For parents trying to work with children at home, quarantine can be tough. This quarantine survival guide by a mom and former teacher will help you thrive.
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Mel here, AppSumo soon-to-be mom of two and former teacher. As the pandemic continues, we’re all looking for ways to stay sane.
By now, most of us have seen a couple of quarantine survival guides with suggestions on what to watch and tips on learning new skills. (In fact, our blog has its very own.) These are great…for people who have the free time.
But if you’ve got kids at home, quarantine can be a completely different story, especially when you’re working remotely. I knew I needed to learn better ways to manage my office-turned-preschool when I heard myself say, “Sorry, that’s my 5-year-old yelling!” during a recent video conference.
You’ve hit the replay button on Frozen 2 one too many times.
Here’s a survival guide that’s PG-rated to help you and yours make the most of being home together.
9 Tips for Working From Home with Kids
- Establish Routines
- Play Teacher
- Bring the Outside In
- Get Them Moving
- Turn Them Into Engineers
- Introduce Them to Podcasts
- Give Them Screen Time
- Spread Kindness
- Take it Easy on Yourself
1. Establish Routines
Kids thrive on having set routines. Right now, they may be struggling with the lack of structure they’re experiencing. Try your best to give your kids consistent times for sleeping, waking up, having meals and snacks, learning, playtime, and other activities. You should aim for these routines on weekdays at least – that is, if you can still remember the difference between a Sunday and a Wednesday.
Being able to predict what they’re going to do next will help minimize kids’ stress and outbursts for attention. It will also help you figure out exactly the best times to plan heads-down work and/or meetings. Make sure these routines are set up with clear expectations.
2. Play Teacher
Creating learning opportunities for your kids at home doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some my favorite go-to’s for quick lesson materials:
- Teachers Pay Teachers, a marketplace for educational resources, has a variety of printable, teacher-made activities for kids of all ages, including tons of freebies.
- Scholastic has launched a Learn at Home program with free projects for kids from PreK to 9th grade.
- BrainPOP is offering free access to families impacted by school closures. My students absolutely love the engaging games and animated movies they’ve created for a variety of subjects.
- Fender is giving away three months of free guitar and ukulele lessons! This would be perfect for older kids (and hey, maybe one you could do together).
- Duolingo ABC is a new reading and writing app from the makers of the popular language program. It offers over 300 fun English lessons for little ones.
- Storyline Online is a virtual library of picture books read aloud. It also includes activities and comprehension questions.
- Austin PBS and PBS have an awesome, user-friendly list of interactive lessons and videos designed for teachers (but totally accessible to all).
- Varsity Tutors is a live learning platform that’s recently added over 100 free K-12 classes, from language to coding, as part of their Virtual School Day.
3. Bring the Outside In
Thanks to the powers of the internet, your kids can still take some virtual field trips.
- Google Arts and Culture Museum Views offer virtual tours of incredible museums and heritage sites all around the world. Their Artists collection is also worth exploring.
- Zoos, aquariums, and animal sanctuaries have set up live cams, so your little ones can make animal friends from afar. My personal favorite: The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy offers daily enrichment programs via Facebook live, including read-alongs, shark lessons, live Q&As and more. Just visit their Facebook page at 10am EST (or rewatch any of their videos anytime).
- This curated list of virtual rides you can find on YouTube brings the magic of theme parks to your home. (Pro tip from one of our partners: place child in laundry basket in front of the screen and move/shake it in sync with the ride!)
- Access Mars is a WebVR experience that allows us to explore the surface of Mars on the Curiosity rover. Yes, you can send your child to another planet.
- NASA’s Langley Research Center and Glenn Research Center also offer virtual tours if your family needs even more space (…from each other. The astronomy stuff is really cool, too.)
4. Get Them Moving
Staying home doesn’t have to mean staying put. Getting your kids physically active is great for their bodies, minds, and moods (which means it can help your mood too).
- Cosmic Kids Yoga is an absolute game-changer. It combines practicing yoga with listening to their favorite stories (Frozen, Pokémon, Moana, Trolls, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and more). They won’t be able to get enough!
- GoNoodle provides kids with hundreds of movement and mindfulness activities proven to improve the health and discipline of millions of children.
- PE with Joe is a new YouTube playlist with physical education and workout classes for kids from a professional (and very enthusiastic) fitness instructor.
