My son is 4, and with the new lockdown in France, we need to figure out a way to move forward without excessive screen time but also allowing me to get some work done.

Father and son making pizza dough!

Here are some ideas that work for us, most of the time.

  1. His teacher left us a booklet of homework to do. Now, since I’m not her, and I don’t really know the best way to show a kindergartener how to complete his exercises, we do them together. Kind of. The instructions are, of course, all in French, but since he can’t read yet, I translate them to English. Bonus: he hones his English skills at the same time. This really helped during the first lockdown when French was taking over! So we work together, and I set him a loose schedule. That means that we set a goal for the number of pages we’re going to complete that day, and what activities or breaks we’ll have in between. I let him choose which pages he wants to work on.
  2. We bake! This will make all of us fat, well, only myself and my husband, but it means that our son gets to create something with me, and learn at the same time.
  3. We read a lot. I have a total weak spot for books; I buy them for myself often, and for my son, excessively. So we sit down with a bunch of books and read them, one after another, sometimes for up to an hour! Also, here I mean books in any form, Kindle and Scribd are definitely a part of that!
  4. We go outside in the parking lot in front of our building and my kid gets to ride his bike. Sometimes there are other kids from the résidence as well, often, he just goes up and down. This doesn’t have to last very long, but it gets fresh air into both our lungs and stretches out our legs.
  5. We walk the dog together and look for sticks, rocks, insects, and really try to pay attention to the world around us. Often, we bring a ball or a Frisbee, and again, we can stretch out our legs this way.

In between these activities, it’s mommy’s time to work and my son gets his free time to play. No television, just his toys and the imaginary worlds he constructs around him. That’s not to say he never watches TV, but that’s the easy solution!

Don’t get me wrong, getting to this stage of autonomy with him was not easy. We had to get through moments when I simply needed to tell him that I didn’t have time, that I had to work, and that I would not play with him. It was heart wrenching, but he eventually developed a stellar imagination and now, at 4 years old, he can play independently for even an hour, sometimes more.

I know that these aren’t magical tips, but by incorporating them, or other activities like painting glass jars for flowers, or making necklaces from beads, or going on a quick treasure hunt for special leaves in the garden, we can make the day flow more easily. Our kids will feel like they are spending time with us, and we’ll be able to get some work done, albeit in a somewhat choppy way.

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