Four Things Everyone (Including Kids) Needs When Stuck At Home
There are all sorts of reasons you could find yourself at home with the kids more than normal, and finding ways to engage with them can sometimes be a challenge, or feel entirely overwhelming. The blank page of the day stares back at you. “What should we do? How can we all beat boredom and cabin fever? How can we make the most of this?” And if you’re also trying to work from home while keeping everyone happy and sane, the pressure can feel even more unbearable.
We know that parents need all the help they can get, so we’re giving you a cheat sheet for winning at life at home. The super simple takeaway? Every person, no matter the age, personality, or geography, needs four things for a successful homebound life:
- Intellectual Stimulation
And since we know that the ages of your kids have a big impact on your day-to-day, we’re breaking up our advice based on age groups.
Little Kids Big Kids Teens
On one hand, being home with little kids isn’t so bad, because you’re used to having to organize their days. On the other hand, they need so much activity and socialization that they can really amp up the level of stir-crazy when you don’t have access to school, sports, or other social extracurriculars.
Get up. Get dressed. Get together. We like to start every day with a Morning Meeting. Gather everyone in the kitchen to go over the day-of-the-week, the weather forecast, and a general plan for the day. Sit down for meals and snacks together. Avoid the temptation to wing everything.
Little kids are incredibly social, and socializing provides a huge chunk of their learning right now since they aren’t doing heavy-duty academics yet. So, when you’re unable to get them to playgrounds, play dates, classes, or sports, try to make sure they’re socializing with someone other than you a few times a day (or at least once). Luckily, FaceTime and Google Hangouts make that super-duper easy. Another awesome option is Caribu, an app that lets them read books and do activities while video chatting with a virtual playdate (It’s great for keeping in touch with grandparents, too.) At your morning meeting, try to identify two or three people you’ll reach out to today for a some quick face-to-face or good old-fashioned phone conversations.
If you have little kids, we don’t need to tell you how important it is to exercise and get energy out. There are beautifully simple ways to accomplish this: nature walks, head-shoulders-knees-and-toes, ring-around-the-rosie, red light green light, or just a family dance party! But if you want to bring a little extra help in, we love Cosmic Kids Yoga and Go Noodle, which intertwine stories and games with the movement itself.
One thing that’s easy to forget is that little kids need free range playtime. So, leave some windows of time open for kids to play safely on their own. Maybe you can pull out a few age-appropriate puzzles or toys and leave them out as suggested “stations”. Or grab the dress-up bin, the pots and pans, or even just a few cardboard boxes. You’ll be amazed how well most kids can entertain themselves when given the chance. And it leads to stronger cognitive skills, among other amazing benefits!
Being housebound can be a little more challenging with bigger kids, who may be a bit more vocal about wanting to see their friends. But they’re also in that sweet spot where they still love learning and trying new things. Here are a few ways to encourage that:
Get up. Get dressed. Get going. Big kids also do better when they start the day with structure. They also love problem solving. So put your minds together first thing to set up a schedule for the day and kill two birds with one stone!
Bigger kids, just like adults, feed off of energy from friendships. So, when you’re stuck at home, they can get lonely and cranky. FaceTime and Google Hangouts are also great for this group, but there are plenty of apps that add a layer of fun to the virtual conversations. Our kids are loving Houseparty — a video chat app that makes it super easy to play games like trivia, Pictionary, and more while feeling engaged and connected with friends and family.
Help those growing legs stretch out, multiple times a day! You’ll walk a delicate line with bigger kids, between being seen as encouraging or pushy. While a family nature walk might be met with some resistance (or it might not!), there are a few ways to get them moving on their own terms. One, of course, is active video games (here are some top family games for Wii), but another doesn’t require a big electronics purchase. Just Dance Now is an app that’s free to download and filled with popular songs and dances. Pro tip: you can find many of the videos to dance along with for free on the Just Dance YouTube page. Another great way to get out and get moving? Exercise dice! Send the kids outside with these for fun, self-guided workouts.
Never underestimate how doing seemingly mundane things with (or without you) can make their brains fire on all cylinders. Cook together and talk about volume, fractions, and how different ingredients interact. Work in the yard together and make observations about plants, animals, and habitats. Give them a blank notebook and have them write short stories (as funny or full of potty jokes as they want!) and host an open mic night for them to share. And for a more highbrow experience, you have to check out all the free virtual museum tours from Google. It’s amazing how much you can explore from your own house.
Even when you’re not stuck at home, day-to-day life with teenagers can be…challenging, to say the least. But for the purposes of this blog post, let’s focus on leaning into their independence and using that to keep everyone as close to sane as possible!
Get up. Get dressed. Get to work. If you’re going to be home for an extended period of time, consider giving your teenager a job. And not the kinds of things they should be doing as a contributing member of your family. Hire them (and yes, we do mean compensate them for their work) to do the jobs you’d hire someone else to do. Maybe it’s deep cleaning, CSI-style, a different room in your house every day, or meticulously weeding your flower beds, or painting rooms. If you’re lucky and have a handy kid, maybe they can build you a new deck. Or a creative child may thrive in scanning in all your old family photos and making albums. Explain the job to them and have them come back to you with a project plan, timeline, and fee structure. They’ll need to set up work hours and meet deadlines and expectations. But most important, they’ll learn firsthand what it means to be productive, responsible, and proud of a job well done.
At this point, your teen has created their own community of friends and classmates, and they’re probably pretty good at keeping in touch with them. But it’s important they maintain relationships outside of their friend groups, too. Goodness knows one can only TikTok and Snap but so much. Marco Polo is a great, low-stakes way for teens to leave video messages, on their own time, for family, distant friends, or people that haven’t seen in a while.
While some teens are already wired for daily exercise, all of them need encouragement. We’ve gathered a few digital resources that might appeal to picky teens. Nike Training Club offers a huge library of free, targeted workouts, Popsugar has free barre, strength, and hip-hop classes (among others), and of course the Peloton app combines pump-you-up music and coaching for endlessly fun runs, bike rides, and bootcamps. You know, it’s one semi-good thing they can actually do with their phones.
Obviously, you can’t just tell a teen to go use their brain without a full-on revolt. So, some fun ways to get their wheels turning may be seen as just plain fun. Like encouraging them to watch some not-too-grownup standup comedy. Comics like Jim Gaffigan, John Mulaney, and Demetri Martin offer thought-provoking takes on daily life without getting too inappropriate. Or start a book-and-movie club. Agree to have movie night every week or two, but only if everyone reads the book first. This will naturally lead to discussion of themes, creative interpretation, and may light a fire under reluctant readers.
Being stuck at home is hard—on you, and on your kids. That’s why no matter what you plan for your kids, it’s important that you make a little time for yourself. Let go of strict schedules, and don’t put undue pressure on yourself. Order takeout, take lots of deep breaths, and if you can, get outside every chance you get.