Looping: Needed Now More than Ever

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship

James P. Connor, Comer School Development Center

Looping at The Willows has always been an integral part of the school’s philosophy. From 1st to 2nd grade and from 3rd to 4th grade, Willows’ students have the same teachers and classmates for back-to-back years. Looping in schools has been shown to have a positive impact on both students and teachers. The Willows has always understood and embraced the positive benefits of looping, but now with the pandemic, for the next school year, looping is going to be more significant than ever before.

Why looping?

  1. Relationships with students

When teachers spend two years with the same students, there is a level of trust that is formed. These deep bonds allow students to be more open to taking risks in the classroom, which in return, will foster more authentic learning experiences. Teachers will also have a better understanding of their students’ learning styles from being with them for two years and will be able to adapt their approach to fit their students’ needs. These formative years are crucial for students to build a strong bond with their teacher.

  • Relationships with parents and families

We all know the importance of the home/school connection. It takes a partnership. Not only is trust extremely important between students and teachers, but trust between parents and teachers is equally as important. Having two years together helps parents and teachers build on that trust. Once that foundation is established, parents will feel more comfortable asking questions and taking advice from teachers. Parents will know the style of teaching and how the classroom is running, and generally, have a better sense what to expect during the year.

  • Students adapt less to change

The beginning of any school year is a transitional time. It sometimes takes months just to get in a routine. A great deal of this time is spent getting to know the students and students adjusting to classroom expectations such as rules, schedules, and acceptable behavior. This transitional time, while extremely important, can take away from the academic learning that takes place in the classroom, especially if teachers have to do it yearly.

We all know students like routine and structure. They like to know what’s coming next. Looping provides the stability and consistency at school that all students crave and need. By integrating looping into schools, children spend less time adjusting to classroom expectations and rules, and they won’t have to adapt every year to a new teacher and classroom. This will allow students to have more time to focus on the academics and social emotional facets of school.

I’m going to leave you with this analogy.

The notion of finding a new doctor or dentist every year sounds absurd. We, as well as our children, want to develop a bond with our doctors in order to feel comfortable with them, and so do our doctors with us. This bond that’s built on trust and experiences are developed over time and provides doctors with a better understanding of our growth and development. So why wouldn’t this concept of looping not be utilized in our schools?

For more information about distance learning at The Willows. Please visit our Distance Learning hub at www.thewillows.org/distancelearning.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Being a Teen in Quarantine

“It’s all vegetables and no dessert”

Lisa Damour

Throughout social media, you may have seen an act of social media solidarity for high school students as Facebook users shared their old senior photos. Thousands of individuals came together to support and empathize the significant loss these teenagers were enduring. To some, they may not see or understand the significant loss. To them, it’s just high school. To be honest, I initially didn’t understand the magnitude of this loss either. I’ve been far removed from those years for quite some time so, to me, I forgot the significance of what my teenage years meant to me. After listening to Lisa Damour’s talk on Teen Lockdown, I now remember the importance of my teen years and can understand why so many teens are struggling.

Lisa Damour, clinical psychologist and writer, who has written numerous academic papers, chapters, and two New York Times best-selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, put it really well when she said, “It’s all vegetables and no dessert.” The thing that’s missing is the fun and social aspects of school. Seeing friends in the hall, cracking jokes, attending sporting events, and gossiping about the latest crush is no longer a factor in play. These playful parts of school that are so meaningful to students are hard to replicate in a virtual learning environment and it’s really affecting our teenagers.

With distance learning being the only current option, we have now created a full-on academic environment without the social interaction that teens crave and need. That’s why so many of them are having a hard time at school. Now, add in being stuck at home with your family for the majority of the day. If there’s one thing teenagers want from their parents, it’s autonomy. How many times have you heard, “just leave me alone!”? This common phrase gets thrown around a household with a teenager quite frequently and often leads to tension within the household. More so now than ever, with the stay-at-home mandate, teens need space. Teens were not built to be at home all day with their parents. They were meant to be at school, socializing with their peers. This time is an extraordinary challenge for them.

So how do we help our teens?

  • A lot of empathy is in order.
  • We know that this quarter in school is typically not a high motivational quarter anyway. Children are typically drained and are looking forward to summer vacation. On top of that, there’s not the time pressure of getting assignments done.
  • We know that teens will feel better if they feel productive during the day. Don’t throw all the rules and expectations out the window. Children feel better when they accomplish tasks and get things done.
  • We also know that teenagers dislike being told what to do. Lisa Damour goes into the two different sides that teenagers have. One side is they want to be impulsive and lazy. The other side is that they are thoughtful, mature, and invested. When trying to motivate your child to do something, try to recruit the more mature side into problem solving together instead of throwing solutions at them.
  • Let your teenager know that this is a big loss, but also offer them perspective. It won’t derail their life and it’s going to be a shared experience for all of you to look back at later in life.

Remember that your teenager has experienced a huge loss and they don’t have the perspective that adults have. The have experienced the loss of graduation, prom/dance, and friends. For many of them, this may be the first major setback and disappointment for them. Teenagers typically get through school by looking forward to things, whether that be seeing a crush in the hallway or attending prom. Now, they don’t have any of that.

So parents, show empathy and work with your teenager and hopefully you can all get through this difficult time without hearing “leave me alone!”

This coming December, we will be having Lisa Damour speak to The Willows community and our extended Los Angeles community as part of our Speaker Series, which will be open and free to the public.

For more information, please check out our Distance Learning Hub: https://distancelearning.thewillows.org/

How to Stay Connected During Social Distancing

Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection!

In the current situation, it’s so easy to feel disconnected and isolated from the outside world. More than ever before, it’s extremely important we find ways to connect with one another. But how do we stay connected while complying with the stay-at-home mandate?

We’ll tell you!

Below we have compiled a list of ideas you can try at home to stay connected while practicing social distancing.

Send a personal touch

At least once a week, send a personal email, text, phone call to someone you care about. This goes a long way in letting people know you care about them.

Make a video call

Make sure to find ways to visually connect with those you love. Zoom, Facetime, Google Meet are all great free options. You can be creative and host a board game night (Jackbox.Tv), do a dance party, or workout together. Not only do we need to connect with our loved ones but make sure to have your children connect with theirs as well.

Give a shout out to your kids and/or significant other

Shout out to your kids if they are working extremely hard and putting in effective effort. Distance learning is not going to be smooth sailing for them. Make sure to highlight their wins. It also goes a long way to shout out to your significant other. This is the time to appreciate one another for helping out.

Spend some quality family time

Every day, brainstorm as a family, some projects or activities you can all do together. Whether it’s baking cookies, watching a movie, working out together or building a fort. This will allow your family to just have fun in the moment and not worry about everything else that is going on.

Embrace social media

Spend some time on social media. This is a good way to connect and see what others are doing. It’s okay to spend a little bit more time on social media. You can even start a Tik Tok account and do some fun dances as a family! Just make sure you set a time limit for yourself.

Volunteer with an organization

Just because you have to stay at home doesn’t mean we can’t volunteer! Many nursing homes are looking for pen pals. You can even get your children involved. Have them draw and make cards and teach them how to mail a card!

You can become a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, a 24/7 text-based hotline for those in crisis.

You can assist the Red Cross’s social engagement team by becoming a digital volunteer. You will monitor conversations on social media to find people who might need help, share important updates and resources and offer compassionate responses.

Become a Smithsonian “volunteer” to help transcribe and make historical documents and biodiversity data accessible to everyone.

The United Nations Volunteers program currently has more than a hundred online volunteer opportunities including teaching, translating and art design.

Join an online fitness community

It’s so important that we exercise our bodies. There are many free and paid fitness communities in which to partake. Many local fitness studios are also taking their workouts online live and prerecorded.

Host a watch party

Netflix Party is a chrome extension that allows you to watch movies with other users and chat in real-time. There are plenty of Atlanta-filmed options to choose form.

Go on virtual tours!

Check out our past blog on links to visit national parks and museusm from all around the world!

Join an online book club

Connect with other adults through an online book club. Below are a few organizations that facilitate online book clubs You can also coordinate one between your group of friends.

Now Read This is a monthly book club from PBS News Hour and The New York Times Book Review.

Monthly Book Club

Buzzfeed Book Club reads one book a month and hosts discussions.

The Andrew Luck Book Club, created by the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback

The next time you find yourself craving social interaction, feel free to try some of these activities on this list!

For more information, please check out our Distance Learning Hub: https://distancelearning.thewillows.org/

A Roller Coaster Day of Emotions Part 2: Day in the Life of Jenny Owens (Teacher/Parent/Wife)

Last week we followed teacher, wife, and mother of two, Marissa Weiss, as she showed us how she is coping with the stay-at-home mandate while juggling teaching, being with her kids, and running a household.

What we learned from her is that it’s normal to experience all the feelings throughout the day and that it’s easy to lose perspective when we get caught up in the moment. An important piece of advice from Marissa was to not sweat the small things, acknowledge that it’s extremely hard, and to keep in mind what’s most important; which is to be grateful for what you have including those small or big moments that bring you laughter and joy.

Today, we get to follow another teacher, wife, and mother, Jenny Owens, as she shows us how she juggles having two kids age 3 and 7.

My day begins with my 3-year-old daughter, Naya, screaming, “Mommy is it wake up time!” She’s a great alarm clock. As a I wobble to her room rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I open her door only to see a very happy, rested toddler ready for the day. With a full day ahead, this is one moment I make sure to cherish. From there we get dressed and head out to the living room to play and start brainstorming breakfast ideas. I usually let her watch her favorite Bubble Guppies show while we start our coffee machine and wake up our 1st grader, Kennedy, who has officially learned how to sleep in. She’s not as happy to wake up like Naya. As soon as both kids are up, the whole house is moving. One of us is usually getting breakfast together while the other is getting iPads and laptops set up for virtual learning. We went from no screens during the week to everyone in this house having a screen. There are some things I realized you have to just let go and accept and screen time is one of them.

At 8:30 am while I am on my first call with my class, my 3-year-old and 7-year-old are rushing through breakfast. My husband is keeping them busy until I get off my call. When I am off my call, I head straight to help Kennedy with her schoolwork before she hops on her call at 10 am. At this time, I shift from Kennedy to Naya and make sure I give her the attention she needs before hopping on my second call at 10:30 am when she shifts to hanging out in the bedroom with my husband while he’s trying to get work done. At times, it feels like we are all just rushing by each other to get to the next task. When Kennedy is done with her call, she independently tries to finish the rest of her work. When my call is finished, I immediately take them outside so we can get some fresh air. This is a chance for all of us to just unwind and release some built up energy. Meanwhile, my husband is on back-to-back conference calls inside.

Then as every parent knows, we hear the constant, “I’m hungry.” I shift to cook where I have to sometimes prepare two different meals for my two different kids. We get through lunch just in time for Kennedy to hop back on her second phone call. This is where I can give Naya my undivided attention. Mind you, all the while I am looking over at my computer a little anxiously when I hear the mail chime go off constantly. I’m a little bit on edge wondering if I forgot to respond to an email. By 2 pm, we feel like we have already had a 12-hour day! At this time, I put Naya down for a nap and then shift my attention back to Kennedy who has been wanting more attention. I have to make sure to stop throughout the day and check in with how she’s feeling. She is so independent and capable that I sometimes forget she’s only 7 and doesn’t have all the skills to regulate and recognize her emotions. Around 3:30 pm, Naya wakes up from her nap and we take the girls outside again to play as much as possible before coming inside at 4:45 pm to start dinner, baths, and family time.

Finally, when the girls go down at 7:30 pm, it’s now time for the last part of my day: planning my lesson for the next day, and checking in with my colleagues, my husband, my parents, my friends, and, last but not least, me. This has truly transformed my family and we have all experienced some highs and some lows, but we take it one day at a time and continue doing the best we can with what we have and know that it’s going to be okay because in the end we have each other and that’s the most important thing to me.

At anytime if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together.

For more information, please check out our Distance Learning Hub: https://distancelearning.thewillows.org/

A Roller Coaster Day of Emotions: Day in the Life of Marissa Weiss (Teacher/Parent/Wife)

“When I am on my walk, I think of the ridiculous yet hysterical dances my husband does, how my 6-year-old tells me I am his favorite person in the world, and how my 9-year-old still likes to cuddle with his mom, and I realize that everything is going to be okay.

– Marissa Weiss

As we continue to delve deeper into distance learning and the stay-at-home mandate, you may find that your emotions are running high. You may notice yourself being more critical, frustrated, annoyed, angry, and anxious to yourself and those around you. Just know, you’re not alone. At this time, many parents are asking themselves the same question, “How can I make sure my child is learning, work my full-time job, and run a house?

There are going to be many ups and downs and things will change day to day and, let’s be honest, minute to minute. As Marc Bracket would say, “You will experience a roller coaster of emotions throughout one day.” This is true for any day but even more so during this ongoing pandemic.

What is important is that we remember that we are human and that it’s okay not to be perfect. Please refer to our past blog A Special Message To Our Parents.

Below, we find out what it’s like to be teacher, wife, and mother of two, Marissa Weiss. Follow her as she copes to make it one day at a time.

After the first day of distance learning, I thought, “There is no way I can sustain this. At least it will only be for a couple of weeks.” Well, 5 weeks later, here we are, and I am constantly trying to find balance to sustain this new way of life. After having serious health problems four years ago, I can easily come by the perspective that this is all okay. I am one of the lucky ones right now. People are sick and dying. If my family and I are healthy, that’s all I need. But I am also human, and I have moments of feeling very overwhelmed and stressed. I’m sure many working and non-working parents feel the same way. I feel like I am being pulled in 1,000 directions every minute of the day. Sometimes, I wonder, “How in the world can I balance all of this?”

After the first few days, I got more into a rhythm. A typical day for me starts at 6:30am. I make sure my kids have everything they need for the day. They are in kindergarten and fourth grade. Although, I’ll be checking in with them, I can’t sit there and help them for a significant amount of time since I am teaching my fifth-grade class for most of the day. I feel a constant pull on my heart strings. I really want to make sure I’m there for my students and their families because I know how hard it is right now, and I want to be that light and support for them, while I simultaneously am trying to be supportive to my children. More than anything, children need emotional support and connection right now, and I will admit that I am hard on myself if I was not there for my kids during the day when I was there for my class instead. And being there for my class also means the world to me. I have a close relationship with my students, and not only do I want to support them, but I want the joy that seeing their smiling faces brings me. Then, there are my dance students. It breaks my heart that my 8th grade dancers are not able to perform all of their hard work and demonstrate their incredible talents, especially in their last year at The Willows. Dance is an outlet for so many of the kids, and in many ways most important in their lives right now.

So, the question is each day: how do I adequately support my own 2 kids, my husband, 24 fifth graders, and 100 dancers? I do the best I can each day, and I think as parents that is what we can do right now. As a teacher, I ensure that the connection between my students and me is still there and that they know I am here for them anytime.

Then, I have to make time for my myself. I am a better mother, wife, and teacher, when I go out for a walk or run after the school day. I also try not to sweat the small things. So what if my 6-year-old ate 3 bags of Pirates Booty and 3 yogurts during his Zoom session, while I was also on with my students! It’s important to come up for air and remember what’s important. More than anything, I have such enormous gratitude for all that I have- my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, and this incredible Willows community. I have been telling my students that when they have an anxious thought, acknowledge it and try to reframe it. It’s okay to admit that this is hard, abnormal, sad, and frustrating. Acknowledging these feelings helps and then telling myself that I am safe, healthy, and full of gratitude for all that I have shifts my anxiety and worry to a more peaceful place. When I am on my walk, I think of the ridiculous yet hysterical dances my husband does, how my 6-year-old tells me I am his favorite person in the world, and how my 9-year-old still likes to cuddle with his mom, and I realize that everything is going to be okay.

We realize how challenging these times can be during this unprecedented time. Just know, you’re not in it alone. We are always here to support you and your family.

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

The “Smart” Way to Praise Children

When it comes to school, everything that matters depends upon a student’s mindset. Students with a fixed mindset believe that they prove their intelligence by doing flawless work, while students with a growth mindset equate intelligence with knowing how to confront a challenge

Lisa Damour, Clinical Psychologist and Writer

We all know that praise is a very powerful thing. It’s a tool we often use to support and motivate our children. Although, very well-intentioned, the byproduct could potentially have negative consequences. Often we praise our children for their intelligence or their ability by saying, “you’re so smart” or “you’re so good”. By habitually doing this, it could contribute to a fixed mindset within our children. This type of mindset often lends a hand to children becoming fixed on how “good” or “bad” they are at something and inhibits their thinking that they can improve their intelligence.

Carol Dweck, psychologist and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, emphasizes that we should praise our children based on their effort and not their intelligence. When we praise our children based on their effort, we help them understand that it’s their effort, aligned with the right actions and behaviors, that help them develop skills and overcome obstacles.

One thing to keep in mind is when Dweck speaks about effort, she’s talking about effective effort. That word often seems to get lost. There is a difference between effort and effective effort and they are not equal. Effective effort is the kind that leads to growth and new learning, whereas, ineffective effort is when children put in unfocused energy. Praising the wrong type of effort can be damaging.

In a landmark series of experiments on American 5th graders, researchers Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck found that children behaved very differently depending on the type of praise they received. Research showed that children who were praised for their effort were more open to accepting new challenges and learning new strategies, whereas, by contrast, children that were praised for their intelligence tended to avoid challenges, often preferred easy tasks, and gave up after a failure.

Praising for Intelligence

Praising students’ intelligence leads to a short burst of pride followed by a long string of negative consequences

Carol Dweck

When we praise for intelligence we are sending our children a message that we are proud of their flawless work. This often leads to children feeling fearful of making mistakes, avoiding difficult tasks, and cheating. By praising children for their intelligence, we are teaching them that their success is due to their intelligence. When difficult challenges later appear, they are more likely to attribute their challenges/failures to a lack of intelligence.

Praising for Effective Effort

By contrast, when praising students for their effective effort, we are letting our children know that by continuing to practice good behaviors and actions, they can continue to grow and get better. This promotes a growth mindset. This type of praise fosters motivation, collaboration, increased effort, willingness to try and take on new challenges, and great self-confidence.

Dweck’s research on this topic has hit home for Lisa Damour, clinical psychologist and writer, who has written numerous academic papers, chapters, and two New York Times best-selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.

Just like many parents, Damour wants to encourage her children to thrive and take chances by stepping out of their comfort zone, but she also wants to make sure she is not applying undue pressure on her children and asking for more than is fair. Promoting a growth mindset by praising effective effort has helped her find a good balance.

This coming December, we will be having Lisa Damour speak to The Willows community and our extended Los Angeles community as part of our Speaker Series, which will be open and free to the public.

For more resources on this topic, feel free to check out these videos by Carol Dweck and Lisa Damour.

References:

Mueller CM and Dweck CS. 1998. Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal for Personality and Social Psychology 75(1): 33-52

The Importance Of Being Bored

 A bored mind moves into a “daydreaming” state

Sandi Mann, psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire

“I’m bored!” These are two words many parents dread hearing. Parents often want to avoid hearing this so they expend time and energy finding ways to alleviate their child’s boredom. They do this by over-scheduling numerous activities or drowning them with projects to do at home because it provokes a feeling that they have failed to enlighten or enrich their child’s mind.

What’s important to know is that constructive boredom in children is essential to their mental and emotional development. It’s also important to remember that there’s a big difference between a negatively numbed brain and a constructively bored mind. Constructive boredom is the type of boredom that leads to reading a book, painting a picture, creating a game, or playing outside with the neighbors. This type of constructive boredom does need a little guidance from parents, but not much. In this blog, we will talk about the benefits of constructive boredom and how parents can help nurture that.

Boredom fosters creativity

Our minds like to wander and when there’s nothing to do, they’re even more active. This often leads to a state of daydreaming, and that daydreaming sparks creative thoughts. When our children have nothing to do, they exercise their imagination which may be one of the most important skills they can develop. The notion that all children should be constantly active or engaged in activities could ultimately hamper the development of their imagination. Researchers all agree that the number one benefit of children experiencing periods of boredom is that it develops their innate ability to be creative.

Boredom helps develop a sense of identity and self-efficiency

“Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”

Lyn Fry, child psychologist

Over-scheduling may inhibit and ultimately keep your children from discovering what really interests them. When children have the time and opportunity to find ways to occupy themselves, it gives their self-esteem a boost as well. This is the time they can try new things, take risks, go outside their comfort zone, which will in the end build their sense of self-identity and self-efficiency.

Here are a few things parents can do to nurture constructive boredom.

Create a list of things to do

Brainstorm with your child all of the things they enjoy. These can be anything such as reading a book, writing a story, baking a cake, or putting on a play. Let your child be creative. Avoid activities such as playing video games or watching a movie, and, remember, these activities are for the child to do. There should be little to no parent guidance. The next time your child complains of boredom, have your child pick an activity to do from the list.

Plan unstructured time

Unstructured time allows children to find ways to use their imagination to be creative. When things aren’t prescribed or handed to them, children will have the opportunity to fill their time building forts, designing clothes, writing songs, or observing bugs. This time allows children to explore their own passions.

Have designated play areas designed specifically for kids

Create a space with your child that is designated for just him/her. This space will become a place for creativity and inspiration. Provide open ended toys, markers, paper, fabric, wood, boxes, and anything else that may spark imagination. Don’t mind the mess. Everything can be cleared at the end or put away.

The next time you hear your child say, “I’m bored,” hopefully you’ll remember these tools to help nurture your child to be constructively bored!

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

A Special Message To Our Parents!

Not perfect, but present.

Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, Mom, Psychotherapist, Speaker, & Co-Author of The Power of Showing Up.

There’s a video that I came across not too long ago by Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, that really hit home. I feel that it’s extremely pertinent to all of our parents to hear this message especially during this time where parents are not only acting as a parent but as an educator as well. It’s important to know that it’s OKAY to not feel in control or to not feel you’re doing your best.

Here are a couple takeaways from Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.

Please be kind to yourself!

Right now you don’t have to be the best parent or the best educator. The most important thing is to be present for your family. This is the time to give yourself grace, a lot of leeway, and to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. If you happen to mess up with your kids, repair it. It’s important to communicate and process things. It’s okay for them to see you’re not perfect in an imperfect situation.

It’s okay to let your kids play

Play is important work. Enjoy being together, watch movies, build together, and bake cookies. What’s important is that you enjoy this time together with your kids.

Remember, we have to be there for our kids, but we can’t do that if we’re not showing up and being too hard on ourselves as parents. You don’t have to be the best parent right now. You don’t have to be the best educator right now. What matters most is that you show up for each other and that your kids feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure.

Here is a video of Dr. Tina Payne Bryson discussing the Whole-Brain Child.

Here is a video of Dr. Tina discussing her book The Yes Brain.

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

Activities To Do With Your Children At Home

If you’re running out of ideas or struggling to keep your children engaged and happy, don’t worry! We have compiled a list of activities that you could do with your children. Have your children choose one to two activities to do per day!

Science

  • Bake something.
  • Play with a tub of flour/cornstarch and water.
  • Inventory the plants & wildlife (from bugs on up) in your yard.
  • Learn the parts of plants/flowers & how they function.
  • Conduct easy “kitchen chemistry” type science experiments that are easy to do, like making slime, baking soda and vinegar reaction, etc. HERE are some examples.

Art/Music/Movement

  • Dance Zumba or other dance-along videos on YouTube.
  • Have a shadow show in the reading tent.
  • Host an Olympics with a bunch of events competitions – funny ones, helpful ones like cleaning and really fun ones like minute to win in style.
  • Create an obstacle course.
  • Explore a National Park or a museum virtually. HERE are links.
  • Create music instruments with recyclable materials and form a band.
  • Make edible snack art.
  • Choreograph a dance together.

Literacy

  • Have each kid write a letter and/or emails to a different friend or family member each day.
  • Write a story cooperatively.
  • Write a short story & illustrate it.
  • Draw maps of places or items around the house and then make directions from one place to another to see if someone else could follow it. Add clues and words on your map. You can also hide an item and create a treasure map to find it!
  • Listen to a story read by a celebrity! HERE is the link. The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning and Daytime Emmy-nominated children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams imaginatively produced videos featuring celebrated actors.
  • Go on a letter/word hunt around the house. Hide the letters/words for the kids.
  • Put on a play.
  • Make a time capsule using a mason jar.
  • Trace shapes/letters/words on child’s back with your finger.
  • Draw a picture of your bedroom and label all the things in it.
  • Watch Lunch Doodles With Mo Williams Author of Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny. Each short episode features Willems in his studio, teaching kids how to draw characters, and talking about his personal artistic process.
  • Join the Los Angeles Public Library OverDrive collection. This collection includes ebooks, audiobooks, movies, and magazines.

