During this time of uncertainty, it’s been hard for me to write about saving money or decluttering or even frugal living. My mind is anxious about the world. About contracting the coronavirus. About being stuck at my home for the next few weeks or months. And for whatever reason, I suddenly got it in my head that I was going to start homeschooling my two year old. And boy, I had some high expectations.
Me, homeschooling? While I loved playing teacher when I was a kid, and I loved volunteering for Junior Achievement, I am no teacher. Even though my traditional teaching skills aren’t there, I’m still creative and still can teach our son during this chaotic time.
What we do to stay sane and keep busy (but not too busy) during this social distancing period is easy and, best of all, cheap. There are very few things we’ve purchased in order to keep us happy during this period. The things that work for us, may not work for you. Everyone is different and handling this COVID-19 outbreak in their own ways.
First, a note on routine.
In order to keep yourself and your kids sane, you need a routine.
For us, this means we wake up at the same time as we always have. Breakfast and coffee as usual. My husband starts work at the same time even though he’s at home. Calvin and I do our normal thing at home. Lunch, naps, snacks, dinners, bedtimes, they’re all the same.
But my school, gym, work, and everything else is closed!!!! I’m TOTALLY FREAKING OUT! (I may have watched too much Peg + Cat today. Thanks PBS! )
I hear you. My son’s school and our gym are closed, too. The craft fair I’m a part of got canceled and they don’t know when they’ll reschedule. But if you freak out, your kids will freak out. YOU ALL NEED NORMAL.
What are key factors in keeping the same routine?
Routine = less cranky, more happy, more of a new normal
- Wake up at the same time just as you would during a normal school week/work week. Go to sleep at the same time as normal.
- Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner should all be at the same time and should be the same as what you normally make
- Avoid needless snacking (yes, Goldfish and Oreos are delicious. No, you don’t need to eat them all by day five)
- Be active (more on this below). Watching TV all day might be great for a day or two, but this isn’t vacation – it’s reality.
- Set time blocks throughout the day for different activities. For example, 7-8am is wake-up and get ready time. It includes breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth and hair, drinking my entire coffee, and cleaning up the kitchen from breakfast (and possibly unloading the dishwasher). 8-9am is open play. Calvin has toys already set out in the living room that I’ve picked the night before. He plays while I check my email, blog, and Etsy. I also pull out freezer meals to thaw on the counter at this time. 9-10am is working out. 10am-12pm is play, lunch, and winding down. You get the idea.
- Avoid too much news. Yes, it’s bad and people are sick and dying. But you don’t need to binge watch the news in order to know that. A quick 10-15 minutes in the morning will catch you up.
- Put your phone down. Don’t get sucked into social media and mindless scrolling. You’ll enjoy your day more if you’re not in a screen. Read more on Digital Detoxing.
This isn’t anyone’s ideal situation. However, with a routine, you’ll feel a little more normal.
Here is Jordan Page from Fun, Cheap, or Free talking about Block Schedules! She’s one of my favorite bloggers. She’s frugal, funny, productive, AND a mom of 8!
Several free activities to survive social distancing!
1. READ and then read some more
If you’re realizing that you are no teacher, this is for you. While workbooks and online lesson plans are great, they can get frustrating for kiddos and for you. Reading aloud with your kids helps their minds grow and learn just like they would have in school.
Dust off your bookshelf and pull a book down you know your kids will love. They can handle chapter books read aloud in small chunks. If Calvin was older (like 5 years older) we would read chapter books to him. With toddlers and younger kids, picture books are the best. As a bonus, it’s a free activity!
Even for adults, reading gives the brain a little mental workout. It allows our mind to be elsewhere and takes us on a journey. It’s a vacation you don’t have to leave your house for.
If your library is closed, check apps like Libby and Hoopla for eBooks and audio books. Amazon Prime also offers free Kindle books with a Prime membership (also streaming TV, movies, and free delivery on thousands of items).
