The COVID-19 pandemic has left many working parents practicing social distancing with unanswered questions: When will I be able to return to work? When will my kids be able to go back to school?
In addition, parents working from home are also in need of the answer: How do I focus on my work while also watching my children? Here are some tips to help deal with life at home as an employee and a loving parent.
Keep them on their normal schedule
Though it may not always seem like it, children are creatures of habit. By now, they’re used to the schedule they’ve followed at school. In order to keep your child focused and productive, consider sitting down with them and mapping out how the days will flow or making a chart they can follow.
Ask them questions like When do you normally eat lunch or snack during the day? When is recess? When you have developed a schedule that works, print it off and keep it in sight. If your child is old enough to have a class schedule, print it off and have them follow as closely as possible.
Encourage free play
Children are encouraged to get about 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per day. While officials are currently asking people to distance themselves from others, they still strongly encourage people to go outside and get some fresh air. So, consider spending your lunch break outside with your kids. While it’s smart to avoid playground equipment and public water fountains and bathrooms, here are some outdoor activities to help increase your productivity and avoid the dreaded sense of “cabin fever” around the house:
- Family dog walks
- Bike rides
- Kick around the soccer ball at the park
- Make a kite and fly it
Leverage great educational websites
With children indoors, the reality is that they are likely to be spending an increased portion of the day on the web. Luckily, here are some websites with cognitive benefits capable of holding your child’s attention.
Designed for older preschool and elementary-aged kids, PBS KIDS is a directory site for roughly 20 TV and Web-only PBS Kids shows. From the website, kids can navigate to a show’s website where they’ll find associated games, videos, and other related content. Each PBS show has slightly different learning goals, and many of the games have been developed and tested in effectiveness by learning experts. For example, while the games on Design Squad focus on engineering principles, the ones on Fetch! emphasize science and problem-solving. PBS KIDS provides tremendous learning opportunities.
The Cat in the Hat, Sam-I-am, and other Seuss characters welcome your child to Seussville, Dr. Seuss’ cyberspace playground. In Seussville, children can win prizes, play engaging games, and read along and watch videos about some of the most iconic children books of all time.
At Switcheroo Zoo, children can express their creativity by creating new animals. They can also learn about zoology basics through a wide collection of interactive games, including “Build a Biome.” They can even hear real animal music.
Get a stoplight
A TDS mom who is working at home put a picture of a stoplight on the door of her office. Using a removable arrow (a Sticky Note would work) point towards the red light when your kids should stay out, green when you can be interrupted, and yellow for caution. So far it’s helping at her house, so something similar might help prevent this from happening to you:
Free art classes!
Famous children’s book author of “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” fame is hosting Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. Every day he’s posting a new episode every day at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Here’s the first episode, and follow along on YouTube for more.
For something more local, a Verona, Wisconsin art teacher has his own YouTube Channel called “Mr. Melvin Makes.” He has projects for a variety of age groups—from kindergarten on up!
Send them on a (virtual) field trip
We’re all going to feel a little cooped up, and many of us cancelled vacations the kids were looking forward to. It may not be the same thing, but some virtual trips might be a fun distraction.
- Go to the zoo! The San Diego Zoo has a really nice kids website that has videos, stories, activities, games and of course, all kinds of animal info.
- Head to Yellowstone. The Yellowstone National Park website has webcams, live broadcasts about wolves (plenty of information about them too), history lessons, virtual tours—it’s a goldmine.
- Visit Mars. The Access Mars website is being updated to the latest-and-greatest WEBXR right now, but the digital 360 Mode is still amazing.
- Take them to a museum. Fun fact: you can take virtual tours of 2,500 museums and galleries from the comfort of your own home (yes, even The Louvre!). It’s all thanks to Google Arts & Culture who also has a handy top-10 list. Consider telling your kids to take a tour and show you which art pieces they liked best at the end of your work day. Maybe pick a piece of art yourself, or ask your child to find one, and then ask them to draw their own version.
- Expose them to opera in Paris
According to French Vogue, “The Paris Opera is offering it’s most beautiful shows, from Swan Lake to Don Giovanni, free online.” (Maybe forget the kids and just do this one yourself?) Vogue has the full list of upcoming performances.
Head to YouTube
If you haven’t let your child explore YouTube, it’s certainly understandable—but this might be the time to carefully curate some channels that are safe for kids. Lifewire recently shared their top picks and what they like and don’t like about 21 of the best YouTube channels for kids.
Attend a PE class
Speaking of YouTube, a famous fitness and diet coach named Joe Wicks is offering a daily PE class. He lives in London, but became a world-wide phenomenon for his helpful diet and nutrition tips. He has written multiple best-selling books and has also become a motivational speaker. Every day he’s uploading a “P.E. with Joe” class on his YouTube channel perfect for all ages (including adults!). Definitely worth adding to your schedule!
Visit animals via live stream
This could be a great thing to add to your daily schedule—checking in on a variety of live streams out there. Kids can observe how active (or not) the animals are at different times during the day. They can watch them eat. They can give them unofficial names and follow their growth.
- San Diego Zoo has oodles of different streams
- Panda Cam! The Zoo Atlanta has one
- The Monterey Bay Aquarium has aviary cams, jelly cams, coral reef cams and more!
- The Houston Zoo has six different live cams, from the smallest (leafcutter ants) to the elephants
Consider letting them watch some movies
If you don’t really let your kids watch many movies, it may be worth time to consider the phrase: “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” And if you already let your child watch, you may be looking for some fresh content to entertain your kids long enough so you can take that 1-hour conference call.
To help you out, Collider just published a list of the best family kids movies on Netflix right now and they also have a list of the best on Prime. Common Sense Media also has their lists for Netflix and Prime. Warning, there’s no date on the Common Sense lists, but we like their parents’ guide that tells you what your child will see in each movie.
Set up parental controls
Now that we’ve told you about these great things you and your child can do online, we would be remiss if we didn’t remind you about parental control options that are available. Here’s a blog that rounds up how to get them in place for all major services.
Don’t forget the simple things
We’re big fans of technology here at TDS but that’s no reason not to balance things out with some old-school fun (that might just keep them busy and entertained all by themselves for large stretches of time). Hand your kid(s) a few flat sheets and some clothes pins and let them have some fun with the kitchen table. Give them a few packs of cards and let them build card houses. See if your older kids can build a Rube Goldberg machine out of that extra stuff you keep meaning to throw away or donate. How about a house treasure hunt? Hide the same item in a different place every day and encourage your kids to find it for a prize.
Set aside time for yourself
Working and entertaining at the same time is a tall task for an extended period (or heck, even a few hours). Consider adding blocks of time to your child’s schedule and letting them know that you get some alone time in those moments. You can use these precious moments to prioritize your own mental health. Consider getting in some exercise, self-reflection or meditation (or perhaps go to the bathroom by yourself? Crazy talk, we know).
We’re in unprecedented times here, so whatever you do to make your workday work and keep your child content, good on you!
Written by Garrett Seymour and Missy Kellor