will help you craft your days while at home with the kids. If you have any other ideas, please let me know and I will add them to the list.
Now, it’s your turn. You know your children best. Head over to Google Calendar and create your own sanity saving schedule to keep your kids entertained, active and learning.