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Kids and parents can benefit from new normal at home

A empty teacher's desk is seen at the front of a empty classroom at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver on September 5, 2014. Many parents are figuring out daily plans on the homefront in the wake of school closures around the country.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
March 18, 2020 - 9:29 AM

A mother of two young girls, teacher Nicole Totino had seen the various online options with scheduling suggestions while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She liked some of the ideas but felt discussing the subject over breakfast with her daughters, aged six and eight, would help them feel included in the plan.

"I think their level of comfort kind of went up a lot because they were like, 'This is going to be OK,'" Totino said Tuesday. "We can do this together."

Such is the challenge facing many parents who are figuring out daily plans on the home front in the wake of school closures around the country.

For some, establishing structure — dedicating time for reading, learning and physical activity, for example — is key. For others, it's a chance to teach life skills like cooking and gardening.

It can also be an opportunity to enjoy more quality time together by playing board games, spending time in the yard or watching a movie.

Totino, a special education teacher in Toronto, created a schedule with her kids that had plenty of balance and worked for everyone.

A TV show, math session and physical activity were set for the morning, followed by a reading and writing session in the afternoon along with play time and educational activities on the iPad.

"I think you want to maintain at this point the education that they've been working on at school," Totino said from Richmond Hill, Ont. "You don't want them to lose what they've been learning and working on.

"You don't want them to be completely zoned out and glued to the TV."

Abigail Doris, a Toronto-based registered early childhood educator, suggests that parents use a consistent approach with flexibility and choice.

"Create a schedule together and set norms/expectations," she said in an email. "Having autonomy over what our day looks like is important for all of us. It's important to also acknowledge that children may have a lot of questions and concerns right now.

"Hold space for that and take their concerns seriously and with kindness. Share information and make time to talk openly about feelings."

Jenn Mavity, a mother of two young children from Georgetown, Ont., has turned to Pinterest for many of her ideas. She has picked out action words like 'cook', 'create,' 'build' and 'write' for her kids to help guide them with new tasks.

"I keep saying to myself, 'Let's try to enjoy this family time together too,' she said. "We probably are going to watch way more movies and things than we ever normally would.

"But to me there's value in that time to sit and cuddle with your kid. It's something that I wish we had a chance to do more of."

These unusual times also present an opportunity to teach children about things like resource conservation, taking responsibility, and thinking about others in the community.

Trying a scavenger hunt, fashion show or dance party are all good options, while making sure to mix in downtime as needed, Doris said.

"A daily schedule that includes fresh air, regular food/water breaks, moving our bodies, being creative, problem-solving and lots of opportunities to play will support children's learning," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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