Maintaining balance for you and your family; finding what works for you

It’s only Wednesday. This is hard. No matter who you are and what age your kids are, life has changed. And change is hard.

I’ve been posting more frequently to try and give additional ideas for those of you home with your kids. This page is my “home page” and links to all of my other posts regarding this new found increase in time home with our kids. Yesterday, I posted St. Patrick’s Day ideas. Both art projects we ended up doing were a big hit and could easily be modified for any art project.

Materials:

  • glue sticks
  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • computer paper
  • dot stickers (affiliate link – I LOVE these!)

You will see a visual schedule posted in the background. We loosely followed it before lunch. Keep in mind, I am a teacher so this comes very naturally to me. It also works very well for Keener. (Grace simply enjoys putting all of the possible schedule cards on the wall and then taking them off). The most important part in all of this is finding what works for you. If having a schedule posted increases your stress and anxiety, don’t do it!

Below is what is working for us. For now.

Thinking in bigger chunks of time

It helps me to think about “morning” and “afternoon.” After breakfast from about 8:30-12:30 and then after naps/quiet time from 3:30-5:30. Given how much longer the morning is, I feel I need more structure during this block.

Yesterday, it worked well to have a few activities planned. We did art and some building from about 9:30-11:00 and then went outside before lunch. Our dog Hank definitely didn’t get the memo on what is going on and he still needs exercise! From 11-12, we took him to an empty field. We brought our shovels and both kids spent almost an hour digging in the dirt. Call it whatever you want: science, nature study, collaboration, problem solving, creative play – they had a blast.

Take time to reflect on what is working and what is NOT working

The reason we did art and building from 9:30-11 and not 8:30 to 11 was because they watched Peppa Pig from 8:30-9:30. I needed physical and mental brain space to get ready for the day and check in with some work and this was how I got that space. It totally worked for me. I’m not willing to wake up an hour earlier to take this out of the routine. They were happy, I was happy. No beating myself up for something that is working for all of us.

Something that did work work very well was having Grace follow our “schedule.” She turned 2 in November and while Keener (who will be 4 in May) thrives with structure, it was just too much for her. So she followed it to an extent and the deviated and did her thing – which was totally fine! For her, the following was extremely helpful:

  • flexible seating. Sitting for extended periods is not generally a 2 year olds friend. She sat in a chair, stood, and sat on the floor all during one art project.
  • embed movement. As she finished a sticker page, she would run to the trash to throw it away. In fact, I think she was peeling stickers off quickly just so she could make as many trips to the trash can as she could!

Follow your kids lead

We were building with cups and tongue depressors and the kids decided they wanted to build other things. Thankfully, I remembered I had some clay hiding so we diverted the bridges and tunnels and started trying to make a tissue box!

When possible, try to change your mindset to think about this truly being a gift of time. There are very few times during the hectic “every day normal life” to be able to follow our kids lead and explore concepts they are truly interested in.

Some teacher moms I know are using curiosity to drive all home learn instruction. Everything from researching “why do turtles move so slowly?” to “what do raspberries do for your body?’ are questions we are going to be researching. When you can find high interest topics to explore together, it feels a lot less like “trying to get to bedtime.”

Be kind to yourself

Last night I was exhausted. Even though there were so many things I could have done — clean, laundry, cook, etc. — the most important self care I could do for myself was get in bed early. I turned on a documentary about peanut allergies. I couldn’t take reading or watching one more thing about the Coronavirus, so I didn’t.

I plan to explore self care more as I know that is an area of high interest. For now, pray the beginning of the Serenity Prayer and breath slow and long breaths through your nose, not mouth.

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;”

Activities, Schedules, and Ideas for Kids at Home

What a wild time. First and foremost, I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Thank you to all medical providers, first responders, and volunteers who are selflessly giving each day, even during especially stressful and uncertain times.

I have come across lots of ideas that I want to pass along. This will be the home page and with many links to outside resources, other posts, websites, etc. to try and cover as many angles of this as possible. I will update this site as I discover more resources to share with you. *Disclaimer: this is a personal blog with all posts written by me. All information presented is intended to help and inspire anyone who spends time with children. Links to other sites are ones that I find useful, informative, and align with my opinions.

