We are living through some strange times right now. The hours and days start to blur, routines begin breaking down, and there is A LOT of togetherness.
When we founded Lovevery, my co-founder Rod Morris and I believed—and believe even more firmly now—that young children and their parents thrive when they’re supported in specific, thoughtful ways. The question is, how can we truly be there for our kids, manage our workload, and take care of ourselves at the same time, especially when we’re all piled on top of one another and stretched in so many directions right now?
This advice may seem counterintuitive but hear me out: now may be the perfect time to take a cue from the “slow parenting” movement. Slow Parenting is less scheduled, less pressured, and more geared to how kids actually learn best: by exploring at their own pace without always needing to be entertained. With this philosophy, boredom is welcome, and even necessary.
Boredom builds creativity
Modern kids are so accustomed to structure. This might be the first time in a while that children have the chance to get very, very bored. Try this: when your kids inevitably come to you complaining “I’m bored,” resist the urge to come up with another activity for them. Studies show that boredom, when not constantly interrupted or attended to, can lead to creative and unexpected play. When your children are bored, their minds are more free to wander, which leads to creative thinking and ultimately more original problem solving. You may need to wade through some whining, but try not to give in.
Set aside the workbooks and read instead
Reading aloud will do more for your children right now than high-pressure DIY homeschooling or ambitious craft projects. Babies, toddlers, and even older kids who can read on their own benefit from hearing books read out loud.
Research shows that children can understand much more complicated and interesting stories than those they’re able to read on their own. They are also getting a richer vocabulary from the books you read to them, especially when you pause and explain new words. Fun fact: children’s picture books contain 50% more rare words than primetime TV or college students’ conversations! [source: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease].
The best way to “teach” grammar, spelling, and vocabulary–even empathy and writing –is by exposing your child to print. Reading is the foundation for academic success and opens the door to math, science, art, and pretty much everything else.
Build in times to connect with your kids—doing whatever they want
Now that my working schedule is happening at home (versus on a plane or long hours in the office), my kids and I are missing each other more than ever. Just as you would schedule work calls throughout the day, try to designate short bursts of focused time when you can be present, playing with your children and–this is key–doing whatever they want. Taking a break to be a scary zombie, play a round of star wars destiny, or have another Lego battle in the middle of a workday can feel frivolous, but these small moments of one-on-one connection help ease everyone’s stress and are proven to help build healthy emotional development. You can set a timer to help everyone know when the play time ends and it’s time to get back to work.
Broaden your definition of learning for now
If you can, try to let go of some of the expectations we usually set for ourselves. Kids learn so much from the environment they’re in, so give them some extra freedom and unstructured time along with their responsibilities. If your child is more interested in building a cardboard fort then doing a math worksheet, consider letting them. Let them read whatever books they want and choose the ones you read to them. Let your kids play in the mud, spray each other with the hose, look for bugs, learn origami, sleep later, take a longer bath. They can’t be at school right now, but that doesn’t have to mean they’re losing ground.
A slower pace, the freedom to follow their interests and ideas where they naturally lead, and time to connect in meaningful ways are all important paths to learning, too, and may ultimately make the biggest difference to your child’s growing brain.