Most of us were thrust into full time remote work over the past twelve months. No one was prepared for what would come next, least of all parents with little ones who suddenly had no school to go to.
Depending on where you live, schools may still be closed. That means your little ones are still jumping up and down on the couch behind you, banging on your office door or trying to eat your work papers. Even as the world copes with the pandemic, we still have work to do even if that means raising children at the same time.
If you are like me, the iPad and TV have helped occupy my children’s time so I could work. But, I always feel guilty if they are on the screens for hours on end and it probably isn’t the best mental health practice to be living inside the confines of a ten inch touch screen tablet for an entire day.
Here are five ideas that I’ve used to keep my kids busy during the pandemic so I can work remotely with success.
One - Stick to a schedule
This has been the single most effective practice I’ve used to keep my kids busy and also get work done. Setting a schedule allows me to control my time as opposed to feeling like I was always running out of it.
I don’t have an unchanging schedule that’s locked in everyday. My routines, work demands and family dynamic are too volatile to go unchanged forever. I set a new schedule everyday.
Each morning, I look at my work load, what the kids need to do for their school and I write an hour by hour schedule for the day and into the evening. We have a family meeting each morning and go over the schedule. We all agree to stick to it in order to get the most done and have the best day possible. This way, the kids know when it’s work time and when it’s playtime and if I get their agreement first thing in the morning, I tend to have better success at being given space to work.
Two - Educational Shows
My kids, if they are anything like yours, have multiplied their screen time during the pandemic. It is inevitable that they are going to be on screens more because of the simple fact that most schooling is or was being done over zoom.
Not all screen time needs to be mindless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the voice of an annoying YouTuber yelling about some monster in Minecraft or Roblox trying to kill them while my kids giggle. Instead of smashing the TV to pieces, I’ve been doing my best to get my kids to watch educational TV shows.
Netflix and Disney Plus are loaded with educational content. It’s amazing how much information kids will retain from watching some of this stuff. After a long day of educational videos, my kids gave me a verbal dissertation on whale sharks over dinner and they seemed genuinely engaged in what they were learning from these shows.
Three - Designated Playtime
This dovetails with point one, keeping a schedule. Playtime needs to be part of the schedule. The kids need to know when playtime is and it needs to be allocated everyday.
When playtime isn’t allocated, I found my kids trying to covertly force playtime every minute of the day. I’d catch them on screens during class. They would bang on my office door during my Zoom meetings and cause all kinds of havoc trying to get me to play with them.
I’d be lying to you if I said that all the distractions ceased and total order went in when I put this practice into use, but it did settle down a bit. When there is a dedicated playtime, the kids have something to look forward to and earn.
The hardest part was learning to honor playtime myself. I would need to force myself away from the computer to play with my kids. We would set up different DYI projects or play games with each other. Once we got started, I always had a blast. When playtime is an established time, it's more fun. I’m not trying to work while also simultaneously trying to win at Monopoly. Separating work and playtime made it so I could give my work more attention and my kids focus when they needed it.
Four - Virtual Tours
Many zoos, parks and public attractions across the country are opening up as Covid-19 protocols allow.
Until everything is back to normal, many of these places have been offering virtual tours. My kids absolutely loved the virtual tour through San Diego Zoo where they got to watch Pandas feed and Lions roaming in their habitats.
Many museums and zoos are offering free virtual tours and activities for kids to do at home. It can be tough to keep your kids growing and learning everyday. I’ve found that many of these institutions have gone above and beyond to provide their respective communities with quality learning experiences for children during this time. Check out San Diego Zoo and New York City's Museum of Metropolitan Art or your local zoo to see what they have to offer.
This pandemic has tested the world. It has driven most of us to remote work. We all too often get absorbed into our own troubles and don’t take into account how difficult this time has been on our children. All their schools and activities were shut down just the same as ours. I hope these tips can help your kids during this time while also helping you to boost your productivity.
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