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10 Ways to Innovate and De-stress at Home with Kids During School Closures

Getting Started

It was Socrates who once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building on the new.” This is timely advice, because in these trying times, many parents and students are turning to homeschooling solutions during school closures. This article provides clever ways to de-stress and innovate during the pandemic, including getting help from your support network of family and friends. Ultimately, you will discover ways to reimagine what learning might look like these days, and ways to keep your entire household healthy too.

Ways to Get Help from Family and Friends

1. Conduct an interview with an older family member or friend about a significant historical event they went through in the past. For example, most American towns have veterans who have served all over the world, proudly participated in civil rights marches, or been lived through important historical and cultural moments. Afterward, have children send a “virtual thank you card” (free templates are online) to show appreciation for the interviewee’s time.

2. Monitor a remote story time. Any stories are fair game, from picture books to coming-of-age adventure stories and detective crime fiction novels. Since many grandparents are isolated, they could read a story to the grandchildren. In return, the children could read to them. As they read, encourage children to jot down any unusual vocabulary words or particularly interesting passages. Later, the readers and listeners can discuss them together.

3. Stage an “Ask the Expert” session. Here you could have a family member or friend become a “Virtual Guru” and talk about their area of expertise. This could be a piano lesson, a Spanish tutorial, or a cooking demonstration. In exchange, have your children offer to “tutor the experts,” too. This could be about something older generations aren’t as familiar with, such as texting along with related emojis and online abbreviations.

4. Make connections between the past and present. If your parents or older friends and neighbors are available, discuss examples of unexpected learning that took place in their childhood years. Recall how this learning shaped the children, and how they are different today as a result. When they were growing up, review some favorite childhood activities. After the brainstorming session, create a timeline of the events in the lives of the parents and children. You can even go further back and begin to study the family history through an online genealogy website.

5. Plan a virtual playdate. With Skype and Zoom at the ready, parents can help connect children with their friends so that they can share a puzzle or drawing they completed with their friends, or even go old-school and play a virtual board game together. They can even have a “Netflix Viewing Party” (check shows and movies for age-appropriate material) with their friends, and then discuss the plot and themes afterward.

Reimagine Settings for Learning

6. Go outside! Try to observe things on a small scale such as bugs and insects, on a medium scale such as trees, bushes, and shrubs, and on a large scale such as the sky. Create a homemade deck of playing cards, each depicting and describing a different creepy critter. Make a list of the different birds you spot and then cross-check your findings with an online list of birds common in your area. Identify cloud formations and then make posters or a mural comparing them.

7. Find subjects in unexpected places. You can find science experiments in the kitchen and even uncover math in knitting! Students can make cool slime with just cornstarch, water, and food coloring. You can make ice cream and then discuss the scientific process while eating the fruits of your labor. Use inexpensive vinegar to turn eggs and chicken bones into rubbery creations. The Fibonacci number sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…) can even be utilized to create colorful lace shawls.

8. Embark on a virtual field trip. Your children can visit an online aquarium, museum, or national park. They can record what they see in a journal, or even write the diary entries from the viewpoint of an animal. Emcee a contest to see who can paint the best recreation of The Scream by Edvard Munch. Online escape rooms have been a popular diversion during the pandemic too. After visiting one, encourage your students to design their own, and award online trophies to the winners.

9. Challenge your children to become problem solvers through invention and design. Since your average number of household dishes has probably increased during the lockdown, have them brainstorm creative solutions to the problem. Alternatively, get them to ascertain the optimal number of paper towels to clean up a spill. Have children determine a way to store and use any extra food, so that very little gets wasted due to expiration or spoilage. Have them draw out their solutions on paper or even create a presentation of their solutions!

Be Mindful of Stress

10. We certainly all could use calming exercises right now, and parents and children can reap the benefits of mindfulness apps and online videos. Sit calmly in a quiet room or peaceful outside setting and identify five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Walk in slow motion around the backyard, while paying attention to your unhurried, measured deep breaths. One other helpful cathartic meditative exercise is for family members to draw their emotions on paper.

In Conclusion

These ten innovative ways to de-stress at home in aren’t necessarily meant to stand on their own, but rather to be used as a supplement to more traditional “learning at home” methods. Find what works well for yourself and your family and remember that everyone’s doing their best.

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