COVID-19 has caused a massive shift in daily routines, especially for young children and their families. Maintaining a schedule and a sense of normalcy is a tall order for the many parents trying to balance health, family needs, changed plans, and their own work schedules. Though the world has been quarantining and social distancing for months, plenty of families still haven’t quite figured out the best way to provide structure for their kids.
With the fate of the coming schoolyear up in the air, here are some ways you can help your child adjust to their changing world.
Starting a routine
Children need structure to thrive. If you’re struggling to keep a regular schedule at home for your kids, start small by giving your child a more relaxed daily schedule and work your way up instead of the other way around. Changing too much too soon will be difficult to adjust to. Be sure to plan many breaks for both you and your child and allow yourself some flexibility as you figure out a new routine that works for everyone. If possible, try creating a schedule that mimics some elements of your child’s typical daily routine pre-COVID.
Keeping minds fresh
Children must stay mentally and physically active during this time, even if it looks different than what they’re used to. Educational activities that are not too difficult will help kids practice essential skills while having fun. A scavenger hunt around the house or yard, for example, will get your child up and moving. Incorporating problem-solving questions and math equations as the clues will challenge them mentally while burning some energy finding the X that marks the spot.
Stimulating education games online can also feel like entertainment for your child. These can be found on websites like ABCmouse, which includes a free 30-day trial, and PBS Kids, which offers a daily newsletter full of home activity ideas for children. Other Goose is another site with a free three-week trial to try out lesson plans and ideas for teaching your child.
For children who may need more educational assistance during the regular school year, parents may want to look into virtual tutoring and include that in their child’s routine to make sure they’re prepared for the upcoming year.
Give them a break
While it’s important to stay mentally stimulated during the summer, even children need a break. These times are just as trying for children as they are for adults. Use this newfound time together to connect with your child and find out more about their own personal interests – this will provide insight into the how you can best keep them engaged.
Some activities that can break up your child’s day include:
- Outdoor summer activities that promote social distancing, such as hiking trails, bike rides, nature walks, or fruit picking at a local farm. You can find tips for social distancing for kids here.
- A weekly tradition to look forward to, like a weekly discussion or check-in for mental health, a movie night, or a family art project.
- Daily challenges for you and your child to complete both individually and together. Websites like GoNoodle and KiwiCo offer free online resources for off-screen activities.
Activities to avoid
There are many ways to keep children safely engaged and actively learning, and there are a few ways not to. Any activity that puts your child in a confined space with a crowd of people is risky. It’s imperative for parents to continue to be mindful of social distancing practices even as restrictions lift. Focus on scheduling activities that align with social distancing guidelines, such as outdoor play dates at the park, swimming, or virtual interactions on Zoom, Skype, or Facetime.
Too much distancing, however, can also be a problem. Activities that involve limited social interaction for prolonged periods of time, like spending hours on a preferred video game or website, can delay or disrupt crucial communication skills that should be stimulated, especially as kids are now spending significantly less time in person with their peers and teachers.
This is a stressful time for everyone. With anxiety and uncertainty at an all-time high, the best thing you can do for you child is keep them happy, healthy, and engaged while preparing them to adapt to whatever comes their way.