2. Chores as teaching
Kids will be up in your business. Why not have them help you and teach them something? Our son always wants to be up in his learning tower while we cook. We let him pour and mix. Eventually, we will teach him how to measure, use the stand mixer, and use a knife.
Teachable moments aren’t always in the kitchen. Distinguishing what’s a weed in your garden and how to get rid of them could be a lesson. Laundry, doing dishes, dusting the blinds, spring cleaning are all very teachable chores.
While this might take longer to get things done, the time you spend teaching your children these life skills will pay for itself!
3. Workout and get moving
Your gym is closed, but YouTube is a treasure trove of free workouts and classes. These workouts mostly include body weight only or very minimal equipment.
One of the biggest big things for me during this period is staying active. I went from working out at the gym five times a week to nothing at all. I can’t ride a spin bike or do a strength training class with friends, but I can do something similar online. Going on a quick jog around the block does wonders for my mood.
4. Go outside
Social distancing keeps us from doing normal things like going to the library and the gym. Playgrounds are also closed. But most of the great outdoors is open and there is plenty of space to practice social distancing.
Getting outside doesn’t involve anything fancy. For us, that means going in the backyard to kick a ball around and pick up rocks. My husband finds new fishing spots in town every week. Disc golf is also open in our city’s parks.
If you want to put more effort into being outside, you can give backyard camping a go! Pitch the tent in the backyard, use your camp stove to make dinner and roast s’mores over whatever flame you can manage. Backyard camping is a novel treat that kids and adults can both enjoy.
5. Online unstructured learning
There is no need to pay for a subscription (unless you think it will benefit your family) to an online school or gaming platform for kids. Many zoos across the country are opening up and adding to their educational collection everyday. Things like online games, coloring pages, and live animal watch cameras are readily available.
San Diego Zoo Live Animal Cams
San Diego Kids Zoo Activities
Toy rotation – not just for kids
You and your kids are home. We’ll all be here for a while. This means we had better get used to working with this “new normal”. One trick I’ve found extremely helpful is toy rotation.
Toy rotation means that all of your kids’ toys are put away except for a select few. Every few days, you switch out or rotate which toys your children play with. When toys are rotated, there is less mess and the toys are “refreshed” every time they are played with.
This isn’t just for kids. Adults can benefit from this, too. For example, I really enjoy word searches. But if I do them every day I tend to get bored of them and won’t do them again for weeks or even months. When I limit myself to one or two word searches a week, I’m much more inclined to keep doing them. It has become part of this new normal we’re living in!
You can apply this to playing video games, your favorite streaming TV shows, doing your favorite hobby, etc. This prevents burnout and allows you to keep doing these activities for the length of our social distancing orders.
Be happy with what you have a.k.a. no online shopping
Being away from family and friends during this time of social distancing is rough. Some of us, including me, have this compulsion to shop for new things to bring some of that happiness back. But take a step back. Are you happy with the things you already have?
We feel trapped in our homes and the online world seems like an escape. Look! We can order anything we want! However, when we look at what we have (and everything is from before the pandemic), we ARE happy. What we have was carefully chosen before making the purchase.
When we want to make a purchase, we use our 72 Hour List. If we feel that we have too much or what we have isn’t something we can use, we declutter our home and gift the items through our buy nothing group (Goodwill and most thrift stores are closed!).
So when you feel that you need something new (and have the social distancing blues), put away the phone and add the item to your 72 Hour List. Wait that three days and ask yourself again if you really need it.
How hard is it to be thankful? Yet, so often we lose those thoughts among the onslaught of news brought to us every minute of every day.
I am thankful for my health, my wonderful husband and son, dish soap, potatoes, iced coffee, and good hard cider. Reminding myself everyday that I’m grateful for the little things brings joy to my heart.
When I feel down or feel the need to purchase things to make me happy, writing down three things I’m grateful for fills that void. Write these things down in your planner, post it on Facebook, put it on a sticky note. Whatever your style, get your gratitude out there and encourage others to do the same!