by Meg Flanagan
It’s been 84 years since we first entered self-isolation. Or at least that’s how it feels.
Already, my kids have burned through all the things I panic-purchased just prior this whole isolation thing kicked off. In my naivete, I thought that, surely, to young kids can’t possibly finish through 17 workbooks, several dozen crafts, and all the coloring pages that Michaels had to offer.
How wrong I was.
Which brings us to here, today, when I’m attempting to keep my own sanity while successfully keeping my children entertained. Oh, and also working while homeschooling. All solo.
Everything is fine.
Because I’ve been doing all this sanity-saving research for my family, I figure other parents might also need a quick boost to get through this pandemic.
Guilt-Free Screen Time Entertainment
Guys, it’s time to be honest with each other. We are all giving our children screen time right now. And it’s 100% okay. We all need a break from each other and a simple way to not, you know, go nuts.
Here’s how I’m occupying my kids right now with screens:
- Disney+: Was this the best money we spent this year? Yes. Do I now constantly have the Frozen II soundtrack on repeat in my brain? 100%. Am I the one watching that movie daily? Also, yes.
- Netflix: Thomas the Train just dropped on Netflix. A fact my 3-year-old excitedly informed me about. Also, Magic School Bus, Carmen San Diego, and The Who Was? Show are all streaming right now. So it’s kind of educational, right?
- Amazon Prime: My other go-to for both educational and complete entertainment viewing is Amazon. Seriously, it’s great. We’re loving Sesame Street (3-year-old, remember?) and Dino Dana, but I’m checking out this giant list of the best education shows on Amazon Prime for future reference.
- All the Game Apps: Good Housekeeping just released their ranked list of all the best apps for kids – and it’s pretty fabulous. Some standouts are Toca Hair Salon 3 and Swift Playground.
- Minecraft: It’s a highly addictive, but also sneakily educational, game that kids have been obsessed with for the better part of a decade. Yes, it’s still out there. Yes, kids are still playing it. It works on coding, planning, and strategy while also being a role-playing game. Pretty sweet!
Educational Screen Time for Kids
Yes, screen time can be fun, but also educational. I’m guilty and guilt-free about using these apps to help teach my child so that I can have a minute to myself. 24/7 family togetherness is a lot, y’all.
- Khan Academy: Help your child in K-12 learn math, science, and more with a free app and website that tracks progress through leveled lesson, practice problems, and tests.
- Khan Academy Kids: For the preschool through second grade crew, we love this free app! Your child will earn rewards by working on skills like sorting, patterning, early reading skills, logic, and math. It tracks progress and is super kid-friendly.
- Starfall: with a family of free and paid apps, this learning powerhouse is great for kids in preschool through 3rd grade. There are apps for ABCs, early reading, confident readers, videos and songs, and math concepts. Some apps have limited access to features but in-app upgrades are available with a subscription.
- PBS Kids Games: Let Daniel Tiger hang with your child for a minute so you can enjoy hot coffee. This free app is loaded with tons of games featuring all your favorite PBS characters and shows. From Elmo to the Kratt Brothers, it’s here and it’s an educational game.
- PBS Kids Videos: We’ve got this partner app to the games ready to go whenever – guilt-free! I love that there are important learning concepts embedded in every show and episode. Plus, it’s free!
Military-Focused Apps and Resources
Military life is unique. We love an app, website, or resource that helps our families thrive and survive!
- United Through Reading: UTR helps military families stay connected across the miles and through deployments with physical recording stations. Now, you can get all of that in the palm of your hand. Pick a book, open the app, and hit record. Then upload to the cloud or email to a loved one. UTR makes staying together easier!
- Military E-Libraries: Get top-shelf books, virtually, anywhere! The Navy, Air Force, and Army each have digital library collections available via the OverDrive app. To get access, you’ll want to find the virtual library for your service branch and follow their registration instructions. Once you’re in, it’s easy to check out books for everyone, from kids to adults, quickly and easily!
- HeadSpace: Grab a free membership to this mindfulness app when you register with Blue Star Families! You’ll get guided prompted to help you destress and relax throughout your day.
- Tinkergarten: When you join via BSF, you’ll have access to DIY activities you can do at home from this creative learning company aimed at preschoolers and their families. Many activities require outdoor space and some supplies.
- Caribou: For more learning fun, try Caribou! It’s a reading and activity app that BSF members can access for free.
- Cosmic Kids Yoga: It’s a story and physical activity that’s 100% fun! We love the Frozen yoga in our house.
Have Fun Without Screens, Too!
Yes, screen time can (and will) be life-saving for your family during this uncertain time. Again, enjoy in moderation and without guilt. But also make time to step away from the devices and enjoy life IRL. Try these easy ideas to prioritize screen-free activities:
- Walk: Even if it’s just around your neighborhood, go for a walk outside! Fresh air is good for your health and your body needs to move. You can stick to just a simple walk around the block or try for something more, like heading to a hiking trail or a scavenger hunt walk. Wherever you’re walking, remember to keep a good amount of space between your family and others on the path.
- Art: set out some supplies, like art or crayons, and let your kids create. Giving them space to create without restrictions or assignments is a great way for them to decompress. Maybe pick up an adult coloring book for yourself, too?
- Free play: Give your child a selection of toys (or let them choose) and then step away. Playing is learning for young children that continues through elementary and early middle school. So let them play any way they choose!
- Garden: Order seeds online or pick up a few packets on your next grocery store run. (Here’s a kid-friendly gardening kit!) Then find a patch of dirt or use a pot to plant some seeds. Grow your own herbs, flowers, or even a whole veggie garden – all while getting sunshine and staying far away from other people.
- Read: Yes, from a real book. Or even listen to an audiobook. Just enjoy books together.
Board Games: Have family game night every night! Pull out your favorite board games and play together on the regular.
How are you staying sane while stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Share your favorite resources with us!
- Do I Really Need to Teach My Military Child During the School Shutdown?
- 10 Resources for Military Families Worried About Coronavirus
- Beware of Coronavirus Info from Milspouse Groups: Use These Sources
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!