March – Schools Have Canceled Classes… What’s a Parent (Caregiver) to Do? by Johanna Hicks
What’s a Parent (Caregiver) to Do?
It’s official. Schools have canceled classes due to safety concerns for students and staff over COVID 19. So now what? Kids are glad to be able to sleep in while parents and caregivers wonder how to keep them occupied. I have seen posts by educators who have lots of really good ideas, including interactive educational websites to keep young minds involved. Social media also provides great ideas, and I even remember a few things from my childhood. So, while these may seem old-fashioned, take a look and perhaps you’ll see the value in them, too:
- Build a tent: I’m not talking about the canvas tents that come with poles (although that would be fun, too!). Pull out some of your old sheets and blankets and allow your child to drape them over tables, chairs, and other furniture to form a hide-out. Provide pillows to sit on and a flashlight for reading. Snacks can be served on a tray. The simple act of building a tent, tunnel, or obstacle course is part of the fun!
- Read together: Books are great for brain development! I have a favorite book from my childhood that I enjoy reading to my grandchildren. Its’ called “Cowboy Dan.” My mom would substitute the name “Cowgirl Ann” when she read it to me. It is a rhyming book which she read with enthusiasm, talking about the words that rhymed, and allowing me to “fill in the word.” Even older kids enjoy reading with an adult, so give it a try!
- Bake something: Some of my fondest memories were those times spent in the kitchen with my mom. Even if it’s simple store-bought cookie dough or a cake mix, just spending time measuring, stirring, pouring, and watching the oven timer teaches skills in children. Math (measuring), science (what happens when you mix liquid ingredients with dry ingredients, what happens to the texture when heat is applied), language arts (stir, bake, blend, whisk, bake, boil, steam), manners (sharing utensils, waiting your turn), and safety (using oven mitts, food safety, knife safety, hygiene) are all involved in baking or cooking. Pull out your cookbooks and let the child select a recipe to prepare with you.
- Pull out games or puzzles: Table games can be fun and educational. Chutes and Ladders is a classic (again math, language arts, and manners are involved). Puzzles are a personal favorite of mine. These are great for eye-hand coordination, reasoning skills, and color recognition.
- Play ball: go outside (weather permitting) and toss a ball or play kickball. If you have a basketball hoop, play with your child! Make up a game as you go.
- Sew: One of my favorite hobbies is sewing – quilting, in particular. I actually learned to sew at a very young age and made a pair a simple shorts at the age of 8. I’ve been sewing ever since. If you have a sewing machine gathering dust in your closet, pull it out! Pillows are super easy to make! You can also make bean bags and then use them to play a toss game. Be creative in re-purposing old clothes, towels, or other fabric. If sewing on fabric is not an option, make sewing cards from old greeting cards or empty cereal boxes. Punch holes approximately ½ to one inch around the edges. Cut a long piece of yarn or twine and thread it through a large plastic needle made for yarn. Allow the child to sew around the edges.
- Get crafty: pull out construction paper or notebook paper, glue, markers, crayons, scissors, yarn, trims, pom-pom balls, and other items and turn the child loose in creating something. If you are concerned about your table or work surface, cover it with newspaper or an old towel. Go online to find paper folding (origami) activities and do them with your student.
- Work in the garden or flower beds: We are getting into gardening season, so prepare a garden. Decide what you want to plant and with your child draw up a planting chart. Flower beds always need attention, so collect a garbage bag or other plastic bag and pull weeds. Perhaps plant some flowers. Kids love to dig in the dirt!
- Clean out a closet: Kids grow quickly! While they are home from school, it’s a great idea to go through clothes. Hang up the ones that still fit and set the rest aside for donating. Next, go through drawers to sift out socks, under garments, and other clothing items that are not longer usable. This is a great time to organize drawers and closets!
- Take a trip to donate usable items: You don’t even have to get out of the car if you want to take your items to the local Goodwill. Simply pull up, open your truck, and allow the staff to unload. They will even offer a receipt if you want to keep up with charitable contributions.
I’m sure you can think of other activities to keep your child busy, but hopefully this will give you some ideas to get started!
What this country needs is a show that teaches family values, morals, friendship, right from wrong, and a few lessons from the Good Book – Dukes of Hazard Museum
Johanna Hicks, B.S., M.Ed.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Community Health Agent
P.O. Box 518
1200-B W. Houston
Sulphur Springs, TX 75483