The world is just crazy right now. That is the only way I can really sum up everything going on. Currently, I’m in the second week of having the two older boys home from school, practicing social distancing and trying to create some sense of normalcy around this obscure time. I created a homeschool schedule from the start, because that is just how my brain works.
Before we jump into any of that, remember this is SURVIVAL. This isn’t a period of time that will be your new normal forever. Before you do anything, give yourself GRACE. Lots of it. I’ve had some great days with my boys, and some days like today when they didn’t want to do anything I had planned. And that’s okay. We’ll start over tomorrow.
This time looks different for everyone. Some of you are working from home, some still have to go to work, others can manage this time with both parents and others with only one. Because of this, what works is not a one size fits all. You can see other families’ schedules and activities, but at the end of the day, you have to decide what works best for your family.
I almost didn’t write this post, because there are so many schedules and ideas going around. But I have found inspiration in all those things and love seeing what everyone is doing at home. So I want to share what is working for us, not to give you a fail free formula but maybe some ideas that will make your days in quarantine a little easier.
This post covers routines and schedules, including our sample schedule, activities and resources as well as Amazon links to some of our favorite educational toys. You can scroll down to whichever section you are most interested in!
Routines & Schedules
If you’ve been around this blog for any amount of time, this isn’t a new topic for me. Babies and children work better with a schedule, or at least a general routine for how their day will go. This was affirmed during our first quarantine weekend a few days ago. My kids were so much more whiny and frustrating when they had a “free day”.
Most importantly for me, I argue with them less with a routine. One day last week my 3 year old Ellis got up from his nap around 2:30, which I have as quiet time until 3. Options are to read a book, he can color, do a puzzle or any calm activity. He asked his brother to race cars with him in the basement. My 5 year old Miles walked over to our routine (written on an easel) and explained to his brother that it was still part of the school day and quiet time. That he would play with him at 3. I guess he’s my son, huh? 🙂
While Ellis was upset, he grabbed something to do quietly. It is a bigger fight with him when it is new and unexpected. Most importantly, routines help tremendously with screen time. They know when they can watch tv or play with tablets. They don’t ask for it all day, because they know exactly when it’s allowed. All in all, it really helps with behavior, emotions and the flow of the day.
Routines for Babies and Toddlers
There is a series of blog posts on sample schedules for babies and toddlers. They are separated by specific ages as babies change so much within months. If your daycare is closed or your nanny isn’t coming because of social distancing, these schedules may be a helpful framework to start with.
Each schedule has a list of activity ideas, key milestones, some of the best educational toys for that age, in addition to a sample schedule. Being creative with activities is especially helpful for toddlers during this time. Scroll down to the next section for activity ideas and resources.
Routines and Schedules for Older Children
A great way to approach a schedule with older kids is to try and replicate what they were doing at school. It doesn’t have to be exact, but schedule lunch, recess and any other activities you can at the same time they do them at school. This helps keep some normalcy to their daily school lives, even if just a little.
Side note: it’s also extremely hard to work from home and have conference calls with your children in the background. Especially if they are young and can’t work on something independently for too long. Each family’s situation is unique. You should decide what works best for you. It’s worth repeating that. Don’t feel pressure to create something that is not sustainable. This schedule is for you as much as it is for your kids.
Our Current Schedule
This is the routine we are following during the Covid-19 school closure. I have 3 boys- a 5 year old in Kindergarten (Montessori school, so officially he’s a 3rd year in 3-6), 3 year old in his first year of 3-6 Montessori or preschool and a 12 month old that was used to having me all to himself.
Exercise: My boys are rambunctious so having a morning workout has been excellent. Even if it’s something simple, such as yoga and meditation. We use youtube for this: Cosmic kids yoga or zumba for kids- sometimes we do both!
Lunch and Outside Time: At school they go outside at 11:30 and have lunch at 12. We kept that same window, but made it longer. I am having them help make their lunches and giving them more outside time to run and get as much fresh air as possible.
