Or "How To Take Care of Your Kids While Also Working From Home During the Quarantine"
I’m used to working in my pajama pants. When “Winter is Coming,” I prep for snow days to protect my work schedule and deadlines, while still creating some fun for my kids. Along with my winter pantry, I stock up on LEGO sets and craft kits and books and art supplies to hold in reserve. When school gets called off, I dole one thing out from the “fun vault" to each kid, every other day, so I don’t run out of goodies, and "fun distribution" feels like something to look forward to. It keeps the days from running together in an endless monotony of cartoons.
Yes, self-quarantine is a little different because there’s more of a creeping sense of menace every time you open your door. But I think some of the same principles hold.
Just like in my other post regarding working from home, it’s really important to establish your work space and tell the kids, “Even though we’re all home together, I still need to work. So unless you are hurt or there is some sort of emergency, you need to stay in your area of the house and keep yourself entertained.” I can’t say they ALWAYS respect the closed office door, but with frequent reminders, they eventually adjust.
Of course, that doesn’t work if you have a baby or toddler. When your kids need a little more supervision, you have to figure out how to balance work and keeping them safe/content. When I was working with pre-verbal kiddos, I would limit work-related calls/videoconferences to their naptimes. I also tried to avoid work-related calls/videoconferences if possible, unless they were absolutely urgent, because I knew my daughter would see that the laptop camera was on, then come running over to sing the Barney theme song. Just try to work with your supervisor on how much “live feed” your household will be subjected to, and what you think you can handle.
Please note, I am not encouraging anyone to go out into stores to shop for anything. The internet is going to be your lifeline for the next couple of weeks. Online delivery is still a thing as of this posting date, so take advantage. (Note: My postal carrier encouraged us to wash our hands after handling the mail, and that seems like a pretty sensible thing to do.)
So how will you survive the next few weeks?
-SCHOOL WORK! A lot of schools that closed sent home worksheets and materials for kids to complete while they’re home. I'm trying to keep my kids’ day ‘structured’ so they do a few hours of educational stuff in the mornings and then have free time or "de-funk the house" work in the afternoon. If your kids’ teachers didn’t send home materials, you can always login to the spelling or math sites the kids use at school. If nothing else, get them to read as many books as possible so when they return to school they can DESTROY their Accelerated Reader goals. (Remember than children’s books can also be delivered wirelessly to your e-reader. No need to leave the house!) To check if a book has an Accelerated Reader test, go to www.arbookfinder.com.
Ask your kids' teachers for their spelling lists for the missing weeks and make flash cards for them. Find local historical figures or events to study and research. If your kids enjoy science or social studies, there are some great youtube channels run by teachers like MrBettsClass, who does historically accurate and funny song parodies, or PBSKidsforParents, where you can find science experiments and crafts. And videos about the proper way to apologize… which could be useful over the next week or so. Just be careful to vet the channels they’re watching, because there are a lot of “less educational” videos out there, too.
If all else fails, there are some awesome children’s audiobooks out there. If your kid loves a classic title or a book series – Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Sideways School, Babysitters Club – it’s very likely available in audio and easy to download to your phone or tablet.
Maybe avoid Samuel L. Jackson’s rendition of GO THE F*** TO SLEEP. Because that one is not meant for kids.
-Cooking. If your kids depend on you to cut the crusts off of their sandwiches for them, now is a GREAT time for them to gain a little independence in the kitchen - within reason. You don’t want to ask a five-year-old to handle sharp knives or boiling water. But they can mix and stir and measure. Asking them to help make the family meals will give them a sense of control AND help them appreciate how much work goes in to feeding the family. And the measuring and baking can help them with some practical math concepts. (Educational trickery!)
Take an inventory of the groceries you have and map out what meals you can make over the next few weeks. You need a plan. And the kids can fit right into that, making suggestions and helping you figure out how to make the most of what you have on hand.
I'll post a list of stockpile friendly recipes here at some point this week.
-Crafting. Several national craft chains have sent out emails/coupons that – while not explicitly stating it – seem tailored to people whose kids are home for the next few weeks. Check out your favorite store’s site and find craft kits that appeal to their interests.
This is also a great time for your kids (or you) to learn a new skill. Knitting, cross-stitch, paper curling, paint by numbers. Beginner kits are generally pretty cheap and if they end up enjoying that craft, that’s a whole new world opened up to them!
Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily have to BUY craft materials. There are plenty of household objects you can turn into “art.” Paper plates, Sharpies, twine, cardboard boxes, paper clips. Pinterest has literally THOUSANDS of ideas for projects you can do with stuff around your house.
Set up a museum in your house, exhibiting projects the kids are especially proud of. My kids really liked it when I made little display signs with the name of the piece and the artist.
-Supervised internet time. If you Google carefully, you can find some crazy online windows into the world. Search for “Virtual Museum Tours” or “Aquarium web cams” or “Zoo web cams.”
You can take a virtual tour of The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam or The Guggenheim in New York or The Louvre. The Smithsonian National Zoo has live feed cameras on lions and giant pandas and naked mole rats. (Shudder) The San Diego Zoo has baboons and koalas and polar bears. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium has a shark cam – a SHARK CAM – and a jellyfish cam. I could literally spend hours watching live feeds of jellyfish floating around.
-Pillow forts. Let each kid build their own pillow fort for the duration of your quarantine. (You might want to help with construction, just for safety and equal pillow distribution.) If the kids feel they have their own space to customize and occupy, the might be more willing to stay in those forts, separate from each other, not fighting. Let's face it, coloring, reading, Legos - it's all more fun in a pillow fort.
-Dress Up with the grown ups' clothes. (Maybe move your make up and good jewelry to an inaccessible location.)
-Board games. I have a tendency to buy weird board games (The Office Clue!, Harry Potter Uno, Villainous, Phase 10, The Worst Case Scenario Game.) This really pays off when you're trapped in the house. My kids are the most vicious Spoons players you will ever meet. We can't play with the good spoons anymore. If you don't have games, you can find instructions on how to make "homemade" games online.
-Movie theatre. Eventually, the kids are going to want to watch cartoons. So try to make it something special with popcorn, snacks and drinks, blankets and pillows.
And so many more. You just have to get creative and keep in mind that you're trying to make this something FUN for the kids, instead of a family-wide descent into madness.
Try to stick to your daily routine as much as possible. Get up at your regular time. Stick to normal meal times. When it’s time for your regular work day to end, that’s it. Turn off your computer/phone, and devote your attention to your home and family. They deserve and need you right now.