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Inexpensive Ways to Keep The Kids Busy While They’re Out of School


March 15, 2020

NOTE: I originally wrote this post for LittleGuide Detroit, so be sure to click through and check out all of their great tips and activities.

On Friday, March 13th, 2020 at 6am, I awoke to the news that my daughter’s school district was shutting down through April 13th as a precautionary measure to the coronavirus outbreak. My younger daughter’s preschool soon followed with similar news.

“Um, now what?” was my first thought. My second, “I have SO much work to do; how am I going to pull this off for an ENTIRE MONTH?!”

Now What?

Fortunately, I primarily work from home for a great company with awesome leaders and a flexible schedule. But when I say I work, I WORK: on conference calls, collaborating with teammates via video chats, writing and creating. So, what was I going to do with two little girls at home with me during my regular workday?

The Dollar Tree.

The idea of purchasing workbooks and supplies came to me at 8:50am that morning; the Dollar Tree opened at 9am. I hurried to get the kids ready, and during the 15-minute drive to the Dollar Tree, we talked about the schedule we were going to have now that they were off of school for a month (and we hadn’t yet received direction from the district).

Our daily schedule for when the kids are off of school

My kids work really well on schedules at their school, so my oldest recommended the morning sessions based on what they’re doing. We started earlier in the day because both kiddos are usually up by 6am and I left lots of time for playing and arts and crafts in the afternoon.

Schedules Work Best For Us

By 10:30am, we were home and had “Mama’s School” set up with age- and grade-appropriate workbooks and an agreed-upon daily schedule. To some, this may seem crazy, but in my own work, I block schedule; I am not a multi-tasker. For example, if I’m working on brand strategy, I may block off an hour for research and then an hour for strategy planning. If I’m working on a website, I’m usually focused for five or more hours straight. It’s not only how my brain works, but how I’ve learned to be efficient in my processes over the years (thanks, Lean Six Sigma training).

So, it was really important for me to at least attempt a daily schedule for the kids. I mean, they’re used to it at their schools–my oldest came up with our morning routine based on what she does in the third grade–and they’ve been home during enough snow or vacation days to know that when I’m working from home, they can’t interrupt my phone calls or video conferences. They’re actually really great about trying to figure things out on their own. Maybe it’s because I’m too honest with my girls: they know that it’s a privilege for me to be able to work from home, as not all mommies or daddies get to do that, and in order for me to continue being a remote worker, I have to, well, work and do it to the best of my ability.

Dollar Tree For The Win

Here are some of my scores. I figured for $1 each, I might as well get one of pretty much everything they had. If they can’t use some now, they’ll be able to use them this summer or on road trips:

Free Resources

I also understand that we’re very lucky to be able to purchase school supplies, as not everyone can do that. But, in addition to checking out your local dollar store for one or two workbooks, you can head to the library and pick out some books for the kids to read during quiet time. And, be sure to take a look at some of these awesome (mostly) free resources:

It’s Okay If You Think I’m Crazy

And, if having the kids attempt to do school-related things while you’re working from home isn’t your jam, no worries (and, no mom guilt, okay?).

Due to my hubby having the flu over Christmas and our work schedules, the girls sat around and watched TV in their PJs for the majority of every break this year (and probably will at some point during the next month). I had no issue with it because everyone needs a little downtime, right?

This go-around, the girls were actually sad about being out of school because they’ve started new lessons and were excited to learn more; so, I figured I’d go with it.

What Are Your Suggestions?

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to keep your kids busy, so please share them below. For tips on how to actually get some work done while at home with the kids, check out my co-worker, Molly Rossow’s article here.

Keeping kids busy while in isolation
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  1. […] with pencil cases, books, notebooks, scissors, pencils, crayons/pencil crayons, workbooks, etc. If you remember my post from the beginning of the pandemic, you know I loaded up on workbooks from t…. These things are a Godsend for the days I feel like the kids need a little extra something to […]

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