It’s no secret that we are in uncharted territory here in the United States. In recent weeks, COVID-19 has reached our shores and has begun its slow march across the country, infecting thousands. That means we’re being asked to practice social distancing, which has led to schools, camps, after-school activities and sports engagements being cancelled for the foreseeable future. Despite how much we love our amazing little ones, this has created a huge burden for parents, as we struggle to figure out how to keep them happy, active and engaged while still meeting our own objectives at work and in the home.
Luckily, we parents are amazing multi-taskers who tend to handle everything life can throw at us. So even though we’re in challenging times, we’ll get through this. The key to managing it all is to have a plan. That’s why we’re sharing some of our tips for how to stay productive while working at home with kids.
Use online resources
Let’s face it—the kids are off school for a long time. And so far, most schools haven’t implemented a plan for this period of disruption in their learning. That means it’s time for us to step up and at least do some sort of learning each day. Still, there’s no need to feel like you have to come up with a complete homeschool schedule for your kids while you’re trying to maintain your workload as well. A little bit at a time should suffice for now. Luckily, there are lots of online resources that companies and schools have put out—that are completely free—that can help you plan your kids’ day without too much effort. We’ve listed a few below:
- Scholastic Learn at Home– this robust site comes from long-time educational partner Scholastic. They’ve created this resource as a completely free (and easy!) way for parents to help kids continue learning at home during this period of interruption. It’s organized by groups of grade levels (grades 3–5, for instance) and gives several engaging stories to read through each day.
- Prodigy– this popular math game is one your kids may already use at school. It’s free with the choice to upgrade to a monthly paid membership. With the option to choose and customize a character, and a series of fun challenges, Prodigy is almost more like a video game than a math program. Almost. Your kids will have to complete math problems in order to unlock rewards and levels.
- Nat Geo Kids– You can always count on National Geographic to have amazing content for learning. Now, they’ve extended it to kids as well with their famous NatGeoKids site. This beautiful, colorful website has tons of stories, videos and even games your kids can check out. It’s a great way to sneak in a daily science lesson, with topics covering tons of different animals, the environment and the oceans.
- ABC Mouse– Best for kids in preschool through third grade, ABC Mouse is a fun online learning resource that teaches everything involved with reading and writing. The site does charge a monthly membership fee, but it’s super easy to cancel, which you can do anytime with no commitment. Offerings on this educational site include fun songs, tracing games, and short, grade level-appropriate stories. Your kids will love customizing their own avatars and caring for the pets they earn with the rewards they’ve earned.
Online resources are a huge help when trying to keep your kids busy and engaged. These other tips can help you figure out how to structure the day to ensure you’re able to get busy as well!
Make a daily schedule
The key to productivity in any setting? Don’t let the day get away from you! The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to make a schedule for how the day will go. That doesn’t mean you need to feel pressured to schedule every second. Keep things loose and attempt simply to nail down a rough sense of how things will go.
When it comes to kids, a short list of personal hygiene tasks is a good way to keep them busy for a while first thing in the morning. Grab a chalk marker and write their hygiene tasks on the bathroom mirror, then allow them to check them off as they go. Other things to add to the daily schedule including reading, lunch, outside play, creative time, screen time and STEM time.
With all this time off school, kids will quickly get into the vacation mindset, so they may push back a bit when you mention the “S-word” (that’s right, schedule!). A great way to get the kids in on the action is to enlist their help. Ask them to weigh in on how the day should go; maybe one child prefers to read first thing while another likes to use reading time as downtime after a busy morning.
Use a chore-activity-screentime rotation
Any working parent will agree; bored kids are the anathema to productivity. When they’re occupied, it’s entirely possible to get things done as long as you play your cards right. But once the fun starts to wear off, they’ll be tugging at your heels every five seconds.
Cure this AND get stuff done by implementing a chore-activity-screentime rotation. First, come up with a short list of chores that each child should complete each day. These can be routine chores like making their beds or something a bit different as a result of the extended time off school. A few that we’ve tried are organizing sock and underwear drawers, cleaning out underneath beds, and going through the endless number of bins, bags and buckets of toys and trinkets. Once that’s done, they can do an activity of their choice, like a craft, a get-moving game, a board game or something similar.
Finally, reward them with a predetermined period of time where they can play their favorite video game, use the iPad or watch TV. Using a rotation is a great way to keep things fresh and make sure everyone gets everything done.
Work at night and early in the morning
You’re asking your kids to rethink their daily lives during this unprecedented period of lockdown. So it’s only natural that you may need to do the same. If you’re trying to work from home with kids, the reality is that there will likely be very little downtime for you. With little kids running around all day, you may need to complete the bulk of your work during the early morning hours or late at night. So for now, you may need to put those Netflix binge-sessions on hold while you complete work tasks that don’t get done during the day. Or, you might choose to wake up an hour earlier than usual in order to get some quiet time to work. We know—doesn’t sound like fun, but it’s a great way to get things done. Plus, it frees you up to spend quality time with the kids during the daytime hours.
For now, there’s really no end in sight to this period of social distancing and schools being shut down. Because of that, it’s important to recognize that there are things that are just going to fall by the wayside. You can’t do everything, so you’ll have to prioritize. If your work week is super busy, allow yourself the flexibility to make easy dinners (breakfast for dinner is a great option, and so are these super easy Instant Pot Chicken Tacos) and skip major household tasks. Now is not the time for pulling out the summer clothes or deep-cleaning the bathroom. Tackle those things when your workload lightens up, or on the weekends. Enlist the kids and your partner to help keep your head above water when the going gets tough.
The bottom line? It can be done! It is possible to work from home while keeping your sanity. It’s all about prioritizing and approaching each day with a positive attitude. And keeping the faith that, as a country, we will pull together and get through this crisis.