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Taming the Quarantined Snack Monster

Have you heard it, sweet mommas? Is it haunting your dreams as well? It’s your pint-sized Quarantined Snack Monsters yelling, “Mom, can I have a snack?” (I cringed just typing that.)

snack timeThe current snack demands in my house are out of control, and I bet they are in yours, too. Maybe it’s comfort eating during these strange times (I’m guilty as well). Or maybe it’s all the extra physical activities, like long family walks and epic bike rides we’re getting in. Whatever the reason, kids seem to be eating more than usual. For our sanity and to conserve our temporarily limited resources, these Quarantined Snack Monsters must be tamed.

My goal in taming the Quarantined Snack Monsters is not to limit my kids’ food intake; quite the opposite, actually. My kids have always been picky eaters (until the last 14 or so days), so I’m pretty pumped they have an increased interest in food and a capacity to eat more than usual. But the constant snack requests, and being subsequently chained to the kitchen, is driving me crazy. I don’t mind them eating more frequently. I just need to not hear about it every 1.2 seconds. A solution is required.

Daily Snack Baskets

Enter the Daily Snack Basket! It’s beautiful in its simplicity and has the potential to be a life and sanity saver. Every morning, I select a few snacks I know my kids will ask for at some point during the day, and I toss those snacks in baskets marked with their initials. Then I lay out the rules: “These are your snacks for the day. You can choose any of these snacks throughout the day, but when they’re gone, they’re gone.” That’s it. So easy, right?? snack basket

Not only have Daily Snack Baskets freed up a ton of my time and mental energy, they have also empowered my kids to make their own choices. They’re even learning valuable life lessons, such as time and resource management. For example, if they front load too many snacks in the morning, they may have to go without their precious Teddy Grahams later in the afternoon. Through personal experience, I’ve noticed that my kids are less likely to melt down if they realize they made a decision that led to a less-than-desirable outcome, than if I were the one to impart the same information to them. 

I keep my kids’ Daily Snack Baskets in the refrigerator because I include items that require refrigeration. This means their shelf-stable snacks may be chilled by the time they get to them, but they don’t seem to mind; I am not about that multiple-snack-baskets-in-multiple-locations life. I also keep their water bottles in the snack baskets so they always know where they can grab a drink at any time. There are unlimited refills on water, of course.
snack basket

If you’re stumped on what to feed these suddenly ravenous Quarantined Snack Monsters, here’s a list of snacks I like to include in the rotation, depending on the selection I find at the grocery store. Some of these items come in single-serve packages, while I parcel others out into appropriate containers.

Refrigerated Snacks

  • Yogurt tubes
  • String cheese
  • Hummus with dippers (carrots, celery, pita, crackers)
  • Fruit (grapes, apple slices, strawberries, bananas)
  • Applesauce
  • Boiled eggs (pre-peeled)

Shelf-Stable Snacks

  • Popcorn
  • Trail mix
  • Veggie Straws
  • Graham crackers
  • Goldfish
  • Chips
  • Fruit/granola bars

There is plenty of room for customization depending on your child’s specific dietary restrictions and personal preferences, and on how much time and effort you want to spend preparing the baskets each morning. My kids are 7 and 5 years old, so I offer the amount of snacks I think is appropriate for their ages without going overboard, and try to balance between healthy snacks (e.g., carrots and boiled eggs) and snacks that are more of an indulgence (e.g., chips). At the end of they day, they usually have at least an item or two left over, which I leave in the baskets for the next day. Waste not, want not, especially in this climate, ya know?

Ultimately, it’s about day-to-day survival right now, sweet mommas. If ever there was a time to throw any and everything at the wall to see what sticks, this is it. So throw those gosh-darn snacks in some baskets and let the kids figure it out from there. I think our pint-sized Quarantined Snack Monsters may just surprise us with how self-sufficient and resilient they really are.

20 Creative & Educational Websites for Parents at Home with Their Kids

This uncertain time with COVID-19/Coronavirus brings up a lot of memories for me. In August 2005, I began my senior year of high school, but after a few days into the school year, it came to an abrupt halt due to Hurricane Katrina. I was a kid when this happened and didn’t truly understand the magnitude of what we experienced until now. I have a whole new respect for our parents and their survival skills during this time.