- Scavenger Hunt: This incredibly easy game is sure to keep your kids entertained and running around, while you sit, work, and (mostly) focus. First, come up with a prize you know they’ll love (e.g. “ice cream before dinner tonight” or “a new bike” if you’re feeling desperate). Then give them an arbitrary list of objects to find around the house in order to claim their prize. It’s simple, but younger kids love it! You can make the list as long as you’d like and you can always include some ground rules, such as “don’t go into my room,” “no fragile objects,” or “you only have 2 hours.” The modification possibilities are endless. Here are examples of items I used with my kid:
- Something striped
- A toy shaped like a triangle
- A rainbow
- A shoe that’s too small for your feet
- Something red, white, and blue
- A healthy snack
- 6 green objects
- A book with a picture of an animal
- A toy bigger than your head
- Something round
- A book with the first letter of your last name in the title
- A toy with a color pattern
5. Turn Them Into Engineers
It’s never too early to learn how to code. Learning basic programming skills while having fun will refine your kid’s creativity, logic, and problem-solving abilities. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll build the next big tool on AppSumo.
- Swift Playgrounds, designed by Apple, is a fun and interactive way to teach kids to program Swift code through fun challenges and puzzles.
- Code.org is a nonprofit committed to increasing access to computer science education. They feature both full courses and quick, fun one-hour tutorials for students of all ages.
- Scratch and ScratchJr are programs created by MIT students that allow children to program stories, games, and animations.
- Tynker, a leading source for fun coding courses, games, and apps, is offering free coding activities for kids during school closures.
- Hopscotch is a programming app where kids can create art, stories, and games. It also features a safe community where kids can share their creations and play with games made by their peers.
- Khan Academy, an award-winning educational nonprofit, offers a robust computer programming course complete with challenges, projects, and an embedded coding editor right on their site.
- Udemy, the global learning marketplace, offers professionally-led courses that teach coding to kids. You can access some of these courses free of charge, with reduced prices on other courses.
6. Introduce Them to Podcasts
One of the best brain-healthy ways to get some quiet time from your kids is putting a podcast in their ears. Podcasts can sometimes take time to grow on your kids, but when they do, they will be obsessed. These are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
- Ear Snacks – A musical podcast for kids about the world
- Story Time – Stories for kids ages 2-13
- Storynory – Fairy tales, original stories, myths, poems, music, history and more
- What If World – Takes “What if?” questions from kids and spins them into stories
- Brains On! – Kid co-hosts join to find answers to fascinating questions
- Smash, Boom, Best – A debate show for kids and families
- Forever Ago – History show for the whole family
- Aaron’s World – An imaginative science-themed audio drama for kids
- Circle Round – Folktales from around the world
- Wow in the World – Amazing stories about science and technology
- Animal Sound Safari – Explore animals around the world on a wacky “safari mobile”
- But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids – Tackling real kids’ peculiar questions
- Girl Tales – Feminist fairytales for a new generation
- Earth Rangers – Exploring the mysteries of nature
- Pants on Fire – Game show featuring kids trying to figure out who is telling “fake news”
- Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Stories of the extraordinary women who inspire us
- Peace Out – Stories that help children relax through visualization and breathing exercises
- Classical Kids Storytime – Classical music and stories
- The Past and the Curious – True stories of inspiration, humor, and incredible achievements
- KiDNuZ – Nonpartisan news, politics, science, entertainment, sports, and more
- Flyest Fables – Anthology-style fables for the 21st century
- Short & Curly – A fun-filled ethics podcast full of questions and ideas
7. Give Them Screen Time
Yeah, I said it. Let’s be realistic. You’ll get some of your most focused work done when your kids are engaged with a screen. The good news is there are many options for educational TV. Here are some great ideas for healthy, guilt-free Netflix binging.
TV-Y and TV-G (Young and General Audiences)
- The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! – “The Cat in the Hat is back – and this time, he’s teaching Sally and her friend Nick some awfully nifty things to think about!”
- Ask the Storybots– “Five inquisitive little creatures track down the answers to kids’ biggest questions, like how night happens or why we need to brush our teeth.”
- The Magic School Bus – “Join Ms. Frizzle as the Magic School Bus travels to outer space, under the sea, through an anthill — and even inside the human body!”
- The Magic School Bus Rides Again – “Ms. Frizzle’s kid sister Fiona takes the wheel at Walkerville Elementary, leading the class on wild adventures packed with science-fueled fun.”
- Beat Bugs – “With songs made famous by the Beatles, five friendly bugs learn big lessons about the world around them — all from the safety of their own backyard.”
- Brainchild – “From germs and emotions to social media and more, it’s the science of your world explained in a way that’s refreshingly relatable.”
- Growing Up Wild – “Five baby animals from different parts of the world grow up learning to survive in the wild, nurtured by the love and guidance of their families.”
- If I Were an Animal – “Curious kids Emma and her big brother Tim observe different animals as they make their way through various life milestones, from birth to adulthood.”
- Dream Big: Engineering Our World – “Narrated by Jeff Bridges, this compelling documentary examines some incredible achievements of engineering from across the globe.”
- Disney Nature: Oceans – “This documentary examines the vital role water plays in human existence and the cause-and-effect interplay between oceans and the environment.”
