With school canceled across the state, thousands of parents suddenly find themselves in a new reality, juggling parenthood and professional life with the task of being a teacher. Many aren’t able to stay home, and grandparents, friends, and neighbors are forming new bonds and working together to get through this stressful time. It’s going to take a village.
Here are some ideas of how to fill your family’s time, create routines, and escape the cabin fever until Governor Cooper gives us the all-clear to head back to school—hopefully before summer break begins.
Make a schedule. Kids thrive on routine, which they usually get at school. At home, life gets looser, so post a schedule and try to stick to it. Start with a morning walk—replicating your walk to the bus stop or school—followed by some academic time, some creative time, lunch, chores, quiet time, more fresh air, and of course, a little free time for the kids. This can be done solo or in a small, set group that will stick together in weeks to come, minimizing the exposure risks of larger, more porous groups.
Choose themes. Ask your kids what they’re learning in science, math, and literature at school. Maybe it’s weather, government, Women’s History Month, or geology. Create home experiments or interactive learning on the topics. There are plenty of online tutorials for DIY experiments using materials around your house. Find a craft or recipe related to the theme.
Do you have friends or family members who are professionals in the field? Schedule a video chat with the expert. Thirty minutes of their time will make a unique impression on your child, and they will see this person in a new way. There are also lots of great online videos for a deep yet entertaining spin on most subjects. TED Talks, Vox Atlas, Netflix Explained, VICE, The New York Times, and other popular media outlets have a trove of excellent educational videos.
There’s a massive spreadsheet of educational resources that companies are offering for free during school closures (AmazingEducationalResources.com), and Scholastic has released a “Learn from Home” website with articles, activities, videos, and fun learning challenges.
Find yourself in nature. The Triangle is full of outdoor activities that allow you to keep a safe social distance. The Raleigh Greenway has more than 150 miles of trails for biking, running, and walking as a family. The NCMA trail is a great addition. And there’s Umstead State Park, Carl Alwin Schenck Memorial Forest, Dorothea Dix Park, Lake Johnson Trails, Yates Mill Pond, and Eno River State Park. Scavenger hunts and brown-bag collection are great on hikes. Make your own checklist or find one online. You might also think about starting your home garden early. Build planter beds or plant some seeds.
And then there’s one of my personal favorite pastimes, geocaching. There are hundreds of small treasures hidden all around the Triangle that your kids will love finding. Download the geocache app and start hunting. You’ll get addicted quickly.
Get your game on. The classics are always a hit. Especially the ones staring at you from that closet, which the kids have never played. Puzzles, board games, Legos, Go Fish, Clue, Twister, Apples to Apples, Sorry, Chess, War, Rummy. Grab what you’ve got and have some fun.
Art together. Love art? Don’t love art but love cool tech? Museums around the globe offer virtual tours, from The Guggenheim to The British Museum and The Van Gogh Museum. With many museums now closed, it’s like having a VIP pass to see some of the most famous art by the masters. On a similar note, the Cincinnati Zoo is highlighting one animal each afternoon on its “Home Safari” live video streams.
Donate your time and resources. There are many ways to give some of your extra time to a cause or brighten someone’s day. BackPack Buddies is an Inter-Faith Food Shuttle initiative in which families can pool resources to provide children from low-income households nutritious, kid-friendly groceries when free school meals aren’t provided. And Activate Good is a local organization that recruits and connects volunteers to hundreds of nonprofits and schools around the Triangle. The group has a long list of ways you can volunteer in person or virtually.
Make a new friend smile. Many elderly folks in nursing homes will not be able to receive visits during the pandemic, so this is a great time for your child to write and mail a note, draw a picture, tell a joke, or any small gesture that could bring smiles to their faces. I hope that a few of these ideas will help you to create new bonds with your kids and close circle of friends over the next few weeks, and if all else fails, there’s always spring cleaning.
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