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How to keep kids busy, connected during COVID-19

With school closed until May, parents are having to find different ways to keep their kids busy at home.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Working from home during COVID-19 is probably a whole new world for some of you. Getting the job done amid daily distractions from the TV, fridge and family is probably hard. Add a curious toddler to the mix or an energetic 4-year-old and it's not happening.

The Good Morning Show talked with Mary Grace Thomas via Skype about ways to keep your kids busy, entertained and connected while at home. Thomas teaches 3- and 4-year-old students at the Weekday Preschool at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro.

Credit: WFMY

With school closed until May, Thomas said having a schedule for your children at home is a must. "They need their routine. They need to know that everything is going to be OK. I think that's one of the biggest things is that everything is going to be OK. Routines are a must with that. It's scary for a little kid to change up their routine," Thomas said.

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Thomas said you should set aside time where you can enjoy fun activities together. One way is with exercise. The Good Morning Show's Tracey McCain enjoyed a 30-minute routine with her 2-year-old daughter, Simone. While it kept Simone's attention the two also enjoyed quality time.

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Since you can't do everything together while you're working from home, you should also plan on dedicating time for your child to play. Thomas said when a child is playing, imagining, creating, building or inventing, they are doing some serious learning. You should do this several times a day in 15- to 30-minute blocks.

"Allowing your children to have time for their own imaginations, their own learning, their own play, but then also having that time when you are with them and helping them along with learning is priceless," Thomas said.

Dedicate time to read. You want to add 15 to 20-minute reading blocks where your child can do some independent reading while you take a conference call or log into a Zoom meeting. Coloring books are a great tool too.

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"Sensory tables are really fun. Giving your kids buckets of water with measuring cups over the sink is a great learning tool," Thomas said.

While you can keep the kids busy inside, Thomas said hanging out in the yard opens the door to all-new adventures.  

"I find with my Guilford County School kids, my older kids sitting at a computer staring at it, of course they're doing really good work, they're learning really good things but by the second hour, or three-hour mark of them staring at the computer, they're zombies. They have no energy and their imagination is gone, but the moment that they step outside with the water play, chalk, trampoline, swings and the natural light, they come alive again," Thomas said.

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Thomas shared a list of fun and educational activities you can do at home to keep your kids busy. Try these activities for your preschool and elementary school-aged children.

Cosmic Yoga

Freeze Tag

Scavenger Hunt

Tug of War

Balloon Stomp

Relay Races

When it comes to sidewalk chalk, Thomas said to let your imagination run wild.  

"A great thing for preschoolers is letter recognition. Going out there with the sidewalk chalk and writing out the letter. You can take anything from rocks and sticks and trace those letters, or if you're feeling a little bit crazy you can get into the water play and use a paintbrush and paint the letters," Thomas said.

You can even draw an imaginary city on the sidewalk and get out your toy cars to drive around the city.

"Obstacle courses are fun because you can tell the kids run here, skip here, jump here. It teaches them to listen to instruction and follow directions," Thomas said.

If you have extra toilet paper at home, tape some up in your hallways and let the kids try to get through it without ripping it. This game takes a while to set up but it also takes about an hour for kids to work through, giving you more time to spend concentrating on work.

Funbrain.com has some great tips to keep the kids busy.

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