Written by: Claudia Rios-Gastelum, LMFT #97284
Change is hard, but it is also necessary for learning and developmental progress. Many parents are worried that their children will not be learning during this time away from school. Other parents just do not know what to do to keep their kids entertained. Here are a few free and easy activities to help our children. Just a reminder, it may take some time for your child to fully acclimate to physical distancing and keeping their mind and body active.
1) Let’s go to the virtual library
Most children enjoy being read to or love “reading” to you. What better way to connect with our children than reading? Use this opportunity to sit with your child to identify and label feelings of the characters. Help them anticipate possible activities, emotions, and experiences that they might have. Acknowledge both the “positive” feelings as well as feelings of fear or worry. Help them identify ways that they can problem solve or cope with those situations.
You might not be able to find solutions to all their worries, but the one thing that you can do is listen and acknowledge their thoughts and feelings. Don’t we all feel a little better when someone finally “gets” how we are feeling? Reading helps our imagination travel great distances when we physically cannot.
Check out these free audio book options (Some books are available in different languages):
A. Penguin Random House Audio
C. International Children’s Library
2) Let’s play “School”
Children enact and practice new experiences through play. Are your children missing school? Engage your child in using their toys to build a schoolhouse, classroom or playground. Have them be the teacher, and you be the student (they will love this because they rarely get to successfully boss others around).
Let them guide you during the play- I know you might want to jump in and correct something that they say, but control that impulse. You might learn more from their perceptions of this experience if you sit and observe.
A tip to help parents during free play activity is to set realistic standards of how long/often you can play with them and keep your words. Once children learn that you truly will sit and play with them for 20 minutes, they will be more forgiving when you tell them that you have to switch activities because they will trust that you will engage in the activity the next time.
3) Let’s go on a field trip
Virtual field trips can be a great way to learn about new places and people. Try recreating those places during play by decorating the room with paper animals, plants, etc. Many of the websites listed below have activities that can help you learn more about their animals, site, and history.
A. San Diego Zoo
B. United States National Parks Services
C. Smithsonian- Natural History Museum