We are in unprecedented times. Things are changing by the minute. One thing we can be certain of is that schools will be closed for quite some time. I’m so grateful to the educators and authors who have been graciously sharing resources wide and far on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I’ve been sharing them out on our Catching Readers Facebook page. I, like many others, felt a need to DO SOMETHING.
BUT. As I pause and think about what these upcoming weeks might look like for many of our students, I simply can’t put school-based learning at the forefront. We cannot expect families to instantly start home schooling, nor should we require kids to sit in front of a computer and engage in distance learning or online courses immediately. Many families don’t have computers, internet service or devices beyond their own phone. Many families are most concerned about childcare or where meals are going to come from, health insurance or if they will still have a job tomorrow. Many families have elderly parents living with them and are concerned about their well-being. Many families are worried about way bigger things than their child’s daily lessons. Our children feel this stress even more now than when they were in a daily routine of coming to school. And even if you are lucky enough to have an abundance of resources at your fingertips, and if you don’t have many of these worries – is this what’s best for our kids right now? Maybe. Maybe not.
So for now, I have some ideas for what families might do with their children. These ideas don’t require devices or many materials. They are simple and fun for kids and adults. You need to do what works for you – as do our families. We can continue sharing resources with our families, but we can’t expect them to become teachers. And we can’t bombard them with resources, pile on required assignments, and add yet another stressor to their lives.
Being together, enjoying time connecting with each other, helping each other, PLAYING, exercising, using your imagination, being creative, and getting outside together is really what I think we need to focus on now. If a child needs a schedule to help them, great – make a schedule with them. But above all, listen to them. Be responsive to what they are telling you. Hug them. Put your phone down and be with them. Play with them.
Here are a few suggestions. But please remember, you need to do what works for you and your family and I hope teachers share that message with the families of the students they teach.
*Make a mask or a hat! You can use construction paper, junk mail paper, crayons, etc. It might be a favorite animal or a character from a book. You might want to act out a story after you make it. Thank you to my dear friend Carrie, for this photo of her son, Critter.
- Read! Read books together, read out loud, read whatever you can get your hands on. Take a walk and look for Little Free Libraries. Many schools have these, as well as many neighborhoods.
- Play dress up! Young children love to dress up! Get out some scarves, old jewelry, shoes, hats, etc. and let your child create an imaginary world.
- Build a fort! Put sheets, towels or blankets over furniture. Get a flashlight and a few books and read in the fort. Make shadow puppets with flashlights.
- Make a water play area in the bathtub or a plastic tub outside – add measuring cups, shaving cream, cups and bowls for scooping and pouring. Kids love playing in water!
- Write letters! Kids love to write – and draw. Kids can write love letters to people in their family, to relatives who don’t live with them, to neighbors in the apartment complex (and deliver them to their doorsteps).
- Make books! Give kids a few pages of paper and they can make books with pictures, words, etc… Many of our kids are used to this in school with daily Writers’ Workshops – this is something that all kids can do at home and they love it. Don’t worry about whether the words are spelled right, just let kids make books in their own way.
- Count! Gather things in the house to count: beans, popcorn kernels, socks, towels, dishes as you set the table, anything!
- Make art! When markers run out of ink, put them in a cup of water. In a few minutes, you’ll have watercolor paint. Use a kitchen brush, a Q-tip, a cotton ball or a stem from an evergreen tree as a paintbrush if you don’t have a paintbrush at home. Open up a paper bag and tape it to the wall – create a big mural with crayons, markers or paint.
- Play with boxes! Take any box and let your child have fun with it. They may want to cut, paint, stack or tape them – or get inside of them, or create a fort with them. Boxes can provide hours of play and learning.
- Go outside! Play tag, run around, go for a walk, have races, pretend to be different animals and move like them, look for insects under rocs or logs (always put the rock or log back where you found it so you don’t disturb the habitat), find a local park that might have some woods to explore, look for signs of spring, talk with your child about what you see/hear/smell, lay down and look at the clouds, gather sticks/rocks/pinecones and count them or make a fairy house, have a push-up contest, take a bag lunch and have a picnic, find a tree and observe it every day – take pictures and talk about how it’s changing.
- Dance party! Put on your favorite tunes and DANCE! Make music with pots and pans and wooden spoons.
- Listen and talk together. Be present and enjoy each other.
Make a wonder wall! My friend Kassia took a paper bag and made this cool wonder wall for her kids.
Again, this is a huge list that I brainstormed and gathered with help from friends. Families need to do what works for them. I think what matters most right now for teachers is to be in touch with their kids through calls, texts, FaceTime, or group chats – not to assign work, but to connect. Hear the stories they come to school everyday eager to tell. Let them know that you are still here, that you still think of them, that you miss them, and that you love them. Many of our children left school one day with no idea that they wouldn’t be back in their classrooms with their friends and teachers for weeks or months. Let them call their friends, FaceTime with their friends, write letters to their friends. And I think what matters most for families is to be there for their kids. Listen to them. Talk with them. Play with them.
I hope this helps. As the weeks go by, I will continue to blog and post on the Catching Readers Facebook page and on Twitter. Please take what helps you and share whatever may help your families.
Take care of yourself. Take care of each other.