With the announcement of school closures across Taiwan this week, I thought I'd put together a list of my favorite activities that kids and families can do at home during this time.
This list compiles ideas and resources that will help support learning in areas beyond academic lessons, as these are what really counts in the long run!
It's easy to forget about these areas of learning, but students who fall behind in social skills, emotional regulation, and healthy living routines will have a harder time bouncing back in other areas (including academics) later on.
Many students around the world who have already experienced at-home learning have reported feeling a sense of loss regarding the school environment; they miss going to school. Why is that?
Because school is about so much more than academics.
It provides kids with the opportunity to explore, socialize, take risks, try new things, and transition between many activities throughout the day.
For many students, however, learning at home is (as my 13-year-old niece so eloquently puts it): "Just like regular school, but without any of the fun parts."
Here are some ways you can make sure the "fun parts" of school aren't falling through the cracks of at-home learning!
Social Learning At Home
Have a pen pal.
Whether it's someone your child already knows or a brand-new friend across the globe, arranging a Pen Pal can be an exciting way to help your child keep socializing.
Pen Pals can write letters via snail mail or email. Figure out a way to connect, and set aside regular time to compose their letters!
Plus, this comes with a bonus: They'll work on their writing skills, too!
Schedule virtual play dates.
Missing out on seeing their friends every day can be the hardest part of at-home learning for many kids.
Get in contact with classmates' families to schedule a virtual hang out session on platforms like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet!
Vary social interactions as much as possible.
To develop a well-rounded set of social skills, kids need to practice socializing in a variety of contexts and with many different types of people.
Of course, this isn't always possible in times of at-home learning and social distancing. But you can pay close attention to any opportunities that may arise for your child to socialize with someone other than yourself, whether it's in-person or virtually.
Emotional Learning At Home
Have regular family meetings.
In my classroom, "Morning Meetings" are a super important part of our day. We spend anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes each morning to talk about how we're feeling, any stories we want to tell or concerns we want to share.
This helps take some of the weight off of students' shoulders before beginning a day of learning, and it builds a sense of community within our class. Students know that they belong there, and that there is a space for them to share their experiences.
This is equally important at home, and it can help alleviate some of the anxiety that your child might be feeling about school closures. It also serves as a clear transition activity if it's done in the morning; once the meeting is over, it's time to get to work!
Decide on what is and isn't okay when it comes to expressing big feelings.
This can be a time of great emotional turmoil for some kids (and parents, too). Spend some time discussing appropriate ways to express feelings like anger, sadness, frustration, or anxiety.
For example, it's always okay to feel angry; but it's never okay to yell, hit someone, or throw things. Instead, a healthier way to express anger might be to write an angry letter and rip it up, or to cool down by listening to music.
Create a space at home for emotional expression.
Try creating a calm-down corner or other designated area of your home to serve as a "positive time-out" space when big feelings take over.
This space should be cozy, comfortable, safe, and full of ideas for calming down. Try decorating posters with calming strategies, making a calm-down bottle, or printing out a stack of coloring sheets.
Mindfulness is a useful practice for people of all ages, and can be greatly beneficial in calming the mind during times of stress or uncertainty.
Try including some different mindfulness practices in your daily routine, such as taking mindful walks or practicing breathing exercises.
Health & Wellness At Home
Anyone who knows me knows what a big fan I am of yoga, so this list wouldn't be complete without my favorite online kids yoga class!
The Cosmic Kids Yoga channel on YouTube has so many different amazing yoga lessons, from 5 minutes to over an hour. She does yoga story time, yoga adventures, and so much more!
If yoga isn't your kid's thing, there are so many other ways to keep things moving while at home. Neighborhood walks and bike rides, midday dance parties, even doing online school while standing up!
Learn about nutrition.
Nutrition makes a huge difference in the brain's ability to learn, and yet most of us don't pay much attention to what we're eating!
With the absence of school lunch, make lunchtime into a science experiment by researching the nutrients that are in the food you eat.
You can even have your child help you come up with a meal plan based on the nutrients they need in their diet!
Pay attention to screen time.
Many parents and educators fall into the "screen time is terrible" camp, but I believe it's more complicated than that. And more to the point, it's impossible to avoid when students are expected to learn in front of a screen all day!
So instead of telling you to limit your child's screen time, I'll just suggest that you start taking note of how it affects them.
Are they having trouble sleeping? Do they seem more irritable in the afternoons than in the mornings? Are they complaining of headaches, or do they show signs of feeling overstimulated?
Like most things, screen time can affect everyone differently. By paying attention to how it impacts your child, you can start to adjust how they use it by allocating screen breaks or adjusting their time limits.
Creativity At Home
Practice design thinking.
Learning at home during a time of crisis can breed all sorts of frustration and hopelessness; not to mention boredom! Design thinking can help alleviate some of this, as it revolves around solving a problem creatively.
Essentially, design thinking is the process of invention.
Using whatever tools they have available at home (from clay to LEGOs to plastic water bottles and everything in between), kids design a prototype for an invention that can solve a problem. A bridge, a robot, anything!
Check out this list of design thinking challenges your child can do from home!
Write a book.
Everyone has a story to tell! If your child loves creative writing, encourage them to spend some time crafting a book of their very own.
They can make a paper book (like in this activity), or use an app such as BookCreator to design their pages digitally first!
Make a movie.
Get those cinematic juices flowing and make your very own movie at home! Using editing apps like iMovie is getting easier with every update, and now kids can plan, film, edit, and even publish their movie with just a tablet or smartphone.
If animation is more your style, try using an app like Stop Motion Studio to easily create claymation and other stop-motion films!
Exploring Interests At Home
Try a new hobby.
With plenty of time at home, why not pick up a new skill?
During the first few months of the pandemic, many adults around the world found time for some new hobbies such as painting, baking bread, and video games!
Figure out what new skills or hobbies your child may be interested in, and give it a try! There are plenty of online classes meant for young learners to help them become experts in their new interests.
Schedule time for Genius Hour.
Borrowed from Google's "20% time" policy, in which they allowed employees to dedicate 20% of their working hours toward a personal project, many teachers have adopted Genius Hour as part of their classrooms.
Essentially, Genius Hour is a student-led project that allows kids the time and resources to explore a personal passion. There are many ways to enact Genius Hour for young learners; some educators take a completely free-reign approach, while others help kids make a plan and structure for their project.
After all, as long as students are learning at home, why not let them learn about the things that matter to them?
Through it all, try to remember: perspective is everything. Kids are learning to adjust to a whole new mode of learning, all while dealing with the anxieties and uncertainties of a global pandemic.
As long as they are happy, healthy, and learning, then they've found their success!