16 Things to Do While the Kids Are Home

How to structure the day for parents working at home while kids are schooling.

Posted Mar 18, 2020

In just a few short days, our lives have changed dramatically. If a typical day included kids going to school and parents going to work, at this point, many are at home. The changes represent an effort to stem the spread of Coronavirus so that it doesn’t overwhelm the healthcare system.

The many school and business cancellations have resulted in parents and kids wondering what they can do to structure their time in creative ways The unknown engenders fear in all of us.  Children have questions and parents don’t have exact answers. Without focusing on the fear, which can be paralyzing, a good alternative is to provide structure.

As a psychologist, I can provide suggestions about how to develop a personal schedule to decrease anxiety and promote healthy coping. In the next few posts, I will elaborate on some of them. 

Some preparation is needed.  First, be sure that you have working internet connection that will support access to some wonderful resources. Schools have provided ways to connect and to know what the assignments are: familiarize yourself with them. Check your internet connectivity for websites and, if needed, hookups to larger screens. 

As someone who homeschooled for a year while working full-time from home, here is some advice: know what is required but do not become slavish to it.  Kids will learn by virtue of the experience, so try to make it a positive one. If you have a scheduled videoconference, provide an activity that will occupy them for the duration. TV is not a dirty word, provided that kids are viewing something educational. 

Here are some practical schedule tips:

  1. Wake up at the same time each day, preferably when you would wake up for work/school
  2. Take a shower
  3. Make the bed and brush your teeth
  4. Get dressed
  5. Eat breakfast, preferably at a table that is different than where you do schoolwork
  6. Go over the plan for the day.  Review homework.  Schoolwork, beginning with core/difficult subjects: STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Try to go over required work for the day and discuss longer-term projects, including timetables for completion.
  7. Take a break at around 10 to view one of the many videos that present mini-concerts on the internet. This will be expanded in a subsequent post. 
  8. 5-10 minutes of stretching. Some gym instructors are posting workout links. 
  9. Reading. In addition to required homework, review progress on chosen reading. The New York Public Library has posted its catalog freely online.
  10. Lunch, again approximating the usually scheduled time
  11. A walk outside, if you are able
  12. Enrichment, like a virtual field trip. Many museums, zoos and aquariums are posting videos, including entire virtual tours.  More on this in subsequent posts.
  13. Review what assignments require completion today, and provide guidance to help with completion.  Work on assignments for homework.
  14. Dinner. Kids can help with dinner preparation, serving and/or clean-up.  Older children may want to help plan menus. There are also links to sites helping kids learn to cook.  More later. 
  15. Creative time! Practice music, memorize a poem, write a story or a journal entry, work on a drawing or a craft. There are tutorials that explain how to knit, for example. Kids may also want to have virtual chats or hangouts with their friends.
  16. Bedtime. School-aged children 12 and younger should have a minimum of 10 hours of sleep each night. Youth 12-18 should have at least 8 hours of sleep.  Bedtimes can vary, but should be set to allow the recommended number of hours of sleep, probably between 7:30 and 10 p.m. Kids should check their devices before going to bed to prevent sleep interruption.  More on this in a subsequent post. 
Ted Rodenborn, photo credit, used with permission
First day of homeschooling
Source: Ted Rodenborn, photo credit, used with permission

There are a lot of ideas here, and of course this is not one size fits all. If you usually train or exercise in the morning, fit that in. There may be some physical activity that can be adapted to home practice, like martial arts. If you usually read, either to your kids or on your own, at night, do that, too. If you need quiet time in the afternoon, schedule that in.

If you accomplish your work and are able to help kids with their assignments, while providing structure, you will have had a successful day. Part of the reason that there are many more suggestions that you will need is that for kids who are used to going to sports practices and games, or lessons, or rehearsals, having so much unstructured time will in itself increase anxiety.