As parents in 2020, we are faced with our norm being very much flipped upside down. It is scary and overwhelming and brings a lot of mayhem to our lives. Unlike the mayhem that I lived in 2005, I have come to realize that this mayhem still allows us to be in our home and live our lives, even though it is a very different kind of life right now.

I am choosing to put the fear aside and focus on the positive of this uncertain time. We get time to slow down and connect with our families. We get time to accomplish jobs around the house. We get time to appreciate our kids’ teachers even more than we already do. We get time to see our kids without the daily grind of life. We get time.

I plan to use these days with my kids to play games, do some schoolwork, watch movies, do arts and crafts, ride bikes, dance, snuggle, and everything in between. But I also know that we need some help with activities (sticker books can only get us so far and challenge our brains so much).

Educational Resources to Use While at Home with Kids

  1. PBS
    • Endless resources for all ages at your fingertips. You can search by subject, age, real-time news, and so much more. They provide videos, interactive lessons, lesson plans, media galleries, audio lessons, and much more.
  2. BrainPOP
    • Available in many languages and across all ages, BrainPOP takes education online, and have opened their programs during this time of school closures to everyone. The focus on creation, play, and discovery work alongside academic standards.
  3. TEDeD
    • This educational offshoot of TED Talks is a really good tool for continuing research. These seems geared more towards older kids, but is a great place for them to turn when they want to dive deeper into a subject.
  4. EVERFI
    • Their goal is to equip kids with real-life skills and have educational support available for grades K-12. Their subjects range from learning your letters to responsible financial planning. They work with partners all over the world to give kids real-life experience and tips.
  5. Lumosity
    • Challenge, work, and exercise your brain every day with these brain skills.
  6. Khan Academy 
    • A non-profit online education, Khan Academy wants all children to be able to learn and grow in their own ways. Their goal is to equip “coaches” with the tools that best fit their individual kid’s needs.
  7. Teachers Pay Teachers 
    • If you need resources to support you at home, look no further. This is a website of teachers collaborating and sharing their creativity. You can find anything you need from scissor skills, to calendar numbers, and more. Prices vary from free to education bundles in the $30 range.
  8. Easy Peasy 
    • Created to support Christian homeschool education. Their goal is to provide free home school education to all families who may want it. Their website is very organized with videos to walk you through how they suggest you use the program.
  9. YouTube
    • We know you can find anything on YouTube, but now it is time to search the educational world of youtube. You can find dancing and rhyming, circle time, science experiments, movement videos, and so much more.
  10. Starfall
    • Online and with Apps, Starfall supports reading for Pk-3rd grade. Their games and activities are so much fun and work on the skills kids need to become readers and stay strong readers.
  11. National Geographic Kids 
    • Science and Social Studies are often put on the back burner for Literacy and Math. Nat Geo Kids keeps these wonderful subjects relevant. You can learn about the presidents, do science experiments, and explore animals all in one place.
  12. And Next Comes L
    • If you have a kiddo who may need a little more, I highly recommend this site. I cannot tell you the number of times I have gotten ideas for my sensory kiddo from this website. Dyan is a mama of two boys and she somehow manages to provide support for parents everywhere. She provides sensory bin ideas, theme activities, free printable, social and emotional support for kids, and so much more!
  13. ABC Mouse 
    • Is well known for their supporting of early learning. Usually the monthly cost is a bit higher, but right now they are offering 74% off for two months of use.
  14. Breakout EDU
    • Online educational games broken down by grade range. Breakout EDU serves K-12 with so many fun educational games across all many topics.
  15. Mystery Science 
    • K-5 science experiments at your fingertips! They have mini and full lessons ranging in time from 15-45 minutes. Some are 100% digital and others have hands-on learning components.
  16. Scholastic
    • Daily projects for Pk-9th grade. Each week includes 5 days of a certain subject (such as spring). Every day brings a different topic within that subject content (such as flowers, rabbits, animal babies). There are books, videos, and activities to support each days subject matter.
  17. Go Noodle 
    • Get moving! Go Noodle is a fan favorite in our house and my kids’ schools. Move and sing to the silliest songs around. You can go to their website or download the app on your device or TV.
  18. Vooks
    • Bringing all your favorite children’s books to life! Vooks animates stories while they read them to you. There is a small monthly membership fee. You can access it on their website or download the app on your device or tv.
  19. Storyline Online
    • Sit back and listen to your favorite celebrities read children books! While reading, the video alternates between the celebrity holding the book and illustrations coming to life on the pages.
  20. Highlights For Kids
    • The magazine we all know and love brought to you online. Hidden pictures, quizzes, stories, and so much more available digitally.

