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Where to Find Resources to Structure the Day

Using your imagination to unlock children's curiosity in times of uncertainty.

Photo credit: Amanda Murnane. Used with permission of all children’s parents.
Facetiming her class
Source: Photo credit: Amanda Murnane. Used with permission of all children’s parents.

Many parents, perhaps feeling overwhelmed, have written that they are not going to provide educational structure for their kids during the current coronavirus crisis. However, parents are constantly educating their children. Parents teach kids how to be people, how to be a member of their family and community, and how to explore the world to find their place in it. Parents model how to cope with difficulty, and children learn from their examples. The current situation is not different, although it may require more from parents to show kids what to do in times of uncertainty.

A middle-ground approach might be: Have fewer things on your to-do list for your kids but involve yourself in the planning of them. Each evening, go over what will happen the next day, or over the next week for larger projects. If there is a virtual field trip in a few days, think about what you and your kids could read to prepare for it.

Many U.S. National Parks have virtual visits online; take the opportunity to read about when the park was created, where it is located, what the terrain is like. If you were to go there in person, what would you need to pack and to wear? What will be you looking for during your visit?

The park’s website is a good place to start, since it may reference materials developed to enhance the experience for schoolchildren. Are there wild animals in the park? What is the recommended way to interact with them, or not? Unfortunately, many children have only seen such animals in zoos; they may assume that animals in the park will also be tame or will be in an enclosure. Every year, tourists are injured because they approached a bear, for example, when they should have used bear spray, made loud noises, and avoided close proximity.

The number of resources available on the internet has burgeoned; it is now possible to find lessons, virtual trips, virtual concerts, and many skills-based tutorials. Parents have availed themselves of the opportunity to help kids develop needed skills while occupying their time, allowing parents to accomplish work.

Examples of resources include museum trips and concerts, which allow you to think about a fantasy vacation trip. While you may not be planning an actual trip to Paris to see the Louvre, you can see it online, without the crowds. If you were going to Paris, what else would you like to see? Monet’s garden at Giverny has posted a virtual tour. You can tour Versailles online: Why is Versailles historically significant? Devising an activity and finding the answers to these questions can spark curiosity as well as provide for engaged dinner conversation.

Structure remains an important element of a successful day. At 1 p.m. each day, for example, the children’s book author Mo Willems airs a virtual class for Doodling. The page encourages kids to ask questions that will be incorporated into the show. At 5 p.m. each day, the Iron Chef Michael Symon hosts a cooking show on Food Network Kitchen, Daily Dinner. Recipes are posted prior to the day’s show. The goal of the half-hour broadcast is to help families put food on the table without stressing about menu planning, using ingredients that may be readily available.

Kids want to have time with their friends; although they can’t see them in person, they can have virtual playdates. Using their technology skills, kids can play a game virtually, write a story, or read/put on a play. Virtual orchestras and choirs have sprung up. The choir from Chino Valley Unified School District Choral Festival Hills High School in Hawaii created a video of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that they were to have sung during their spring concert.

Rather than bemoaning what you are not able to do at this time, if you take it as a challenge to your creativity, you will be able to teach your children, and yourself, an important lesson: Doing something of your own invention helps you connect with your true self. That is a lesson worth learning.

More from Jane Timmons-Mitchell Ph.D.
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