My hope is that through offering some ideas of how to engage with your kids and learn together the burdensome "extra time" might be lifted from your shoulders and the blessing of this "extra time" might land with you in your family. Family Learning Adventure exists to support families in learning together, because we have found that learning things together, taking risks and diving into things as a family is an amazing way to connect and grow. At the writing of this post, my kids are 5, 8 and 13 so these things are written with that bias. However, I believe most tips can be either used as-is or easily adapted for those with younger or older kids. My message to parents, as we go into the unknown, is "we can do this." It's different, and its a new challenge, but we can find our way through this. I would love to hear how you are using your "extra-time". Let's learn from each other.
Seven Tips for Connection
1. READ - If you can, sit on the couch and read with your kids every day. Grab a pile of picture books, listen to an audio book or podcast together, grab a kindle or read a chapter book and grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea; get comfy and read. If your kids find it hard to just sit while reading get out coloring books or paper so they can color or fiddle with something while you read. See resource list for links to a booklist or online reading options if you are short on paper books or just need more than you have. Just read and enjoy together, and talk about the books. DON'T QUIZ KIDS; talk about it like you would talk with other adults about a book you have both shared. If it makes sense play with the content or bring it up other times. I remember a day when we read a book about a bear family and then ended up playing bear family much of the day. There are other books we have read we never spoke of again. After reading one of the Harry Potter books they wanted to put on a play in full costume. If it makes sense, join in with the play, if they really want to play without you, respect that too. Sometimes projects come out of books, sometimes they don't. Don't force an outcome; just see what arises and enjoy reading for reading sake. Read to your kids no matter what age they are. I connect best with my teenager when we read a book together and can talk about it. It's one of the things I am really looking forward to in this "extra time" is being able to pick a book just for he and I to read and enjoy together.
2. CREATE ART - Sit down and do some sort of art together. Raid your art supplies; even if you have just markers, some copy paper and scissors you can do tons of things. I have several art sites listed below (Art for Kids, You Are an Artist and Creativebug). My library offers Creativebug free of charge which has great classes to do together especially if you have older kids, check your library's offerings. You can also find tons of how to draw/paint/sculpt/fold etc stuff on YouTube. Maybe you have some really cool art supplies you bought sometime but never use - take those out and play with them. Again don't focus on the result just play and enjoy the process of art - YOU CREATE ART TOO! Don't assign a project and have the kids do it; get in there and do it too. Resist the urge to say things like "I'm bad at drawing", adults love to say those things that are not helpful for kids to hear. They give parameters to art like some people are good at it and others are bad, then they start wondering if they are any good at it. Just get in there and do it, its all about the process not the finished product.
3. GET OUTSIDE - If you can, get outside for a walk, run, bike, wander, nature sketching, cloud drawing etc. I have some tips on nature sketching below. If you really cannot get outside at all get to a window, sit in the sun that comes through and look outside. My cats always find that spot where the sun comes through a window pouring onto the floor, and sit there. It's nice to be warmed by the sun.
4. EXPLORE INTERESTS - Take some time to talk about what everyone is interested in, and how do they want to spend this extra time. Are there projects they have wanted to do but never have time? Are there skills they want to learn like a special drawing skill, how to program on Scratch, how to make a triple layer cake or how to get to the next level of their favorite video game? One of my sons wants to build and enter a Lego creation in an online Lego competition. Try to resist offering the thing YOU think they should learn and see what THEY are interested in. Get really interested in what they are interested in. Watch, ask questions and learn about them and what they like about this thing. Share what You would like to learn about during this time; maybe how to write a blog, do lasagna gardening, Indian cooking, how to play a song on the guitar. Schedule time each day for you to each work on the things you want to learn about, write it on a white board or piece of paper all can see so you all know that there will be more time for this tomorrow. For young kids who may change what they want to learn about 100 times a day, let them and when they say "I really want to do X tomorrow" draw a picture of that in a place they can see it so they know there will be time for what they want. Don't make this into a presentation or book report just enjoy learning for learning's sake and share how you are learning from each other. Also, don't make it a competition - no prizes for completion; learning something you wanted to learn is more than enough of a reward. People are all different in how they want to learn about things and the pace they want to do it at. A competition can rob them of their own individual way of approaching THEIR thing.