Hunker down friends and make the best of each day with your sweet family! We will get through this!

A Note to (Very) Anxious Moms, From Someone Who Gets It

“This isn’t real. Stop,” I think to myself, seemingly a million times a night, trying to control my breath while lying in bed. “He’s upstairs, safe, and in his crib, not under the pounding wheels of a train.” I glance at the video monitor showing my toddler sound asleep. It helps a little, but not completely.

This is when the fight between head and heart begins, but in this case, literally. My heart’s pounding, racing, all thanks to the cycle of my thoughts. I should be sleeping, as my husband inadvertently reminds me with his slow, heavy and sleepy breathing. I’ve always been needlessly jealous of his lack of anxiety about our now 19-month-old.

I try to pace my breathing and even turn on The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross—one of my nighttime favorites during these panic attacks. But, sometimes, instead of relief, my mind gets “creative,” and I usually begin panicking about other ways my son could die. Maybe his car seat will fly out of my car in an accident; maybe I’ll trip and fall down the stairs while holding him; maybe someone will steal him out of his bedroom at night while I’m asleep and I’ll never see him again.

Some women may wonder what’s wrong with me. But, I know there are many other women feeling understood. And that’s because, according to a study published by Journal of Affective Disorders, this paralyzing sense of worry affects about 17 percent of early postpartum women.

But what about when you realize you’re past those early months of postpartum, and the worrisome thoughts haven’t left? This is where I’ve found myself. This has been the subject of many late-night messages between myself and a close group of mom friends for a while.

So, let’s break down the different elements of this mental illness.

Postpartum depression is different from postpartum panic attacks, which is a variation of postpartum anxiety. That fact alone gave me anxiety when I did research, as I thought to myself, “Well, what exactly do I have, then?”

In August of 2018, very shortly after my son was born, I began experiencing these intrusive thoughts and panic attacks. At first, they were accompanied by what my doctor called the “baby blues,” which, according to American Pregnancy, is the least severe form of postpartum depression and disappears shortly after birth. It seemed pretty severe to me, though.

And that depressive state lingered longer than I’d have liked, but the anxiety never left. I never felt any anger or resentment toward my baby, which is a widely accepted (and televised) symptom of postpartum mental health problems. In fact, my experience has always been the exact opposite, as I’m obsessed with his health, safety, and overall wellbeing. I’m not embarrassed by it. It’s just hard to live with. And I don’t want him to resent me for it one day.

The US National Library of Medicine published results in 2018 of 14 studies on women with postpartum anxiety disorders: postpartum generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), postpartum panic disorder (PD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the results: “Loss, frustration, and guilt, accompanied by physical symptoms of tension, were some of the experiences identified across studies. Most women suffered from more than one anxiety disorder, in addition to postpartum depression.”

And, according to Women’s Health, serotonin uptake inhibitors (Zoloft, for example) are the most commonly prescribed medications for women suffering from PPD. Whereas women suffering from both PPD and a postpartum anxiety disorder are urged to seek therapy and are also often prescribed anxiolytic medications, such as Klonopin, to help with sleep disturbances and to ease anxious thoughts. So the general veil of “postpartum depression” needs to be lifted so we can assess ALL facets of women’s mental health after childbirth and treat them as needed.

