How to keep your kids busy and actually get work done during the pandemic

A lot of us are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the kids are home, like my six year old daughter, because schools are closed. This isn’t exactly an ideal situation, since we’re supposed to be social distancing and don’t want to send the kids to caregivers (and I wouldn’t have that kind of money, even if I did want people around), which leaves us working full time and looking after children full time.

Are you exhausted? I am.

If you’ve searched for things to do with your children while they’re home, you might have found, like I did, that a lot of the suggestions involve your participation, which isn’t, again, ideal. I am pretty good at multitasking but can’t be doing arts and crafts and giving math lessons while meeting deadlines for deliverables. So, I’ve done as much research as I’ve had time for on this and found some useful ideas for keeping the kids busy on their own. Here are a few of those, in case, like me, you’re floundering.

Write down a schedule together

This is the sort of thing I used to roll my eyes at, but making a schedule really seems to help. At least in the days we’ve had so far. The first day was a totally stressful, unstructured mess so I knew I had to do something different.

I asked my daughter what she wanted to do during this time and what she wanted to accomplish, and together we made a daily schedule. It includes math, research, reading and chores, but it also includes a lot of playtime and even time to harass her dad while he too works from home (“1:00 pm, reading and drawing, 1:30 pm, bug daddy”). She’s into keeping the schedule, if somewhat loosely, and it keeps me from grasping for ideas.

Home schooling? There’s an app for that

There are so many amazing apps out there for phones and tablets that will keep kids busy and teach them many things at the same time. They can learn reading, math, languages, science and pretty much anything you can imagine. You can find lists all over the place. Like this one and this one.

Worksheets, textbooks and online resources

You can order textbooks for your child’s age group online, or visit some of the sites out there offering lessons and worksheets. I joined education.com this week and downloaded a collection of 22 math worksheets, which kept my daughter busy for a good hour — and she hasn’t gotten through half of them yet. The site offers a library of learning resources for kids pre-K to grade 5. We’ll see how it goes. Scholastic is also offering free learning resources at this time.

Manage a big project

My kid was working on a research project at school right before everything was shut down. They had to research an animal then decorate a bristol board with handwritten facts about and pictures of the animal. I didn’t get to see it yet (it’s still at the school), so we’re making another one at home. She’s researching the chinchilla (at school she chose an ocelot). They can speak their questions into the iPad or a home assistant and it gives them the answers, and the only thing you have to do is help with spelling as they work across the table from where you’re working. Then they can print out or draw some images and create some decorations and voila! We’ll see how this one goes.

Get some exercise

This is one thing you’ll have to do together, but you have to get outside. Go out. Go for walks, hikes, and bike rides. Explore your local parks and side streets,  or go down to the waterfront. Find areas in your neighbourhood you haven’t been before and look at the houses and buildings. Go for a run! Just stay away from other people! Do yoga together. There are classes suitable for all ages available on YouTube. I think you’ll find that if you don’t do this it will eat into our productivity more than if you do, because your kids will have an abundance of energy that they don’t know what to do with and will wind up demanding more of your time.

Do your own research

There are so many people out there going through the exact same thing right now and coming up with great ideas for getting through it. A quick Google search landed me on this article about a Facebook thread for exactly this purpose, for example. Another link I landed on was about this Lego challenge. We don’t really do Lego, so it’s not for us but might be for you. And someone else shared this list with me, which has many useful suggestions.

Let them watch too much TV

There’s no point in driving yourself completely insane and putting a ton of pressure on your kids in the meantime. I’m going to be letting my daughter watch a lot of TV during this time, more than I’m happy with, because I have work to do and can’t be paying full attention to her while I’m trying to pay the bills. It’s not going to kill them, right? We already have rules about the type of shows she’s allowed to watch – 80% of the time they have to be something she can learn from. And this is going to have to do. We all have to get through this as best we can, and that’s OK.

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