Responsible_kids_MamasHealth_long_covid

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has significantly changed the way we do business. Many U.S. residents have been out of work for months, which isn’t surprising when you consider that one out of nine U.S. jobs depends on travel and tourism (and this industry is one of many that has ground to a halt). But although many businesses are starting to reopen, there are countless organizations that will continue with a work-from-home structure. And while about 80% of those who become infected with COVID-19 recover without any need for special treatment, employees and managers alike are taking extra precautions to ensure the health and protection of staff.

That might mean that you’ll be forgoing your office commute for the foreseeable future. This can have some perks, like fuel-related savings. And since Americans who work full-time spend more than one-third of their day, five days per week, at their jobs, working from home might theoretically provide you with a better balance and the ability to spend more time with those you love.

That said, it doesn’t always work that way. Even though you might be grateful to be around your kids more often now, their presence can sometimes disrupt your ability to stay productive. Now that digital classrooms are no longer in session — and even the summer camps that have been allowed to open aren’t guaranteed to provide enough safety for your liking — you may be worried about how you’re going to keep your kiddos occupied and be able to stay gainfully employed. You certainly aren’t alone, as many parents are dealing with the same scenario. Although no one is going to handle this challenge perfectly, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your kids stay entertained while they stay home this summer — and that you’ll be able to keep both your sanity and your job.

Aim For High-Quality Screen Experiences

Understandably, a lot of parents are concerned about their children having too much screen time this summer. With no ability to have physical play dates with friends, your children might be all too eager to waste the entire day watching TV or playing games on the family iPad. Although hours upon hours of screen time isn’t good for anyone, experts note that not all screen experiences are created equal. Rather than focusing too much on setting time limits, set some ground rules for what kind of content your kids can consume. Watching a valuable TV show, playing an educational game, or video chatting with a grandparent is much different from aimlessly scrolling through YouTube or social media unsupervised. You could set up some parental control options on many of these devices, as well, which can restrict the use of apps or lock a screen after a certain amount of time. But overall, don’t be too rigid about screen use this summer. As long as you also encourage participation in other activities, you might not want to add any extra stress to your life.

Make a Chore Chart or Schedule

Not even adults especially enjoy doing chores, but giving your kids a bit of responsibility for their environment can teach some valuable lessons (and keep them busy for a few hours). You might consider creating a chore chart for each day with jobs like vacuuming the living room, picking up the playroom, emptying the dishwasher, making the bed, or pulling weeds in the garden. These chores don’t have to be anything major and should be offset with some enjoyable activities (or used as incentive for earning a new game or other purchase). You could even add reading or physical activities like hopscotch or jumping rope to the chart as a way to encourage ongoing education and exercise throughout the day. Scheduling activities throughout the day can give your child a sense of routine and keep everyone on track while giving everyone something to look forward to. Just resist the urge to over-schedule, as kids still need free time as part of their development.

Set Up Areas For Crafts, Dramatic Play, and Games

If you want to mimic the idea of a summer camp at home, why not set up some stations for popular endeavors like arts and crafts, dramatic play (with a makeshift stage and “costumes” made of hand-me-downs), or outdoor and board games? You can teach your kids how to make boondoggle bracelets, encourage them to write a script and act it out for your after dinner, or show them how to have a hula-hooping competition. Of course, you’ll want to check on your kids regularly. While 19% of households visited retail medical clinics in the last year, playtime is the last reason you want to go see a doctor. But having these stations with activities all laid out can buy you some valuable working time while allowing your children to explore their creativity.

Try Virtual Camps or Subscription Services

Many in-person summer camps are remaining closed for the season, while others that have been allowed to open are already been linked to the spread of COVID-19. To be on the safe side, you’ll probably want your kids to sit this summer out and see what conditions are like for next year’s enrollment. In the meantime, there are certain camps that are taking place virtually. Your child can learn how to code, explore a new hobby, and interact with peers via teleconference. Many of these camps and classes are free or are extremely affordable and are led by highly regarded educators. Alternatively, there are subscription box services or kits you can order online that focus on childhood education. These activities can occupy your kids for an entire day or can be used throughout the summer in conjunction with other ideas.

Whether you’re able to be a little more flexible with your hours or you’re still expected to be available from nine to five each weekday, there are ways to make this summer work for your family. With these tips in mind, your kids can have a productive and enjoyable summer — and you’ll be able to get a little breathing room during the day.