The crippling panic attacks have eased over the past year and a half, but I’m just not sure if they will ever go away entirely. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to let my son ride a roller coaster or drive a car without entering a pure state of panic. But for now, I’ll keep working on my approach to let the intrusive and near-paralyzing thoughts leave my mind without affecting my own wellbeing.

Ease Stress with a Meditation + Mindfulness Activity

Appreciating moments…As mothers, we are told to savor the time ad nauseam. “It goes so fast.” “Enjoy every moment.” “Babies don’t keep.” We tirelessly hear and feel all of those things but what does it mean to savor moments? What is actually happening below the surface when we experience the moments in both the mundane and extraordinary that take our breath away? More importantly, how do we incorporate mindfulness so we may better hone in on that awareness and make those moments more abundant?

Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand. They both require practice and a general awareness of the positive change that will ensue with a dedicated and practical approach. It is simply noticing things in nothingness.

How to Begin

With an open and gracious mind, heighten your awareness of your thoughts and body sensations. As mothers, we wear our to-do lists as a badge of honor sometimes. We run here and there, never truly working on the habitual patterns, negative self talk, mindless chatter that is going on inside.

Take time out of your busy day to notice your habits, your looping thoughts, your heaviness or lightness, etc. The difference this time is that there is no judgement associated with anything you think or feel. You simply notice, acknowledge, and release.

Meditation Activity

I’ve included a meditation to do with your spouse, friends, and even kiddos. It’s a little silly and a lot of fun. In it, you will find that by waking up your senses at their most basic level, you are completely in the present moment experiencing heightened, mindful awareness. Grab a mandarin or an orange, save this meditation, and bring mindfulness into your life today!

After doing this with my kiddos, I now notice that each time we eat oranges they always take time to notice how it smells. It wasn’t something we necessarily dwelled on but in taking time to notice, it has now become part of their innate mindfulness practice.

Making the Most of Social Distancing as a SAHM

I’m usually the first person to take advantage of any opportunity to get a break from my kids. I’m a stay-at-home mom by choice, but I’ve got three of these little monsters and it can be pretty overwhelming at times. Public school? YES. Babysitter? YES. Gym day care? YES.

I was not excited when I learned that schools would be closed to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. I completely support the decision to close the schools, but that doesn’t mean I felt prepared to be stuck at home with my kids 24/7. It basically sounded like my worst nightmare.

But my attitude is slowly changing as I realize that I needed to take control over our home situation. Right now it is unknown how long our schools will be closed, but based on what’s happening in other areas, it may go on longer than we expect. It became glaringly obvious that if I wanted to get through this period of time with my mental health intact, it would require some planning.

I took stock of our board games, craft supplies, and educational resources. I mentally planned out ways for us to keep busy and what would be the best ways to go about that. I normally don’t plan out things like this, but in the long term I knew we would all go crazy if I didn’t get ahead of this change.

I decided I was going to make the most of this.

It’s only been a few days, but I’m feeling my heart change because of these circumstances. I’m feeling grateful. Grateful for the chance I have to spend more intentional time with my children. Grateful for an opportunity to remember what is really important in life.

family puzzle activity
Quality family time while practicing social distancing

I’m realizing how quickly our lives can change. I’m taking more time to listen to my children giggle, to look at the twinkle in their eyes as they grin while talking to me, and to actually listen to what they are saying.

Let me be clear: I’m not grateful people are sick or dying. I’m not grateful that our healthcare system is being stressed to the max. I’m not grateful that people are, or are going to be, suffering physically, financially or otherwise, because of this outbreak.

But I am grateful that through this experience, I’m learning. I’m growing as a parent and a person. I’ve seen what I can really do, and what God can really do, when I’m put in a position where I have no choice.

I’m being forced to step it up. I’m gaining confidence in my role as a mother that I didn’t know I needed.

I’m grateful to see the good that humanity can do in times of crisis as we band together to fight against this threat with social distancing. I’m grateful to witness the beauty from the good deeds that are happening.

Are we all going to feel optimistic all the time about being forced to stay home? No. There will be days of just “surviving.” And that’s okay. I’m sure if you ask me next week how I’m doing, you’ll get a different attitude than the one I have now.

