What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 11 – Fashion!


It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

The good news is, at least in my jurisdiction, school boards are beginning to put together learning plans to deal with what is looking to be a prolonged shutdown. And teachers are beginning to reach out to check up on their students. (We really do care for the kids in our classes.) This will take some time though, so in the meantime, I am going to keep making lists.

Today is the birthday of both Bob Mackie and Tommy Hillfinger, two icons of American fashion design, so in honour of that today’s list will focus on fashion, fabric and yarn

Teach Yourself the Fabric Arts

The maker movement has been a huge part of the last few years and as part of it there are plenty of videos on the Internet to show you how to do a variety of fiber arts. Most of us have a sewing kit lying around or those crochet hooks Aunt Marge gave us one Christmas, so why not dig them out and see if your kids can pick up a new hobby. The key here is to watch the videos and then try it yourself.

Sewing – everyone, and I mean everyone, should know some basic hand sewing tips and tricks. My son is learning how to sew by working on his Scouts campfire blanket. There are days it is painful, but this is a life skill.

Knitting & Crochet

If these prove to be too easy, there are literally 1000s of tutorials and pages on the web with projects. 

History of Fashion

Children may enjoy looking at the way in which fashion has changed over the years. 

DK History of Fashion – A nice interactive site that looks at women’s fashion throughout the  20th century.

This site is a timeline of fashion history with articles and information that span from ancient times to modern. Would be great for older kids to get lost in for an afternoon.

Glamour has produced a series of videos entitled Evolution that look at a variety of fashion trends over 100, including boys’ and girls’ fashion ones. Watch them with your kids and discuss how fashion has changed over the years. Have your kids make predictions as to where fashion may go in the next few decades. Even better, have them draw those predictions and share them with a family or friend via video conferencing

If you need a podcast on this, I would like to recommend Dressed: The History of Fashion. Each episode looks at famous designers, the evolution of a particular piece of clothing and the hosts, April and Cassidy are fashion historians, so they know their stuff.

Fashion’s Impact on the Environment

One of the issues that has come to the forefront is modern fashion’s contribution to climate change.

For older children – have them research this topic and present a listicle on how to address the problem.

For all of your kids – look at the trend of upcycling.  A couple of the projects they can do themselves include

Fashion Show

You can certainly take a break from everything and take in the fashion shows from Paris and New York fashion week. Then challenge your kids to make their own fashion show. They can use anything they have in the house. Maybe their stuffies will strut their stuff in the height of social distancing fashion. Maybe it will be their Lego minifigs. Be sure to get a front row seat and don’t forget to wear your shades.

Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 10 – Classroom Management


It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

As we enter what would have been the restart of school at the end of the March Break in Ontario, I know a lot of parents are going to start looking at schoolwork a lot more seriously. Many are thinking about how they are going to homeschool their kids while they work. I am going to give you a few tips.

Structure is Important but It Doesn’t Have to Look Like School

Children need a structure of some kind. Parents know that when that is upended, children can become upset. And because children have not yet learned how to regulate that emotion, it tends to manifest in a variety of ways, such as acting out or shutting down. Some children will try and get your attention, in any way possible.

There are a lot of schedules that have been posted online to suggest how you should structure your day. If those schedules seem overwhelming, or you have tried them and they stopped working after a day or two, I am telling you to not overstructure the day.

The reality is you can’t replicate school in your home. And here’s something that no one is telling you: you are not expected to replicate it either. Instead, focus on developing a structure that works for you. 

In my house, we are using Google Keep. My husband and I create a list of things in a Google Keep note that need to get done that day. This is a combination of academic work and chores. Every time my son completes one thing on the list, he earns himself some free time. Sometimes our day is an alternating cycle of one activity off the list and then some free time, rinse and repeat. Other days, my son strikes three things off the list one after the other to buy himself a longer stretch of free time. And then there are days he gets to take a break, all day. Is it perfect? No. But it is working for us and that’s what’s important.

Most importantly, we are trying to keep our wake-ups and bedtimes consistent. It is easy to slide into a chaotic state of late bedtimes and sleeping in, but doing so would only add to any anxiety that this isn’t normal. Experts are saying that keeping a schedule will help with mental health issues. Admittedly, we aren’t getting up at 6:00 am, but we are not sleeping in until 10 either.

Avoid Worksheets When Possible

In the education business worksheets are often referred to as busywork. There is a place for their use, but worksheets really don’t lead to deeper understanding and learning. (I won’t get into it here, but there is a big discussion happening right now in education on Depth of Knowledge and your average worksheet rates about a level 1.) In many cases worksheets are boring too. And bored kids tend to act out, which is the last thing we all need.