5. PLAY GAMES - Take time to play board games and card games. We found we started playing a lot more games when we took an afternoon and organized our game closet (here is an image of someone else who has done the same). We now have most of the games vertical instead of horizontal so you can see all the names of the games. The small ones we have in a plastic bin at the bottom. Many, we have to put rubber bands around so stuff did not fall out. In the process of organizing we taped up boxes that had split and found all those pieces at the bottom that had fallen out and put them back in the games they should be in. Since then kids go much more regularly to pick out games and we all play more. Another idea to do with games is to "strew" which is a fancy word for leave it out and say nothing about it and see what they do with it.
6. TAKE ON A D.I.Y. PROJECT - This is a fantastic time to MAKE SOMETHING. It really could be anything and I have some links for some household supplies and baking recipes, but really anything. Making something yourself is not only practical now, since going out to stores is not as easy and things may not be available, but it also it gives kids and adults the sense of being capable in a whole new way. Recently my husband and I replaced the side mirror on my minivan and the headlight on his car. I cannot tell you how good we felt about ourselves after we got it done (through watching YouTube videos). It was not just that we saved a ton of money; we felt great about ourselves as makers and producers in a world that is so plagued with consumption. Here is a short list of ideas: bake bread, make playdough, making cookies, build something with wood (maybe a bird feeder or book shelf), make toothpaste, sew something, repair something, start seeds for a garden, make a bird feeder out of a milk carton, make broth or soup, give hair cuts, build something out of Lego that can be used for an ongoing purpose or do a home repair yourself. TIP: take on something you DON'T already know how to do--you be the learner too and take it on together. There are so many online resources and someone has done whatever you want to do and you can find how to videos on YouTube for pretty much anything. If needed research books online through your library's online database and look up in the information that way. Take a RISK do something new together.
7. WATCH TOGETHER - There is no doubt Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu will be making tons of money during this time. We'll all be watching more. Consider watching something together. Recently Frozen I and II have been big in our house. We have all watched them together and talked about them. With our older son, we engaged in the story line and what the writers were doing with it with our daughter we played dress up. We have listened to the soundtracks on YouTube and printed out song lyrics and piano music. Other things we have loved as a family are BBC nature documentaries like Blue Planet and other David Attenborough nature films. We are looking forward to watching a documentary on Curiosity Stream called Cornfield Shipwreck, its about the remains of a shipwreck found in a Midwest cornfield and the story about how it ever could have gotten there. Over the years we have watched hundreds of Curious George episodes together and after about 11 years of watching them I can still say I like them. Movies and shows can be a really great way to connect when you can find the space to engage together.
What are you doing to make this time special?
Leave a comment below or e-mail us we'd love to hear from you what is giving your family life, helping you connect and thrive during this time.
Start with your library's websiteOur Library Offers all of these resources for FREE. Check with your library to see what digital resources they offer. I offered links so you can see what these are, but you will need to go through your library to get free access to these or other digital resources they offer.
- Universal Class- Classes on tons of topics that are self paced aimed at kids or teachers needing CEUs.
- CreativeBug- Online classes on tons of art skills from crafts to painting etc.
- TumbleBooks - Books read aloud to kids
- Overdrive- Online Books, Movies, Audiobooks
- Hoopla- Online Books, Movies, Audiobooks
- GreatCourses - Courses aimed at adults on tons of topics
- AcornTV- British Shows
- IndieFlix- Independent Films and classic TV
- Stingray Qello - Music Concerts on video
Other online resources: There are tons of great things out there. These are things our family has tried and loves and finds great to support families connecting with each other. Many can be done by kids by themselves but they are really great to do together.
Hoffman Academy - Free piano lessons, you can upgrade but you can get a ton for free. You need a piano and a computer.
Starfall- Phonics, and math skills for kids Pre-k 3. You can get lots of things for free and you can also subscribe for more.
Epic- A kids digital library aimed at kids 12 and under. Its a paid subscription but you can do a 30 day free trial.
Khan Academy - Has classes on tons of topics for FREE a really amazing resource.
Bedtime Math - Great resource for "real-life" math problems they have books and a website with daily math problems and they divide them into problems for very young kids, elementary age and challenge problems for middle-schoolers.
