Feel like you’re on the verge of going crazy? Have you eaten all your COVID-19 snacks? Do you stare out the window longingly looking at the cars driving by? If so, you might be working from home by yourself!

A little backstory here… My husband and I have only been married one year, but I’ve already gotten used to having him around, like, all the time. Last week, however, he had to go into work while I worked from home. And let me tell you… It was rough. I had SUCH a hard time finding the motivation to get things done and stay focused.

If you’re like me and are working from home all by your lonesome (whether you’re married, have roommates, or live by yourself), here are some tips you can use to keep from going absolutely nuts!

Where You’re Working Matters.

Whatever you do, DO NOT work from your bed or your couch, no matter how tempting it is! If you have a desk, use it. If not, work from your kitchen table! Sitting up in a chair and using a tabletop will help you stay focused and prevent you from sneaking that Netflix tab open. (PRO TIP: Try to find a spot that has natural light and isn’t in your main living area. This will keep your body’s natural rhythms in check while also keeping the temptation of the laundry, dishes, or other distractions at bay.)

Stick to your norm.

Obviously, this can’t be done in every way. But, with what you can control, do your best to stick with what you normally would! Do you shower every morning? Do that before you start working! Pack your lunch the night before? Make that a priority (and see more on that in the next tip!). Go on a walk during your lunch break? Keep that up, even if the location has changed!

Give Your Body Nutrition (But Don’t Overload).

Okay, I have to be honest here. Last week, it was a struggle when it came to snacking and meals. Since I had easy access to the yogurt, chips & dip, and cinnamon rolls my husband made, it was nearly impossible for me not to snack on it all constantly. Every time my mind wandered, it landed on snacks. And by the end of day three, I was feeling the consequences of it. By the end of the week, I learned some tricks:

  • Pack your lunch the night before. I usually pack my lunch every day for work, so why not do it when working from home? This way, it’s easier to limit my snacking only to what’s in the bag for the day.
  • Stick to your normal routine. If you usually have breakfast at 7, a snack at 10, lunch at 1, and a snack at 3, (or is it just me?) stick to that! Your body will react if you change schedules, so sticking to your norm will help your mind stay focused.
  • Give yourself smaller portions more often. This is something I live by most of the time, but it is especially helpful when working from home! When you’re able to have more (but smaller) snacks throughout the day, it easily provides variety to your day.

Get. Moving… A lot.

Whether you’re a regular gym-goer or not, your body needs to get some movement in! I won’t lie, I did not follow this tip at all in the first couple of days. (Was anyone else in a total daze the first few days of last week??) But the more I prioritized getting moving, the more I realized its impact! The key here is finding what works best for you.  Are you a morning person? Look up some at home no-equipment workouts to do before the sun’s up! Hate working out in general? Go for walks around your neighborhood!  Some people work best on a timer (30 minutes of work = 5-minute break/movement session), but I just can’t get into it. I don’t like leaving anything unfinished, so instead I work by task. Once I’ve crossed something off, I do one round of a quick HIIT workout by my favorite trainers. Find what works best for you and stick with it! 

Make a schedule.

The above two tips play into this, but creating a schedule for yourself is the biggest key to staying motivated. Motivation comes from completing tasks, so the more things you cross off your list, the more motivated you’ll be to finish it! And when you create a step-by-step outline of your day, you can build in those 5-minute workouts or 10-minute breaks. Not only will this help you stay focused and motivated, but it is actually proven that you’ll get more done!

Get human interaction where you can.

While I am lucky enough to have another person who lives in my house (thank you, husband), I know that not everyone reading this is married or has roommates. If you live by yourself, this tip might be more difficult to put into practice, but it’s not impossible! Rally up a few friends to have a daily lunch video call together. Talk about your days. Take turns asking silly questions. Enjoy the interactions! If you do live with other people that are still going to work during the day, use your time in the mornings and evenings to stockpile your personal interactions! It’s so important now more than ever to put the phones down, turn the TV off, and just enjoy the friendships around you. Virtually, of course.

