Wondering what to do with your kids when school is cancelled? Find a list of activities you should include on your daily schedule for kids at home (and a few tips for maintaining a sense of normalcy) in this post from a teacher and two moms in the trenches.
Let’s call a spade a spade- life.is.weird. Like, under normal circumstances it’s strange, but these days? We’re taking it to the next level.
If you, like us, are dealing with kids who aren’t used to being home, you’re probably wondering what to do with kids when school is cancelled. You might be trying to fill long, lonely days, or working to come up with a daily schedule for kids at home.
Whatever the case, we’re all kind of grasping at straws here. It’s not like we’ve all done this before. So, as with all things, be kind to yourself. Give yourself grace. Take deep breaths, and feel free to evolve this kids’ daily schedule (and your schedule, too) as needed.
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A Note About Our Daily Schedule for Kids At Home
We want to give a brief disclosure, and it’s one you already know- we don’t know you.
Your family might have vastly different needs than ours. Your resources might be very different than ours. Your levels of fear, anxiety, or joy might be very different than ours.
So as you read our list of what to do with kids when school is cancelled, try to focus on the similarities. Feel free to take things off the list or add things to it. Your day is still yours, and you can adapt it however you need to.
But one of the best things you can do is add a little routine into your kids’ day, whatever that might look like. So choose what your daily routine for kids looks like, and do your best to approximate it each day.
Decide if You Want a High or Low Structure Schedule for Kids
Some kids are going to be CRAVING structure right now. They’ll want familiarity, and routine, and a promise of stability. A structured schedule can look a few different ways.
You can write out a schedule with times and specific tasks, like Christine kids. Her stuck at home kids were wondering what their day was going to look like, and writing it out in a schedule form brought her kids a lot of comfort. The kids stuck really well to the schedule, and it was helpful to everyone.
Jaymi’s kids bucked against the schedule she initially made. So they went to a checklist system, where they wrote down the activities and tasks they needed to complete that day. When transitions came up (aka the inevitable “I’m booooooooored”) they checked the list and chose something from it to complete. (We made a pretty copy of our daily activities for kids at home checklist just for you. Click the link to get your copy!)
You may find that works one week may not work the next, or you may find that you need to stay high structured throughout the school cancellations. Do what’s best for your family, even if that means not succumbing to pressure to do this quarantine thing “right.” Whatever the hell that means.
Now onto how to entertain your kids at home all day…
Read a Book
Now is the perfect time to work on those reading skills we all love to talk about so much. One of the best gifts we can give our kids is a love of reading, and this shut-in period is the perfect time to foster that.
If your kids are younger, focus on reading a few picture books a day with a focus on reading comprehension. If you’re looking for ways to slow down the reading experience (and not blow through 15 books in 10 minutes, like our kids want to do) take a look at our post on ways to teach preschoolers to read, with a focus on comprehension skills.
If you’ve got older kids, set a reading time and get cozy. Maybe pull some blankets onto the couch, or snuggle up in one room. Do some special read alouds, like when they were younger. Or read alongside them, and show them the immense amount of comfort a good book can bring, even in trying times.
Get Some Exercise
Your kids are gonna have the same amount of energy they used to have, and they’re still gonna need to use it in big ways.
Bigger kids can do Cosmic Kids yoga, go for bike rides or ride scooters, and climb trees if you’ve got an uncrowded park nearby. Make use of your trampolines, Just Dance YouTube videos, and even old fashioned work out videos you’ve got lying around.
Younger kids can still play outside (check out our favorite outdoor toys here) and practice their gross motor skills, either inside or out. It might be a good time to invest in a bouncer if you’ve got the space for it, or small trampoline if you haven’t already, and go on lots of walks around the neighborhood.
Send a Letter
Let’s communicate like it’s 1899, y’all. Nothing spices up a person’s day like a card, letter, or piece of artwork sent through the mail. (At the time of this posting, paper is not considered a danger in transmitting the coronavirus).
Pull out leftover scrapbook paper and get crafty, or send pictures or artwork to grandparents. Set up a pen pal for your kids (even if it’s just someone around the block).
