School is closed. Now what?
The email came. Your child’s school is closed for at least two weeks, or maybe even a month.
As tempting as it is to have the whole family hang out in pajamas and watch movies, maintaining a sense of structure is important for the whole family. Keeping kids busy and productive reduces anxiety and prevents them from going stir crazy - and creates happy memories. As the long days stretch ahead of you, think about all those opportunities for fun and enriching family activities. Mix family time, learning, downtime and sensory fun to create a schedule that works for your family.
At Fun and Function, we know how important sensory wellness is. And we’re parents too! We’re navigating the same landscape as you, using our creativity and intuition to support our kids during this time of isolation. Here are some ideas we’ve been using it in our homes, and helpful resources for remote learning:
- No bus to catch. No long commute ahead. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast! Did you know that breakfast can include so many oral motor sensations? Try cutting up fruit to top hot cereal, thick smoothies and textured waffles. Slowly introduce the kid-friendly yet nutritious tastes and textures to your child.
- Have you ever wished your kids knew how to help more around the house? Now’s the time to teach your child how to do some chores - and support their OT goals too. Kids can get in heavy work as they sweep the floor and wipe down the table and chairs, and strengthen their grasp as they use spray bottles and sponges.
- Many schools have prepared remote learning options, while others are sending home packets for students to complete. Either way, you can support your child’s sensory needs at home.
- Make sure your child is comfortable and equipped to learn. Does your child learn best when seated on a wiggle cushion, or while lounging in a bean bag? Would they be more focused with a weighted lap pad or weighted vest? Would a pair of noise reduction headphones help them stay on task?
- Offer your child a quick sensory break before beginning intense learning. Squeezing putty, doing wall pushups or using a massage tool can help boost focus and set your child up for success.
- A gross motor workout helps kids reset after learning activities. If you’re lucky enough to have a yard, outdoor gross motor play - tag or even just running around - can be super refreshing. Go out for a walk or hike, and mix it up by skipping, galloping or jumping as you walk. Indoors, you can enjoy a game of hopscotch or start a fitness challenge. For a creative spin, make a giant floor maze with painters tape. Try jumping, hopping and tiptoeing through the maze. If you have a scooter board, have your kids push themselves along with the scooter.
- Settle in with your kids for fine motor play! Kids can be incredibly creative with classics like Lego and modeling clay, while building key skills such as bilateral coordination and intrinsic hand strength. Puzzles are a fun family activity that supports visual perceptual skills.
- Take the time to talk to your kids about meal planning. What foods do they like? What new foods are they interested in trying? Have them help create the menu.
- Cooking has so many opportunities for learning. Kids can read cookbooks, measure ingredients, and even multiply recipes for an extra challenge!
- Looking to build hand strength and provide heavy work? You can easily integrate these goals into cooking and baking activities. Kids can mix pancake batter, toss a salad, knead and roll out dough, and have fun decorating cupcakes. Bonus - kids love eating the foods they make!
- What’s your child’s preferred learning modality? A wide audience, from kids with dyslexia to gifted readers, enjoy audiobooks. The readers’ voices are engaging and audiobooks enable kids to access books beyond their reading level. And kids love listening to them while they fidget, doodle or just chill on the couch.
- E-books make it easy for kids to sample many books as they seek a just-right book that captures their interest. It’s also a convenient and cost-effective way to get new reading material while libraries are closed; reach out to your local public library to learn how to access e-books from home.
- Make reading cozy and fun. Snuggle on the couch with a weighted blanket, or try taking turns reading books aloud to each other with funny voices.
Your sensory wellness is important too. Make time each day for sensory experiences that you enjoy. A quick morning run, a scented body scrub, a soothing hot tea or a long bubble bath at the end of the day can keep you feeling balanced, calm and ready to face each day as it comes.