But we are doing it.

We are rising to this challenge and facing it head on with the strength and determination of the fiercest mama bears. Because that’s what we are. Mamas who will do anything for their children: no matter how hard, no matter the cost, no matter the obstacles.

Now is the time for us to show it.

Silver Lining Amidst a Pandemic? Absolutely!

After being on a cruise for the entirety of my kid’s Spring break, I was a bit worried about the conditions back at home. Before we left, I’d cleaned out our refrigerator completely, and having bought no groceries in the entire week prior, I was prepared to get home, brave the store, then hunker down. 

It was at the grocery store than I had some epiphanies that I wanted to share, all of which are silver linings to this interesting and scary situation we’re in at the moment.

What’s So Good About Being Quarantined?

Several things! Below are a few that come to mind.

  1. Life-Giving Food is Available. (But you might have to look around for it, unfortunately.) The foods that make us healthy, give our bodies nutrients, and ones that boost our immune system are in a grocery store somewhere near you. When I stepped back and looked at my grocery cart, the colors were gorgeous. This is what we all know about eating healthy, right? Shop on the perimeter of the store, and not the middle. Those foods that are grown or raised, and in their original form, are the absolute best for our bodies. Given that we absolutely need to boost our immune systems right now, this is very good news! So, stay away from the middle of the store, and shop the life-giving food along the perimeter. These items freeze just fine, so you can still stock up.
  2. Slowness and Sensibility Are Good Things. While some stores have people going absolutely bananas, this isn’t true for every store. I’ve been several times, and people have been slow and methodical. True, they may be buying weird things they don’t need right now, based almost solely on fear. No need! Just buy the bare necessities—the things we actually need and not what we want. Trust me, the toilet paper will be restocked in time. (Plus, here’s a tip: Buy wet flushable wipes. If you got a little bit of poop on your arm would you simply wipe it off with a bit of toilet paper? No, you wouldn’t. So, think of your bottom the same way. Wet flushable wipes are actually better anyway!)
  3. Family Time is a Good Time. Kids are all home from school, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop learning. Plug them into all the many online learning programs available. Then, spend some good, quality time together! Play board games, watch a movie, organize a space together, do some baking, or go for a walk. 
  4. Spend Time in Nature. Speaking of going for a walk, you know what social distancing does allow? Going outside! We aren’t stuck inside, we’re just stuck not being in groups of people. Step outside, go for a walk, go ride your bike, take a jog, or sit on your back porch and listen to the birds. Research shows that people who spend more time in nature are less depressed, less anxious, and experience less stress overall. We could all use a little mental and emotional wellness right now. 
  5. Connect Virtually. We’re a virtual society, so this should not be hard. Want to sit and chat with a friend? Go for it! Thanks to apps like Facetime, Marco Polo, and Google Duo, visiting with friends is right at our fingertips. You can enjoy coffee together or even share a movie. Pop some popcorn and enjoy it together. Kids and teens can do this with their friends, too! 

Being quarantined doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy so many things that life has to offer. Frankly, I love the stark reminder that we don’t have to be so rushed through life, and we don’t have to live like we haven’t eaten in months. We can be intentional with our time rather than being so rushed. We can connect with our friends, and spend more time with our children. 

The world can feel like a scary place right now, but it doesn’t have to be. Pump the brakes on life, slow down, and take in all that your world has been trying to offer up, even when you missed it in the hurried pace of normal life. 

Birthday at Home: Tips For Making It Fun & Memorable

Life sure has changed in the last week, hasn’t it? As we all do our part to practice social distancing, several parts of life have been postponed, adjusted, or cancelled. One part of life still coming? Birthdays.

In our family, we are approaching what I affectionately call “Birthday Week”. We have three birthdays in eight days. Honestly, I thrive in this! I love planning and celebrating birthdays. But having to make it a nearly 100% birthday at home poses some challenges. Admittedly, I am not a birthday PARTY planner, it just hasn’t been my thing. But I am pretty good at making their day memorable. Even if your kids are used to having parties with friends, some of these ideas for a birthday at home can make for a pretty special day!

