They were supposed to be skiing in Park City, Utah, and hanging out at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines. But last week, because of the coronavirus, the Enzminger and Decareau families canceled spring break travel plans and signed their kids up for spring break camps. Then those canceled, too.
Now, with one kid in kindergarten in an Austin Independent School District school and the other three in a preschool program that follows the Austin school district’s cancellation policies, both Reva Enzminger and Ellen Decareau found themselves trying to figure out how to work from home and keep the kids — Powers Enzminger, 3, Maelin Enzminger, 5, Colin Decareau, 4, and Hailey Decareau, 6 — entertained for what will be three weeks or longer.
Like many families, they started scrambling, but as across-the-street neighbors, they realized that there was no way that their kids, who are friends, would abide by any rule of staying separated, and they realized that too much sibling togetherness was just asking for strife. They also realized that, as working moms, they needed time to get some work done. Enzminger is a franchise owner of two Edible Arrangements locations and Decareau is in public relations.
They decided to divide and conquer, but with an organized plan.
Each day Enzminger gets the kids from 9 a.m. to noon, and then Decareau gets them in the afternoon from noon to 3 p.m.
"It is very challenging," Decareau says of the time she has the kids. She created a schedule, she says, "just because it organizes us."
They start the day with P.E. Sometimes it’s races or feats of strength like handstands. Then they move into crafts and creative free time. There have been scavenger hunts, computer time and science time, and, of course, cleanup time. They also go outside and ride bikes or watch a construction project.
At one point on the first day, the boys were playing with cars and trucks while the girls were under a pool table building a fort.
There is, of course, a lot of hand-washing, Enzminger says.
The way the two moms plan it, "we’ll follow the same rules. We’ll make sure we are all careful," she says.
There is a lot of coaching about not touching each other or hugging each other.
They’ve already decided they’ll quarantine together as one large family if something happens, and they are within the recommendations of not being in a place with more than 10 people.
Already, Amazon has been their lifeline for craft supplies and the makings of new activities. Sometimes they still need to slip into work mode during kid-watching time, but that’s OK, says Decareau, because all of their clients are working from home, too.
Dr. Meena Iyer, chief medical officer at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, says kids need activities, which could include going to an uncrowded park or another space or interacting with the same small number of people while taking precautions such as washing their hands and not sharing drinks. In this scenario, the adults involved also agree to interact with the same small number of people and follow suggested safety protocols.
Here are some resources we found to keep kids busy:
Google Arts & Culture app allows you to virtually enter 500 museums to see famous artworks and exhibits right in front of you.
The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has teaching resources that include webcasts and videos. naturalhistory.si.edu/education/teaching-resources
The Wildflower Center’s website offers a how-to for gardening, which could be an awesome project for the kids. wildflower.org
The Thinkery Austin’s blog offers 10 Great Hands-On Activities to Do at Home, which include taking apart toys, mystery boxes, stop-motion studio, color-changing milk and more. thinkeryaustin.org/blog
Girlstart offers a whole month of activities. Typically it’s for DeSTEMber, but perhaps this March needs some STEM in it. Find it under the Events tab on girlstart.org. You’ll get an activity you can click on for each day of DeSTEMber.
PBS Kids offers a daily newsletter of activities you can sign up for. Also, if you click on the Parents tab, you’ll find the PBS Parents with resources including how to make a homemade snow globe and pizza fractions, the PBS Lab with games and technology it’s working on and the PBS Learning Media, which has resources for teachers (but hey, you’re now the teacher). PBSKids.org
For older kids, PBS has shows you can watch based on their interests. PBS.org
NASA offers STEM Engagement through its site, nasa.gov. You can make your own spacecraft, launch rockets and print out games.
You may run out of books and the Austin Public Library is closed — or is it? Yes, the physical building is closed, but your library card gets you ebooks and audiobooks, online learning classes and homework help that includes all kinds of resources for different school subjects. library.austintexas.gov
The Bullock Texas State History Museum has resources and activities under two tabs on its website: Discover and Explore. The museum has a scavenger hunt that was meant to be done in person, but you can do it online through the artifacts gallery from the museum that is posted. thestoryoftexas.org