Instead, look for activities that spark your kids curiosity. Do they like dinosaurs? Then challenge them to learn something about their favourite dinosaur from the resources you have in the house or the ones you can help them find online. Are they into hockey? Have them learn about aspects of its history? Or use the statistics to plot trends. Art is a marvelous way to express themselves and explore, let them draw or use tools like Chrome Music Lab or Garageband to make some music.

And the key here is to have them retell that new information they have learned in their own words. They can tell you while you cook dinner or fold the laundry. Or leverage the power of technology and have them call their grandparents and tell them. If a child can retell what they learned in their own words, then the chances are they have understood it and internalized it.

You Don’t Need a Desk

At home, a lot of school work happens at a dining room or kitchen table. But don’t feel that it has too. Remember, you are not trying to recreate school. Let your kids do their word in a comfy  chair, lying on the floor or even outside if the weather is nice enough (It is snowing where I am this morning.)

My only two restrictions on how work is happening in my house right now are as follows:

  1. TV off – Multitasking is a myth. Your brain can really only focus on one thing at a time. So for tasks that require my child to focus, no TV. If watching a video is part of the activity, such as viewing a documentary, then the TV can be on, but when it comes time for my son to demonstrate his learning, the TV is off.
  2. No work in bed. – As tempting as it is, working in bed can cause sleep disruptions, among other things, so it is better if only recreational activities like reading take place in bed.  

Multi-Age Groupings Are Your Friends

If you have children of different ages, don’t feel like you have to run a seperate program for each of them. Instead, try to run an activity that they each get something different from. For example, on your daily walk, your three year old can try and find as many different leaves as possible, while your five year old tells you if the trees you are pasing are deciduous or conifer, and the 8 year-old and you try to identify what some of the trees are with help of an app.

You can also use siblings to work with each other. Older siblings can listen to a younger one’s reading practice. Younger siblings can be the audience for an older one’s dramatic reading. 

Real Life Skills

I am going to stress again that one of the best things that can come of this, aside from all of us staying healthy, is bolstering your kids’ life skills. Have them help you with the cleaning, teach them how to fold laundry, let them choose a recipe and then help you make it. You will be helping them develop the skills they need to be independent adults and you will be getting much needed chores done. You will also be building memories and bonds that are so important.

Spend Time With Them

For some  of us, our work expects us to work from home. For others, we don’t have the choice but to leave to go to work. But even with all that, we all need to carve out some time to be with our kids. This is a scary time for anyone, but for children who may not quite understand what is happening, it can be worse. Or think of the teen who is reading things on social media that would be terrifying for an adult to process. Your presence can be quite comforting, even if it means you are sitting on the couch, working on your mileage report while they take a break with Peppa Pig. That simple thing can help make this time easier for them. Give them the extra cuddle when they are looking for it, even if they are fifteen.

Tomorrow, I will be back with more of a traditional list, but I really wanted to take today to remind people to breathe. You don’t have to be all things to all people.

If you have made it this far, a quick reminder that today ‘s Neighbourhood Window Walk topic is animals. Make an animal and hang it in a window that can be seen from the street so that families on their walk can see it.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 9 – Water Play


It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

Today is World Water Day, a day designated by the UN to draw attention to the importance of freshwater. Today’s activities are focused on learning about and with water.

The Water Cycle

Create a Mini Water Cycle – Fill a large bowl a quarter of the way with water and then place an empty mug or cup into the bowl.  Cover the whole bowl with plastic wrap. Tie a string or place a rubber band around the plastic wrap to keep it in place. Place it outside in the sun or in a south facing window if, like me, you live in a part of Canada where winter is still going strong. Over the course of the day, the water will evaporate and then drip into the bowl. Have your kids draw a chart with times and have them check on the bowl periodically.

You can repeat this experiment, but this time with two seperate bowls. Place one in the sun and the other in the shade. Have your kids observe the difference in what happens. When you are done, please share the following with them.

Cloud in a Bottle

This next activity will require adult supervision. Fill a 2-liter bottle ⅓ of the way full with warm water. Screw on the cap. Firmly grasp the bottle and then squeeze and let go. Ask your kids to tell you what they see.  Then take off the cap. Now for the part that requires adult supervision. Light a match, blow it out and then quickly place it into the bottle while it is still warm. Screw the cap back on and repeat the squeezing and letting go of the bottle again. If all goes right, a cloud will form inside the bottle and you have just demonstrated how a cloud forms. (If you want, you can read them this after to explain what they have seen.)