Decorate

To really make an emphasis, I would suggest over-decorating. Make sure everyone in the house knows that it is someone’s BIRTHDAY! Here are a few ideas that I plan to do this year:

  • Streamers hanging from their door. It’s the first thing they’ll see when they open the door and know that it is their special day.
  • Balloons: At their door, at the table, hanging from the ceiling!
  • Photo Garland. We started doing this in the past couple of years and my nostalgic mother heart loves it! Print out photos of them from birth to the present day and hang them up for all to see. The kids will love it, too! *And if it’s an adult birthday, this will be extra fun for kids to see their parent at a young age.
  • Birthday Signs. In the past, our family has written some of our favorite things that we love about the birthday person on papers and posted them all over the house. This is very fun for the birthday person to wake up to!

Meals & DESSERT

I’m pretty sure this a common way to celebrate but let the birthday person choose all the meals for the day. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. It can be a homemade meal or a take-out/drive-thru choice. And you can’t forget the birthday dessert! With some members of my family not the biggest cake fans, we have started to branch out in recent years. A few ideas to think outside the birthday cake box that can still include candles:

  • Ice cream sundaes
  • A “cake” made out of donuts or cookies
  • Brownies

Maximize Technology

One of the biggest disappointments of a social distancing birthday for kids will likely be not celebrating with their friends. Whether it’s seeing them at school, or gathering for a party, it will definitely be different and hard for them. Technology can help with this! Here are a few ideas:

  • Photo Slideshow. For several years (I have slacked off a little the past year or so), I would make slideshows of photos of the birthday person from the past year set to music. The kids LOVE this. Just another way to make the day about them!
  • Video Messages. Have friends and family members send a short video message to the birthday child (or adult!). If you have an iPhone you can easily put these clips into a movie on the iMovie app and play it for the person of honor! But you don’t have to make a movie, just play the clips individually and it will still be so special.
  • Video Chat Birthday Song. Utilize the many video chat options out there. For example, you can create a Google Hangout and invite friends and family to join in. Send them the link beforehand and everyone can join in when it’s time to sing and blow out the candles.
  • Email/Text Messages: Have family and friends email or text birthday messages to you and then print them from your home printer into a small book for the birthday person. They can read this over and over and feel the love from a distance!

Games & Activities

Even with a smaller group, you can have some fun with these party games and activities:

  • Treasure Hunt. Make a treasure hunt for the birthday person to find a special gift at the end. This could be one present, all their presents, their favorite cereal or treat, a new book, anything you want!
  • Game Day. Have the birthday child (or adult) choose their favorite games and play them all. Have some fun candy or snacks to go along with it.
  • Dance Party. Turn on a playlist via Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, or your own and have a dance party! You could save this one for nighttime, turn off the lights and grab some glow sticks and have a glow party!
  • Birthday Quiz. Growing up, my family would do a birthday quiz. The birthday person would answer questions like favorite food, color, movie, etc. Then the rest of the family would take the “quiz”! So simple, but also fun and memorable. I still remember doing this years later!
  • Re-create Activities at Home: Were you planning to go to the movies? Make a “drive-in” movie at home with a snack bar. Supposed to go bowling? Make a bowling alley at home down a long hallway. The options are endless!

These are interesting times right now, and a lot of our normal routines are put on hold. If you have birthdays happening in the next couple of weeks, I hope these tips can help your loved ones have a birthday at home to remember. All of these ideas work just as well for an adult as they do for a child. We can make their birthday one they will remember for years to come!

5 Ways To Stay Connected to Classmates {During COVID-19}

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Within moments of hearing the words “closed indefinitely” from our school district, my heart sank for my children; for the friendships they’d been nurturing since the first day of school, the bonding at recess and playtime, and the social experiences that were all coming at the end of school (field trips, parties, and birthday celebrations).

If social distancing and quarantine were going to last longer than expected, surely there’s a way to continue to build on those relationships and maybe even bring friends closer together—even if not in person. That’s when I put my head down and came up with these five {social distancing} activities you can do at home with your kids to keep classmates connected!

