Surviving quarantine and stay-at- home orders with kids: How to stay sane with everyone at home.
Since all of you reading this are likely either quarantined or in some form of self-isolation, I wanted to list some frugal ideas that will hopefully keep you sane if you are also trying to work from home and/or have kids home from school.
Just a little background – I am a stay at home mom who homeschools. And I’ve got an edge – I have two boys, 7 and 5 years old. We don’t have a TV, the kids have watched one video in their entire lives (I broke down and played I want a hippopotamus for Christmas on a cross country road trip at 10 pm), and they don’t do screen time. Trust me, I know what it’s like to have the little dears underfoot 24/7. So I wanted to list some ideas and tips for keeping everyone sane at home with your kids and hopefully not impact your wallet too much.
Make a Schedule
First off, make a schedule. No, seriously!! Especially if your kids can read. It’s so helpful to be able to say, “see? Reading time is 9 – 10, lunch is at noon, we’ll do crafts at 2…” Then when they say “what are we doing next? What time is supper? I want to do crafts!” you point at the schedule and by day 3 they should be on a roll. Structured time goes by so much faster than just rambling around in circles all day. It also will help them to know that if they have questions for Mom or need help with something, Mom is available at a specific time. Hopefully, this lets you get a little peace and quiet during that conference call or writing time.
The schedule idea is helpful if you don’t have kids, too. A lot of us are like, “well, at least now I’ll get all that stuff done around the house.” NO. No, you won’t. Let’s face it, this is gonna be like a 14-day weekend. Things get pushed back and before you know it it’s Sunday night and you have…um…done something all weekend, just not sure what it was. Don’t work yourself to death, but why not deep clean, organize, experiment with learning some new cooking techniques, maybe start a tiny indoor garden, or make a pile of those books you’ve been meaning to read? If it isn’t written down or planned out, it likely won’t happen. I speak from personal experience here. I have been trying to make new recipes so I have more variety and improving my cooking techniques since we are very rarely eating out.
We do a lot of crafts in our house. I stock up on a lot of office and craft supplies so there is always some materials around to do any sort of guided or creative project.
Write a Letter
Moving on, if you have children at home, now is a great time to teach your kids how to write a letter. It’s almost obsolete anymore, and certainly may not take the place of FaceTime if you do that, but if they have friends or family members they miss, have them write out a story, color a picture, or whatever they come up with on their own. This keeps them entertained and also teaches the value of family and friends, and staying connected even when you can’t see someone in person. Plus, it brightens someone’s day!
Try to get outside every day – if you have a yard, build a snowman, play tag or catch with the kids or your significant other, go for a walk – just stay away from crowded areas and give people a wide berth on the sidewalk. Even ten or fifteen minutes a couple times a day can help keep you from going stir crazy. Make this a non-negotiable. Kick the kids outside. It’ll build character. Let them play in the dirt, make your own sidewalk chalk – you can make it out of 1-1/2 cups of cornstarch and the same amount of water. Stir together well, pour into muffin tins, and add 3-4 drops of food coloring to each chalk muffin. Let harden, pop out, and go to town! (figuratively. You’re quarantined, remember?) If there’s a lot of snow in your area, grab a few empty spray bottles, fill with water and food coloring, and let them design patterns in the snow. The point is to get the kids and yourself outside for fresh air and a break from staring at four walls.
Another tip that may keep you somewhat sane is to play active games with your kids. Or your spouse, or your roommates. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Try Charades, Guesstures, something that will get you up and moving. If you are homeschooling, try this with some historical figures or events – learning can be fun too! When you are stuck inside, it’s easy to sit still, so make it a point to get up and do something! One thing that works well with children is cleaning with a challenge. See who can pick up more toys in five minutes, who can clean the bathroom quickest (and best), or how fast laundry can get folded. True, everything might not be perfect this way, but if you can make it fun, you can focus on technique later. If it’s just you by your lonesome, try doing this virtually with friends, or just set a timer and see how much you can get done in ten minutes. Trust me, it works!
Spend Time with your Spouse
One last idea – if you have kids, feed them their supper, put them to bed at the usual time, then make a special meal for you and your spouse. This lets you decompress a little and spend time together since most of us can’t go out to eat right now. It also saves you money – this is something my husband and I do once every so often, even in those long-ago days before quarantine and self-isolation, as it’s much cheaper than a babysitter and restaurant food! This also gives you and your spouse some quality time together. If your kids are older and don’t go to bed very early, just have them spend quiet time in their rooms instead. Happy, loving parents make for happy, well-adjusted kids, so consider this an investment in your kids, marriage, and bank account. Having a good marriage will help keep you sane at home with your kids.
You’ll notice that this post doesn’t focus specifically on saving money – but you don’t have to spend money to do any of these ideas, either. Most of us are not going out to shop right now, and hopefully, by keeping yourself and your kids on a schedule of sorts and finding things to do together, you can avoid impulse online shopping. I hope this gives you some inspiration to find your own frugal fun right here at home!
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