Although working from home has its perks, working alone can be really challenging. But don’t give up! There are so many great things you can do to keep your focus. Finding what works best for YOU is the most important one. Have patience in the process. Working through change always takes time, but we’ll all come out stronger in the end if we keep trying. I’ll be wishing you all the greatest music, the best snacks, and the most human interaction possible from my quiet, quiet home!

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Breakfast. Check. Son’s Math. Check. Respond to emails. Check. Help daughter with reading assignment. Lunch. Complete project for work. Dinner. Check, check, check, and check. Whew. This was a good day. We got it all done!

Hold on! Wait a minute! You’re missing something. If you keep up this schedule, the morale and productivity in your home are going to drop and you will miss the opportunity before you. How do I know you’re missing something?

You’re missing something BIG! You’re missing out on a chance to increase your kids’ academic, social, and emotional skills, their ability to deal with stressful situations and anxiety. Oh, and you’re missing out on an opportunity to learn about your kids or your spouse, develop deeper connections, and create lasting memories. Still don’t know what you’re missing?

SCHEDULE PLAYTIME.

Yes. That’s the thing. SCHEDULED PLAYTIME FOR YOUR FAMILY IS CRUCIAL.

Unfortunately, you may also be missing out on a way to make your life easier while you’re home with the family for the foreseeable future. Who doesn’t want that?

This is a MUST. We can’t leave play to chance and hope someone says something funny while we eat lunch or while they’re working on math. We can’t just hope that the adventurous person in the family brings some excitement. And we sure can’t minimize its importance. 

We must add play to our checklist. Why?

  1. Let’s start with all the reasons I mentioned earlier. No need to rehash those.
  2. Brings positive energy, creating a more conducive environment for the work that follows.
  3. We’re a family. We do life together—we laugh and cry together. We play together, feel each other’s stress, and feel each other’s joy. (I can feel it in my home when someone is really stressed out about something.)
  4. When we play and laugh, our brain releases dopamine, a chemical that lets us know that we like what we’re doing. We connect that joy and pleasure with the people we are doing it with, making us want to repeat it. 
  5. We’re living in stressful times. Laughter truly is the best medicine. 
  6. Play strengthens our relationships.
  7. Strengthens children’s academic skills. (I know I said it earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again.)

I get it. You’re the adult. You have to be the responsible one to make sure that everyone gets all their work done. That everything stays orderly and structured. And if we get everything completed, then we’ll play. Because play is the reward for finishing everything, right? Besides, how will it look if it’s 10:30 AM and we’re playing a game and they haven’t read their English homework yet or you haven’t quite finished that project? You don’t want to be that parent.

Think of the other side of being the responsible parent. The responsible parent who helps to increase their child’s ability to achieve academically and improve communication skills. The parent who builds their kid’s confidence and their immune system. The parent who’s reducing the stress level in the home and creating a positive, energetic homework environment. That’s what you’re doing when you schedule playtime. You’re scheduling all those benefits, which might make it a little easier to get through each day.

There are tons of lists of ways to play. Keep it simple. It can be just a few minutes as a study/work break or a designated 30 or 45 minute recess. Whatever you do, don’t not schedule time to play while you’re home. One could say, you’re not being responsible.

Ideas for How to Schedule Playtime at Home:

  • Ball up some paper, get a trash can and start close. See who can make the shot, and keep inching your way back. Add some flair. Celebrate creativity in shooting styles whether you make it or not.
  • Turn on an upbeat song and dance. Use a hat and have whoever is wearing the hat dance for about 20-30 seconds. Then have someone else put on the hat and dance. Profusely cheer on the person dancing with the hat on.
  • Draw designs on the driveway using sidewalk chalk.
  • Impersonate one another, other people in your life, or famous people.
  • Build a fort in the house using couch cushions, pillows, and bedsheets. Then let someone do their school/job work inside the fort.
  • Start making up a story. Speak for 30 seconds and then have the next person pick up the story from there for 30 seconds. Then have someone else go for 30 seconds and keep going around as long as you can. The story may become outlandish, but who cares? 

Now, look at all the smiles, laughter, and imagination taking place. Check, check, and check.

