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Are you wondering what to do with your kids home all day now that school closed? Here are my top tips to help you make time for working while you have your kids home.
I live in eastern Washington State. Seattle was among the first school districts to announce that they were closing their schools due to the virus. The rest of the state did the same, and shortly after, schools closed across the country, leaving many parents with a new situation.
If you’re facing an unexpected school closure, and are starting to panic about your kids being home all day every day for a couple of months or more, this post will help. I share 15 practical tips for creating a “new normal” and staying productive while your kids are home.
Note: As a homeschooling mom of nine, my kids are home with me 24/7. Even when I’m working on my freelance business. So I speak from experience – you can do this!
First, Get Prepared
Disclaimer: I’m definitely not a doctor or a lawyer or anything like that. So anything on this blog is not medical/legal/professional advice.
Your family’s health and safety is the first priority. Make sure that you have the supplies you need on hand. If you’ve never been into prepping for emergencies before, now is a great time to get started.
Don’t go buy all the toilet paper. But do make sure you have at least a few days’ worth of food and water for everyone in your house. And some chicken soup (or whatever comfort food you prefer when sick.) That way you don’t have to run to the store if you do get ill.
Also, wash your hands.
And follow the advice that the medical personnel put out, and stay away from large gatherings.
15 Tips for Having Your Kids Home All Day
Alright, let’s dive into the tips. If your kids are unexpectedly home from school for an extended period of time, these strategies will help you all thrive.
If you’re also trying to make time to work from home with kids in the house, try these posts instead:
They’ll give you the tips you need to carve out time to work while your kids are home.
1. Your Attitude Matters
What you do and say will set the tone for this entire period of time. Do not panic or freak out on your kids.
Stay calm. Stay collected.
And if you feel like screaming, step away from your kids for a minute.
They need you to be in control. And to not act like it’s the end of the world that you have to be with them for these two weeks.
It is not your kids’ fault that their school closed. It is not your fault. So don’t blame people. It is the situation, so decide right now to make the best of it.
Tell yourself that you’ve got this. And look at it as a blessing, not a curse. You have a unique opportunity to spend more time as a family. It may not be under the circumstances you would have chosen, but nevertheless, here you are.
You’ve got this. Be strong!
2. Make a Plan
You cannot wing two weeks at home with no plan. By the end of three days, you will all be driving each other crazy.
But, you also can’t schedule every minute of the day and expect it to go well.
Instead, you need to find a balance. I recommend creating a plan of the day, every day. Get your kids involved in this step. If they know what to expect, the day will go more smoothly for everyone.
If you’ve never done a plan of the day or created a more flexible schedule, read this post:
Here are a few pointers:
- Talk about your day from start to bedtime
- What has to get done?
- Do you need to go anywhere?
- Are any of you sick and needing more rest?
- What are you going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
- What chores need done? By who?
- When can the TV come on?
This should only take 10 minutes or so. But, it will give you all a better sense of order. You will feel more in control of your day instead of merely a victim of circumstances beyond your control.
3. Schedule Some Fun
You have a chance to spend extra time with your kids. Do some fun things.
Let everyone pick one fun thing to do each day. Set the ground rules first. Here are the ones we use:
- It has to be done in the house (no going to crowded places!)
- It has to be something everyone can participate in
Then, write down what everyone says. As you schedule your day, do one work thing and then take a break with a fun task.
By knowing that they get lots of breaks for fun, kids are way more likely to get the work done first. So talk about it. And then make sure it happens.
Taking a break is good for all of you. Laugh together. Play together. Enjoy each other’s company.
4. Decide On the Must-Dos
What tasks are you going to get done today? Write them down. If you’re working from home, you need to ensure your work tasks are on the list.
If your kids have homework from school, that needs to be on the list.
And meal time.
All of those things you have to do to keep the house running (normal stuff, not deeper cleaning or anything) – write them all down.
That way you can easily see what needs done and if you get overwhelmed later, you can just look at your list and pick the next right thing.
