Like most people with small children, I feel like I’m on day 5,000,000 of pandemic parenting. In addition to protecting them from cooties, we’re also expected to keep our little bundles of joy from strangling one another and remain calm as they shred our last nerve. We have to entertain them with something other than screens and then nourish their minds and bodies while preparing them for school in goddess only knows what form coming this fall. Easy peasy right? Um no. Seriously, where do I tender my resignation?
Somewhere in the midst of our electronic-filled, junk food-fueled utopias, our kids growing brains missed out on proper tending. Last school year, we spent the last three months limping to the finish line like a chunky runner with a stubbed toe. Fifty percent of our energy went into maintaining academic skill levels and the other 50% went into keeping them sane and safe. And after what felt like a wholly unvacation-like summer vacation, we’re about to start the limp again in a matter of weeks, but this year we’re not just fighting the old summer slide, we’re fighting the quarantine quagmire.
So how does a worn-out parent rally the troops and keep those little brains firing? Here are a few tips from one lit mama to help beat the slide and combat the quagmire.
- Keep them reading. Set aside a time every day to read. Seeing their parents reading is a powerful motivator for kids but if they don’t want to read on their own, do it together. Even my middle school students love to be read to, so take this time to get back to the fun of reading to your kids. My kids are five years apart and we still manage to find lots of amazing books to read together.
- Remember, blackjack is math. Math is a struggle with my youngest and flash cards are not his jam. While there are tons of great games and apps to help with math facts, nothing beats a good old card game. War is great for number sense and if you pull two cards per turn, you’ve got Math Facts War – add, subtract, multiply whatevs, you do you, but the highest wins. Best of all, what’s better than working on addition with a few hands of blackjack? Hit me.
- Blowing things up is the best kind of science. Science is everywhere, every day but if you’re tired of nature walks and identifying trees, try blowing things up. Baking soda and vinegar in a sandwich bag is good for a serious bang and altering the amounts alters the booms. Alka-Seltzer in film canisters turned upside down makes awesome booms. Mentos in soda are always a fan fave. When you’re done blowing up the neighborhood, have your kids look online to find out the science of why the explosions happened.
- Write on. Encourage your kids to write the wildest, most ridiculous, most fart-filled tales their little minds can muster. For once, boogers, farts and turd-brains are not off limits. See who can write the most insane tale or take turns writing the story one sentence at a time. You can build creativity, word work, vocabulary, spelling and handwriting without them even noticing. If your little one is too small for writing, create oral stories and ask them to draw pictures to go with them.
- Chew on this – one of the easiest things you can do combat the quagmire is cook with your kids. Cooking requires reading skills, math work, processes and procedures and independent thinking. My kids are freakish foodies and we bake together on the reg. Recipes can be super simple or challenging. We make a range of goodies from boxed brownie mix to Turkish bread. We’ve had successes and we’ve had flops, but the payoff of homemade baked goods is always worth it.
So, before their gray matter turns to oatmeal, try some of these backhanded learning techniques. Learning without knowing you’re learning is the kid equivalent of exercising without realizing it. Hang in there, parents. We’ve made it over four months so far, we can make it a few more.