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The rain let up and the sun peeked through the clouds in the early afternoon on Day 2 of Social Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Already a little stir crazy in the house, I directed my 4-year-old, Jackie and 2-year-old, Maddie to put their socks and rain boots on. We headed outside to our driveway, where a couple of fresh puddles lay, just waiting for eager feet to jump in them. 

Jackie looked back at me with an inquisitive look in her eyes. “Is this ok?” She silently sought permission. I smiled and nodded with an emphatic, “Go for it!”

She timidly stepped in the puddle. Maddie watched, waiting for her big sister’s verdict. A little jump. A smile. A bigger jump. A laugh. Soon, both of my girls were jumping and splashing and kicking up muddy water all over their clothes. I stood back, watching them bask in the joy of a carefree childhood activity. 

We needed this. I needed this. With the stress of a global pandemic, trying to work from home while parenting two kids under 5 as my husband delivered essentials to businesses and hospitals as a FedEx driver, I needed a distraction. Some sort of stress relief. And this was it. A little break from the juggling act I was attempting to do between projects and snack times, diaper changes and refereeing sibling quarrels. The excitement and simple pleasure of getting dirty outside were exactly what we all needed. 

The significance of jumping in muddy puddles dawned on me as I really stopped to savor the moment. I had NEVER let my girls jump in puddles before. I rarely even let them get dirty. It’s not that I’m a clean freak, there’s just never enough time. There’s always something to do or somewhere to go. There’s always a nap to be had, a meal to prepare and eat, a bedtime routine to stick to. 

In the hustle and bustle of life, I’d unknowingly robbed my kids of an essential childhood need: to play outside, explore, get dirty, discover and learn. 

As the stress and anxiety of our new (temporary) social-distancing norm was threatening to hit hard, getting outside to play provided much-needed benefits for both myself and my kids. Not only did my kids get exercise from all that jumping and running, but they were also soaking up that vitamin D that strengthens their bones and keeps them healthy! Being outside improved all of our moods. It also gave us a much-needed break from the stuffy indoor tension that was building. 

And just like that, my perspective on our situation shifted. I could view quarantine as an inconvenient nightmare. Or, I could see it as an opportunity by slowing down, appreciating the little things in life, letting my kids be kids, and minimizing the stress of social-distancing by taking the time to enjoy the moments of uninterrupted play.

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Families across the globe are about to find themselves spending lots of unsolicited time together due to the coronavirus pandemic. As I peruse through social media, talk to friends, and even think about my own experience with 7 kids in the house, there is plenty of anxiety, fear, and consternation over this one simple question, “What am I going to do with these kids all day?” Fortunately, there are many, many resources being provided to help parents answer that question. It might be time for a family temperature check.

The question I want to pose is, “How do we as parents, we as couples, keep from losing our minds while we are being asked to stay cooped up in our homes with these energy abundant children?

You’re going to have the opportunity to be more irritated, more frustrated, and angrier than ever. 

Let’s not spend our energy trying to figure out how to prevent the inevitable. That’s just setting yourself up for more frustration. Let’s plan for how we will respond in a way that does not ruin this unique opportunity we have to grow as a family. 

Before we get into the hamster wheel of just trying to survive each day, take some time each day with your significant other and maybe your children as well and do a temperature check. As a family, take a moment and ask one another, “How are you doing?” How are you feeling?” “What do you need?” “How is all this time together affecting you?” “What bothers you the most right now?” Listen to their answers and share the effects each day is having on you. 

It’s okay to acknowledge the difficulties.

This is a good time to hear if Mom is feeling overwhelmed. Dad may be feeling helpless. Your daughter may be feeling restricted. Your son may be about ready to shut down and shut everyone else out. And your dog may be the one absorbing it all. 

This daily family temperature check takes into account that this is new territory for us all. The uncertainty of the economy, of school, of our way of life as we know it can cause us to react in ways that we are unfamiliar with because we can’t always readily relate it to a past experience. 

Instead of just forcing our way through it, let’s learn how to talk our way through it. Let’s figure out as a family how to share our thoughts and emotions. Let’s learn how to address one another’s needs even if they can’t be met because of the circumstances. Let’s not act as though we know what to do as a family unit. Let’s figure it out together. Understanding the effect it’s having on one another in real-time is a good first step.

