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Well, What Are We Doing With These Kids?

Illustration for article titled Well, What Are We Doing With These Kids?
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As schools close and families bunker down inside their homes in the name of social distancing, I am one of many parents several days into working from home with their kids present. The reality is settling in that, for the foreseeable future, I’ll be attempting to blog in close proximity to a three-year-old, i.e., a human tornado of chaos. While limits on screen time are temporarily out the window, I personally cannot take another moment of Peppa’s adorable porcine face.

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I presume that many, many others are in this exact situation, and it would behoove us to start sharing ideas immediately, before we all snap.

To be clear, we’re the lucky ones; layoffs are already hitting the restaurant and retail industries, and many healthcare workers are braced to leave their kids to serve on what is quite literally the front lines. If you can, make a donation to your local food bank and other organizations. But those of us who are currently working from home with our kids are nevertheless swamped, and it’s not going to get any easier as we burn through the obvious time-killers. Those of us with kids too young to be left wholly to their own devices need some prompts.

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And so, here are some suggestions, skewing on the younger side. Please—for the love of God, please, help me—add anything you can think of.

A list of entertaining ideas of last resort:

  • We’ve been hauling around a giant roll of butcher paper from when my husband painted my kid’s nursery three and a half years ago, using it occasionally (great way to carve a pumpkin with easy cleanup). Well, it’s about to be that butcher paper’s finest hour, because I’m gonna roll it out on the deck and turn her loose with anything I can find: paint ordered in a panic last week when the reality of this all hit, kitchen sponges, stickers, cotton balls, literally anything else I see.
  • Saving all cardboard, paper towel rolls, and oatmeal canisters to potentially build a castle, spaceship, house, sailboat, Death Star, whatever. Of course, this requires parental assistance, but once you’ve got it built maybe they’ll amuse themselves with it for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Literally just turn them loose with Post-it notes, the same basic principle as a huge pile of stickers, but perhaps even more exciting, because they’re fancy grownup office supplies.
  • Bubbles for as long as possible (which is a pretty long time). Let’s hope we don’t get to the point where we have to contrive more solutions on our own. 
  • Dress-up, whether it’s with old Halloween costumes, old bridesmaids dresses, or literally just things leftover from your early 20s.
  • At least once a day, my kid sits on my lap, we open a Google document, and I just type out the names of her classmates upon her request, and she also likes to type out her own name (with considerable assistance).
  • The Royal Ballet company has incredible brief videos on YouTube, and even the English National Ballet also has clips from a “my first ballet” series they do live. This is a two-for-one bonus, because then they may very well also want to leap around your living room and get some of the energy out.
  • We’ve cleaned out the summertime water table and we’re just letting the kid splash around wearing a coat, because it’s not so cold she’ll freeze. But a couple of plastic containers, some Solo cups, and a few bath toys will work just as well in a pinch. For that matter, put them in the bathtub in the middle of the day and just let them have a long-ass bath.
  • Hose in the dirt makes mud; let them go nuts, then refer to the daytime bath idea.
  • There are tons of resources popping up online, from freebie coloring sheets by Melissa and Doug to celebrities reading books on social media to homeschooling resources.
  • Cotton balls? Haven’t gotten any further than this, please advise.
  • My colleague Stassa Edwards tells me you can just literally cover a table in shaving cream and tell them to have at it.
  • I have Halloween decorative lights in purple and orange that I bought when they went on clearance in early November. Maybe we’ll decorate the kitchen, who can say?
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What else have you got? Please, we’re running out of washable paint.

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

westerosironswanson
The Ron Swanson of Westeros

It’s possible that it’s my childhood neglect speaking, but have you tried letting your kids enjoy some unstructured free time? Like, the only rules are that it can’t hurt anyone or damage anything, and that at the end you have to learn something. I used to go nuts with that much freedom. And by “go nuts”, I of course mean spending days reading books that taught me all kinds of neat stuff, as well as the joy of learning.