It’s time to be a Super MOM! Put on that cape.
By FS Khanzai
Coronavirus pandemic and closure of schools, yes, as a pre-school and primary school teacher who has taught for 15 years in national and international institutes, I know what all you moms must be thinking: which one is the tough call; virus or no school? Well, jokes apart, we know both are quite challenging and the latter is quite back breaking too.
The biggest question in all this is not how many times to wash your hands and how not to touch your face too much—- but it is, what to do with kids at home during Coronavirus break (without losing it!)? So, what are they gonna do at home?
My dear moms do not panic at all for in this time of great need and crisis you have me! First of all, we all know that you love hanging with your kids, but you can only take so much family time before you start to get stressed and it’s normal. Remember, this is apart of a parenting experience and you have to do your best until the virus runs its course. We know that your parenting strategies are excellent but trust me, these are the times when you will have to let some things go. It’s a long day, so let’s make it a busy day full of learning and fun and then tuck them in beds tired, spent, but a little more intelligent and happier.
Step 1- DO Not Throw Out The ROUTINE!
That would be a nightmare. You don’t want your kids to wake up in the afternoon and sleep after midnight. Sit down with your children and map out how the days will flow. Set up specific times for reading/homework, chores, independent free time, mealtimes, family time and bedtime. Break the day into small chunks, that is how it’s done in school and children are used to it and follow it wholeheartedly. Make a timetable and post it! Remember, you have to involve the children in the process if you want them to follow it. Ask them about their breaks in school and where they would want to insert them. There’s snack break, play time, lunch break, duration of lessons and each break; if your child has been assigned schoolwork, do they work best in the morning or afternoon? Just start asking them and you will have the whole schedule in no time on paper. Kids love doing stuff like this no matter what their age is.
Step 2-Time to play!
Once you’ve mapped out times for things like food and school assignments, you’re ready to fill in the rest of the day. Dedicate time for play! Let them lead the play time and keep it unstructured. When a child is imagining, creating, building or inventing, they are doing some serious learning. Open ended toys would be your best option as those battery toys have limited functions and doesn’t let children use their imagination. Bring out the stuff toys, dolls, cars, blocks, kitchen set etc. If you have a room in the house which you can dedicate to this play-time then it would be perfect. Remember to ask them to clean up at the end of their play time; remind them every day that it’s a part of play. Cleaning up their mess is the biggest thing you can teach them!
This is also a great time to take out those old jig-saw puzzles and all old and new board games. Carom, ludo, scrabble, monopoloy, payday, even kids snooker, trust me, I taught more Math to my students with these games than any other academic tool and yes, it’s all Math!
Go outside! Don’t forget the simple joy of bird watching and following the insects and worms with a magnifying glass in hands or just making a sundial with a stick. When kids step out they find a lot of things to play, create and construct. My students once used the slide in the garden for a space-ship which landed on Mars and could fly back to Earth after saving their necks from the aliens living on the red planet. Just trust their imagination!
Limited adult involvement: play is the child’s job, not the adults. Accept some play invitations, but don’t feel guilty about skipping others. Act like teacher do in school: we watch them play and learn new things daily from them.
Step 3-Interesting indoor activities.
Invite them to play! Easy indoor activities can be a lifeline, a great way to practice school skills and a way to quietly entertain kids. These activities are easy to set up. As you plan your schedule, think of places where an activity might be helpful to transition from one time block to the next, like after snack time or before dinner.
Building a Box Road – Flatten out a cardboard box or boxes and draw a road in marker. Add blocks, traffic signs, police, trucks and other toys like trees and houses for kids to build a city and then run it.
Toy-Washing Day – Let your kids wash their plastic toys in a tub. Add tear-free bubbles, sponges, towels and other supplies.
Art and Craft – Find some recycled materials and let your kids paint them. Kids love painting random objects and making beautiful creations from them. Ask them to reuse toilet rolls and even newspaper wouldn’t be bad choice. Just ask them to find something and you would be surprised!
Sticky notes Match-Up – Draw shapes, letters, numbers, words or Math problems on sticky notes and hide them around the house for your child to find. Then have the child match them up on a “key” that hangs on the wall.
Occasional Spelling Bee and Word Bingo, even Sentence Bingo and Word Search, Dot to Dot books, Find the difference and Find the objects in the picture are perfect for entertainment and education both.
If your kids are a little grown up then you can add some STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities. Your house is full of wonders of science and mathematics and YouTube and Pinterest is always there to help you find something good. Volcanoes, tracing the sun’s movement, discover plants and how they make food, add food coloring to a jar of water with a piece of celery in it and watch how the water moves up the plant’s capillaries, write two truths and a lie about this equation, 36 is the answer what’s the question?; or create some non-Newtonian fluid recipes, otherwise known as Silly Putty, Gak or slime and much more.
Step 4- Add some quality Gym time!
Kids have their PE lessons in schools and it’s not play-time. In PE, kids perform challenging tasks with their bodies. You can also join them as gymnasiums are closed down. But remember to make it fun and have a variety with you for kids.
Use tape on the floor to outline a balance beam and have them do various walks along the line, adding in fun props perched on their heads like a stuffed animal or small bean bag. Burn energy with donkey kicks, some squats and lunges, end up with yoga stretches.
You can play their favorite songs and they can Zumba it following you or YouTube. My students loved doing those for warm up time in assemblies.