This is an opportunity to take advantage of the intended beauty of relationship, of the connections we have with those closest to us. If we can learn to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of the people in our own home, imagine how that may translate outside those doors when we get to leave the home again.

For more parenting resources during COVID-19, click here!

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Feeling overwhelmed with coming up with things to do with your kids at home? Check out this ultimate list of ideas! Thanks to the Princess Awesome & Boy Wonder Community for the amazing suggestions!!

  • Have each kid pick a topic they’d like to learn about and spend 30 mins each day on that topic
  • Spend one day reading every single picture book we have in the house
  • Go through all the old mail laying around (ok, that one’s not for kids although they do enjoy helping tear stuff up)
  • Bake something every day
  • Have each kid write a letter and/or emails to a different friend or family member each day
  • Use all of our building toys on one giant structure
  • Wash our hands!!!!
  • Races of various kinds in the backyard (hopping on one foot, crabwalk, walking backwards, etc.)
  • Try stop motion animation with playdough
  • Facetime grandparents a lot
  • watch everything on Disney+
  • inventory the plants & wildlife (from bugs on up) in your yard.
  • learn the parts of plants/flowers & how they function (bonus if they learn the Latin names).
  • if you aren’t too squeamish & have a spare clear shoebox size tote or 5-10 gallon tank, catch some pillbugs (rolly pollies, sowbugs) & observe them (if you really do this, i can tell you how to set them up. i have about a thousand of them currently because it’s too cold here to thin the herd & they’ve been reproducing all winter. they’re pretty interesting).
  • write a short story & illustrate it.
  • learn how to do simple book binding.
  • make paper (from your old mail!)
  • have the kids help with yardwork in between playing games outside. They’re little, but they like getting dirty and “working” in the gardens.
  • GoNoodle! Great for guided movement, relaxation, etc.
  • Board games, card games
  • Legos. 
  • We have some extreme dot to dot books (1400 dots) that the kids love, especially the 5 year old! 
  • Lots of reading, playing with the dog, 
  • Working on learning to sew using stuff we have on hand. 
  • Card making/scrapbooking projects (mostly for me but kids can do it too). 
  • Getting the garden ready, we need to weed and work the ground. I might get seeds and we’ll set up to have our own starts this year.
  • Make tents and reading caves : ) flashlights, tidy snacks, books, and pillows!
  • Have a shadow show in the reading tent (we used blankets over chairs or a table)
  • Get binoculars and learn about the birds near your house, look them up on google and search for their birdcalls on YouTube
  • Learn how to make a stuffed animal
  • Play with cornstarch and water and cheap action figures
  • many educational websites are waving fees if your students school is closed
  • Collect a bunch of tape markers and cardboard boxes. That’ll keep them busy for a day or two.
  • Watch all the hand washing videos & vote on your favorite. Discuss why each good, helpful, funny. The Holderness parody one is hilarious, the Vietnam Tiktok one is great choreography, some have good songs etc.
  • Also pick your favorite song with a 20 second refrain or verse perfect for hand washing length of time.
  • Family puzzles. Ones that are 500-1000 pieces and a challenging but not frustrating picture
  • We homeschool (4 kids) and honestly, just have fun!!!!!
  • Team up and really clean and organize each kid’s space, making a donation box for each. Parents are included.
  • Have a board game day
  • kids can also make their own games! Board games, card games, you name it! My daughter spent a lot of time this winter creating soccer and football games played with cards for moves and pieces made out of legos
  • Write a story cooperatively. One person picks a character and the other picks a setting and then go gangbusters together.
  • the folding picture story one! We called it “eat poop you cat” one person draws a small picture across the top of a paper the next person writes a sentence that describes that picture and folds Over the paper top of the paper hot dog style to cover the picture. So the 3rd person only sees a sentence and they have to draw a picture. They fold over the sentence.
  • Any and all art is fun at home: beading, painting, drawing, play dough or kinetic sand, sewing, etc. when my daughter was young we could do art all day.
  • Massive board game tournament with all the (mostly forgotten) board games we own!
