Things to Do to Keep Kids Active, Engaged and Learning While Home

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By Jaimie Hutchison
In these challenging times, it is important to acknowledge that each family will have their own work and home situation that will be unique. Some people may have more flexibility, more caregivers in the home, or older children who are more independent. Others may have less flexibility, younger children and may be the sole caretaker of those children. We honor all of you and know that you are doing the best you can.

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The WorkLife Office hosted a webinar titled "Things to Do to Keep Kids Active, Engaged and Learning While Home" with Jaimie Hutchison to discuss the information below.  You can click here to view the recording (Requires MSU NetID, includes transcript).  If you are already logged into Spartan365, you'll see the video embedded on this website below.

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So now what?

The following suggestions are offered as a starting point for consideration while we navigate these changing times. Please know that MSU WorkLife Office is here for you. We are available via email, Teams, and phone.

So, we are home, our kids are home (or our kids are with another caregiver in a home), and we are limited in what outings we can do. So now what? How do we keep our kids active at home? How do we keep them engaged in learning? How do we keep them occupied? How do we come out of this feeling like we did our best?

Here are some tips that may help you begin to think about how to navigate all of this.

  1. Children thrive on structure. They do best with routine. Create one for your family that will give children some academic time, active time, and FUN time. Also build in some time for you and your work, and you and the other supportive people in your life. Of course, as you create order, create some flexibility too. This will help everyone adapt.
  2. Keep the routines. Do you have a set bath time? Bedtime? Mealtime? Keep these times consistent. It will allow us all to feel some sense of normalcy.
  3. Working home with kids can be really challenging. I have some tips for doing that here. Most of all, be kind to yourself, you are doing your best.
  4. Get outside! This is important to do when and where you can. Being out in nature resets our mind and body in so many ways. If you can go outside to a place that does not have a lot of people, then do it. Do you have a yard? Use it. There are recommendations to avoid public playground equipment, please take this into consideration.
  5. Have a family meeting to discuss the situation and the structure you are implementing. Ask every family member to step up the best they can. Emphasize that you are all doing this together, as a family.
  6. Be creative and make some memories! Maybe you make a fort and read books together, perhaps you have a picnic dinner in the living room while blasting your favorite music. This will be challenging, this will be new, but we can still have fun. Fun is essential in keeping our stress levels manageable.
  7. Managing your stress will help your kids manage theirs. Your children will look to see how you are managing everything. Taking care of yourself is the best way to be sure you have something left to give to your family and your work. You are important. You are worth taking care of.
  8. Do you need some ideas to mix things up? Here you go! Write a book, have a family game night, hold a movie marathon, make a craft with household materials, write a rap! There are no limits. For other ideas, please see the links at the end of this blog.
  9. Build in learning with activities. We all need to eat, right? Cooking together is a fun way to practice practical math. Double a recipe, measure, add, figure out how many servings you will be making. Take the things you do, like bedtime stories and ask some reflective questions after you read. What was the most surprising part of this story? Which character do you relate the most to, count the pages together, anything that is age appropriate is helpful.
  10. Speaking of learning…here is a link to some free online educational programming while schools are closed. I like Kahn Academy and PBS Kids too. If they are going to be on their tablets more, you can make it educational.
  11. What about activity? Adults need 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and children need at least an hour, preschoolers need 180 minutes a day. Get creative. Have a dance party in the living room, use the Wii Fit if you have one, make activity stations around the house and rotate them for 2 minutes each: Kitchen: jumping jacks, living room sit ups, dining room wall presses, and so on… There are more resources at the end of the article, one of them gives you 87 activities! The main idea is to stay active. A health body and a healthy mind are connected, the healthier you stay, the better you will feel.
  12. Work together. Thinking of doing something fun? Share the list of fun active things to do at home and let the kids choose, swap menu planning and chef duties amongst each other, take turns caring for pets, this will give you some variety and be an example of how everyone is working together.
  13. Stay connected. Schedule times you can reflect with your colleagues via teams or Zoom. Pick up the phone and check in with someone you work with to see how they are doing. Connect with your family via Skype or over the phone. Just because we are going to be physically distanced, does not mean we should not be connected. It will take us all working together to get through this.

I am home with my family. I am going to do my best. I am here. You are not alone. The MSU WorkLife Office stands behind you ready to help. Reach out if you need us. Continue to watch our website and Facebook page for more updates. Let’s do this. We are going to do our best. Go team. Let’s be kind to each other and to ourselves. I can’t think of a greater priority.

Fader, A. (2018, April 8). 50 indoor activities for kids on a rainy day. Mommy Poppins. https://mommypoppins.com/ny-kids/50-indoor-activities-for-a-rainy-day

Grogan, A. (n.d.). How to keep kids entertained without a screen or spending a lot of money. Your Kids Table. https://yourkidstable.com/how-to-keep-kids-entertained/

Martin, A. (2017, December 13). 32 simple (and free) ways to entertain your kids. The Simple Dollar. https://www.thesimpledollar.com/save-money/32-simple-and-free-ways-to-entertain-your-kids/

Marx, B. (2019, January 22). 12 ways to keep kids busy playing when they’re stuck inside. Fatherly. https://www.fatherly.com/play/12-ways-entertai-kids-when-theyre-stuck-inside/

Oliver, M. (n.d.). 20 old-school ways to keep kids busy without screen time. Motherly. https://www.mother.ly/child/how-to-keep-a-preschooler-busy-other-than-screentime

Reilly, K. M. (n.d.). Bored to cheers: How to keep the kids entertained. Parents. https://www.parents.com/kids/development/intellectual/bored-to-cheers-how-to-keep-the-kids-entertained/

Serednicki, A. (2017, January 5). 15 ways to keep kids active indoors (even if you don’t have much space). Today’s Parent. https://www.todaysparent.com/family/activities/15-ways-to-keep-kids-active-indoors-even-if-you-dont-have-much-space/

Whatmomslove. (n.d.). 87 energy-busting indoor games & activities for kids (because cabin fever is no joke. What Moms Love. https://whatmomslove.com/kids/active-indoor-games-activities-for-kids-to-burn-energy/


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