Stuck at Home? Save your Sanity
A few years back, we had a massive blizzard that shut down the whole state for almost two weeks. Every mom in the state was so sick of cartoon musicals that DVDs were "mysteriously" going missing. Sorry, sweetie, I'm not sure what happened to our copy Ice Princesses 2. I'm sure it will turn up before you go to college.
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Whether you are stuck at home during a snowstorm or a health crisis, it can be hard to keep kids engaged and keep your sanity. The news is weird right now; schools are shutting down for weeks at a time, and that means that everyone is off their routine.
I am lucky; my loved-ones are not in the at-risk groups for COVID-19. What DOES worry me, though is keeping myself sane and my kids occupied in healthy, educational ways, rather than repeat viewings of Fire Dinosaurs 7 or Ice Princesses 2. This is where the choice board comes in; it gives the ability to switch out individual activities and keep a schedule while also keep things new.
The chart breaks down to 9 different activities. These can be done all in one day, one PER day, etc....the beauty of it is that it's flexible. Below you will see some of the ideas I have for each square, and how I use these sections.
Must do -May-Do Activities
Every educator knows that the key to student buy-in is giving them choices. When I was still in the classroom, one of my favorite activities was my must-do/may-do workshop. For this activity, students complete a must-do (something required) before they can do a may-do (enrichment). It made sure students worked on the essentials, while also giving them the chance to make choices about the fun stuff. Now that I'm at home, I do this with my own kids; in this available freebie, there is a must-do/may-do option. I have my kids do 1 must-do before a may-do. My kids are still very young, so we need to break up the day. BUT, if you have older kids, having them do the must-do activities first is just fine.
Many schools may send home work packets, which is great if you have older students; school stuff is a pre-made must-do. If, however, they don't send home work, I have provided a few free options below.
This is a must-do activity in our house while we are out of school. Below are some of our favorite FREE activities from my friends on Teachers Pay Teachers.
I don't know about y'all, but with kids in the house, we have plenty of cleaning to do. When it comes to keeping little hands busy, household chores teach cleanliness and responsibility. Even our little ones can help out around the house; my little ones do small chores. Below is a list of chores kids can do to help out, divided by age-group.
Toddlers : Obviously, you don't want your 3-year-old scrubbing the baseboards, but this is a great time to start teaching them about taking care of their homes with some of the following activities:
Preschoolers: Independence is setting in! These guys can do everything from the list above, plus a few bigger jobs.
Elementary Students: Students can do much more at this point, and with more power comes more responsibility.
Spending time with books is SO important. Research shows that young children need to be read to; why not take it a step further and ask them to really think about what you're reading together? Ask questions like:
Kids have a ton of energy, and everyone (moms included) will feel better (and sleep better!) if they have a chance to spend that energy. Some physical activity ideas:
These are activities that I don't require them to do every day; they are fun and great ways to keep kids engaged and their brains working, but give them a choice. May-do activities teach kids an important lesson: once I finish what I have to do, what are some fun things that I want to do?
Call it art or crafting, everybody likes to make stuff. This can be as simple as Legos or other building materials (these are a few of our favs) or you can use recycled materials and give them a challenge (leperchaun traps?, boats to hold pennies, ect). Also, play-dough is great, but making your own play-dough is even better (here is a great recipe you can make together).
My kids are two and four and LOVE to cook. Each day, this can be something as easy as scrambling eggs or making pancakes. Cooking with kids is a learning experience in and of itself. For little cooks, cooking allows them to practice how to follow directions, how to count, and refines fine motor skills. Older kids practice reading (with recipes!) and get to flex those valuable math muscles with measurements (for an extra challenge, try halving or doubling a recipe and having the kids do the calculations). Plus, each cooking "lesson" ends in a yummy treat; who doesn't love that?
Below are a couple of our favorite things to cook.
Cake Mix Cookies
Can cookies get any easier? These can be made with any cake mix, so changing up the flavor is easy to do. You can also add mix-ins to make them fun. Our favorite combos are strawberry cake mix with chocolate chips, chocolate cake with peanut butters chips, and of course funfetti with extra sprinkles on top.
I box cake mix of your choice(18.25 oz size)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1. Add cake mix to a bowl. Add oil and eggs. Mix well.
2. Form mixture into balls (we love our cookie scoop)
3. Bake at 350 * F.
English Muffin Pizzas
Who doesn't love pizza? These are the perfect lunch for a day stuck at home. Easy and tasty. My kids love being able to make their own and choosing what they want on them
toppings of your choice
1. Let little ones spread sauces and adding toppings
2. bake at 350* for 5-7 minutes until cheese is bubbling.
Playing alone or with siblings is so important, because it teaches something that is so hard to teach: imagination and self-motivation. I try to give my kids time away from my lead everyday. You would be amazed with the things they can come up with. A pile of plastic animals in our backyard turned into paleontology dig, a pile of sticks became a fence; next, who knows? Creativity and imagination take over.
This is also the time we play with the bulk of our toys. To keep things exciting, I rotate out anything that isn't being played with and add different toys to the pile.
We all need a break sometimes when stuck at home, and TV or electronic games (in moderation) can be a great way for everyone to have a few minutes of down time. I try to keep this time to a minimum, lest we fall to the temptation of the Candy Crush time-suck (and by we, I mean me).
Here is a list (link) to tech companies that are free for now due to covid-19. Please check all links before sharing them with your child.
Look, if you have been cooped up for a long time with your kids, then you need something up your sleeve. We all need routine, but we also need to shake things up a little every now and then. That is where surprise comes in. I randomly yell "surprise time" and pull that out of my pocket when I see we need it. It's not on our choice board since it is my choice when we have it.
I stocked up on a few new toys that I knew my kids would love from Amazon. Surprise Time can also be a special snack (Popsicle comes to mind at my house) or a movie -- Surprise Time is about finding something that you AND your kids can get excited about and pulling it out of the hat when everyone needs a little happy excitement.
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I am a former teacher turned stay at home mom to two wild toddlers. I love helping my children learn and grow and want to share ways you can do this too.