Across the country parents are scrambling to figure out how to help their children thrive during an unexpected extended school vacation. Keeping kids (especially boys) busy and engaged in a constrained setting can be a challenge.
But it doesn't have to be a disaster.
Listen to a recent radio interview with Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA on this subject. Interview starts at 10:15
1. Build a Stronger Bond by Creating New Routines and Traditions
Approach it with a great attitude. Parents can use this tense time as an opportunity to build tighter bonds with their kids and to discover new ways to be together.
With early-morning school rush and back-to-back rehearsals and sports at bay, the break is a terrific opportunity to develop new routines and create new traditions. Establish certain times of the day when your child will need to play or work independently and certain times you will be available to be engaged with them.
Young children crave routines and older children find security in them. Whether it is cleaning a room, making a bed, having family devotions, gathering around the dinner table, a family game night, or instituting a tradition like Saturday Batter Day (a Hancock Family Tradition of Dad's World's Best Pancakes on Saturday), these types of routines help children feel a sense of normalcy in knowing what to expect each day.
2. Rediscover the Power of Play
The extra time at home can be a great opportunity to rediscover some of the greatest teaching tools: play and boredom. You read that right. The power of creative play simply cannot be over-stated. Turn off the TV and the video games and resist the temptation to rescue your kids through over-planning.
Boredom is one of the greatest tools to teach children problem-solving and creativity. Equip children to solve the boredom problem themselves! Send the kids outside and let them play in the grass, give them a box of Legos(R), a bin of matchbox cars, a board game, or a puzzle. Encourage them to develop their own fun.
Unstructured play helps kids learn resource management, conflict resolution, anxiety-reduction, negotiation, and lets them discover they can entertain themselves without a screen.
Here are a few other ideas to help engage the kids:
- Play indoor hide and seek
- Build blanket and pillow forts in the living room
- Family game night (always a win - especially for the one who wins!)
- Hold a cup-stacking competition
- Teach the family pet a new trick
- Create a family tree - write articles about notable ancestors
- Learn and play a new card game
- Make paper airplanes
- Snuggle on the couch and read your favorite books
- Go fishing/hiking
- Cook together
- Learn to play an instrument
- Play sports
- Plant a spring garden
- Develop a new hobby
- Use butcher paper to draw a life-size family portrait
3. Help Reduce Their Anxiety
Kids are likely to have many questions about what Coronavirus is, why events are being cancelled, how they can protect themselves, and what terms like "social distancing" and "quarantine" mean.
Depending on the age of your child, they may be oblivious to much of this discussion. Share age-appropriate information as much as possible before they encounter it through media or engagements with friends. Let them talk about it. It is important to understand what your child is feeling and to help them process their emotions in a healthy manner.
Learning at Home
Focus on having fun learning with what you have, and enjoying the time getting to know your child’s interest and learning style.Here are some ideas for engaging your kids in learning to keep their minds developing:
- Scholastic is offering a free 20-day online learning program called “Learn at Home.”
- Khaun Academy is offering age based daily schedule of activities and free resources for K-12 students.
- Education.com is offering free worksheets.
- BrainPop offers "rigorous interactive learning experiences extend far beyond the original movie and quiz format."
- Skype a Scientist - Just what it sounds like! It may take a few days to make a connection, so start sooner rather than later.
- Trail Life has created our Woodlands Trail Activity Book filled with boy-friendly engaging education activities perfect for elementary aged boys.
4. Take them on a Virtual Field Trip
Maybe you can't get on a plane, but get on the laptop and see the world!
5. Read, read, read
Without the stress of early morning school prep, encourage late night reading to settle them before they drift off to sleep. Cut off the electronics at a certain hour. When our boys were young we let them stay up as late as they wanted to--as long as they were reading! It turned them both into lifelong readers.
That’s why we include character-based stories in our Trail Life Woodlands Trail Handbook for the younger boys. We are developing a love for reading.
6. Stay Connected
Use the community you have for support, whether it’s a church or club. In Trail Life, our Troop members are connecting, both within Troops and across Troops to help each other through this time. These connections help kids feel less alone and sustain the relationships they are most familiar with.
Trailmen are reaching out to share and conduct their badgework and skills online. Our middle and high schoolers are videotaping themselves mastering an outdoor skill like a knot, lashings, or working with woods tools and sharing those videos.
Facetime with relatives and friends you haven't seen in awhile. Everyone can benefit from a friendly voice! Interview grandparents and home-bound relatives about their childhood. Ask what they did for fun. Have kids write a paper and/or make a presentation to the family about what they learn.
Let's be open to a greater purpose of God to use these difficult times to make something even more beautiful out of our family relationships.