I posted on my Instagram stories last week about the extremely tough time Ella (almost 4) has been having with quarantine. She’s an overly social girl that adores her friends, school, activities, and normal life. Given her age (and her stubbornness), it’s been difficult to explain the Covid-19 situation in a way she understands and can accept. After posting those stories, I got a bunch of awesome, helpful suggestions and one mama asking me to try them out and report back.
I have to say, after putting in some effort and letting go of a LOT of control, we’ve had a much, much better week! So here are my findings and advice on getting through quarantine with toddler and preschool age kids.
Start fresh each day
Let’s kick things off with a tip for the mommas. Starting fresh with a semi-clean house, dressed kids, and at least one cup of coffee in me has made every day much easier. We try to pick up the house the night before, but if the exhaustion hits, I start the morning off with a show so I can reset the house, make breakfast, and get myself ready for the day. Having the kids get dressed each day started as a battle, but it’s now part of our morning routine and it definitely brings some sanity to the house.
Plan activities but follow their lead
In the beginning of quarantine, I saw all of the newly homeschooling moms posting their learning schedules and a bunch of creative activities they would be doing with their children each day. Being a new SAHM myself, my brain went into overdrive and I tried to plan out each day packed full of crafts, learning, and active options. I was met with LOADS of refusal from both children. Not only did Ella not want to do anything I planned, she had no care for any schedule I planned out and it turned her off from learning. This should not have surprised me. We never had a real schedule on our days at home before, so this schedule change on top of the astronomical changes happening around us were too much for anyone to handle, let along my 3 year old daughter.
Now that I’ve had this realization, I have changed the way I approach our days. I still have ideas and activities in mind and often prepped the night before. BUT I follow the lead of my kids. We play what they want to, we craft when they want to, we learn when they want to. I set out a bunch of art supplies, play dough, and learning options so they are readily accessible. I also soak in the boredom and try to let them be bored often throughout the day. That’s both the beauty and the curse of toddlers and preschoolers – they control your life!
Don’t push learning
I, myself, am such a structured person that I really wanted to keep up the learning with Ella that she will be missing out on with school being closed. I was trying worksheets, workbooks, learning games, and all of the things I could think of to get her to continue learning letters, numbers, and writing. After talking to her teacher during our Zoom conference, I realized I was very, very wrong with this style of learning for my 3 year old. She helped me understand that at her school, the kids learn through play, not through worksheets. Everything we are already normally doing on a daily basis is helping her learn. So, I put away the worksheets and tried to more actively engage in her play and cater to her interests.
One big interest of hers is screen time and computers/tablets. I took to this interest and signed us up for ABCMouse.com and Scholastic.com. Ella has loved using these resources during her little brother’s nap time. She feels like she’s getting a special treat in using the technology, and I feel accomplished that she’s learning and doesn’t even know it.
Of all the things Ella is missing, her family and friends are top of the list. We tried to face time early on in the quarantine, but it would be met with tears every time after we signed off. Ella didn’t understand why we couldn’t just drop everything and go see her loved ones. We discovered the Marco Polo app and it has proven to be a much better way for us to keep in touch with our friends and family. Ella gets very excited when she has videos waiting for her and they are short enough that they don’t trigger her emotions.
Online museum/zoo tours and Disney parades
Our new lunchtime tradition is to watch a zoo or museum tour on the computer while we eat. For a special treat, we watch a Disney parade. This is an awesome and free learning resource that really helps connect us to normal life since we love visiting these places. Both kids absolutely love it and I love the discussions it spurs.
Get outside daily
This is self explanatory, but it’s really helped provide change of scenery when the inside of your home feels like it’s caving in on you. Exploring new parts of our neighborhood, doing scavenger hunts, or just collecting rocks and getting in that vitamin D has been very therapeutic for us all.
Keeping up on snacks and other “mood melters”
Some days it feels like the kids don’t stop asking for snacks. Other days they are both having massive, all-out tantrums and I realize they haven’t eaten much all day. I’ve tried to start making a “snack tray” around 10am, halfway in between breakfast and lunch, to beat the snack meltdowns and keep their spirts up. I also try to stay on top of potty breaks and sharing squabbles – other things that really affect my kids’ moods.
PS – A snack tray is just a small muffin tin filled with a few different snack options.
Last, but not least momma, give yourself some grace! Every day is not going to be perfect, or even good to say the least. Some days will be downright awful. Other days will be the best day you’ve ever had. Both types of days are just fine. You have to give yourself some grace during this time and lean on your friends. We are all in it together!
Please, please leave me more ideas in the comments! I loved reading and trying out your heartfelt ideas, they helped me this week more than I could ever say. Happy week 4 of quarantine!