Here are some of my must dos:
- Reading and math for school
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon snack (my annual meal plan makes this simple)
- Table chores following each meal
- Feeding the cat
- Client work for my freelance writing business
- 15 minute clean up
If we do those things, the house runs fairly smoothly. It won’t be perfect. But, the essentials will be taken care of.
What’s your must-do list? Take the time to write it down.
5. Make a List of Activities
What can your kids do to stay busy? You don’t want to entertain them all the time, or you will get worn out and behind in all your other tasks. You’ll also create kids who need entertained. That’s not a good thing.
If your kids don’t yet play independently, make teaching them how a priority during this time.
To help, make a list of all the activities your child can do. Here are some ideas:
- Turn a box into something
- Free play with pieces to a game
- Draw a picture
- Read a book
- Play with cooked spaghetti noodles
- Paint a rock
You can find more ideas in these posts:
You know your kids best. What are they capable of doing on their own? Write those ideas down in a list of your own.
A list online is never going to be geared perfectly for your family. I have no idea what toys you have. Or what your children enjoy. But you do.
So use the ideas you find online and create a list of your own. Then when you need your kids to play quietly for a little while, help them pick an idea. Set a timer for 30 minutes, and tell them when it’s done, you’ll do something fun together.
Then keep your word.
6. Meal Plan
When your kids are home, it is not the time to be standing at the fridge desperately wondering what you’re going to cook for dinner.
Make a meal plan right now, that will last you at least a week. Keep it simple. You do not need to use Pinterest to find fancy recipes.
Think of pantry meals. Or family favorites. Use those during this time.
Your brain can only handle so much. You are already going to be operating at near capacity because of all the changes in having your kids home.
Do not push your brain over the limit by also trying to find new recipes or cook something that takes hours.
Simple is key. And simple is good for periods of craziness. Like this.
Some ideas for breakfast:
- Toast and scrambled eggs
- Lunchable style (crackers and cheese)
- Mac and cheese
- Meatball subs (with frozen meatballs even)
- Chef salad
- Taco bar
- Carrots and ranch
- Cheese sticks
- Celery with peanut butter and raisins
Let your kids get in on the meal planning too if you want. Then they can help cook. It’ll be good for them. And they’re more likely to eat it if they help make it…
7. Get Outside
I know there is an outbreak going on. But, fresh air is seriously good for you. So get outside daily if possible.
Don’t go to crowded places. It’s not the time to head to the popular park or anything like that.
But, take a walk around the block. Go do jumping jacks in the yard. Let your kids burn off some energy.
Fresh air can help relieve stress. And you all need that.
If you can’t get outside, do some energy burning activities inside.
Play toilet paper tag (tape the roll shut first or it’ll be all over). Get the Nerf guns out and play one of these fun games.
Set up an obstacle course in your living room. Have the kids scale the couch cushions, do five push ups, touch their toes ten times, and sing the ABC song while spinning.
You want to get hearts beating. Do this a couple of times each day for best results.
Kids have a lot of energy, and they need appropriate ways to let it go. Otherwise they’ll find plenty of ways you don’t approve of…
8. Use the Screens
Screens are not the enemy, unless they become the dictator. Used appropriately, they can give you time to get some work done with your kids at home.
Let them earn some extra screen time by doing some chores. That’s motivating!
If you have a video game console, set it up and play together. We love playing Mario Kart together.
Watch YouTube videos. Learn something new. Watch a favorite movie.
9. Keep Learning
Two weeks (or longer) is a long time for kids to go without learning. Don’t stop school altogether.
If your kids’ school sent home packets, make them do them regularly. Set up a “school time” each day so there is some consistency.
Otherwise, here are some simple ways to keep your kids learning at home:
Quiet Reading Time
Read for 15 minutes each day. All of you. Even you.
Then, share what you read at the end of the time. Reading is so important!
Play a Board Game
Learning doesn’t have to be boring or tedious. Your kids can learn so much through games. Here are some posts I’ve written for ideas:
- Best Learning Games for 4th Graders
- Best Learning Games for 2nd Graders
- Board Games for Preschoolers (That Won’t Bore the Parents)
- 5 Board Games to Boost Creativity
- 5 Ways to Learn with the Board Game Monopoly
Playing games can be a fun way to pass the time and enjoy each other’s company while you’re learning.