If you don’t want to send the stamps, kids can send Ecards or plain old emails to those they love. It’s a great way to keep in touch, even from a distance.
Call or Facetime with Family or Friends
Technology is an amazing thing, and if we’ve gotta be stuck at home, let’s at least be thankful for the internet. Whether you communicate through an app, Skype, Zoom, or Facetime, reach out to those you love.
If you don’t have your kids on Facebook Messenger Kids, it might be a good time to start. Under normal circumstances, I only allow my kids to message and video chat with their grandparents. But these are not normal circumstances, so we’re relaxing the rules a little.
We’ve recently added a few of the kids’ friends to their Facebook Messenger contact lists, allowing them to text one another, play games, and chat over video. This is especially useful if you’ve got social kids that are missing their friends, but still want some control over their media presence.
Pinterest abounds with fun art projects, but don’t feel a lot of pressure to be a Pinterest mom now, especially if that wasn’t your thing before. Color, get out some watercolor paints, or build something with blocks.
If (when?) your kids tire of the same old thing, check out our indoor activities for kids post, and head down to the art section. We’ve got lots of fun process art projects there for your kiddos (best for toddlers to elementary age).
We’ve also been giving our kids larger projects to work on over the course of several days. Some of our projects include designing a board game, learning to sew baby blankets for friends with little ones on the way, and building a Leprechaun trap on St. Patrick’s Day.
There are TONS of resources right now for kids stuck at home to learn. ABCMouse is offering free trials of their educational programs. Kids can practice writing, math facts, and sight words at home. And many districts have sent home workbooks or packets for kids to complete.
But there are also much bigger lessons to explore. Christine made a list with her kids of things they want to learn more about, and will investigate each topic over the course of a few days. They’ll focus on research, drawing pictures, interactive websites, and the like to really dive deep regarding her kids’ interests.
You can also take this time to teach your child life skills. Teens might learn to change a tire. Younger kids might work on their cooking skills, and older children might learn to sew on a button. Take whatever skills you need to do during this time, and teach your kids how to do those things too.
Help Out at Home
More people at home means one thing to us as Stay at Home Moms: more. messes. But living in a close space, you’re going to get tired of those messes real fast.
Bring the whole family in on the home maintenance. Do a family power hour cleaning once a day, where you work together to reset the house (think dishes, folding laundry, wiping down counters and tables, picking up toys and books). We do ours right before dinner, but pick a time that makes sense for you.
You can also work on bigger projects around the house. We made a list of projects we never have time for (washing the windows, hanging up pictures, that kind of thing) and plan to work on them together.
Do Something Special
One of our husbands said that this period of time feels a lot like the movie Groundhog’s Day- the same thing over, and over, and over. It’s going to get boring, and fast.
We’re going to do our best to change up our routine in meaningful ways. Our kids are used to having fun events planned- birthday parties, dates out of the house with mom or dad, school events- and they’re having a hard time letting go of those.
We’re making a BIG deal of new movies to watch, complete with popcorn and hype and getting dressed up to “go to the movie.” We’re declaring tomorrow to be backwards day, with dinner for breakfast and clothes on backwards. We’re looking forward to a kids’ yoga class that we can attend online. We’re working our way through this kids’ cookbook.
We can even hype up special projects, activities, art projects, and challenges. Give kids something to look forward to, even if it’s a rather little thing.
Mamas are magic. We can make this exciting, even if it means pulling excitement out of nowhere. We can do this.
Keep a Journal
We’re in a historic time. The kind where our kids’ grandkids will call because they’re doing a report on Covid19 and need an interview with someone who lived through it.
How cool would it be if we could give our kids something to look back on this time, and what there experience as kids was like?
Each day, we sit down and write a little about what we’re doing. Three year old Abram keeps writing that we’re staying home because it’s raining (even though it’s sunny). It really shows what they’re feeling and what they’re doing, and gives this period the documentation that such a momentous event requires.
Feel free to use this daily schedule for kids at home however it works best for you. Some days you may lean heavily on it, and some days structure may fly right out the window. There’s sure to be an adjustment period (and maybe lots of crying. Both us and them) but have faith in yourself, mamas. We’ve done hard things before, and we can do this too.