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Learning at Home with Kids: An Untraditional Guide

Oh, my word…the questions. If you’ve ever been around a child for more than 3 minutes, you know what I’m talking about. It’s not that they think you know all of the answers, they just want to engage with people. They miss their friends and their routine, too. It can be a bit challenging, especially if you are trying to work from home, too.

Many times your kids are not asking questions because they want the answers, but because they want your time and attention. They need to feel safe in this pandemic. A little bit of eyeball to eyeball can go a long way toward getting them to settle down a bit while we navigate the next Zoom call. Whoa, it is a LOT.

We want to raise active listeners, so as parents, we try to BE active listeners. The more we listen, the more we understand what our kids need to thrive during this time at home. They want to feel safe, engaged, and active.

Unconventional times call for unconventional methods of learning. Here are some ideas we hope you find helpful.

Get outside, but be intentional. Create a masterpiece with chalk. This site has amazing ideas your kids can draw. Take a picture of their art and send it to grandparents and relatives.

Offer to draw chalk art on sidewalks of neighbors who have younger children.

Download The INaturalist App and take a hike! It’s good for them AND for you. You can take pics of plants and insects on your walks (or in your backyard) and upload them to your database of observations.

The coolest part? Extremely knowledgeable local sources can recommend and identify the observations. Fun fact: the scientific community uses observations made by your local communities to perform, track, and monitor environments. A perfect opportunity to learn both science and contribution.

Get cooking. Cooking together is super rich in learning and it’s fun, too! It engages skills like reading, math, following instructions, creativity, and art! It engages the senses too: sight, smell, feel, taste, and hearing.

Even at a very young age, they can be a helper by assigning them specific tasks of the meal. As they advance, they might follow a recipe by themself. Here is a great recipe to start with.

You might allow them to choose a recipe to make for dinner, or if you’re brave, let them invent their own. There’s no better time to encourage their creativity. Give them a few ingredients from your pantry or fridge and let them create a chef’s special dish. It’s ok if it’s a little gross, they are learning and contributing, isn’t that the point? Set the table and Bon appétit! 

Get creative. Break out the crafts when stuck inside. You might be surprised by how many projects they can complete with objects you have around your home. Paints, markers, scissors, cardboard, etc. Even if your kiddo (or you) is not the next Picasso, there are endless possibilities for art and craft projects to enhance their imagination and keep them off of the screen. Here is a great resource for simple and easy craft projects.

Other ideas: Cutting a snowflake or a paper people chain out of a folded piece of paper or making a bubble “S”. Arts and crafts utilize motor function and brain development, an excellent way to learn and have fun.

If you have tape and paint lying around, you can join the Rainbows over Michigan group on Facebook and feature your masterpiece along with thousands of others.

Get playing. Play is a basic human activity. We don’t teach babies how to play, as soon as they can reach a rattle or their feet, they play! Forgetting how to play as we grow up is one of the biggest tragedies of adulthood.

“Play” is loosely defined, but we like to think of it as anything that engages the mind and produces a smile. Break out some of your old toys and games like “Go Fish” and “Monopoly.” Teach children the fun of playing and not the importance of winning. They need to understand we don’t get to win all the time.

Re-implement a family game night complete with popcorn and no screens at the table.

Repurpose unused things. Let them style the hair on a doll they don’t play with anymore, build a cool robot, or a science lab for finding cures for diseases out of mismatched legos; design rooms from old shoeboxes and draw in furniture.

To sum it up: It’s ok to relax into this and use unconventional ways for your kids to learn. They’re not going to get behind, everyone is in the same boat. Follow the instructions from your teachers, but beyond that–make it an adventure.

Your kids will remember how they spent this summer for the rest of their lives. Make it interesting for them and easier on yourself.



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