Mystery Science - Great Science resource has topics for kids of all ages from short mini lessons to full "class" explore lessons. They are offering a bunch of stuff free right now and have links for that.
Sparkle Stories - A subscription site for original audio stories. They have 1000's of audio stories for kids from age 3 up though the age I would think kids get the most use is 5-8. They are a paid site but you can do a free trial. Their stories are particularly sensitive deal with lots of topics to support kids social and emotional growth are very thoughtful and really good.
Around the World Stories- This is also a paid site but I believe you can get some free stories or a trial as well. They are by a family who picked up and went traveling around the world and told fictional stories about each place they went using the real setting of the place so you learn lots about a country while also having a great story. They have a Europe set and and Asia set.
Art for Kids- There are lots of lessons you can get free and you can also subscribe to get more. They are art lessons that take about 15 minutes each drawing or painting specific things you can scroll their list which can be separated by age. He draws with his child that is in that age range.
You are an Artist - Nana who is a lovely grandma gives chalk pastel lessons on all sorts of things you can find several on YouTube and at their site for free and there is also a subscription option. This is the link to a Baby Yoda one.
Curiosity Stream- has lots of great documentaries, its a paid site. Amazon Prime - also has lots of great documentaries as does Netflix and Disney+. We are big fans of the David Attenborough nature documentaries like Blue Planet and all those that followed that. They are very good and don't have the extra drama that National Geographic adds in to the American made ones (but that is personal taste:). There are so many great documentaries out there to watch and learn things together as a family.
Outschool - Offers paid online classes on tons of topics. Some classes are one-off others are a whole semester. We have taken classes on history, Lego, Engineering and drawing. There are tons of classes on there for anything people want to learn about. They are geared mostly towards kids.
Animal Live Cams - There are tons of these sites this is just one but we can spend so much time watching live animal cams I don't know why but we just love them. Several Zoos like the San Diego Zoo have these too.
NASA space cams - Here is the earth live from the ISS, we find this fascinating, if its dark just wait a little while it will be light again soon. NASA has other great videos too.
Make DIY Household Supplies. Just look up things online and go for it, its fun to make stuff together. Some things work, some do not but its a fun process. Here is one of the many sites that has DIY recipes for things like lotions, deodorant and face masks.
Bake - anything, even if its a flop- its fun. There are tons of recipes online here is one of the many sites that has baking with kids recipes.
Cook - Something new together or turn over the kitchen to your kids and see what they make. Give yourselves challenges to use only 5 ingredients or these 4 things and make a meal. There are lots of reports coming out of China that people are having a lot of fun with this while being cooped up. Here is a link to a friend's blog at Nourishing Foundation she has lots of great healthy recipes.
Have a Tea Party or Spa Day - bring those homemade baked goods or DIY beauty supplies and have fun with them.
Nature Sketching -Go outside and sketch nature, not what you think a tree or bird looks like but actually go sit outside and really look at something and try to draw it. All you need is a paper and pencil and a willingness to really look at something for a while. If you cannot get outside look out a window and do the same. You do it too!!
Read Together - Choose and book and read it as a family. Right now we are reading Little Women after dinner together. We clear the dishes and the kids get some paper to draw on or another quiet thing to do and we read a chapter. We are looking forward to watching the movie together when we finish and going to visit Alcott house since we live in the area. Your library will have lists of great books and there are many lists out there. Here is another one we have liked a lot for great read-alouds. She also have a podcast about reading aloud, why it's great and tips on how to make it happen in your family. Read Aloud Revival this is a link to take you to the book-list.
Create Stories - Our biggest hope from our own Tales from the Moosiverse Podcast, is that it will inspire other families to tell stories together. We get so much from telling stories together. Start telling a story and then pass it off let the next person tell the next part and keep going. What will that character do next? Where are they? What does it look like, sound like, smell like there? What obstacle will they overcome? Who will help them? What will they learn? What will they do next? For specific story prompts you can listen to the Tales from the Moosiverse Podcast and at the end of each episode Ian gives writing prompts. There are also tons of other sites out there that give writing prompts just search "writing prompts".
What other great resources have you used to connect with your kids?
Let us know leave a comment below.