While the world sits at home and watches the news, many of us are feeling the strain of too much togetherness. Facebook and Instagram are full of parenting wins and family bonding moments, but what about finding a little alone time? Kids aren’t blissfully in school for 7 hours a day. We can’t go to Starbucks to work in a crowd full of strangers. The spas and nail salons are all closed (or at least they should be). So how do we create space for ourselves and our kids?
Create a Cozy Corner
Now more than ever, kids and parents need a safe place. In most early childhood classrooms, we have a quiet spot for kids feeling sad or overstimulated. A cozy little nook just big enough for one or two children. It’s a small space on purpose. First, it makes it easier to actually physically separate from others. Second, it shuts down a lot of the sensory clutter that can overwhelm kids and adults.
Everyone in your home needs their own special spot. For adults, maybe it’s a favorite reading chair in a quiet corner or your office. For kids, consider building a tiny fort in their closet or setting up a small tent in the playroom. The point is to give everyone their very own spot and to respect that space.
There’s a secret that every good teacher and poker player knows, don’t show all your cards. Since you’ve already cleaned and organized your house (see my blog post on surviving social distancing below), you are ready to cull the toys. Kids don’t need all their toys at once. Sort them out into zones of interest and then leave only a few items out in each zone. Observe what toys are getting used and what is being ignored. Rotate in new toys to keep interest high. Kids can always ask to get a specific toy out, but this is a great way to keep things fresh without going out to buy more. Too many choices make kids feel overwhelmed and bored. Declutter and watch your child play on their own for hours.
- Manipulatives: This includes things like puzzles, board games, and electronic toys.
- Imaginative play: Toy cars, small figures and animals, and playsets like Little People, My Little Pony, Paw Patrol, or LOL dolls.
- Real world play: Dress up items, pretend kitchens, office supplies, and tools are all great. Stick to a cohesive theme for items so that kids can fully explore.
- Free art: Kids need access to playdough, markers, crayons, scissors, glue, and paper. Provide them with a designated spot and clear rules for use. Feeling bold, put out small containers of washable paint. Use a drop cloth for easy clean up. Now is not the time to worry about keeping things perfect.
- Building: Wooden blocks, Legos, Lincoln logs are all great. Think outside the box and give them, well, boxes. All those Amazon orders are going to finally come in handy. You can also get out sheets and blankets to build forts.
- Books: Try sorting by themes, maybe put out all the dinosaur books you have one day and all the fairy tale books another. Tie in books with other toys you have out. Don’t forget you can use non-traditional items like cookbooks, atlases, and phone books that can become part of their imaginative play. Menus and brochures work great for this as well.
Set a Timer
Timers work, but only if you use them the right way. Telling a 4-year-old that mommy needs 5 minutes doesn’t really mean anything to them. Setting a visual timer like an hourglass or one of the visual timers below, gives them a concrete way of knowing when time is up. Build some quiet time into your schedule. It should be at a predictable time every day. Visual schedules help very young children feel in control by knowing what comes next. For elementary age kids, use dry erase markers on an old analogue clock face so they can see what “time” it is. Use different colors for different activities. For instance, use green for outside time, red for mealtimes, and blue for quiet time. Empower kids to be in charge of their time and they are more likely to give you a little time to yourself.
Plan Time Together
Like peanut butter and jelly, you can’t have alone time without time together. Give kids something to look forward to. Nature walks, movie time, or family game night are all great ideas, but be sure to build in time for the little things too. Maybe you color with your child for 15 minutes after lunch every day or give them their own cleaning bucket to help you on the daily rounds. Give your child a time they can count on. Put your cell phone down and be present. Just a few minutes of undivided attention daily will make your child feel more secure and help them learn to better self-regulate on their own.
Set a Bedtime
I know this is especially hard now that kids don’t have to get up for school. I hate to sound like a broken record, but routine, routine, routine. It’s the key to everything with young children. Its actually good for all of us. Kids younger than 8 or 9 should be in bed no later than 8:30. Your child may seem like they aren’t tired, but their biology says different. Check out my post on 4 Steps to Better Sleep, link below. With older kids set a bedroom curfew. They may not have to go to sleep, but they should be in their room and winding down by a set time. With everyone in bed or in their rooms, you now have time to binge watch your favorite TV show or read a book. Or better yet spend time with your partner or call up a friend. Take advantage of a quiet house to recharge your soul.
No matter how big your home or how filled with family, you can find time and space for just you. With a little planning and a regular schedule, you can create some peace and quiet in your own home. Please like and subscribe, Follow me on instagram and twitter @_lisadianne