Sit down with your children to discuss your new daily routines. Involve them. Write the schedule out, find or draw pictures to go along with it, and post it in a central location in your house. Refer to it often.
Below is a recommended generic schedule. Young children don't understand 10 am, but they do understand "after breakfast." Whatever schedule you end up creating, ideally it would contain all of these elements:
- PLAY TIME - Unstructured play time is essential right now. Children still need the time and the freedom to explore on their own in their own way in their own time. Allow at least an hour for unstructured play time.
- ACTIVITY TIME - This is not "academic" time! Please don't feel as if you have to resort to worksheets or flashcards or online games to create a meaningful experience. Children still learn though play, even when they're at home in this unique situation. We will be offering you suggestions daily on this blog and there are an abundance of ideas to be found online right now.
- SNACK and MEAL TIMES - Take advantage of these opportunities. Give your children responsibilities in the kitchen: snapping beans, chopping soft veggies with butter knives, mixing ingredients. Give them the silverware to dry and put away. Most importantly, sit down together at regular times to eat and talk and enjoy each other's company.
- CHORE TIME - It's never too early to give your children chores! Young children can fold underwear and match socks, put their toys away, dust furniture, and help unload the dishwasher by putting the silverware away.
- QUIET TIME - Everyone needs quiet time, which is not the same as nap time. Children can be expected to spend at least 30-45 minutes every day in their bedrooms or in a room close by you listening to music, looking at books, doing puzzles, or drawing/coloring. Check out PJ Library Radio. This is a great time to introduce audio books. 4 year-olds might even be ready for chapter books.
- OUTSIDE TIME - Thank goodness it's spring time! Get outside for some fresh air and vitamin D. Pull weeds and plant flowers. Go for long walks. Explore your neighborhood. Check in on elderly neighbors.
- SCREEN TIME - Yes, screen time. It's ok. Don't feel guilty. The American Academy of Pediatrics says up to one hour of high-quality screen time per day is appropriate for children ages 2-5. I'd say 90 minutes are ok in these circumstances.
- GAME TIME - Bring out the board games! Ravensburger makes excellent board games. Or call One Two Kangaroo in Shirlington (703-845-9099). The proprietor always has spot-on recommendations, and he's staying open for as long as possible (while maintaining social distancing).
- STORY TIME - Make sure you allow for time to just read with your children. Story time doesn't have to be saved for bedtime.