Build a Water Filter

This is a classic science class activity that is easy to replicate in your home. There are tons of pages on the web that explain this activity, but how I would switch it up is let your kids do it a second time and see if they can make their filters better. Have them record their observations, just like real scientists by making a list of how much of each material they use for the various models, how long the water takes to filter, how well they work, etc.

Water Play

Playing with water is an important part of childhood. Unfortunately not all of us live by the ocean or somewhere where swimming is viable given the temperature right now. You can still give your kids a chance to play with water in your own home. Here are some ideas:

And if you don’t have a water play table, don’t worry here are some ideas on how to set up an alternative. This is also a good activity to co-opt your older children to help/supervise with, as I saw a good friend do with her tween daughter and two year-old son.

If it is warm enough, you can also send the kids to the back yard with some water pistols or sponge balls and have a water fight.

Water WebQuest

There are a variety of water webquests on the web. Choose the one you like the best and have your kids complete it. Better yet, have them make one for you to do!

Research Water Issues

For older children, have them look at UN Sustainable Development Goal #6 and do some reading and research around the targets and indicators. Have them share their findings in some way. Blog post,vlog, slideshow, infographic, discuss them with a friend or family member on a video call, you name it.


And now something just silly and fun. 

Today is also International Talk Like William Shatner Day. Started by Maurice LaMarche and Doug Van Horn, this day is meant to celebrate the very unique vocal stylings of William Shatner, the man who played Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek series. Start off by showing your kids some classic Kirk scenes like this one or this one. Then show them this how-to video from Maurice LaMarche, a renowned, Emmy winning voice actor responsible for such iconic characters as The Brain, Calculon and Lrr. LaMarche also does a very good William Shatner impression. He teaches you to speak like William Shatner in this video.  (Cut it off when the camera switches to the camera.) It is also a good lesson on different speaking techniques, which your kids can apply to their own presentations. (Or try to avoid.) And then practice. Try speaking like William Shatner as you do things around the house. Video tape and share your results. Laugh. Because we all need to laugh at this time.

And if your kids can handle it, share with them the song stylings of William Shatner. Also, keep an eye on his Twitter feed. Shatner is apparently making Captain’s Log entries, in between promoting his TV show.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 Day 8 – Storytime


It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

Today I want to focus on one of the most important things we can do with our kids, sharing stories with them. You probably already do some of what I am going to suggest, but it doesn’t hurt for all of us to be reminded about the importance of stories in our life.

Read to Your Child

Reading to your child is one of the most important things we can do. The benefits of reading are well documented. Even though I teach pre-teens and teens, I still read out loud to them on a regular basis. And they love it.

So take some time during this social distancing to read to your kids. No matter how old they are. Gather together once a day and read from your favourite books. They could be the picture books you read to them when they were little or grab a classic you want them to love off the shelf and read a chapter a day. 

Try and make it fun. Use voices. Insert some gestures. Try some call and response. And if you can’t do that, because it isn’t who you are, above all else remember that a child learns to love reading in the laps of their parents.

(And it’s World Poetry Day today, so if you can share some of that, bonus!)

Have Your Child Read to You

One of the things that is truly magical is hearing a child read. Have them grab a book and read to you while you do chores around the house. If could be anything. A joke book, a book full of facts about their favourite animal or a novel. Let them read. If they hit words that they are having trouble pronouncing, help them learn to say them. It might help make lunch go faster and your child is practicing their language skills.

This would also be a good time to fire up the video calling software on your phone or tablet and have your child read to a family member or friend.  Grandparents would LOVE this activity, so leverage it to get a bit of free time for you. Or have the grandparents read to them via video chat.

Share Your Stories

As you go about your day, tell stories that are related to what you are doing. If you are making cookies using the same recipe your mother used to use, share the stories that come from those cookies. Were the cookies so good that you had to take extra in your lunch because your friends would beg you to share? As you eat ice cream, share the story of your aunt who used to keep gourmet french vanilla for her cat. These are your stories. Pass them onto your children. And encourage them to pass theirs on to you. No matter how long or off topic they are.

Create Your Own Stories

A great way to incorporate storytelling into your routine is to make it part of your daily routine. So it isn’t just putting laundry in the washing machine, it’s using cloth missiles to take on the washing beast. I have done this with my own son, and even though he is eleven, he still enjoys participating in these mini-adventures. It can make chores fun and you are encouraging your child to develop their creativity. These may become the stories that they pass on to their children.


There is a whole world of audiobooks out there. They can be purchased from your favourite online store or you can check your local library website to learn how to download one from them. Also check on YouTube, as some people have read their favourite books aloud using that platform.