  • Stolen from “growing up global fb page”
  • If your school is going on #quarantine and running #schoolonline, get #GlobalKids for the special price of just $10.98. Take a screen-free, curiosity + creativity boosting, global empathy + engagement trip around the world, from comfort of your home
  • My daughter (6) has enjoyed doing yoga at home. There are kid-friendly YouTube videos and printed cards with poses.
  • Zumba or Dance-along videos on YouTube
  • We home school exclusively and the best advice I have is check out Pinterest. There are tons of ideas for activities, games, etc. 
  • Draw self portraits on blank faces 
  • color coded different interesting places on a map. 
  • I’ve had them draw maps of places and then make directions from one place to another to see if someone else could follow it. 
  • We’ve done scavenger hunts, indoor treasure hunts where they follow clues through the house to a “treasure” at the end (could be candy, a movie, whatever), and a lot of charades.
  • I made videos with my 3rd grade daughter teaching kids how to write code. Check out the videos here
  • My daughter wanted a doll house for her 18″ dolls. We saved cardboard boxes and got more from Dollar general and got to work. The closets and couch are cardboard as well. 
  • There are a few easy “kitchen chemistry” type science experiments that are easy to do, like making slime, baking soda and vinegar reaction, etc.
  • we put food coloring under the baking soda in a mini muffin pan and used Pipette to drop vinegar in and then you can see the color!
  • Last summer we did an experiment to learn what each ingredient did for a cake (so we made one following the recipe, one without eggs, one without milk, etc.). We then compared and contrasted the different cakes … Then we ate a lot of weird cake.
  • There are a bunch of ideas on the lab section of our webpage! And we have letters from women in STEM around the world!
  • give the dogs a bath and brush 
  • wash and clean out my car (mostly their food trash and dirty socks)
  • mow the lawn (my 11 year old just learned!)
  • play sidewalk chalk outside
  • glow stick party
  • popcorn + movie marathon
  • Listen to kid podcasts – we love story pirates and smash boom best. 
  • Declutter toys! 
  • Have an Olympics with a bunch of events competitions – funny ones, helpful ones like cleaning and really fun ones like minute to win in style.
  • Learn new card games
  • We’re going to learn to make sushi!
  • Lots of art projects! 
  • Dig up all the activity books, presents, etc that never got played with, and use those!
  • There’s always time tested building a tent in the house with blankets and chairs. Great for just before nap time.
  • We are going to bust out our hiking gear and try new hiking paths. As long as you stay away from over populated areas you will naturally stay a safe distance from others and sick people generally don’t hike!
  • Do a study on planets, then have the kids create their own planets- how big is it, where in the universe is it located, atmosphere conditions, can it sustain life, how long is a day/year, name it, etc.
    • you could even spread the planets out around the house to show “approx.” distance from each other. 
    • Watch this to learn about relative distance
  • Design a new space craft, draw plans, then create out of legos or household items. Spend some time pretending you’re on different planets with different gravity, you could seriously spend a whole week on just fun space activities.
    • But that’s not limited to space- these ideas would work for animals, geography, body systems, historical events/time periods, etc. Beyond that, do some fun physics experiments like making a bridge out of straws, egg drop protectors, paper airplanes, etc.
  • PuppetMaster:  an app where you can animate anything from a drawing to a stuffed animal.
  • Practice spinning poi – my daughter is just learning how to spin and it’s been fun practicing together.
  • Puzzle races: put several puzzles (20+ piece puzzles) in a paper bag and shake it up. Pour pieces out and give each person the puzzle box they are to put together. Go! (Cooperation tends to be a result as pieces are traded.)
  • Dig through cabinets and figure out recipes for that thing you got at the grocery store and thought “this is interesting surely it can be used for something!” And then make it!
  • Audible!
  • Water play
  • Make ice cream
  • Make and play with Play dough
  • Gardening
  • I let them “paint the fence” with washable paints outside
  • My mother used to let us put on swimsuits and get out our beach towels and have a pretend beach party on rainy or snowy days, complete with Beach Boys music.

For more parenting resources, click here!

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