Pick a chapter book series, and start reading it aloud. It’s good for older kids too. Try the Little House books or the Chronicles of Narnia. We’re currently reading the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody.
If you don’t want to actually be the one doing the reading, play an audiobook. Let your kids play quietly or color while listening. They actually will listen more closely if their hands are busy.
Stay Sharp on Math
You use math daily in real life. Let your kids in on it and let them help. Talk about budgeting and finances. Especially if you’re stressed about loss wages from lack of work.
Be honest and share the hard conversations. Talk about changes you’ll be making.
Bake together, to let your kids do the measuring. Talk about doubling a recipe. Have younger kids count out plates.
Print out worksheets for basic addition or subtraction (or multiplication or division).
10. Take Advantage of the Time
What projects have you been putting off because you didn’t have time? Do you need to declutter the closets or organize the pantry?
Now is a great time to get the kids involved and let them help. Working together is good for all of you. And, you just may have fun along the way if you try.
Pick a project and break it down into smaller steps. How much can you realistically get done each day? Talk to your kids about it and get their opinion – they can often offer much insight.
Then, pick a reward. What will you do or buy or eat if you get the project done on time? Decide as a family. Some fun rewards:
- Game night
- Movie night
- Ice cream cones
- Making cookies together
- Spending 1:1 time
11. Lower Your Expectations
You cannot have the same level of productivity when your kids are home as you can in a quiet house. Accept that right now.
Look at your priorities. Focus on those.
Let the rest slide until school is back in session.
That might mean you eat quicker meals or let kid clean be clean enough. Only you can know what this will look like in your house.
But, for an unexpected crisis, it’s okay to let things go.
Here’s a post with more on this topic:
12. Have Sibling Play Time
Let your kids play together. I pair my crew up and let the youngest of the pair pick what they do.
Sibling play time can give you some time to get something done. Or just relax for 30 minutes.
It’ll also encourage your kids to play with each other. Which is a good thing.
13. Always Have Quiet Time
You and your kids will drive each other crazy if you don’t get a little bit of alone time each day. In my house, a 90 minute quiet time is non-negotiable.
During it, my kids:
- Do projects
- Color or draw
- Watch a movie
- Read a book
- Play in the yard
- Practice a hobby (like knitting or sewing)
Basically, if it’s a quiet activity they can do on their own, they do it. My littles nap and everyone else is quiet.
There is no talking. There is no playing together. It’s individual.
During this time, I either nap or do some client work. It just depends on the day.
You will all feel so much better after getting away from each other for a little bit.
14. Pray Together
The world is hurting right now. With all the sickness going around, there are people who are terrified. And ill. And people who have lost loved ones.
Spend time together in prayer. It’ll draw you closer to God and to each other.
You can also read a chapter of the Bible together or sing some favorite hymns if you’d like.
15. Talk to Your Kids
At the end of each day (or at dinner time) ask your kids what worked and what didn’t. Find out what they thought about the day, and if they have any ideas for making it run more smoothly.
Kids often have great ideas and insight, but we often don’t think to ask them, because they’re…kids.
If you start end end each day with a touch base family meeting, you’ll keep a better feel on how things are going.
This is going to be a trying time. You will run into problems. So work together, as a team, to get through them.
Let Me Help
If you’re seriously struggling with having your kids home all day, I’d love to help! I offer affordable one-on-one coaching, and can help you through your sticking points so you can boost your productivity and deal with the overwhelm.
I also have a DIY course, Balancing Diapers and Deadlines. This will help you build a flexible schedule, put tasks on autopilot, and unleash the power of your brain.
If you’re interested, check out the details here.
Until School Reopens…
These tips will help you manage until school reopens. Whenever that may be.
It will take time to adjust, so remember to give yourself grace. And above all, remember that your kids are kids.
They may be scared. Or dealing with other big emotions right now.
They need you to love on them. And be strong for them. Even if you don’t feel like you are.
Make this a time out of school that they will look back on fondly. You can do this.
And remember, you can learn more about my coaching services here.
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.