Updated 4/1

Updated 3/25

Updated 3/20

  • New post! Using the gift of time to teach independence
  • Epic! is a digital library that has over 35,000 books! I have used it in the classroom and it is a wonderful resource. It is free for educators and also free for 30 days for everyone. Some of the books are digital copies but many of the books have the option of reading it aloud to the child. Below is a screen shot from their website of some of the books for 5 and under:

Updated 3/18

  • New post! Maintaining balance for you and your family; finding what works for you
  • Another great post by Kid Friendly DC that focuses on tips for PARENTS, not kids, on navigating life at home
  • Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. He is one of my favorite authors — Elephant and Piggie, Pigeon series, and others — and this has been a huge hit with the elementary age group. Would be above my 2 and 3 year old but we might watch a little as Keener loves his books. The website says: “Mo Willems invites YOU into his studio every day for his LUNCH DOODLE. Learners worldwide can draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing by visiting Mo’s studio virtually once a day for the next few weeks. Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons and join Mo to explore ways of writing and making together. New episodes will be posted each weekday at 1:00 p.m. ET and then remain online to be streamed afterwards.  Check back each weekday for new LUNCH DOODLES!”

New post for St. Patrick’s Day! Simple art activities for St. Patrick’s Day

Links to Lists of Activities:

  • Kid Friendly DC. If you live in the DC/VA/MD area and don’t subscribe to her weekly/weekend newsletter, you should! She aggregates all of events going on an pushes them out all in one email. One for the weekdays and one for the weekend. Considering she isn’t advocating for families to attend events right now, her newest post includes ideas for staying home: “What to Do on the Weekdays at Home During the Coronavirus.” This post is applicable no matter where you live.
  • Busy Toddler. Follow Susie on Instragram if you don’t already! She has tons of ideas for activites to keep little hands busy. And lots of the materials are things you already have around your house. Which is really great now that Amazon is backed up on deliveries.
  • Google Spreadsheet of ideas. Jennifer Serravallo is a brilliant literacy expert who I had the privilege of working with in NYC. She posted this document on Facebook and I reposted it on my Calm Chaos Facebook page. It includes activites and lists whether they include screens, parent involvement, indoor or outdoor, educational focus, and cost.
  • Kids Activities.com. She has tons of ideas for babies, toddlers, kindergarten, elementary aged kids and older. She really has some great stuff on there! This is a list of education companies offering free subscriptions to kids due to school closings.

Visual Schedules

Something you will see in every preschool and early elementary classroom is a visual schedule. Kids thrive on routine so attempting to create a sense of predictability will help kids feel in control of their day. The following are “centers” you might include in your child’s day:

  • music
  • art (including St. Patrick’s Day ideas for 3/17!)
  • building
  • cleaning
  • reading
  • outdoor play
  • independent play
  • screen time
  • snack/meals
  • cooking
  • sensory
  • games
  • puzzles

Options for creating visual schedules:

  • With your little artist, draw the parts of the day together. The more kids are involved, the more buy in they tend to have!
  • Google pictures to match these images and have your little one pick the one they like best.
  • Google “free visual schedules” and you will also be directed to lots of free resources. For example, this one from teachingmama.org. I just joined her newsletter and she sends you a free visual schedule (it did go to my spam folder so be sure to check that!)

There are tons of examples floating around the internet for how to structure the day for your kids/and yourself. Most importantly, pick what works for you and your family.

This one is from The Mama Notes. She has a full blog post about how she plans to design her day for her kids.

daily-toddler-schedule.png (1545×2000)

I’ve also seen this one :). Find what works for you and your kids! The most important thing is keeping yourself and your kids as calm as possible.

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Ideas that are keeping us busy

I will post more this week when I can! For now, the following are ideas that are working for us or on our to do list:

  • Find non crowded paths to hike
  • Play with chalk outside
  • Go for walks
  • Make obstacle courses
  • Cook/bake
  • Make cards for others (elderly, doctors, etc.)
  • Sensory ideas (shaving cream, sand, oatmeal, water beads, etc.)
  • Read, read, read
  • Play games
  • Play-Doh
  • Spring cleaning of toys and clothes
  • Try to enjoy the slower pace of not having to be anywhere

Blog posts I hope to get to soon! Which would you like to see? Check all that interest you: