The best way to get through these crazy days of wall-to-wall parenting, I’m learning, is to draw on ideas from other moms, neighbors, and teachers. The people who understand kids and what we’re dealing with the most are always our best resources, especially now.
Granted, we’re all probably been getting bombarded with advice, whether it’s through text message chains, e-mail forwards, and things like crash courses on how to zoom chat. The good news is the more suggestions you get, the more you can weed out to find out the perfect fit of activities for your family. My eyes glaze over on some of these “easy” craft ideas people are passing around. I’m often guilty of just ushering my three boys, ages 4, 2 and 2, out to the backyard swing, where at least no messes get made.
I will say, though, that over the last week some ideas keep coming back around, which means they’re good ones. I thought I’d share five go-to resources for Charlotte parents of preschool kids.
Just a disclaimer, though: give yourself grace when it comes to adjusting to new technology. Sometimes it takes as much patience to handle the technology as it does a toddler. But the more we do, the easier it will get.
1. Music Together of Charlotte
Every weekday at 10 a.m. last week Music Together of Charlotte posted a video of one of their teachers conducting a free “class” on its Facebook page. My boys weren’t totally locked in at first – it’s not the same as watching 12 others kids and their parents attempt to sing and dance along with a teacher – but it caught on, especially when some of our favorite teachers were on, whom our boys recognized from previous classes. There was both a nice variety in teachers and in length of the videos – some were only 10 minutes or so – plus the videos stayed up, so if you didn’t get to the computer on time, you could watch them at your convenience.
Starting Monday, March 30 Music Together of Charlotte is opening a nine-week online session of 20-minute classes that do feature interaction with other parents and kids because they’re being held through Zoom, the video conferencing app. The cost is $130. For more information, go to https://www.musictogetherofcharlotte.com/.
2. Neighborhood websites like Nextdoor.com
Neighborhood websites like Nextdoor are an absolute must for me right now. If you haven’t already joined yours, do…it….now. Neighbors have never been so vital for day-to-day social interaction, even if it’s just a passing wave on an afternoon walk. And moms out there are finding such cool and creative ways to make our kids feels connected, even when we’re telling them they can’t play with each other. And these websites are such an easy way to hear about them.
On St. Patrick’s Day, kids in our neighborhood made shamrocks – we printed out stencils from online and colored them with crayons – and taped them onto their windows so other kids could count them on afternoon walks. Next up is a “bear hunt” with kids putting their teddy bears in windows We’ve also done chalk art in the driveway. Our neighborhood moms’ group is sending out a new suggestion every Friday. I love having that to count on. (https://nextdoor.com/)
3. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Story Time
Under normal circumstances, Story Time at the library is an absolute staple for my family. It’s one of our go-to activities I miss the most (not to mention the run to Starbucks on the way there!) I was so excited to get an e-mail last Monday from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system saying parents could still access video versions of Story Time.
I gather they are just in the process of building up their collection, but the video I saw had familiar touches, like singing “Open Shut Them” to start the video. And the camera zoomed in on the book, so unlike when my boys are trying to crane their necks to see the story book the teacher is holding in the front of the class – or getting easily distracted by toddlers jumping around beside them – this is an easy way to follow along with the story. The video was shorter than the library class, which isn’t all bad either.
4. Discovery Place Stay-At-Home Science
I haven’t investigated this fully yet, but I trust the source. Discovery Place just announced it’s launching Stay-at-Home Science a “digital learning center,” which features activities, videos and other great resources.
A lot of it seems geared toward elementary school-aged children, like its “Looking for Lichen” activity or the at-home “science experiment,” but the webpage also has videos like a guided nature walk and a livestream of its aquarium which works for the young ‘uns. I’ve had other moms tell me about zoos from around the U.S. streaming some of their animal habitats online. It’s nice to have a local version.
5. Local churches and preschools
I’m not sure how they’ve managed this, but both our church and the preschool associated with it where our boys attend (First Presbyterian) have been such a huge support already. Our teachers have been in regular contact with us, sending videos, activity suggestions, and just generally checking in on us. We have already done “Zoom” chats with both my 4-year-old’s teachers and classmates and our 2-year-old twins’ class. Talk about a trip. But they’re starting to get the hang of it, and it’s something they can look forward to – which we need so much of right now!
And the church? The first Saturday after schools were closed, our youth ministry hosted a drive-through pick-up where you could get bags filled with activities and games for kids. They were also giving out live caterpillars in their own little habitats. Our boys are currently watching a caterpillar they named “Chickaletta” build a cocoon. We will release her (him?) as a butterfly in our backyard on Easter morning.
I’m grateful for so many smart and generous people around me, sharing their great ideas! Feel free to share some of yours with us here!