There can also be different ages of children at home. There is a lot of information to process at this time and most children are feeling displaced, they may just need downtime and snugglesSome people call it a schedule, routine, rhythm, or flow. Whatever you call it, most people do well with one, especially children. That doesn’t mean getting rid of unstructured play and creativity — you can have both within a schedule. I love the benefits of unstructured play because there are many, and I love the benefits of a routine because there are many.
Although, children may seem like feral animals at times, they really love and benefit from a routine — I would say that their brains almost depend on it. Children under the age 12 can have 100 billion neurons and a quadrillion (that’s a real number) connections between them, which is more than an adult. In addition, the part of the brain that processes rational thinking and memory is not developed in children. Children younger than 7 are acting from their emotional center of the brain. So if you ask a child to pick up their toys or shut off a show they might throw themselves on the floor or cry with horror. Part of the reason for this is they might not know if they will ever get the chance to watch a show again or play with that toy again. It might seem funny to us, but it is true.
Children are absorbing massive amounts of information, but they do not have the part of the brain that helps them to process it all. And to make things even more fun, they are functioning from their emotional center. Having a predictable routine helps them stay grounded. It helps the overwhelming and confusing world seem more manageable and understandable.
The following schedule is from Mountain Breeze Preschool, where I am the director. It can be adapted to fit into your home life. We find that if we ask a child to pick up their toys, they usually listen. I think part of that is because they know we are asking them to do that so we can go into circle time, then snack time, then outside time. They also know they will get more opportunities to play with those toys again. There is no fear of the unknown — they trust the teachers and our rhythm.
I understand that being at home is different than being at school. There can also be different ages of children at home. Especially right now, some parents may need to work from home and get projects done. It is different from preschool where teachers are paid to enrich your child. If your family uses screens, you can add in screen time. Please feel free to take whatever works for your family. There are some explanations below.
There is a lot of information to process at this time and most children are feeling displaced, they may just need downtime and snuggles. If you want to try a daily flow there are examples below for younger and older children.
Daily Flow for preschool-aged children (this can be adapted for younger and older children too):
Morning Centers* – Open ended, unstructured play. I noticed that sometimes children can be overwhelmed by the amount of toys and options they have. Sometimes it is nice to just pull one or two toys out. I notice if I give my own kids this focused attention in the morning they are more satisfied and less dependent on my attention throughout the day (sometimes!). A lot of these activities can be done independently as well. Our five centers are broken up into five themes (more below).
Story Time/Check in/Centering – This is a nice time to connect. You can read a book or two together, meditate, take a few deep breaths, stretch, ask each other a question or set an intention. Your child will feel your attention and connection. This could be done before the morning unstructured play too.
Art/Science Activity – In preschool, we have certain themes that get explored through art, music and science. There are many spring activities on pinterest.
Outside Time – Each day we spend about two or more hours outside. We usually go in the forest and have unstructured play — we let our imaginations take over. A stump is a kitchen, leaves are plates, sticks are spoons, wood and pebbles are food. It can go on and on. If you do not have a forest available, a yard, balcony, or stroll around the neighborhood can provide a great sense of adventure. If your children are in a safe environment and they are focused, you might be able to bring your laptop and get some work done.
Quiet Time – A lot of our children do not sleep but we have them lie on their beds. We play soft music or an audiobook. They look at books or play with puzzles or other quiet activities.
End of Day – During this time we either go outside again, or we sit and play with play dough, kinetic sand, or puzzles.
Then repeat until dinner and bedtime!
I would suggest only taking out one or two things at a time:
Art – paints, glue, paper, items to glue, magazines, scissors, collage materials, yarn, crayons, stamps
Manipulatives – trains, cars, magnets (things that move)
Blocks – blocks, people, doll house, animals
Dramatic Play – babies, kitchen, dress-up, store
Language – books, puzzles, games like Go Fish, Bingo, Uno
Daily Flow for older children
Centering/Check In – This is a nice time to connect. You can read a book or two together, meditate, take a few deep breaths, stretch, ask each other a question or set an intention. Your child will feel your attention and connection.
Games (Video or Board), Screen Time, Projects
Outside Time – Long Walks, Sports
School Work or Down Time – Tidy Up, Screen Time, School Work
Activity – Yoga, Art, Cooking, Building, Dancing, Play
Family Game or Movie
I hope you find this helpful during this challenging time.
If all else fails, there is always Netflix.
Rachel Maietta is a mom, certified parent coach, preschool teacher, and founder of Wholehearted Parent Coaching. She has worked with children of all ages, and loves to support parents. If you are interested in coaching and would like to start a 10-week parenting journey, you can receive a free consultation. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram for blogs, ideas, and parenting information, or use the form below to contact her directly.