Now that we’re spending more time indoors we have more time to spend with family. We miss hearing the kids in our classrooms and hallways, and we wanted to continue to support you while they’re home.We’ve put our heads together and came up with some ways to keep your kids mentally active and engaged in productive activities. While also giving you the opportunity for some much-needed time to yourself.
1. Setup a pandemic proof virtual playdate
We've all seen how efficiently kids can adjust to a new situation, and they've spent a significant part of their lives interacting with an image on a screen. Research has shown that today most children behave similarly to having a friend on a screen as they do when they are physically next to them.
Let's face it, there are some added benefits: setting up an online playdate saves you a bunch of time and energy from making a trip to and from your kid's friend’s house. You’ll be able to watch them eagerly walking around the house, showing their room, introducing pets, and playing music for hours - or until their time is up. They’ll be able to interact and develop social skills in a comfortable and safe environment, without you having to clean up all the added messes. Thank goodness for technology!
2. Play a game on your app
Whether it’s on a cell phone or a tablet, devices offer endless possibilities for engaging material. There are free apps for helping with school subjects like math, science, and language learning, as well as a remarkable benefit to games and puzzle apps. Apps like “Cut the Rope” are today’s tetris, capturing children’s attention and training quick thinking, pattern recognition, and forward thinking.
In fact, statistics show that nearly 85% of people will read this article from a mobile device. Parental controls only take a few minutes to set up and you can make sure they’re getting the most out of their device time. Most devices and apps allow some sort of monitoring capabilities for parents and are relatively easy, just make sure you use a password your kids won't be able to guess.
Your kids are familiar with the devices, so they'll hardly consume any of your time or energy if any at all when they're on a device. They'll be completely engaged, and even if it's for 30 short minutes, it'll give you a window to recharge from a long day or keep them out of the kitchen long enough for you to make dinner.
3. Find new ways to read
Your kids read more than they know. It may not be a traditional book, but anything from comic books or the storyline in a video game technically requires reading. Learning their favorite athlete's bio or stats, or even stories and articles about their favorite shows or movies counts in our book.
With the right topics, reading will be less like eating vegetables, and more like watching TV. If they're interested in the topic, they'll read about it. It’s all about finding what they like, it doesn’t have to be traditional, it just has to connect with them. Education is all about connecting, the more your child feels connected to something the more engaged they’ll be. You’ll feel the silence once they get into it - you'll know you’re on track when they don't want to stop. Ahhhh, the feeling of sweet silence...
4. Learn to connect with a new language
Languages aren’t as difficult to learn as we're led to believe. The excitement of being able to engage with someone in another language is what we live for at Tribeca Language. Have you ever met someone that speaks 3, 5, even 9+ languages and just thought to yourself, I wish I knew one of those? Research has shown, language learning uses multiple areas of the brain simultaneously - making it the most mentally engaging activity on this list.
We live in a connected world where our kids are exposed to more culturally and linguistically than we were even 10 years ago. Many of your kids play sports or are in clubs with teammates that English isn’t their household language - you might be one of them. Beyond benefits like better job opportunities, or mental and cultural growth, language learning can be a fun and interactive experience that your kids will want to continue.
5. Get all hands-on deck with cooking or baking
It'll need a little more of your attention and energy than some other suggestions on the list, but delicious food will be sure to keep them focused. Your kids will be completely focused on each step because they'll quickly realize a small change or mistake can make a big difference in the end - and no one wants to eat cookies that aren't right.
We practiced math measuring and portioning. We got exercise stirring and mixing caramels and sauces for what felt like hours. Even when to know if something was ready from the look, smell, and feel of it. Cooking and baking with my family growing up was a way to connect with each other, but in the end, it's also a great way to kill a few hours.
6. Getting hands-on with arts and crafts
Any teacher will tell you, providing creative outlets is a powerful way to enable your kids to be mentally and physically engaged with something. It could take a couple of trips to the craft store but once you find the activity they enjoy, it's relatively hands-off and minimal energy from you. Of course, some activities may need a little more supervision, but your kids will be engaged, and they’ll be eager to show you what they did when they're finished.
It’s more about what your child feels comfortable with and enjoys than anything else. Arts and crafts allow your kids to “create” something, it could be a drawing or a sculpture. For most, the physical result of their work will create a sense of pride and an enthusiasm to do more of it. Your kids will have a task they're excited about and eager to "work on" for long periods of time. It'll also offer an outlet for them to find ways to express themselves as they grow and mature.
7. Stimulate mind, body, and spirit, with fitness activities
There's so much more to regular exercise than its benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Having your kids join you in physical activities will help them learn their own limitations and ways to calm their minds and relax - a skill many of us forget in the relentless non-stop life as an adult.
Yoga, for instance, is an activity for any age and ability. It's a great way to help you and your kids learn to be calm under tension, improve your breathing, and provides a positive outlet to exercise with minimal impact. Spending time in nature also has a way to calm our minds - just picture the feeling of tranquility and calmness of the wind blowing through the treetops. Hikes allow time to enjoy the outdoors but also provides fresh air and a break from the busy world we live in. A screen can stimulate sight and sound, but it doesn't come close to the stimulation and engagement they'll experience during physical activities.
8. Use the old-fashioned storytelling trick
This is another one that you’ll need to be more involved in, but it’s well worth keeping your kids engaged and having them use their imaginations. It can be a story about when you or a family member were their age or could be a complete original you make up on the spot. The characters and setting can be made-up but the more familiar the theme of the story the more they’ll be reeled into it. As you engage their imagination and creativity try to find a balance of telling and having them ask questions.
Kids love to ask questions, to the point that you may have started to wonder if they were some kind of evil genius trying to make you go insane. Sometimes they don’t even care about the answer! They’re just trying to get you to acknowledge something - Anything. To counteract this seemingly never-ending loop, offer them a story.
Your kids will love the attention and amazement they receive when they learn to play an instrument. Playing music is an activity that for better or worse you can hear while you're cleaning up the room next to theirs, but you'll quickly be able to hear when they're focused on the music. Whether it's the title track of their favorite movie or the latest pop song, someone has probably created a version of it that can be played on most instruments.
Learning to play an instrument requires time and focus to connect a sound with a physical action - like strumming a chord on a guitar. From the piano to the harmonica, learning a note takes practice and memorization for it to become more fluid and sound it's best. It’ll be rough at first, but with regular practice, they’ll gain the confidence and want to play their new song for anyone that will listen. Fortunately, the internet is filled with material kids want to learn. But the reality is, like language learning, having a formal teacher is by far the best way to learn an instrument efficiently.
There’s no cookie cutter solutions when it comes to kids. We all like different things and have different things that excite and engage us, but we hope this list will help your kids find a productive activity to focus their energy on. Even if you’ve been looking forward to reconnecting with your family, it’s good to remember a little time for yourself can be just as beneficial as an engaging activity. These aren’t cookie-cutter solutions, but we felt they’re great places to start.
Please click the contact link below if you have any ideas or if there's something you’d like us to write about to help you. We love hearing your feedback and pride ourselves on taking time away from lessons to get to know you (the parents) more and offer you as much support as we can.
Alessandra Lanno considers herself both an avid reader and writer. Born and raised in