Tips for Parents with Kids at Home During Pandemic

Sanford School professor Jennifer Lansford shares ideas, from baking to board games

Working on homework

Many families are suddenly faced with how to keep kids occupied at home as schools close in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

What can you do to keep them off Fortnite for hours and hours? Jennifer Lansford, a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy who specializes in parenting and child development, offers tips on how to make the time more beneficial for children and parents.
“For faJennifer Lansfordmilies with younger children, having different theme days, such as Super Hero or Home Beach day, with foods, clothing and activities tied to the theme can be fun,” she says. “This can include making super hero capes or ‘sandcastles’ out of household objects.”

So what if you have older children at home? Lansford says parents should try capitalizing on children’s interests to help them learn more.

For example, she says, an interest in photography can be enhanced by helping the child access online information about photo-editing, and by giving them as much freedom as possible within the confines of the home, such as letting them rearrange their room.

“Board or card games, puzzles and reading -- libraries have lots of online resources -- can be engaging at any age. Take turns choosing activities that the whole family will do together that don’t involve electronics,” Lansford advises.

This can be an opportunity for family members to share their skills and knowledge with each other. For example, one family member could teach another how to juggle or how to bake a cake, she says.

“In addition to connecting as a family, it is also fine to let children have their own space to be imaginative in ways that aren’t always possible in today’s usually highly-structured world with many organized activities,” according to Lansford.

“When children (and adults) are going through hard times, one thing that can help them feel better is learning to be grateful for what they have rather than ruminating about what they don’t have. Children can be encouraged to focus on the positive by writing about things they are grateful for and doing something kind for each other family member at least once a day. Parents should do those things, too.”

But she cautions parents and caregivers not to put too much pressure on themselves to maintain the perfect, constant environment of play time and learning.

“Of course, all these great ideas can seem like a mountain to climb for a parent who is stressed, overworked or just generally exhausted,” Lansford says.”Another helpful tip is for parents to understand that whatever they can do is enough. Keeping their kids safe is the top priority.”