TV-PG (Possibly unsuitable for younger children)
- Bill Nye: Science Guy – “The dynamic, bow-tied host behind the young adult science show faces climate-change skeptics as he demonstrates the importance of scientific evidence.”
- Tales by Light – “Photographers and filmmakers travel the world capturing indelible images of people, places, creatures and cultures from new, previously unseen angles.”
- Night on Earth – “This nature series’ new technology lifts night’s veil to reveal the hidden lives of the world’s creatures, from lions on the hunt to bats on the wing.”
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – “Inspired by a science book, 13-year-old William Kamkwamba builds a wind turbine to save his Malawian village from famine. Based on a true story.”
- NOVA: Day The Dinosaurs Died – “Drilling into the impact crater of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, a group of scientists unearths new evidence about the catastrophic event.”
- The Mars Generation – “Self-professed teenage ‘space nerds’ at Space Camp chase their dreams of traveling to Mars, while experts reflect on NASA’s history and future.”
- The Last Man on the Moon – “Astronaut Gene Cernan looks back on the exciting history of NASA’s lunar landings and how being the last man to stand on the moon changed his life.”
- The Who Was? Show – “Fresh voices bring some of the most famous names in history to life. A live-action sketch comedy show based on the series of best-selling books.”
- Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History – “Kevin Hart highlights the fascinating contributions of black history’s unsung heroes in this entertaining – and educational – comedy special.”
- I Am Kalam – “An intelligent boy born into poverty befriends the son of a once noble family and is inspired by the life of India’s president to pursue an education.”
- The Short Game – “They are fiercely competitive athletes, determined to become champions on one of the world’s toughest golf courses. And they’re still in grade school.”
TV-14 (Possibly unsuitable for children under 14)
- Bill Nye Saves the World – “Emmy-winning host Bill Nye brings experts and famous guests to his lab for a talk show exploring scientific issues that touch our lives.”
- The Edge of Democracy – “Political documentary and personal memoir collide in this exploration into the complex truth behind the unraveling of two Brazilian presidencies.”
- White Rabbit Project – “Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara rank history’s greatest inventions, heists and more in this series from the producers of ‘MythBusters.'”
- The Mind, Explained – “Ever wonder what’s happening inside your head? From dreaming to anxiety disorders, discover how your brain works with this illuminating series.”
- The Universe – “Discover the secrets of the universe in this series that pairs animation with insights on distant planets, black holes and other celestial marvels.”
- Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates – “Take a trip inside the mind of Bill Gates as the billionaire opens up about those who influenced him and the audacious goals he’s still pursuing.”
- Abstract: The Art of Design – “Step inside the minds of the most innovative designers in a variety of disciplines and learn how design impacts every aspect of life.”
- Teach Us All – “It’s been decades since Brown v. Board of Education, yet American schools remain largely segregated. Some leaders are working to change that.”
- My Beautiful Broken Brain – “After suffering a stroke at age 34, a woman documents her struggles, setbacks and eventual breakthrough as she relearns to speak, read and write.”
8. Spread Kindness
These are unsettling, weird times. No matter how old your kiddos are, chances are that they’ve felt some of the stress in the air. It’s important to focus on what we have to be grateful for and to recognize the heroes who provide the rest of us the essentials we need to remain safe and healthy. My favorite activity with my kid (pictured above) has been creating thank-you cards for our community helpers. We’ve taken the time to acknowledge health care providers, grocery store workers, EMTs, police officers, firefighters, postal workers, and others who are bravely showing up for work every day and risking their lives.
Use this opportunity to talk to your children about courage and gratitude. If you can, turn your next “arts and crafts” activity into a moment to give back and spread some kindness. There are many ways you can safely get your works of art into the hands of those who need some encouragement the most.
9. Take it Easy on Yourself
Lastly, don’t neglect your self-care routines. You’ll do the best work for your job and for your children if you are first and foremost taking care of yourself.
Right now, the last thing you need to worry about is being the perfect parent. We’re experiencing a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime crisis that has thrown all of our plans and schedules for a loop. No one will judge you for bribing the kids, putting them in front of a TV, relaxing some rules, or doing whatever it takes to get the quiet time you need (and deserve). There’s no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to dealing with a pandemic. Just be true to yourself and what works for your family.
Remember, this too shall pass.
It’s not easy running a business when your kids are running through it. We all work hard as parents and employees, but with schools and daycares closed, we have to work even harder.
Luckily, our Sumo-lings are a special breed.
As a parent and ex-teacher, I’d been looking everywhere for a helpful guide aimed at those juggling their professional work with taking care of their children. Finally, I decided to create my own.
I hope this list has been helpful to all the moms and dads out there who are doing their best during this time.
There are countless ways to keep kids engaged, and we’d love to hear more ideas from all you rockstar parents. Let us know what has worked for you in the comments below. (Seriously…send help!)