Related Post: How to Set Up your Kitchen for Cooking with Toddlers
Socialize: Facetiming with friends during or after lunch has been a great way to stay connected with classmates and family that we are not seeing on a regular basis.
Naps/Quiet time: My 3 year old and 12 month old consistently take their afternoon nap at 1, so that has been fairly easy to maintain. My 5 year old gets independent work time or we work one on one on his sounds and pre-reading work.
Ideas for the other sections of our schedule are below!
Activities and Homeschool Resources For Toddlers
(18 months-2 years old)
Related Post: 10 Simple Finger Food Meals for One Year Olds
In addition to the age specific schedules and activity ideas, here are some other resources for creating a schedule for this age group. If they are in daycare, following some of their routines will also help with the transition and sustainability of this time at home.
Top Indoor Toddler Activities– great post for some quick ideas to get started.
Create Magical Spaces– amazing inspiration for fort building or reading corner nooks. It’s a perfect time to build forts and other things you normally don’t have time to do with your kids as you run from one activity or event to the next.
*Scroll to the next section for some of my favorite educational toddler toys.
Activities & Resources for Preschoolers
(3-4 years old)
I’ve found lots of great free printables on this blog called Life Over C’s. Everything from alphabet work, to math and science, including these DUPLO number pages that were a hit at my house. Gave me the idea to use even more LEGOS for their work, like the addition problems my older son is doing in the second picture.
Make homemade playdoh! Not only was this a great science experiment, we talked about how the consistency changed as we added ingredients. My kids also played with it for hours, integrating sea animals and building structures of all kinds.
How I Organize my Preschooler’s Day & Activities
For my preschooler, I have a two hour work window in the morning from 9am-11am. Originally, it was 3 but that was just too long. We’ve done this about 7 days now. Some days are better than others, depending on his mood. He rather be running and jumping and playing outside.
Working on practical life (prepping snacks and lunch), the alphabet, numbers, counting and map puzzles have been his primary focus.
I saw an alphabet activity that another mom shared recently. She wrote out the alphabet on individual pieces of paper. One huge letter on each sheet. Then laid them out in a row, almost like a frog’s lily pads. Then her daughter jumped from one to the next. Saying the letter sound and something that starts with that letter. I love how it includes movement and would be a perfect fit for my son.
Make your work window around what works best for your child. My 5 year old can work on 1-2 things during this window. But I set up a bunch of short activities for my 3 year old. He usually naps from 1-2:30, so he’ll work on quiet activities or games when he wakes up.
Activities & Resources for Elementary Aged Children
This article has TONS of online resources for kids in various subject areas including Kahn Academy and BrainPop.
Most schools and teachers are offering amazing homeschool resources to help you during this time. Definitely take advantage of those. Since my boys are in a Montessori school, the majority of my research has been specific to that pedagogy. Mostly because that is how they are learning at school and I want them to experience continuity.
The following post has affiliate links, please refer to the disclosure policy for more information.
We’ve also used educational games and play as they are young. This pack of map puzzles from Amazon was a great activity- we built the puzzles, talked about the world, drew them out on paper and then used our animal toys to discuss where they were from. Lots can come from one simple activity that you extend.
My kindergartner has a 2 hour work window in the morning with his brother (9am-11am) and a 2 hour window in the afternoon by himself (1-3pm). A couple times in the afternoon I’ve let him use his tablet for phonics apps, it’s like a game but he is spelling and rhyming words the whole time. We have also worked on his handwriting, reading and overall language skills during this time. He needs quiet and concentration for this work, so it’s the best time to do it while his brothers are asleep. If he finishes before the two hours, he plays quiet games like magnet pictures, puzzles or LEGOS. Some of our favorite educational toys and resources are listed at the end of this post.
In the morning, he works on math- addition and subtraction so far. And we’ve also tried lessons that his teacher shares via her daily blog post and google drive handouts.
Chores and Expectations
We use chore charts and routine lists to integrate chores and daily expectations for the kids. They work well in getting a habit established in kids, especially young kids. And they also create a clear outline of what they are supposed to do when.
