With the threat of COVID-19 looming overhead, many parents are facing school closures and extended time at home with the kiddos. Screens may be your go-to solution for keeping kids occupied during this uncertain time.
The truth is that screens CAN be a great option, as long as they are used in moderation.
When overused, you’ll likely notice negative effects such as fighting, whining, moodiness, and inability to focus and engage with other activities.
We know it’s hard finding ways to keep kids entertained for days (or potentially weeks) on end, especially since this change was so unexpected. It’s also likely accompanied by the stress of Mom and/or Dad working from home or the loss of one or both incomes.
All that said, we hope to encourage you by offering some ways to mitigate the negative effects of screen-time by planning well and being intentional during this time. When used with care, TV/tablets/laptops can be a wonderful asset to keep kids entertained and make sure learning is still happening.
The important thing is to set boundaries, know what your child is playing/watching, and to keep the lines of communication open.
PBS Kids is a great resource for the younger crowd. The shows available are fun, engaging, and the perfect length to allow parents to shower, cook a meal, or make a quick phone call without a kid following you around asking for a snack.
One show we particularly love for the preschool through early elementary age range is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This one is perfect for teaching kids social-emotional skills through the power of story and song.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood provides opportunities to teach young kids everything from hand hygiene (important right now!) to social cues in bite-sized, easily digestible lessons. Each episode features a catchy tune to help kids remember what they’ve learned.
This coupled with the fact that PBS Kids is readily available on most any device (for FREE!) makes it a great choice for wholesome entertainment.
Any episode you pick is going to be great, no doubt. But, we’d like to highlight a few favorites to get you started!
Here are a few of our top picks to watch while home with your kids!
– Season 1, Episode 1 – “Daniel’s Birthday/ Daniel’s Picnic”
This episode covers the importance of focusing on the good, even in a hard situation. With routines thrown out of whack and parents stressed out, keeping a positive outlook is exactly what our kids need from us right now.
– Season 1, Episode 4 – “Daniel Gets Mad/ Katerina Gets Mad”
This episode covers the importance of taking a moment to collect yourself before reacting out of anger. With kids home from school and cooped up inside, siblings are likely to bicker more than normal. This is a great tool for kids to help them manage the inevitable conflict that’s sure to come.
– Season 2, Episode 9 – “Daniel Explores Nature/ Daniel’s Nature Walk”
This episode really highlights the benefits of time spent outside in nature. A safe way to cure the cabin fever your family likely feels is to spend time in the great outdoors. Head out for a walk around the block or take dinner outside and have a picnic in the backyard. The fresh air and sunshine will boost both your mood and your health.
– Season 4, Episode 1 – “Daniel Finds Something To Do/ Daniel’s Royal Good Time”
This episode encourages kids to use their creativity and ingenuity to make their own fun. This is especially important right now when parents are potentially working from home and need kids to practice some independence and find ways to keep busy.
These are just a handful of the many great episodes you’ll find available on PBS Kids.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood provides parents with many great talking points. The best way to reinforce the lessons learned through watching this show is to discuss them with your kids.
Screen-time, when used in moderation, provides kids and families the opportunity to learn together and opens the door to many great conversations.
It’s not always practical to sit and watch WITH your child, but it’s important to be mindful of how much time they are spending in front of a screen and aware of what it is they are consuming. Have these discussions. Set boundaries for how much and what they are allowed to watch/play. Ask them to tell you about the show.
Since they are out of school and you are likely looking for opportunities to keep the learning going, you can ask your kids to draw a picture and write a few sentences (adjust your expectations based on the age and developmental stage of your child) about what they learned. This is an easy way to incorporate art and writing into your day.
For bigger kids, you can pick a chapter book with a movie adaptation available on Netflix, Disney+, or your streaming service of choice. Snuggle up and read a few chapters each day. Celebrate completing the book by making homemade pizza (bagel pizzas are SUPER easy and something the kids can help with as well!) and having a movie night. The kids will appreciate the movie so much more after having read the book!
Another way to make the most of screen-time is by utilizing some of the many resources available to parents while schools are closed. Many businesses are getting really creative with the use of technology to make science, history, music, art, and more available to kids right from the comfort of home! Scholastic, Outschool, and Mystery Science are just a few of the many options. A quick Google search will turn up plenty more.
Right now things are in flux and that’s a hard place to be. We want to reassure you that screens aren’t the enemy and provide you with some tips and tools for making the most of technology during this trying time.
The bottom line is this… COVID-19 has affected families all across the world. It’s a scary time and a huge adjustment for everyone. We here at The Special Needs Specialist want to encourage you to stay strong and know that you aren’t alone. We are in this together.
Please share with your friends and family who have kids out of school and need some ideas for keeping them educated, engaged, and entertained!