Play hot lava, something easy enough to do with a handful of cushions or towels on the ground that you have to jump to in order not to burn in the pretend fiery pit. You can place a lava monster or become one to make it more interesting for them.
Step 5- Kitchen projects and fun feeding!
Turn your kitchen into an interactive lab of feeding fun. At breakfast, let your little ones break apart eggs and mix them with a fork, then show them how to cook them in different ways such as sunny-side-up and scrambled, with a taste test at the end.
Dissect apples, pears, kiwis, bananas and strawberries and discuss the different parts of the fruit and then enjoy the victims.
Make a cake and play with food coloring in the batter and frosting. Those 15 minutes chocolate cakes in cups and 5 minutes biscuit deserts wouldn’t be bad.
String cereal to practice Math, and if you have Jell-O, make rainbow layers and turn it into a whole science talk on prisms, water and light.
Dig through cabinets and figure out recipes for the ingredients you have and then make something delicious!
Step 6- Stay in touch with your community.
Rather than being on the phone or social media all day long yourself, try to schedule set times to check in with your adult friends. Have grandparents do regular videocalls with the kids. Have their friends do the same. If your kids have an email id, its time they write to their friends and check on them. It would work wonders for their writing skills and you will get some me-time. They can write to their cousins living in other cities and countries and exchange well wishes and news and how much fun they are having at home.
Step 7- Build in a reading habit.
This is a great time to do it, for you and your children both. All my life parents had wanted one thing the most that their children become readers. I always gave them the same answer: they will never pick up a book for pleasure reading if they will not see one in your hand. Do not expect your kids to pick up books if all they see you picking up is a mobile. So it’s time you catch up with that reading list and if you do not have one, well, what are you waiting for. Reading is the most revolutionary habit your kids can adopt. It reduces stress and is responsible for brain growth and better memory. Pleasure reading can work wonders for kids’ retention power and creativity. Put in reading blocks in the timetable. Fifteen to 20 minutes a day is a great place to start and remember, that’s total minutes, not all at once. Consider structuring this reading block in a few different ways: parent reads aloud, child reads aloud (if the child can read), and family silent reading time. And if your child wants to extend a reading period, don’t worry too much about messing up the schedule. There’s no such thing as too much reading, and you can always save a planned activity for the next day.
You can make story baskets for younger kids; make them tell their favorite story in their own words using characters in the basket.
Audiobooks are a great blessing and a well-read and well performed audiobook can develop reading skills better than anyone. YouTube is full of well performed audiobooks. From classics to modern, from Narnia to Goosebumps and Horrid Henry, it has it all. Audiobooks are great for some quiet and peace time which is also a must in your schedule. Do make it a habit of checking out the age restriction for the book. Trust me when I say that The Lord Of The Rings is no more kids fiction.
Step 8- It’s OK to loosen screen rules … a bit.
Families have a limit of an hour of gaming during the school week and several blocks of gaming time on the weekends. Given these circumstances, sometimes you’d probably haveto go with weekend rules just to help you and your kids survive. The same is true with TV and Netflix. Several one-hour blocks a day is better than binge-viewing.
You can use it wisely, as a parenting tool to keep your kids from “over-indulging” on screens. There are some apps like PBS kids app, some website too like national geographic kids, and channels like PBS kids and even Netflix and Disney+ has a list of programs you’d enjoy with your kids and then there are those you’d have to tolerate. YouTube Kids is a miracle for parents; kindly learn to use and trust it.
Watch movies, dramas, and documentaries with and make sure its age appropriate. Google the age restriction and also discuss with them the significance of age restriction. Discuss with them the content they are watching and you watch with them. Talk to them, it builds up speaking skills and vocabulary. Ask them daily if they have learned a new word, what does it mean and pretend you’ve heard it for the first time so use it in an incorrect sentence so they can correct you. You can even make a game out of it. See, there are a lot of ideas just lying around.
Step 9- Stick to a sleep schedule.
While it might be tempting for your children to stay up late every night and sleep late every morning, that’s not going to be beneficial to their physical and mental health. You’ll also be left with very moody children the next day that might not be in the condition to enjoy all that they themselves had planned with you. Stick with your bedtime schedule. Don’t forget to enforce no screen time an hour before bed.
Step 10- Limit the news.
For your own mental health, and the mental health of your children, limit the intake of news. Constantly following the latest coronavirus news will only increase the entire family’s anxiety. Make sure the information is age appropriate. Emphasize safety for younger children. Explain they are safe and being taken care of. For older children, stick to the facts and make sure you are not sharing too much of your own anxieties with them. Process your feelings mostly with older adults.
Last and most important-Make time for yourself!
Everyone needs a brain break! Make sure your children know that you will plan blocks of time for yourself and that they will need to self-entertain during that time without bringing the house down; let them decide what they would like to do. It could be screen time or coloring etc. This will give you time for that much needed cup of tea or coffee, time for the needed chores and you might want to meditate or self-reflect. Have many breaks during which you would check in with friends or other parents. You can let older kids know that disturbing your time will result in a loss of privileges.
I am sure this article has helped you immensely and for more activities, learning engagements and play invitations you can check out twitter where parents from all over the world are sharing their experiences and tips of homeschooling their kids; you can also share your experience with them and it would make you realize that you are not alone!