Schools have made the tough decision to close for a period of time, and now parents have the tough job of figuring out what activities they should employ to keep their children busy, but also safe during this uncharted time. This is not easy, as sporting events, play groups, and even some religious services have come to a halt. As an educator of very young children, I have some strong feelings about this topic; and the good news is, I believe this time together with family will be rewarding and valuable. Yes, at times it will certainly be frustrating and inconvenient, but there are some wonderful activities for you to explore with your child that you might not have undertaken when life was hectic and scheduled.
First things first; have a daily schedule and try to resist using screen time as the main activity. While older children will need to engage with teachers and learning online, younger children will truly benefit from your guidance, and hands on interaction. It is my mantra: young children learn by doing and through their senses! Your children will benefit far more by taking a walk than they would sitting in front of a computer or television screen. I’ve compiled a few of my favorite ideas below, and will be sharing other ideas with you in my weekly Monday Moment (via FB and Instagram) each week while we are closed.
Food Preparation - Get busy in the kitchen! Allow your children the opportunity to cook or bake with you. This is a perfect way to introduce math skills as children become familiar with measurement ideas and terms; tsp., tbsp., cup, etc…For very young children scrubbing potatoes, or tearing lettuce is a big deal. The value of helping mommy or daddy prepare the family meal is very impactful. If your child is making a dish from a recipe, stick to simple ingredients and easily managed steps. Applesauce is always fun to make, and smells wonderful too! In addition to math concepts, there is an incredible amount of learning that takes place from cooking. This is the perfect way to reinforce sequencing! As we all struggle through this coronavirus scare, cooking also strengthens good hygiene practice (perfect time to perfect hand washing) and it increases literacy. Why not create a family cookbook from the experience? Provide your child with paper, and markers to illustrate and label the food that was prepared. These can be compiled daily and made into a book!
Picnic/Scavenger Hunt -This the ideal time to get outdoors, and enjoy the mild temperatures. There is every reason to let your child help prepare the picnic items, and then choose either the backyard, local park, or open space. When coupled with an outdoor scavenger hunt, the picnic experience will be truly memorable. I have included a printable scavenger list below, but it might be nice to create your own. Your list could include finding something with a circular shape, or maybe it would include finding an item that is soft or hard, rough or smooth. Remember to use pictures with your labels so young children who are not yet reading understand that words have meaning.
Obstacle Course - This was one of my own children’s favorite activities, as what typically began as an obstacle course later turned into “fort building “ with all of our living and family room sofa cushions. This is a fun way to become creative with chairs, hula hoops, buckets, cushions, or small slide. Design a path with your child (let them become the architects!) and have them travel through challenging obstacles. To make the experience even more interesting, use a timer or play music while they are completing the course, or enhance by having siblings hold hands while navigating!
As a nation and world we are faced with a health challenge. While we await a good outcome from the measures we take to protect one another, there are things we can do to provide stimulation, normalcy, and a whole lot of fun/connection/learning with our young children. We are looking forward to sharing more in the coming weeks.