As a father of two toddlers, a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, I have had to get creative at times with learning and entertainment. My wife works full-time at a College and is working at home during this time helping students and in meetings, so I have been doing my best to keep the kids busy when she is working. My son’s preschool has been cancelled meaning we are also attempting to keep him learning before he starts kindergarten next fall. While my daughter will be starting preschool in the fall, she is all about learning and wants to try whatever her big brother is doing. Most of this is probably not new to parents, but in this time, I wanted to let everyone know of some resources out there or even interesting play ideas that can also be a learning experience and doesn’t involve sitting the kids in front of the TV for a whole day.
Monday-Friday in the morning we have somewhat of a routine after breakfast. We get dressed, brush our teeth and then sit down on the couch for a daily lesson. Scholastic has provided on their website a weekly set of lessons ranging from topics such as Rabbits to Gravity (for the pre-K to K section). Each day comes with a narrated and usually musical composition of a book, a read-along book more focused on the subject at hand, a video presentation that’s about two minutes on the subject, and lastly an activity. Now these activities are what my kids get excited most about. The first day was seeing how far you could jump compared to several different animals. My son especially loved retrying to see how few jumps he could do to reach a single kangaroo’s jump (15 feet by the way!). The site is on Week 4 as of now and they can really be started at any time. It has opened a lot, I mean a lot, of questions from both of my kids and I love helping them learn about these subjects. A further look at the website shows they have a weekly lesson for various grades ranging from pre-K to 9th Grade: https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html.
With the weather finally getting nicer we have been getting outside more often, the perfect remedy for being isolated in our house all day. While we are still practicing social distancing on walks, it’s also been the perfect weather to break out the sidewalk chalk. Now my kids came up with this game on their own and honestly, I just encouraged them to explain it and make their own rules to it. My son has become a doodle master and will draw something and then explain what it is, sometimes in great detail, followed by me requesting he name it and spell it out next to his drawing Then both he and my daughter start requesting things for me to draw. Slowly we fill up our driveway, and then our sidewalk with drawings of pretty much everything and anything. Once the kids have deemed it enough, at least for the time being, they play their own game. Starting at one of the drawings they pick an ending drawing and give each other tasks to get from each drawing to the next. Sometimes it’s as simple as “Run to the dusty rocket ship!” and sometimes its more complicated like “Spin and jump 5 times to the picture of Super Princess Lexi!” This game was their favorite until they developed a way to add in a “map” and finding a treasure. Similar to before we started at one end of our sidewalk and having my son write START they would fill in each square with a picture(s), name them, and then sometimes give an action they needed to do to move on to the next square, such as sing a song or do a dance.
Lastly, a fun activity we discovered was Lunchtime Doodles with the author Mo Willems. Mo Willems is most famous for his Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Elephant and Piggie series of children books. Each episode is focused on encouraging kids to be creative with doodles and just get them drawing no matter the result. He focuses each episode on a character from his various children’s books, gives a little history on how the character came to be, shows original drawings and pages from his books, answers questions from the viewers and lastly will teach you how to draw said character. This was something my son loved, and I love doing with him. Some of the episodes were solely focused on doodling, while a few got more artsy crafty and taught us how to make a board game called Super Bounce! My daughter loved watching this series because she recognized the charters in books she loved while my son loved the idea of getting to make the same characters. Sadly at the time of this writing the series has wrapped for now, but it is contained in a 15 episode playlist on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL14hRqd0PELGbKihHuTqx_pbvCLqGbOkF. Mo Willems website itself also offers plenty of activities and ideas to do with his characters. http://pigeonpresents.com/
Everyone is going to be different and enjoy different things. Are there days I just want to plop down on the couch and let my kids watch the rest of the first season of Rescue Rangers, yes! But without school and the other activities we did as a family going on, I feel like I have the opportunity to make a major impact on their life as a father. I want them to keep learning and foster that creative spark that has been developing. I can break out things like piles of random Lego pieces, a box of crayons and blank paper or any other toy we haven’t played with since the last winter solstice and try to make up something fun that we can come back to day after day and have fun as a family.
Written by Wes Morgan, public services for the Kenton County Public Library and father of two