First of all, breathe. This is going to be fine. I’ve been home with my kids for 13 years and no one has gone insane yet!
Second of all, please stay home. The school closures will not have the intended impact of preventing the rapid spread of COVID-19 if we all just hit up the museum, aquarium, and local gym. I’m going to lay out plenty of at-home ideas for you, so just trust that you are going to be able to handle life “Little House on the Prairie” style like a champ.
The most important thing to remember when moving your whole life into your home is that a schedule, or at least a routine, is absolutely critical.
This not only keeps you from having to make four million decisions every day, but also gives your children a sense of calm, as they know what to expect when. Knowing that breakfast is at 7am, there will be no video games until 2pm, and snack is at 3pm keeps kids from snacking all day, begging for Fortnite at 9am, and generally doing the floss on your last nerve.
For older kids, I use a dry erase board. At the top, I write the date, then list what we are having for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. My kids learned quickly that asking “what’s for dinner” will only get “check the board” for a response. Below that I list either an hour-by-hour schedule (for busy days) or a list of assignments and/or chores for each child to complete that day. Since we have been following this routine for a while, my children know that schoolwork is from 9am-11:30am, lunch is at 11:30am, more schoolwork at 12pm, and “quiet time” (video game time for the older kids) is at 1:30pm. Snack follows at 3pm, chores at 4pm, and dinner is at 6pm. I cannot begin to tell you how many questions this saves me from having to answer!
Yes, this requires some planning on my part and yes, it was kind of a pain at first, but when I don’t take the time to plan the day and write it out, I spend an equal amount of time crying in my bedroom after being asked one too many times, “Can I play the xbox?” So it’s better just to write out the plan.
For younger kids, I use a picture chart. I’ve used time-based and order-based charts and both work depending on the child’s temperament. My more “detail-oriented” kids like having a clock picture beside the task picture so they know what the clock will look like when the next thing is happening. This would make a great project for Day 1 at home: sit down together and make a chart for all the fun things you’ll do each day! Here’s an easy printable chart.
Take this weekend to prepare a daily schedule or routine. Gather items that you can use for crafts, activities, and schoolwork and sort them into boxes or bins so you are ready to tackle Monday morning. Talk to your kids about how your days are going to look through the next couple of weeks (or longer!). Even toddlers understand more than we think, so talk to them about spending time at home and how much fun it’s going to be!
Which leads to my next point: you set the tone for your home. Like it or not, the old cliché “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy” is true. If you go into this quarantine with a poor attitude, your kids will follow suit. No matter what, plaster on a big smile and talk about this adventure like it’s the greatest thing since the iPhone.
I am working on another post that will provide educational resources as well as activities that you can do at home. Think of this time as an opportunity to make memories with the amazing little humans you are raising. They’re going to remember the COVID-19 outbreak as they get older and I know we all want it to be something they can look back on and smile.