With the energy for crafts dwindling and yet another virtual activity just feeling like more screen time, take heart. Looking back a bit now, I honestly think some of the best things we’ve done with our kids during the pandemic were the real-life teaching moments.
Not the nose-in-a-book kind. The practical kind. The kind I might not have taken the time to do a whole lot of if I was rushing around to get my three sons to preschool three days a week and busy checking off my own to-do list. But with nowhere to go and an all but blank calendar, we are actively looking for things to do and, in some cases, ways to get by.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, we all have a motherload of necessity here. I needed a way to get some cleaning done around the house with boys ages 4, 2 and 2 home almost all of the time. So I taught the 4-year-old how to vacuum. My Wade isn’t the most proficient at it, but he loves it. It keeps him occupied and makes the floors (and the couch, his favorite to vacuum) a little cleaner.
Until now, I’ve been slow to cook with my boys. That’s probably because a) it means I’d actually have to cook myself (smile) and b) because it creates big messes, which we are knee-deep in already. It’s also not the easiest thing to do with twin toddlers running around either. But I’ve found a groove with it. On many a Friday morning, when our twins are at their grandmother’s house and Wade and I are home for 1-on-1 time, we bake. We’ve made peanut butter cookies, M & M cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and he loves it.
His other favorite thing to do is ride his bike. He got a new bike in February on his 4th birthday, but not until his preschool closed did we start making regular time to practice riding. He’s still on training wheels and afraid of downhills, but we’re making progress. (I forgot it’s actually a process!)
Johnny, one of our 2-year-old twins, has learned to peddle his tricycle during the shutdown, and he’s also taken a few turns on his own little bike with training wheels. Wesley, our other twin, will kick around on his scooter or test out the balance bike. Before it was simplest just to put them all in strollers and walk. Now we move cars out of the driveway behind our house, close the gates to our backyard fence, and all three boys get free reign to ride whatever set of wheels they choose. And when we need a feel the need for an adventure, and I have another adult with me, we venture out for walks around the neighborhood.
It’s little things too like Wade learning how to button his buttons. It might just be the stage of development he’s in. Or it might be we are slowing down enough to actually do some teaching and not just wait on the preschool teachers to do it. Unbeknownst to me, my husband worked with Wade on buttoning his own PJs one night. The next day Wade surprised me with his new trick. Amazing!
With the twins, we’ve been keeping the teachable moments a little more basic. We’ve worked on keeping our pacifiers in our beds, just for bedtime. (I know I know. I should be taking them away period. Did I mention they were twins? As in two of them?!) I’d been lax in my attempts to break them of the pacifier before – especially during their transition to their first year of preschool. But by doing this during shelter-in-place, the meltdowns were confined to our house and thankfully there weren’t many anyway. (A good lesson to Mama that transitions can be easy if you just give them a chance.)
As luck would have it, before the COVID-19 outbreak, we’d already spent the better part of two months chained to the house, potty training our twins. (One got it in a couple of days; the other needed more time.) I joke that I should have just waited. Though, really, it’s been nice not to have to worry about it. During quarantine, we’ve been working on peeing standing up. You wouldn’t think it takes a whole lot of practice, but we potty trained on sit-down Baby Bjorn potties. So they needed to learn. Playing outside every day now, the boys have got it down, and it’s awesome. (Sorry, girl, Mamas.)
By the way, Mamas, a little tough love here. If you’ve got kids at this stage and you are not taking advantage of this time at home to potty train, you gotta rethink. There is no better time to do it than now, when the weather is warming up so kids can do naked boot camp outside, and you are at home anyway.
OK, that’s my only preach. I’m here mostly to commiserate and stand in solidarity, Mamas. If you are surviving, my hat is off to you! And if you have any other ideas for practical teaching ideas, please feel free to share them! In the meantime, we’ve broken out the balls around here: soccer, (plastic) baseball, basketball. It used to be I worried about my boys hurting each other with projectiles on the loose around the house. But it’s warming up, we are outside, we are looking for things to do, and balls are flying.