How to Maintain Structure During School Closures

Kids of all ages (and adults too) perform best with structure: When they know what to expect, they can adjust better and more successfully moderate their mood and behavior.

For tips to create a successful home environment during COVID-19 school closures, Rebecca Moles, MD, joins the blog.

Maintain a consistent bedtime.

When kids say, “But there’s no school tomorrow!” reply with “Yes, but your brain and body are still growing, and tomorrow you will learn something new.” Does your child have questions about why school is closed for coronavirus? Get help with age-appropriate answers.

Maintain a consistent wake-up time.

While you may not need to drag your teen out of bed to look bleary-eyed at a geometry workbook at 6am (and studies have shown that teenagers do not perform best early in the morning), create and maintain a daily routine. Have your child get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and do any typical “before school” chores or activities. Wearing pajamas signals to children that their day hasn’t started or that they are on vacation.

Maintain consistent meal times.

Your school-aged child can likely tell you exactly when lunch is, and their body and brain will function best if they’re kept on that schedule.

> Want help getting your family through COVID-19? Check out our School Closure Kit

Set a reasonable schedule that mimics the school day.

Many schools are providing materials or Internet resources for children. Structure your child’s day to include focused time on subjects, such as scheduling math from 9–9:40am. Model good behavior by focusing on your own quiet tasks at the same time. Separate work times with age-appropriate breaks.

Each day does not have to be identical.

Remember your child is used to special days like gym, art or music. Gym can mean playing leap frog. Art can mean building a fort for action figures out of a cereal box. Music can be playing a favorite song with a soup pot and spoon for “accompaniment.” Get more ideas here.

Want help setting up a structured day? Start with the sample schedule below, and adapt it to fit your family.

Sample Schedule

  • By 9 am: Out of bed, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth/hair, make bed, complete other routine “before school” chores
  • 9–9:45am: Set out expectations for day. Morning physical activity such as walk outside, stretching or dance party inside.
  • 9:45–10:45am: Focused academic time
  • 10:45–11am: Transition break: Quick game of tag, Simon Says, Frisbee, walk the dog
  • 11am–12pm: Creative time: Build, draw, paint, create
  • 12–12:30pm: Lunch time
  • 12:30–1:30pm: Quiet fun time (no electronics). Look at books, color, build with Legos, dress up dolls, paint toenails.
  • 1:30–2:30pm: Focused academic time
  • 2:30–2:45pm: Break
  • 2:45–3:45pm: Focused academic time
  • 3:45–4:15pm: Clean up all activities
  • 4:15–5:15pm: Outdoor play time: Bike ride, climb a tree, walk around the block. Lousy weather? Try these 23 Indoor Activities for Heart-Healthy Kids.
  • 5:15–6:15pm: Dinner preparation, eating, and clean up
  • 6:15–9pm: TV time, baths/showers, plan for next day
  • 9pm: Bedtime

Learn more about coronavirus >>

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