ParentingA Parent’s Guide to Staying Home with Kids During COVID-19

April 16, 2020

Written by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, who are both Senior Fellows at MindChamps and authors of the book Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children


For many of us, COVID-19 has completely changed how we work. Moving to remote work might have its advantages for some, but when the kids are out of school and libraries and museums are closed, we have to juggle two roles at once.

Home is now both office and school. What is a parent to do?

As two developmental psychologists dedicated to understanding how children learn and play, such questions are filling our inbox.

Here, we offer some simple strategies for keeping your job and your sanity if you have children under the age of 10.

Tips to Survive Staying and Working from Home with Kids During COVID-19

1. Balance work and play around routines

Our children are looking for routines.

At childcare and school, kids know what to expect. At home, things are less clear.

Creating a tentative schedule each day and talking about it with your kids can help you work around your business meetings and still have time to play with your kids.

2. Manage screen times

With Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and any number of game consoles, this is very tempting, but the data are mixed on the value or harm of screen time for children.

The younger your child is, the more limited his/her screen time should be. With the exception of video chat, experts argue for no screens before age two.

What can you do to occupy your kids instead of using screens?

The secret to staying sane lies within offering a routine for your children while still creating a schedule that meets your work demands. You do not have to be Mary Poppins, just do the best you can given conflicting demands.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Breakfast routines should still be in the morning, though a bit of extra sleep is not a bad thing for kids. It might even give you time to read your emails.
  • Follow with light at-home exercises and stretches. Children are not good at being sedentary and it is important to feed into natural tendencies.
  • If you have an important meeting, give your kids some downtime. You do not have to fill every second of the schedule. Cherish independent play with blocks, puzzles or games.

3. Include art and craft activities

Late morning is generally a good time for arts and crafts.

Young kids can paint rocks or pebbles, while older kids can film a movie and try editing it free of worries during the covid-19.

What story does your child want to tell? Now is his/her chance to be the author and illustrator of his/her own book.

Does your child have a favorite character from a show? Let him/her become a cartoonist and have fun drawing the characters in various settings.

4. Make music at home

Music is a real relief – and no, we’re not referring to asking Siri to play a request, but making music.

Did you know that when you put water in a bottle and blow in it, you get a sound? And when you change the water level, the sound gets higher or lower accordingly? That’s adding science to music.

Clap your hands to a beat. Can your child follow and keep a steady rhythm? Play a game like “Simon Says” where your beats get ever more complex and your child tries to repeat the pattern.

You can also extend this by creating a band. No instruments? Use pots and pans. Different types of pans have different kinds of sounds and lids can be symbols. Older kids can take this up a notch by creating songs on the iOS app Garage Band.

5. Act out a self-created show!

Which kid does not love drama and TV shows? Let your child create his/her own story lines and act out the scene in your living room.

Younger kids can act out a show or a scene from their favourite book. Define the problem that the Paw Patrol has to solve and ask your kids to choose a character and be the hero.

Research shows that acting can help children learn. Younger kids can pretend to be a lion, tiger or bear. Older children can create their own show with additions from the costume drawer (or your closet).

6. Explore other activities to replace what you’d usually do

Your kids might have swimming lessons and other after-school activities scheduled on regular days, but with the COVID-19 situation, you will need a replacement for those now.

Here are some suggestions on what you can do together instead:

  • Try working with them in the kitchen to prepare dinner
  • Pick an interesting topic and research it together online
  • Take a world tour through Google Street View
  • Find a science experiment to try out on YouTube
  • Watch videos of animals in their natural habitats. Nat Geo Kids is a good place to start your search for these.

7. Plan video calls with grandparents

Grandparents can help parents live through this period. In the age of FaceTime and WhatsApp, grandparents can take over when your work schedule becomes too tight. Think of this as “Camp Grandma and Grandpa”.

Over video call, grandparents and children can draw, read, sing, create a puppet show, play I Spy, and do so much more together. With technology, your child can visit places around the world virtually with their grandparents, take tours of museums, and even go to the symphony.


Home can be a crowded space for families trying to accommodate both school and work. With a bit of creativity and a lot of flexibility, parents and grandparents can make this period more of an enriching time than a nightmare.

Think ahead and a difficult time can prove to be a wonderful experience for all.


We thank the Brookings Institution for permission to reprint this article.


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