Connection

  • Facetime grandparents and friends a lot.
  • Have your child pick a topic they’d like to learn about and spend 30 mins each day on that topic.
  • Make tents and reading caves. Include flashlights, tidy snacks, books, and pillows!
  • Practice a mindfulness activity. Here are some examples.
  • Create a gratitude or vision board.
  • Have your child interview you about when you were his/her age and how life was the same/different.

Maker

  • Code using Scratch or Scratch Jr. Free download HERE.
  • Try stop motion animation with playdough (Instructions HERE to make playdough at home).
  • Create your own board or card game!
  • Build with Legos.
  • Turn your Lego maze into a coding activity. HERE are instructions.
  • Do card making/scrapbooking projects.

Math

  • Bake with your child. Have him/her measure out the ingredients.
  • Use a deck of cards and play war. To make it harder, throw down two cards instead of one and have your child add/subtract/multiply the total.
  • Go through your kitchen cabinets or office drawers and group objects.
  • Play boardgames that involve counting.
  • Identify shapes in your home.
  • Make a map of each room. This helps with spatial language. Ask questions about where they’re located and how close together they are.
  • Take out a measuring tape and measure items around the house.
  • Make collections and draw them. Find 10 leaves/rocks and sort them by size.
  • Graph the people in your family by the color of their eyes, hair, favorite things to do, etc.
  • Look for shapes around the house.

Hope these activities will help!

Remember, it’s also very important that we allow our children to be “bored” and not always provide them with activities to keep them entertained. Constructive boredom allows children to become creative and self-sufficient.

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

6 Mindfulness Activities To Do With Your Child!

“We actually don’t want to get rid of the thoughts and feelings and urges. We just want them out of the way so they don’t prevent us from seeing clearly.”

Right now is the perfect time to practice some mindful exercises with your kids!

A helpful tip is to set a daily routine for practicing mindfulness to make sure you incorporate it. This could be a time before your child sits down to start his/her day or can be used during transitions.

Kids model after us. Make sure to do it with your child.

Here are 6 simple mindful practices that you can start.

S.T.O.P.

Stand up and breathe. Feel your connection to the earth.
Tune in to your body. Lower your gaze. Scan your body and notice physical sensations or emotions. Discharge any unpleasant sensations, emotions or feelings on the out breath. Notice any pleasant ones and let them fill you up on the in breath.
Observe. Lift your eyes and take in your surroundings. Observe something in your environment that is pleasant and be grateful for it and its beauty.
Possibility. Ask yourself what is possible or what is new or what is a forward step

Connect with nature

Take a 5 minute nature walk in your neighborhood or backyard to breathe in fresh air and to change the setting. While you are out there, encourage your child to look around and take in the environment with his/her senses.

Dragon breathing

Sit up straight, breathe in, stick out your tongue, and breathe out like a dragon. This is great for younger children. It may seem silly at first but it’s a great way to bring deep breathing down to their level.

Mindfulness 5-4-3-2-1

Use this technique to ground kids and young adults. Have your child look around his/her current surroundings and find five things he/she can see, four things he/she can touch, three things he/she can hear, two things he/she can smell, and one thing he/she can taste. By the time your child gets through listing all of those, they will be more present and calm.

Glitter jar

The glitter jar is a great visual metaphor of our roller coaster of emotions and thoughts. Create a glitter jar using a mason jar, glycerin, and glitter. Have your child shake the jar and feel free to use these prompts:

So what is the one thing we can do to get the glitter to settle and see clearly again?

And what happens when we are still?

When things become clear, we’ll know the wise next thing to do. In fact, that’s one definition of wisdom: seeing things as they are and choosing how to act.

While we wait, does the glitter go away? No, it stays at the bottom. Our thoughts and feelings and urges are still in our minds, but they are no longer in our way, clouding our vision.

An aspiration

Decide on an aspiration. Just ask yourself this question: What is my heart’s aspiration? Pause for about 20 seconds. Do this a second or third time and write down what comes to you. Perhaps it is to come from love, or to be kind to yourself or others or to be patient.

These are just 6 simple ways to be mindful. Remember, there is no wrong way to do this. Set your tone and create a consistent schedule of practicing mindfulness for a few minutes every day with your child.

Remember, a little practice goes a long way.

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update