How to manage extended school closings

By: Chris Peterson

Let’s face reality, this is a stressful time around the world. The concerns about our health and the spread of COVID-19 are plastered across the headlines, but that isn’t all of it. This week has been a series of surprising, but also understandable, measures taken at local and federal levels in attempts to combat this global pandemic. One very noticeable and impactful precaution that is becoming more and more common in all of our communities is the closure of schools, whether that be for a day or multiple weeks. Children are being sent home and families are now trying to figure out what to do.

So, naturally, CCSC is here to help with suggestions on how to keep those kiddos entertained and occupied during this stressful time. Believe us, if you’re prepared it will make life much easier. We do have a bit of experience when it comes to entertaining children! Let’s look at the silver lining, children are resilient and very accomodating. As odd as it may sound, you have a golden opportunity to give a unique and memorable experience that will never be forgotten. 

Before getting into some of the activities that you can do, let’s talk about 10 things you can focus on at a larger scale.

Routine/Schedule

Kids need a routine and predictability in order to feel safe. This is especially important during times of crisis. The age of your child will determine how much routine will need to be set in place. Remember that during the holidays the routine is often focused around some central theme which helps guide most decisions and gives some predictability to everything happening. The current situation is completely void of predictability which causes uncertainty. Give your children some guidance so they are able to understand what is happening, as best they can.

Make sure there is a schedule that involves regular times for daily activities, including meals, rest times, and bathing. Don’t let your house become the “Wild West”. Instead, provide that much-needed structure and normalcy.

 

Focus on schoolwork

Let us not forget that children are sponges for knowledge and we as adults should always be trying to fulfill that desire for learning. Take this opportunity to give some experiential learning opportunities.

 

But also remember that you are not their teachers or their school. Schools will likely have work to keep up with and that is vitally important to continue. Our best suggestion is to set a specific time each day that is focused on school work, whether that be school work sent home or activities that you would like to do yourself with your children.

If your school did not send work home, there are a variety of different learning materials online that can be used. A quick google search will get you to those resources. A lot of these resources are also waiving fees during this time in an effort to help. Reading, baking, and doing hands-on projects are all great opportunities to have educational experiences while also having fun.

 

Let off some steam

Make sure you have set time aside to have some fun! For every family that means something different, eg. family movie night, a full-blown nerf battle, or a run around the neighborhood. No matter the way, blow off that steam and have some fun.

 

It is also important to be keyed into how your children are acting and reacting to this unique situation. Let’s be honest, nobody is used to this! While blowing off steam might be a big dance party, it also might be a communal scream, or a trip to different corners of the house to have some alone time to regather and recoup. 

 

Get outside

Spring is starting to show and that means that it is time to get outside. Make some time each day to get outside into the fresh air. The physical activity of a good hike or bike ride will refresh everyone.

 

Go fishing or bird watching, if you’re near the beach go shell collecting, if you’re near the forest make some natural forts. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

 

Stay Calm

Again, it may seem obvious but children are very tuned into how their closest adults are reacting to this very unpredictable situation. Talk to your children about what is going on, but be calm and reassuring with them. A piece of good news to share is that most children do not show symptoms of COVID-19, so they should be OK.

 

Explain why school is closed for the time being, what social distancing is and why following the general guidelines for hygiene is so important. Make the “New Normal”, normal by practicing proper hygiene. You can even make it a game by using stamps on hands and if the stamp is washed off at the end of the day there is a prize.

 

Relax your standards

Chores around the house will feel endless and may feel like they will never get done. Maybe you have to allow for more screen time or the clothes might not get folded as quickly as desired. Maybe the playroom will be a bit messier for the time being. These are all things that are OK to do in a time like this. 

 

Your meals might become more basic and served on paper plates. Again, this is a unique situation that requires compromise and adaptability. If you can show that you can adapt to the situation, your children will follow in kind, even if it means a pizza picnic on the living room floor while watching Frozen 2 in your pajamas.

