It’s difficult to know what the world will be like in May as you are reading this. As I sit down to write this article, it is March and we are in the thick of the Shelter-in-Place order. We are still trying to navigate what our children’s education will look like for the remainder of the year, and dare I say, even next school year. As all of our Spring and Summer travel plans have come to a halt, we have all be forced to determine how best to educate and entertain our children with our limited indoor resources and social interactions.
So, what should we be doing to ensure our child doesn’t regress during this uncertain time? Your child doesn’t need to be reading text books and taking tests in order to stay current. Now is a time to get creative, and perhaps even change our perspective on what is important during these uncertain times. What works at school doesn’t work at home, but learning can continue all the same. What it takes is a mindset shift on the part of parents. Here are a few ideas of fun learning activities to practice with your children this Spring and Summer:
1. Start with what interests them
School presents a curriculum to children which they have little choice about. At home, they have more choice and they frequently refuse. Instead, start with what fascinates them. Follow their questions and do some research. Top topics in our house this week have been how viral DNA works, travel restrictions in WW2, how do pistons in a car work? No question is too trivial.
2. Focus on connection
Make your aim connecting with your child, rather than getting them to do things. This is a strange and unusual time for everyone. Make time to do special things together. Have a family movie night, bake a cake, go around the dinner table discussing a different nightly topic.
3. Join your child in their activities rather than trying to persuade them to do something else
If they resist all your suggestions, stop making them. Instead, join them in doing what interests them. If that’s Lego, then you do Lego too. If it’s painting, have a go. If it’s video games, ask them if you can play too. Learn how to play Minecraft or Fortnite. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
4. Games, games, games
Games are fun for everyone. If you have board games, go and explore your cupboard and pull out the games you haven’t tried for ages.
5. Explore the full potential of your screens
This is not the time to impose rigid screen time bans. It is the time to exploit all the potential of any devices you may have. Take photos and edit them, try out filters and special effects. Take videos and make a movie using free video-editing software. Try making a stop motion film, again using free apps. There are many tutorials on YouTube.
6. Virtual play dates
We’re all in this together. Contact your child’s friends and ask them if they’d like to hang out over Zoom, WhatsApp or Houseparty. This can be particularly fun for adult happy hours as well.
7. Read and Listen
Again, start here with what interests them, not with what you think they should be learning. Find new books on the Kindle app if you’ve read your whole bookcase. Audible has a library full of audio books for those who prefer to listen
8. Keep Moving
Even if you can’t get out, keep active. Try Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube. Use exercise programs on your gaming console if you have one. Construct obstacle courses in your front room. Put on some music and dance to it. Make time for activity every day. If they won’t get up off the sofa, you do the dancing and yoga instead.
Our kids will remember this for their whole lives. How do you want them to think about it? Feeling in control is hard when the world is so unpredictable, but it’s important for our well-being. For our kids, helping them feel in control means starting with them and their interests. For adults, one of the only things we can control in this is our behavior, and how we relate to our kids. It’s the challenge of a lifetime.