Endless summer? Try endless spring break! A number of school districts – including AISD, Pflugerville, and others – have extended spring break by weeks, at a minimum. We know this will impact parents and caregivers in a variety of ways, ranging from inconvenience to severe financial stress, and we hope you’re weathering it as best as you’re able. While we can’t help with childcare or the financial stuff, we can provide a little sonic relief by keeping the music going on KUTX, and we’ve also tapped some of our staff for their advice on surviving Covid-19 school closures with kids.
Jam as a Fam
My husband and kids and myself all play instruments of some kind so I’m hoping this time together will lead to some family jamming. I’m excited to learn lots of Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande and Steven Universe songs and get lost in the music with the people I love the most in the world. But even if you don’t play an instrument, you can still carve out time to listen to music with your kids. Singing loudly could be encouraged. Living Room dance parties could ensue. I’ve found that music really does calm me down, whether I’m listening to it or playing it, or shaking my booty to it, so I’m going to try and work as much music as possible into these next couple of weeks.
Tip: KUTX’s Sunday evening kids show Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child is keeping a running list of livestream performances by kids’ music artists – like regular Austin visitors Red Yarn and 123 Andrés. Kids’ music not your family’s jam? Check out Austin360’s running list of livestream performances by Austin artists.
Make Way for Ducklings
My fam and I live in Mueller, and there just happen to be a bunch of ducklings living at Mueller Lake right now. We’ve decided to go down at least once a day and take pictures of the ducklings as they grow. That gets us out of the house while allowing Dave and I to make sure the kids are keeping a safe social distance from others. It also gives us something to look forward to: DUCKLINGS! There may be some safe, outdoor opportunity for you and your fam, too!
Tip: Say hello to neighbors from a distance, and avoid playscapes and other areas that may have been touched by others.
Make Peace With Screens
Normally, I’m anti my kids sitting in front of a screen … but, y’all, this is a strange time. The situation is changing from minute-to-minute, and we’re all stuck mostly inside. So, we’re gonna let screen time rules be much more generous than normal. For our kids, and for us. And we’re not going to feel bad about it one bit!
Explore The Neighborhood
Our family and parent-friends regularly log outdoor time on the weekends, but it’s usually hitting up a playground or a restaurant with a playground, both of which are advised as no-nos by health experts right now. Self-isolating since Saturday, we’ve been taking lots of neighborhood walks, and I’m realizing how infrequently we simply walk our neighborhood’s streets as a family. There are cool people with small children literally living on our same block, yet we see one another once per year (yup – Halloween.) The irony of this isolation is that I suspect a lot of us are going to actually see more of our neighbors than we do in non-pandemic times.
If it’s rainy out, grab an umbrella and rain boots, or turn to the TV for some indoor exercise. Go Noodle – used in a lot of local schools – features videos encouraging both mindfulness and movement-based play, including an entire channel dedicated to one of my favorite kids acts, Koo Koo Kanga Roo.
Illustrator Carson Ellis, whose work you might recognize from album covers of her spouse’s band, The Decemberists, is hosting a Quarantine Art Club, with daily drawing assignments posted to her blog and Instagram account. You and your kids can draw along with Carson and share you own work on social using the hashtags she’s provided.
For fans of Piggy, Gerald, and bus-driving pigeons, Mo Willems is hosting live, lunchtime doodle sessions on You Tube, daily at 12 CT for the next couple of weeks.
Keep ‘Em Sharp
The STARR test might be cancelled, but they’re still missing out on important instruction in school. The following shows are so entertaining, your kids won’t even know they’re LEARNING!
For the pre-K to early elementary set, Netflix’s STEM-heavy Story Bots will teach your kids everything from how cell phones work to how planets are formed. You’ll enjoy the special guests – like Reggie Watts, John Legend, and Jason Sudeikis – as well as some jokes only parents will get, like this Die Hard reference from a rain drop. For slightly older kids, Netflix’s equally STEM-heavy Brainchild is hosted by a former UT Austin student and executive produced by Pharrell Williams.
Also for pre-K to early elementary kids, the BBC’s Alphablocks and Numberblocks series will help you worry less about all the screen time they’re logging. Thanks to the latter, my first-grader is already doing multiplication and division, and I’m way less afraid of this Common Core business.
Are your kids into music? Browse in-studio performances from KUTX and other public radio stations for some of their favorite artists, and have them watch these instead of bands’ official music videos. For the younger kids, especially, this will help them better understand which instruments are making which sounds. The Classical music arm of my former employer, Minnesota Public Radio, also has a great video learning series on music, like this video that explains the difference between major and minor key.
I have my spouse to credit with this one. I’m a PJs-all-day kind of mom, but my spouse (after two days of PJs) started dressing our kid at 7am and taking her for a walk. We took it a step further and borrowed a tip from a friend – we made a home-school schedule for weekdays (which experts also recommend.) The structure keeps our kid’s cries of I don’t know what to do at bay, and allows us to get some work done from home. It will also hopefully help her transition back to school life … or school from home, depending on AISD’s next steps.
Keep ‘Em Busy
I was a stay-at-home for the first 6 and a half years of my child’s life, so I know how hard it can be to keep things fun and exciting. The next few weeks will be trying times for many parents – bless them all now! A great learning tool I discovered a few years ago is The Kid Should See This. They maintain a pretty active Twitter account plus a robust website. As a bonus recommendation, KiwiCo has a ton of cool DIY hands-on learning crafts/experiments you can do at home. (Jacquie Fuller seconds the vote for KiwiCo’s free activities, as well as their paid subscription service.)
KUTX’s Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child was featured recently in a New York Times‘ list of podcasts for kids. Follow Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child on Twitter for more updates on live stream music events for the kids, and tune in for new episodes every Sunday night at 6 on KUTX.
Fingers crossed, we hope to see you at Rock the Park in May (our April event has been postponed for September.)