Are you already losing your mind with all of this time at home? Join the club! But, it doesn’t take long for kids to start suffering from Too Much Togetherness, too, picking fights with each other and badgering you for screen time. Your kids need some space from each other, and you need some alone time.
Let me introduce you to a tool that helps me (and my four kids) not only survive, but actually enjoy extended time at home. I call it Kid Stations, and it’s really easy to implement.
Every day we’re home — usually after lunch — I set up a series of activities around the house, and my kids rotate through them individually. They get a break from each other, and since they’re rotating every 20 minutes or so, it’s nonstop, learning fun for them. For me, it’s almost one-and-a-half hours of peace to enjoy or to get something done around the house that needs doing. It’s a win for all of us.
When you see how simple and effective Kid Stations are at giving everyone space from each other and yet still keeping things fun, they’ll become your favorite activity during these weeks of social distancing. Here’s how to make stations work, plus a list of suggested stations:
Plan for a specific craft from Pinterest or just set out a wide variety of art supplies and let them go wild.
Educational Screen-Time Station
Let the little ones play on websites or apps like ABCYa!, Starfall, or PBS Kids. The big kids can do activities on Nova, Cool Math Games or Khan Academy.
For the big kids, set out a deck of cards to play Solitaire or board games that can be played alone like Boggle, Scrabble, or Storycubes.
Busy Bags Station
Busy bags are perfect activities for toddlers and preschoolers. If you’re not familiar with them, look on Pinterest for plenty of ideas.
Give the kids something fun or meaningful to write, like a letter to a grandparent or a birthday wishlist.
Make sure you’re well-stocked with books. This is a great station for making progress on your kids’ reading comprehension.
Screen Time Station
Let them pick any parent-approved app or website to play on.
Active Play Station
Set out your kids’ favorite toys like Legos, Snap Circuits, Littlest Pet Shop, or Little People.
School-like Work Station
Give them a couple of Summer Bridge workbooks or find activity sheets online specific to something your child loves to study. For little kids, use activity books that teach them phonics, to follow directions, or to practice their scissor skills.
If the weather allows for it, encourage the kids to get some fresh air by playing in the backyard, jumping on the trampoline, or practicing their ball skills in the garage.
Let your kids become filmmakers by making stop-motion movies (with the Stop Motion Studio app) or movie trailers (with iMovie). They can show the whole family their creations later in the day.
Get them moving with apps like Yoga for Kids or Fitness Kids or the GoNoodle YouTube channel.
Put them to work with simple chores like vacuuming, picking up their room, or dusting. (Just make sure that all of your other stations are really fun!)
Have them help you get ready for dinner by making a salad, peeling potatoes, or opening cans. Or let them make a dessert. If one child doesn’t finish all the steps, the next one can take over to finish the recipe.
If you have a Wii, Xbox, or another gaming system, let them have a turn playing their favorite video game.
Whether they’re young or old, kids love the challenge of puzzles. You can give them an easy one that they can finish during their time or a harder one that each of them takes turns working on.
Let them video chat with Grandma or Grandpa or a friend they haven’t seen in a while.
Give them free drawing lessons using the Art for Kids Hub YouTube channel.
Sandi Haustein is a freelance writer and mom of four who writes while her kids are doing stations.