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FOR TEXTS FROM OUR TEAM! ♥︎

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Emily Ley Blog

Simplifying Life in a Crisis #3: Screen-Free Activities for Kids

March 14, 2020

Hi, friends! With many school districts across the nation closing, and many businesses moving to remote-work situations (to prevent the spread of Coronavirus) many of us are unexpectedly finding ourselves working from home with kids underfoot. This can present an interesting conundrum. Our kids are home. We're home. We have work to do. We want our kids to be entertained. Here are a few tips from my Mom, affectionately known as Nana:

  • Your child can entertain his or herself more than you give them credit for. Allow them to get bored and let their imagination wander. Yes, they may make a mess, but that's okay. 
  • Let your child help you do the daily tasks that still need to be completed: making beds, cooking dinner, putting away the dishes. These ordinary routines anchor our souls and give a sense of normalcy during this tricky time. Let them help, even if they don't put the dishes away just right.
  • Allow yourself to lean to the "family" side as much as your work will allow. We're all giving each other more grace (hopefully) during this time, so make the most of it with your children. Embrace the time together and the forced "slowness" if you are quarantined.

Q: I want to save screen time for when its necessary (like when I need to cook dinner). Where can I find some ideas of things to do with my child that don't involve technology?

Some of our favorite resources for this are listed below:

  • Busy Toddler (Susie's account is one of my absolute favorites to follow. She is offering 25% off her Playing Preschool e-book with code HOME25 and shares tons of ideas for at-home-play in her Instagram feed. Even my nine year old loves her ideas).
  • Other Goose (Founded by Erin Loechner, Other Goose is a resource for homeschooling moms. Other Goose is free for the next three weeks).
  • Sarah Jane (Sarah is a longtime virtual friend of mine and an incredible artist. She will be offering free video art lessons and sending free printable activities for children).

Q: What type of activities could I do with my kids with just what I have in my home?

Be safe with all of these ideas, everyone. Proper supervision required, of course. 

  • HAVE FUN in the bathtub. Glow sticks, finger paints, popsicles, pudding painting on the walls, kitchen tools, the ideas here are endless!
  • GO on a treasure walk outside. Get outside. Take a basket or a box and collect treasures. Leaves, flower buds, cool rocks.
  • BUILD a fort. Use pillows, blankets, chairs, whatever you can find. Yes it makes a giant mess. That's okay.
  • READ with a flashlight. Read books by flashlight. Get under a blanket or sit inside your fort!
  • COOK with what you have. Whether you're making PB&Js for dinner or you're creating an elaborate snack tray in a muffin tin with whatever is in your pantry, let your child help. Again, they will make a mess. Messes are okay.
  • CREATE a fun invention. Our kids love what we call Creation Station. This means that we gather the random boxes and tape and glue and lids and jars and pom moms and trash and whatever we can find and we make stuff. We throw all the scraps back into the box for easy clean up for next time. Robots. Race car tracks. Princess dresses. It's all been made at my kitchen table.
  • LOOK through old photos. My kids could do this for hours. They love looking through my old photos or scrapbooks and seeing photos of mommy's silly bangs (thanks, Nana) when she was in third grade! #1991
  • The ideas here are endless: sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles, relay races in the back-yard.

Q: I have to actually get work done with my kids in the house. How on earth do I make this happen?

We'll dig into this in detail in a later post, but here is my general tip: don't do two things at once. It's impossible to multi-task and you'll just end up frustrated (and so will your child). This may be a time that you have to wake early to work and work after bedtime. Or during nap times. Or high five your spouse on his way to watch the kids while you go to "work" at your kitchen table. Tradesies. :) Just remember, this is temporary. Screen-free is wonderful during "normal times," but this might just be a good time for Disney movies, blankets, and bowls of popcorn. Just be sure to get them moving as well. Sitting for long periods of time doesn't help our mental health or stir-craziness much.

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Here are a few great resources we love and have found helpful around here:

  • Simplicity Parenting: a great book on Audible if you're looking for one (paperback also available on Amazon). Full of great ideas to do with kids. My #1 favorite parenting book.
  • Free printable Disney coloring pages from Crayola
  • Storyline offers videos of celebrities reading favorite children's books. Ok, this one involves a screen, but it's adorable.
  • Live Science has a great Q&A article with quick answers for parents to share when kids ask questions about Coronavirus.
  • PBS also has a great article about talking to kids about Coronavirus, with links to a few great Daniel Tiger episodes.
  • Common Sense Media (one of my favorite sites for vetting kids shows and movies) has a list of the 25 Best Podcasts for Kids. Great for kids to sit still, close their eyes, and listen to during a quiet time.

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Before we close out this post, I thought I'd share the schedule I'll be using for my kids if we end up "homeschooling" because of a quarantine.

Education time = learning and practicing what we know.

Creative time = making stuff, artwork, craft projects.

Quiet time = naps, read / look at books, play with legos

  • 6:00 - Mom gets up, ready, does a little work
  • 7:00 - Kids get up, dressed, breakfast
  • 8:00 - Chores
  • 9:00 - Outside
  • 10:00 - Education time
  • 11:00 - Creative time
  • 12:00 - Lunch
  • 1:00 - Outside
  • 2:00 - Quiet time
  • 4:00 - Education time
  • 5:00 - TV or iPad time
  • 6:00 - Dinner / clean up / baths
  • 7:00 - Bedtime for little ones :)
  • 8:00 - Bedtime + reading for older one :)