From our school newsletter to parents:
With the week ahead of school closed and a feeling of uncertainty for how things will evolve it's a great time to think about ways of structuring extended home time for children. There will of course be many variables at play, how much support you have, whether you will be working from home as well, whether the children will be in the care of a grandparent or other care giver, and your home environment will also play a role in what you can offer.
There is a difference between social distancing and quarantine and while most of us at this moment are engaging in simply keeping safe distances from others, avoiding crowded public spaces and being mindful of what we touch, there is a possibility that as the virus spreads more of us will have to experience self-quarantine at home. Here are some suggestions that might be helpful in keeping yourself and your children sane during these unusual times.
Routine! Routine! Routine!
Children, as you all know, love routine and thrive when there is order. Keeping a routine at home even during school closures will be helpful for the children in maintaining a sense of order and a more balanced emotional state. Especially bedtimes! It can be tempting to throw bedtimes out the window once children don't have to go to school, but that early bedtime routine is your best friend for having a happy and relaxed child, plus it ensures some hours all to yourself in the evening. Other routines to keep in place: mealtimes (at the same predictable hour), and key moments of the day (going out to play somewhere), quiet time, and screen time if it will be allowed. Routine gives both you and your child a sense of control over the day, which is a necessary feeling as things around us change.
Whenever you are implementing any significant change at home it's important to sit down with the children and explain it clearly and in detail. A family meeting regarding next week, explaining how things will be different so that children can visualize and prepare for the change, making a visual chart for the new routine or marking the calendar, and especially if you already do it Going Over the Home Rules. These are all parts of preventative discipline, where you are preparing your child for what is coming up ahead to the degree that is possible so that they are not dealing with the stress of surprises later.
Play and Movement
We are dealing with children ages 3-6 and what they are wired to do is play and move. I have been seeing a lot of resources and suggestions for parents out there regarding doing a sort of home schooling these coming days which may be appropriate for elementary aged children who are missing school days and can sit and focus on academic homework, but for the young ones a mix of practical work at home, play, and play outdoors supplemented with a few enrichment activities (if you and your child want to do them) is fine. Going to for swims, walks, to play outside, bike riding, can all be a part of their days.
Having a time of the day that's explicitly dedicated to quiet time can be nice for everyone as well. A clock can mark visually when quiet time begins and ends. It's a time where everyone may play or be alone and quiet. Reading, playing quietly, looking at books, napping, listening to music, being outside, are things that children can do during quiet time. It cannot be imposed suddenly on the children, but can be a part of the meeting about how the new routine will go. Explaining what quiet time is and is not and your participation in it can make it successful.
Break out the games!If you have board games, card games, or any other type of games that can be played as a family it's a great time to have them out and handy. A game time can be built into the day's routine. Games are one of the easiest ways for adults to engage in play with children.
Children love to be engaged in the real activities of the home. Food preparation is something they are used to doing at school and is one of their favorite activities. Giving the kitchen work to do like peeling a carrot or cucumber, mashing potatoes, spreading sandwiches, stirring or mixing in ingredients, chopping (older friends), cutting herbs with scissors, wiping mushrooms, are all kinds things they can do. Remember to give only as much as your child can be successful with. They won't be able to peel a pound of potatoes yet, but one or two should be enough.
It's a great time to implement some chores. A chore chart taped up onto the fridge can be helpful at the beginning to help them remember what their tasks will be. Depending on their age, things like setting the table, feeding pets, making their bed, pairing socks, folding their own clothes, washing dishes, unloading the dishwasher or washer are things they can do. You have to show them how to do it first, and show it slowly, and then do it together the first time to ensure they know how. After that, it can be an expectation and part of the daily routine.
Depending on what you have at home, open ended play can lead to extended moments of concentration in your children. That's what we aim for at school. You can support it by offering things such as Puzzles, Playdough, Arts and Crafts supplies, Building materials (lego, duplo, etc.) Set these up in a way that your child can access them easily and put them away on their own.
Sand and water, soapy water, mud, are all open ended sensorial experiences that are easy to access and can afford your child long periods of play. Buckets with water outside and some trucks and sand, different tools for making bubbles with soapy water, cups for pouring and scooping, etc. After all that play, a long dunk in a bathtub with toys in it, or filling up an inflatable pool in the garden (or bathroom), are irresistible to young children.
Reading books to your children or telling them stories is an amazing way to teach skills, build concentration, experience a close loving time, and enjoy time together. A daily reading time cannot be recommended enough. The National Library is open and available for you to stock up on children's books.
Singing and Music
A this drop box address I am adding a whole song bank of songs that we sing at school including the songs we had been preparing for the Sing Along for you to download for free. You can play them for your child to listen to and sing along to. Combine them with instruments (if you have them)!
Enrichement Activity Resources
If you and your child want to do supplemental educational activities at home, I am adding some of our classroom worksheets (that the children are familiar with) at this dropbox address for you to download for free. They include:
Cursive Handwriting practice sheets, Number making practice sheets, Flag coloring sheets, Writing numbers to 20, Writing numbers to 100, Writing numbers to 200, Phonetic reading lists, Phonogram reading lists, Sight word practice lists, Addition and Subtraction Flash cards that you can print and cut.
If you have workbooks or other written kinds of enrichment activities, it's a good time to bring them out otherwise there's lots of kinds of sheets you can download online for free.
There are also a number of education companies offering free subscription to their services due to worldwide school closings. Here is a compendium of them:
Many schools use Raz-Kids for online reading games and book reading practice. Their reading program starts at the Kindergarten level. If your child can read phonetically it would be an appropriate resource as well, their free trial is a week long.
Face Time or Calling Family members
It's a great time to reach out to family members who may be experiencing increased levels of anxiety or isolation. It is always nice for grandparents or others to see or hear the children. Take some time each day to reach out to friends and family who'd love to see you!
I am inspired by the collective worldwide efforts I've seen to support and help one another during this momentous world crisis. Make sure to point out to your children all the positive and helpful things people out there are doing. Firstly, all those on the medical front lines around the world, but even my meditation podcast author, Sam Harris, is offering his wonderful meditation app (Waking Up) for free to anyone in financial (and psychological) need.
Stay safe and healthy everyone.