block scheduling for kids

I put a version of this on Facebook this afternoon. What I put there will go in inset block quotes. (I have more things to say now.) I started typing on my phone in frustrated reaction to memes and other social media posts I’ve seen in the past week about MULTIPLE aspects of the ‘Kids Unexpectedly Home from School’ Situation and Working from Home. This post will just have the information applicable to kids. What I would like to do is set up a post with recommendations about working from home, and another post about working from home with kids around. I may quit the internet before I get that far.

A BIG THOUGHT:

We are in SERIOUSLY WILD TIMES right now. The other troubles The People (and Plants and Creatures, Et Cetera) of Planet Earth were experiencing have not magically stopped for us to figure out what to do about the spread of COVID-19.

It is okay to not be okay.

It is okay to take care of yourself.

It is okay to laugh and play and enjoy slowing down. Find the good things and celebrate them.

It’s also okay to cry and be mad and feel fear. Just don’t *stay* there.

We’re about a week into this mess. I am still unpacking the details, possibilities, and ramifications. I’m overloaded with options and emotions and ideas. My kids have a general idea of what’s going on. I tried yesterday and today to give them some open time so that they can have fun and I can have processing time.

It backfired.

Our feelings are too big. Playtime is too open. The uncertainty is breathing too closely down our necks. I need to temporarily dial back my expectations regarding emotional control and response inhibition (and other similar skills) in myself and my kids.

Y’all, listen to Megan: some kids don’t know how to Just Play All Day without some input from an adult, because their time is so structured.

If you *want* to let your kids play all day but they are making you insane with their boredom and their messes and their demands, try implementing a block schedule for types of play. You can have stations and not let them be with each other part of the time.

The base of this post is answering “Kids can play all day for the next three weeks and they’ll be fine.” because “But this may last more than three weeks.” and “Kids thrive on routine.” and “I don’t like Anarchy.” and “Where did you even find this many clothes?” and “Permanent marker is not good make-up.”

Block scheduling has sounded ridiculous to a lot of people I’ve talked to over the years. I have had more people tell me that it sounds like a great idea but it won’t work at their house than I have had so OH THAT MAKES SENSE. I guess it sounds too simple? It is simple, when you find yourself in survival mode and you need some scaffolding.

To make a block schedule, you need blocks and anchors (nonnegotiable things that will happen; at our house that’s just food and waking and sleeping… and turning off devices to let brains rest before sleeping).

SAMPLE BLOCK SCHEDULE:

Wake up

Block 1

Breakfast

Block 2

Snack

Block 3

Lunch

Block 4

Snack
Block 5

Dinner

Block 6

Screens off

Block 7

Bedtime

If your kids are very young, you can actually add more feeding times. If you don’t snack, you can take those out. Do what works at your house, even if that’s shutting your browser window and laughing at me.

A random block tip: set up transition time toward the end of the block so that your kids know you’re switching gears (even if you’re coming back to this activity after the anchor) and so that you have a chance to get help tidying the space that’s been used.

WHAT CAN GO IN THE BLOCKS FOR KIDS?

ANYTHING YOUR KIDS ARE WILLING TO TRY.

A walk outside
Outdoor games
Water play
Nature journaling
Birdwatching
Plant identification
Other outdoor activity
Drawing
Coloring
Painting
Playdough or modeling clay
Cutting cool paper into tiny pieces
Gluing tiny pieces to other paper
Making jewelry (beads and string)
Sewing
Cross-stitching
Crotchet
Knitting
Other art/craft
Board games
Tabletop games
Card games
Reading a nonfiction book
Reading a reference book
Reading comic books/manga
Reading a fiction book
Reading poetry
Reading a play
Reading aloud
Reading in crazy voices
Telling stories from books just based on the pictures
Listening to an audiobook
Watching a video of a celebrity or author reading
Other reading
Dress-up
Post office play
Flower shop play
Restaurant play*
Grocery store play*
Hospital play*
Doctor’s office play*
(*Don’t discount or avoid these right now; roleplaying helps kids process big feelings and ideas.)
Vet clinic play
Other imaginary shop/job/whatever play
Bake treats
Do chores
Do a building project
Reorganize a space
Watch TV/movie
Play a video game

I mean, I am tired of listing things so I am stopping, but do you see what I mean?

I thought of more things while I was cooking dinner, but I forgot them again. Basically, the blocks are where you tuck the HUNDREDS (THOUSANDS?!?) of suggestions and free trials and downloads and virtual tours and and and being shared across social media as people step up to fill gaps.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MY BABY?
Babies have high expectations and don’t care what I think but they are happier when their caregivers are not throwing stress hormones all over the place.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MY TODDLER?
Toddlers also have high expectations and don’t care what I think. But. If you put a toddler in a zone and expect that toddler to do the things in that zone, the toddler might play big and be happy.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MY OPINIONATED OTHER CHILD?
Children can be really rude and can hate other people’s plans and ideas and hopes. They’re like adults that way. But it has been my experience that if you give them some options (not too many) and a time limit, they can handle cooperating.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MY TEENAGER?
Block scheduling works for teenagers too. They like and need some independence. Be clear about which blocks are theirs to control, and which blocks are for assisting you or participating in family time.

Sometimes you can’t tell if something will work until you try it.

THE FINAL THOUGHT:

Express your expectations for yourself and the people you’re attempting to influence. Get feedback from them (yes even young children). Do what you can, reasonably, to accommodate preferences of those others.

You’re in this together.

Use your kind words.

Make good choices.

Don’t use water beads near a sink/tub/drain pipe.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Or, be afraid and do it anyway.

20200211-96

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