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Working and Caring for Kids While Social Distancing

Individual biting on a pencil in frustration while working from home

Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/laptop-woman-education-study-young-3087585/

Over the past few weeks, COVID-19 and calls for social distancing have rapidly changed the way we work. Many of us have gone from commuting to a busy office or campus every morning, to rolling out of bed and telecommuting in our pajamas. Your home might even feel crowded as you attempt to make space for your work life and your children’s education. To help with this transition, The Family Care Office has compiled a list of resources for parents who are adapting to working and studying from home while also caring for their children.

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

With most schools being closed for the next few weeks, many parents are worried about their kids missing out on class. But just because your kids aren’t in school doesn’t mean the learning has to stop! The CBC has lifted their subscription to make Curio.ca, an education resource for teachers, available for families in both English and French. Premier Doug Ford has also launched the first phase of the Learn at Home portal, which offers a number of resources for elementary and secondary students to practice math and literacy skills. The portal also offers guides for parents who may be struggling to teach these subjects to their children at home. In addition to these resources, it is important to remember that one of the simplest ways to facilitate effective learning at home is to stick to a routine. While your own schedule will be unique to suit your family’s needs, CBC Parents offers a great example for setting realistic schedules for kids while spending long stretches of time indoors.

This may also be a good time to talk to your kids about the current global health crisis. Explaining the COVID-19 outbreak to your children can be difficult, but U of T’s Rachel Mitchell and Gili Adler Nevo say that talking about it honestly and calmly can foster resilience in children. You can find more of their tips on how to talk about the pandemic to children here. It may also be helpful to remind your kids what they can do to keep themselves and others healthy and safe during this time, such as hanging up this colourful handwashing poster in your bathroom. For older kids, CBC Kids News is a great way to keep kids engaged as well as teach them about what’s going on in the world in a safe and trustworthy environment. For instance, they have a great series of short, informative, and accessible videos explaining the importance of social distancing and flattening the curve in the wake of COVID-19. Not only is this educational, but it can be comforting for children to understand why the precautions we are taking are necessary.

For student families that are struggling financially in the midst of this global pandemic, make sure to check if you qualify for U of T’s emergency grant for students affected by COVID-19.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR KIDS BUSY WHILE SOCIAL DISTANCING

As most parents know, one of the worst things a kid can be is bored. Luckily, there are lots of online resources available to help you combat cabin fever over the next few weeks!

  • FOR KIDS WHO LOVE ART…here are 20 activities that you likely have the materials for hidden in your kitchen drawers. These simple activities include making homemade slime, building your own terrarium, and lots of nature related crafts that will bring the outdoors right into your home. If your kids need some quiet time, they could also spend an hour or so exploring a number of art galleries that have been made available online. More than 2,500 museums around the world have made their collections accessible through Google Arts and Culture.
  • FOR KIDS WHO LOVE BOOKS…you might consider ordering a new book from these titles, featuring nine book lists for ages ranging from 0 to 18 that cover topics such as self-esteem, diverse families, the autism spectrum, mental health, gender, and disabilities. You can also continue to support your local library by borrowing books from the Toronto Public Library’s online drive. If your kids get tired of hearing your voice reading them stories, check out the Story Time from Space program, which sends children’s books to the International Space Station (ISS) to be read on video by astronauts as they orbit Earth. You may also want to check out the Save With Stories fundraiser, in which celebrities are reading children’s books on Instagram stories to raise money for children in the United States who rely on public school for their meals. Tune into Brie Larson (aka Captain Marvel) reading Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae here!
  • FOR KIDS WHO LOVE SCIENCE…Dr. Jacquelyn Gill has created a massive Twitter thread of online science and nature activities for your kids to explore. Some of my personal favourites from her list include The Royal Institution’s ExpeRimental series of instructional videos that showcase fun and affordable science experiments that can be performed at home, and Hour of Code, where you can find one-hour coding tutorials for kids of all ages with themes such as Star Wars, Minecraft, and Frozen. There’s also Zooniverse, which allows people of all ages to participate in real scientific research online, from categorizing galaxies to counting Arctic penguins.
  • University of Toronto’s Early Learning Centre has created a COVID-19 Activity Guide with ideas for activities parents can do with their children during this time.

And if that’s not enough, here are 47 more indoor activities that cover a range of topics, including science, math, cooking, and creative performance. Or, if your kids just aren’t in the mood for an activity, the University of Toronto offers a free movie streaming service to its students with a section for children and animated movies that can be accessed through the U of T library website.

TIPS FOR WORKING OR STUDYING AT HOME

Now that your kids are thoroughly distracted, it’s time for you to get some work done! For some general tips, having a dedicated work or study space and regular work schedule can help signal to your kids that when you’re in work mode you’re not to be disturbed. Having clear guidelines for when to start and stop working can also help remote workers maintain a healthy work-life balance. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes people make when they work from home is to work more. Instead, try and create a schedule for work that factors in rest time. Additionally, if you are not required to be online at a specific time, consider adjusting your work and study schedule to match when your children are sleeping or having quiet time to help you focus.

For additional resources, Michigan State University (MSU) has created resources to shed light on adjusting to working and learning from home that are perfect for these uncertain times. Please note: You have access to the blog posts but not the embedded video links.

Additionally, the University of Toronto’s Human Resources & Equity Division has developed resources for you. The COVID-19 Temporary Special Telecommuting Work Arrangements Guideline is available on the HR & Equity website as a resource for employees and managers. Information Technology Services (ITS) has also prepared technical work-from-home resources to support employees accessing work material while telecommuting.

As you begin to implement these strategies, it’s important to remember that there is no right way to approach at-home learning and working. Don’t feel guilty if you sit your kids in front of Netflix or let them play games on your phone when you have to meet a deadline. So long as your kids are safe and preoccupied, that’s a working from home win! Feel free to share your own tips for telecommuting or working/studying from home in the comments below. Good luck, and stay safe!