Miles (5) is in charge of setting the table and cleaning it after everyone clears their own plate. Ellis (3) feeds the dog breakfast and dinner. They both make their beds in the morning (we need to work on this more 🙂 ), as well as help fold and put away their laundry.
We choose not to pay them for chores they do everyday. It’s something I learned from my oldest son’s teacher. Doing chores should be an expectation for their daily lives. Their home is also theirs- it’s a place to take care of and be grateful for. I think about them as adults, that instilling these habits within them now will carry over to adulthood. Hopefully.
We do pay them for extra chores. Other times they have helped with bigger household chores, like deep cleaning the bathrooms or shoveling snow (not much help there, lol). Extra stuff like that we give them a small allowance.
Master List of Age Appropriate Chores– from toddlers to teenagers. If you need age appropriate chores for your kids.
Routine Lists– Have kids monitor their daily progress with a morning, afternoon and evening checklist. Each of my sons have two checklists. One for upstairs where their room is and one for downstairs in the kitchen.
Daily Routine Chart– If your child loves to have something to pick up and move, rather than check things off a list- this is a perfect starting point. Miles used this routine chart when he was 2 and 3.
Educational and Concentration Toys
- Boley 12 Piece Safari Set– These animal sets are perfect for speaking and vocabulary building. You can talk about the animal names, they can set up a safari scene, you can also buy another farm set and categorize which ones go together.
- Busy Board Activity Binder– Working on practical life tasks are a perfect toddler toy. They are building skills, but also love learning how to figure it out, this one has buckles, zippers, tying work, and buttons.
- BeginAgain Dinosaur A to Z Puzzle– I love the entire line of puzzles from this brand! They are all wooden, beautifully made, durable and a great “next step” puzzle.
- Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks– Never underestimate the power of simple natural wooden blocks for endless open ended play and building. Works on motor skills, creativity and early engineering skills.
- Magna Tiles 100 Piece Set– These magna tiles are all the rage and for good reason! There are really endless amounts of possibilities so it helps your 2 year old use various skills at one time.
- Do a Dot Art Markers– Great introduction to marker play and creative design. Helps develop hand eye coordination and art creation in a simple medium before advancing to more complex drawing. There are lots of alphabet and number printables you can download where toddlers use these markers to practice.
Preschoolers and Kindergartners
All of the toddler toys also apply to preschoolers, as most are open ended and can be enjoyed for multiple years. Personally experience this twice over now with both of my oldest.
- 5 Continent Puzzle Pack– We used this our first day of homeschooling and I’ve recommended them to various people. The boys do the puzzles but then they trace them on paper and color in the countries. The kindergartner then writes out the names of the continents and oceans.
- Color Matching Mosaic Pegboard– Perfect for younger preschoolers. The pegboard activity is great for creativity and fine motor skills.
- Imagination Magnets– Still one of our favorites after owning it for two years. Fun pattern play that ranges in difficulty from easy to more difficult.
- Floor Puzzles- These large puzzles are a great conversation starter as well! Like this Melissa & Doug Solar System Puzzle or Massive Dinosaur Puzzle or this beautiful Underwater Ocean Floor Puzzle.
- LEGOS-No list is complete without mentioning LEGOS. They are a great quiet time activity, help with concentration, following instructions and early engineering skills. Start with DUPLO sets and move up to the older sets around 4 or 5. The LEGO city collection is a great starter set or the LEGO and friends has lots of characters and adorable scenes.
- Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden– There is nothing better than the real thing to help stimulate the minds of your little budding scientists. In this garden, you get 5 caterpillars, all the food they need and a mesh habitat to grow your butterflies. So cool!
- Qwirkle– All this social distancing will also make room for family game nights. Preschool is the perfect age to get started! Qwirkle is one of my favorites. Involves strategy and pattern play that make it fun for adults and kids.
- I Never Forget a Face Memory Game– Memory games are a classic and perfect educational game for preschoolers and kindergartners. We start out with a small amount and move on to bigger “boards” the more we played. And this memory game in particular is beautiful! Another option is the Life on Earth Matching Game that has more animals and plants instead of faces.