First, Be On Social Media!

Quarantine is one of those rare times where social media actually becomes a “saving grace”. So, let’s use it for its intended purpose and keep classmates and friends connected!

If your school or neighborhood doesn’t already have one, I highly recommend doing some research at your own school and creating a classroom or grade-level Facebook page. At our elementary school, our grade-level Facebook pages are created by our PTA and then monitored by PTA grade-level representatives. This is a closed group where parents can keep connected and chat about homework, classroom parties, PTA events, and other relevant activities.

If you need to approve this by your PTA or school first, please make sure you do. Otherwise, take the initiative to create a closed or private Facebook group for your class or grade level and use the directory to include as many parents as possible. Let social media do its work by having classroom parents help ensure parents are added who you may not be socially connected to.

5 Ways To Stay Connected to Classmates

  1. Go LIVE with a Classroom Storytime Hour

Facebook Groups allow members to go Live (if permissions are set correctly). Work together with other parents to create a Storytime Hour using Facebook Live where a student can read a favorite book to their classmates, answer questions about how they’re making the best of being at home, and ask questions of their friends.

Sign Up Genius makes this really easy to have families sign up for a date/time to read, and if you go the extra mile by creating a Facebook Event inside the group, it’ll set a reminder for parents to join you Live.

Another option is to use Zoom. While the free version only allows up to three people in 1 Meeting Room, many working parents use a paid version of Zoom for conference calls and meetings. With a paid subscription, you’re able to invite up to 100 people (who don’t have a paid subscription) into your “Meeting Room”. The bonus about using a Zoom is all participants can be on video and talking to each other as opposed to Facebook Live where you can only have one person on video and the rest are chatting via messages.

2. Bring Back “Pen Pals”

There’s nothing your kids love more than receiving mail and the Post Office is still going strong (as of 3/19/2020). Connect with other parents and create a Pen Pal sign up for classmates. You can either assign one child per student to draw pictures, write letters, or send something special via mail OR rotate a new kid each week so they’re hearing from someone new.

3. Get Connected on Messenger Kids

Normally, I wouldn’t advocate children being on social media, but Facebook’s Messenger Kids is unlike any other social media platform you’ve seen and it’s an incredible way for kids to be in contact while parents are supervising from YOUR Facebook Profile. It’s the modern-day version of going into the kitchen and talking to friends on the wall phone.

Unlike TikTok or Instagram, Messenger Kids is 100% controlled using the parent’s Messenger account. To connect with others online, parents must share a private, auto-generated 4-word code or ask permission from a parent for their child to use the app. Once connected, all conversations are saved into your Facebook Messenger App and no one can connect to them without YOUR approval. It eliminates the worry of technology while still using Messenger to voice messages and text messages for friends or create fun photos & videos to share in real time.

4. Play Voice Tag with Marco Polo

If finding the time to be online at the same time is difficult, give Marco Polo a try! It’s available on Google Play and the App store. Think of it as an answering machine meets walkie talkie meets video…virtually. You can leave a recorded message for a friend using the app and when they’re available, they can listen and record a message back.

5. Create a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

This idea came from the recent “Shamrock Hunt” that took over Facebook. Families hung shamrocks in windows for neighbors to find on daily walks on St. Patrick’s Day. How fun would it be to coordinate something similar within your class group?! Ask parents to leave a special picture or object in the window of their home OR out in the yard and create a map for kids to go from classmate’s house to classmate’s house looking for these special objects. This is a great opportunity to see where others live and wave to those special friends from the window! *Remember, this should be a family activity. Having groups hunt would defeat the purpose of social distancing!*

To help, I’ve created some blank scavenger hunt templates for your families. All you have to do is add what you’re hunting for in the squares.

:: Scavenger Hunt Templates ::

CLICK TO PRINT
CLICK TO PRINT

What ways are you staying connected to your child’s classmates?
Drop us a comment below, and we’d love to add it to our list!

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Cultivating Curiosity with Club SciKidz

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