Inventing Quarantine Activity Stations For Our School-Aged Kids
We needed activities for the kids, and fast, to keep them occupied so we can work from home during the #Covid19 lockdown. We've got a girl and a boy, aged 6 and 9, who require lots of hands-on attention if we want them to do anything other than have screen-time.
In our house, we're trying to keep screen-time to a minimum -- and make it more of a reward for doing other stuff. I'm not saying that's what you need to do, I'm simply clarifying our goals so the rest of this post makes sense.
That said, 2 more things: I do believe in letting kids get bored, because it forces them to use their imaginations and get creative (when we can get to the other side of the whining). I don't believe that we need to orchestrate every second of their day or make sure they're always entertained.
But when our kids are bored and have no real fix on what they could be doing to pass the time, they fight with each other. Oh and the snacks!! The never-ending snack requests! We want to minimize that too.
So here's our time-management challenge, in a nutshell:
How Do We Keep The Kids' Brains Stimulated For Longer, With Less Hands-On Time?
First we needed to sort out what they actually do around the house, so we made lists. Here's how it breaks down in our home:
Good options, but with some drawbacks:
- Activity Books (like games, colouring, stickers, etc) and books are great, but only hold their attention for a few minutes at a time
- Playing in the backyard can go on for hours (which is great!) but not at all appealing to them when it rains.
- Their top choices are iPhone video games and Netflix/Prime TV, but that's not where we want them spending the bulk of their time.
Things they really like but require partial-to-full adult supervision:
Math games, vocabulary games, painting, elaborate crafts, making slime, sewing projects, science experiments, puzzles with tons of pieces, photography (will DSLR camera), workouts or dancing or yoga, converting the dining table into a ping-pong table, biking or riding scooters on the street outside.
These activities are ideal for what we've got on-hand:
Drawing, taking pictures (with phone), songwriting, Karaoke singing, easier puzzles, pretend play and hide-and-seek (walkie-talkies add fun to these), playing basketball and kicking soccer balls outside, playing with the dog, Facetimes with friends.
These are awesome, but we've got 6 weeks ahead of us to fill. What do we do?
Also, the kids get exasperated when they don't have a say in what they do with their time, so we wanted to come up with a way for them to choose what to do and develop some independence.
We've got 3 items that we now leave out at all times: a mini-trampoline, an exercise ball, and a hula hoop.
So we took that idea and thought, what if we have a bunch of stations that we leave out at all times? And everything a kid would need to do that activity was available to them.
We combed through the house and garage and pulled everything we've got and here's what we did.
Math/problem-solving/left-brain activity examples:
Math exercises (we have workbooks and some online links the school sent)
Counting coins - set a challenge
Lego building - set a theme
Science experiments (with some help from mom or dad)
Wooden Building blocks
We'll call these activities Green.
Creative stuff/ musical/ right-brain activity examples:
Arts & crafts station (we brought out aaallll the things and converted the coffee table for the duration of this quarantine)
Activity workbooks, stickers, etc
Do a free singing / ukelele / piano lesson on Youtube or using an app
We'll call these activities Blue.
Things built into most days:
Chill Quiet Time / Reading time
Video Games/TV (at a set time)
Social time with friends / cousins / family over Facetime
And finally, we needed a simple schedule to keep
We talked to the kids about the stations and they loved the idea. But they didn't want to fight over the same stations.
Hence, we called the first list Green and the second list Blue. The daily schedule, then, is simply blocks of time that one kid plays Green activities while the other plays Blue ones, and then we switch. The blocks of time are simple too: AM and PM.
In conjunction with cycling through regular snack breaks, lunch breaks and outside time, we're hoping that this simple schedule will keep them busy and help keep some of the mayhem at bay.
What do you think? What are some tricks you're using to keep the kids busy these days?
Also check out: Parenting & working at home during Covid-19 Quarantine: what's working, what's not