Yes, it is time to appreciate and salute all public school teachers who were spending 7 hours with your children and all child care educators who actually stayed with your children for up to 10 or more hours at times each day, all day and every day! Now it is our turn!
Now that almost all of the nation is in a lock-down to protect communities against the virus, our priority becomes supporting our children while they stay home, but also ultimately, being able to work from home while everyone is also at home. As an early childhood professor, educator, and most importantly, a mother of two active and “spirited” boys, I have put together a survive AND thrive guide to support you in building meaningful time for your children and stay sane, too. Notice this piece targets children between ages 4 and 10, where children can be very versatile in learning approaches.
- Think of the time you will stay at home as not definite or forever, but in manageable chunks. A metaphor of a “self-guided day-camp” is the most helpful definition. With a day-camp logic, you can think of each week as focusing on a goal to achieve, e.g. a small chess tournament to be completed, a language learning target such a being able to say greetings in a new language, small scripts/poems/texts to be memorized, STEM projects, a story written over a week etc. This special focus makes the week and the completion of the tasks planned very motivating for children, something they look forward to.
- Have a planning meeting each Sunday with your children to plan for your weekly “day camp” and decide on your goals and things you would like to achieve together for the week. Based on the planning meeting, help each child to draft their individual schedules for each day in that week written flexibly. Know that they crave for this structure but let them lead the schedule instead of supervising them— no strict time blocks but order of activities with a loose range of time. You will be surprised how active and determined they will be in leading their own schedules. Younger children can “read” the symbols or pictures representing activities to see the sequence of schedule.
- Sample blocks for a daily schedule might include Play outside, Project/Play time, STEM experiences, Snack, Screen Time — 15 minutes or so, Reading and Relax — 30 min or so, Technology Creation — e.g. coding on tablets — code.org, Scratch Junior, Pebble-go — 30 min or so, Music, Sports, or Physical Activity — 30 min or so, Make Believe Play with figurines, Legos, stacking toys, Playmobile, Blocks, Cars, Animals, Dolls — flexible up to 1 hour, Memory games, memorization, cultural activities, stories — 20 min, Outside play, and for more than two children, Peer play time.
- Share your own daily schedule with your children too. Be transparent about what daily project is challenging for you and how you would like your children to support you in getting your own work completed. Children as young as 4 are extremely capable of regulating others’ work than they are regulating themselves. Utilize their help in supervising you in meeting some of your deadlines. They will feel most proud to help you finish your work. In the evenings, have a quick family debrief and have all share their accomplishments. Also, at the end of each planned “day-camp” week, share accomplishment and goals completed as a family.
- Think of technology as a potential source of creativity, and active learning, such as coding, creating games, art, and design. Passive entertainment, however, entails children sitting and watching movies, cartoons, and action oriented stories. Active time with technology should be longer than time spent on passive entertainment.
- Utilize online connections to set up video conferencing among your children’s friends and with the extended family. It might be a good opportunity to have virtual meetings with your child’s teacher as needed. Also think of utilizing google docs for collaboration between two friends that can write stories or draw together.
- It is a great time to introduce children to different genres of screen viewing. Think of family theater nights — all virtual through https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/ PBS’s great performances website for world renowned productions. Also think of documentaries that are so captivating for young viewers in lieu of cartoons or passive entertainment. Documentaries allow children to discuss and comment without losing much of the content as the fast moving cartoons. For family movie nights, Charlie Chaplin’s Flower Girl is a great example for slow moving, realistic, appropriate movies. Children embrace these genres so quickly and generously while we think they prefer to watch cartoons. Yes, I suggest young children to watch realistic movies instead of cartoons or animated movies.
- As you think about appropriate websites, media, and other technology, and think of appropriate screen times please consider following https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ and http://www.truceteachers.org/ for guidance.
- If possible, have a family board game time in some evenings to bond as a team. But also make sure to be flexible and have everyone get an opportunity to have a quiet corner or space that they can unwind when needed.
- Finally, relax and make the most out of it, you have a potential special time with your children that you will remember for many years to come. Keep safe and healthy!