Also, cut the kiddos some slack. They don’t want to be in lock down as much as you don’t want to. This isn’t the time to harp on them about every little thing. Try to ignore what you can, and save those parenting moments for when you really need them, because you definitely will need them.

 

Challenge the kiddos

Ask your kids to step up and meet the challenge. Kids like to feel important and have a role that is recognized. Help them understand the unique situation the family, community, country, and world is in and let them know that we all need to pitch in.

 

On a small scale that might mean getting some chores done around the house such as taking out the trash, feeding the family pets, or identifying a room that each child must keep clean.

On a larger scale, find ways to contribute to the community, maybe by thinking of a fundraiser, or writing letters to the elderly or putting together thank you cards for first responders and medical staff, helping neighbors in different ways, walking dogs, or getting groceries. Let your child brainstorm ideas and include them in the process, you will be pleasantly surprised with their creativity.

It is also important to let your children know that by sacrificing their time, they are helping the community as a whole.

 

Make the best of it

This will be hard, but we can do it. In fact, we don’t have any other options. You can’t opt-out, and it is going to be very challenging. It will be challenging on your patience, your creativity, your health, and your overall well being. But the reality is this is what we have to stand up to and face head-on. We cannot ignore it and we cannot hope someone else will handle it for us. Instead, we need to stand up for our children and show them how we respond to difficult situations.

 

Reach out to each other and give support, and remember, eventually this too will pass.

 

Make memories

As we said earlier, this is an experience, a time in everyone’s life that won’t be forgotten. The important part is what story will those memories tell? Will you look back on this one day and smile or will you cringe? Do your best to find a way to create some special moments.

 

Dance parties, silly meals, breakfast in bed, camping outside (weather dependent), different movies every night. These are all things that can have some added impact and excitement during this tough time.

What makes CCSC so special is more than just our activities and staff, it is the perceived magic that we work so hard to inject in everything we do. While we do it on a different scale, it is still very possible and effective to accomplish in your home.

 

Have Fun

Look on the bright side, you are getting some good quality time with your children. Have some fun with it, make the best of it and don’t let it drag you down. 

 

Here are some activities that can help get your mind turning on things to do while the kiddos are home.

  • Have each child pick a topic that they want to learn about and spend 30 minutes researching it. Once the 30 minutes is up, they will need to make a play or draw a picture book about what they just learned.
  • Become a guest blogger for CCSC! – We always love to hear what type of impact camp has made on both campers and families. Write a quick paragraph or more on a camp experience and it might get posted on our camp blog. Answer one of these two questions, Because of camp… or, At camp I learned…
  • Write an email or letter to a friend or family member each day.
  • Inventory bugs, plants, and wildlife in the backyard. (There are plenty of apps that can help with recognizing each species) Bonus would be to learn all the parts of the plants/flowers, how they function, and their latin names.
  • Do science experiments and learn why they are happening. Science Experiments 
  • Many educational websites are waiving fees if your child’s school is closed.
  • Fill your bathtub and find different objects around the house and see if they sink or float. Then figure out why.
  • Make homemade paper
  • Set up a house scavenger hunt – Take close up pictures around the house & yard print them out and have the kids find all of them. The more abstract the picture the longer it will take.
  • Have your child teach you their favorite camp song.
  • Make s’mores- Use your microwave or a firepit.
  • Build forts.
  • Do your camp forms, Letter to my bunk counselor.
  • Have the kids plan and make a meal. (With guidance of course)
  • Board game tournament – Careful these can get very competitive!
  • Make a leprechaun trap
  • Make a sailboat out of recyclables
  • Write to your camp friends, with pen and paper (we can help with mailing addresses)
  • Collect cardboard boxes and tape, let their creativity take charge after that!
  • Explore new hiking paths and outdoor areas- Remember this is social distancing not full lock down quarantine.
  • Make a cake but as an experiment. Make a few different ones, each time not using one ingredient to understand what each ingredient’s purpose is in the cake.
  • Learn to roll sushi
  • Make a stop motion movie with playdough or legos.
  • DIY escape room
  • Read lots of books!

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