Podcasts are a family favourite for us, giving us hours of entertainment. You can find a podcast ap in the Play or App Store (although one comes already loaded on an iPad). You can also play them on your web browser by going to the podcast’s webpage. Why not make some coco and listen to one of the storytelling podcasts out there? Some of our favourites are listed below:

  • Myths and Legends – a great podcast by Jason Weiser that is appropriate for the whole family. Wiser has a great, informal storytelling style that he uses to look at the myths and legends of the world.
  • Fictional – also from Jason Weiser, this podcast retells the classics of Western literature. This one would be better for tweens and up, but you know your kids best.
  • Levar Burton Reads – the title says is all. Levar Burton reads short stories. It is like an updated Reading Rainbow. Note: this is for tweens up.
  • The Two Princes – a fantasy adventure for the whole family.
  • Stories Podcast – framed as a bedtime podcast, it retells classic stories, fairy tales and even some original stories.
  • Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian – the story of an 8 year-old boy’s adventures in space.

Author and Celebrity Readings

One of the things that has been absolutely amazing through this period of social distancing is that so many people are stepping up to offer their talents. Among those are children’s and YA authors. Many of them are turning to social media and the web to share readings of their books. Celebrities are also doing read alouds. Some of the ones I want to highlight are:

  • Mo Willems – the award winning author and illustrator is hosting a daily doodling session for kids. Each day, he includes instructions for people to download.
  • Josh Gad – The star of Frozen and Beauty and the Beast is reading a story a day on Twitter. 
  • Neil Gaiman – the author reads all of his book Coraline on his website.

Others can be found here and here and here.

TV & Film

I also want to put a plug in for these. These can be scary times for kids, so some time spent with a familiar media property can make them feel better.

Or sit with them and introduce them to one of your favourites from your childhood. Give them the stories that comforted you.  

***And since you have made it this far, it is also World Puppetry Day, so if you feel up to it, have the kids make sock puppets or paper puppets to help them retell a favourite story.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 Day 7 – C’est le temps de pratiquer notre français.


It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

Before we get going, don’t forget to make a silly face out of paper to put in your front window for families that are out for a walk can spot them.

Today is the UN French Language Day and also the 50th anniversary of La Francophonie, the international organization of French speaking nations. So I wanted to provide families with some sites and activities to not only celebrate the day, but also give your kids a chance to work on their French Language skills.

Off-line activities

Cook a French meal – Food is a tremendously important part of French culture. You can bring some of this into your home. This can be as simple as putting cheese curds and beef gravy on your fries to make a homemade poutine or you could try making a tourtiere and feves au lard or even a coq au vin. Most importantly, make sure there is bread. The French are renowned for their breadmaking. If you can make bread, look up a recipe and try one at home. And when I say cook, I mean with your kids. Cooking has a lot of math and reading embedded in it and it helps children develop skills they need to become a functioning adult.

Set up a French cafe  – Take a TV tray or small round table, drape it with a tablecloth (red checked if you have it). Use your favourite music service to play French music, or choose this selection from YouTube. You and your kids can take turns being the waiters and customers. Use whatever French you remember to communicate. The food and beverage can be make believe, but you could try making a cafe au lait for them to try as part of the activity.

Put on a Fashion Show – France is still the world center for fashion. Have your kids put together a collection and then put on a fashion show. This could be a series of drawings that they put together in a lookbook or they could pull actual clothing from their closets and put on a fashion show. 

Learn How to Mime – Show your kids this video of a mime. Ask them how they think the artist made it seem like he was climbing a rope. Then show them this video with some instructions. Have them try to mime a scene. There are plenty of videos on YouTube for inspiration.

Play a board or card game in French – Most of the classic board games we have at home can be played in French. For example, the game Guess Who would be easy to play while speaking French, as would Uno or crazy eights. If you don’t know a word in French for something like the suit of clubs, look it up using Google Translate. You will not only learn new vocabulary but be modelling lifelong learning. Plus, by linking learning to fun, the knowledge tends to stick better in our brains. We really are wired to play to learn. (Clubs are trèfles by the way.)

On-LIne Activities

First thing you need to do if you have a library card is check to see what on-line book services your library offers. In many cases there are audiobooks and ebooks, in French that you can borrow through the library website. They are free and you can tailor the books to your child’s interest.

TFO is a French-Language television station in Ontario that is partially funded by the Government of Ontario. They have lots of videos and interactive games for kids. Same thing for the Zone Jeunesse from Radio-Canada. Have your kids spend some of their online time today playing games to practice their French.

1Jour1Actu – This is a website from France that produces news articles written at a child’s reading level. One of their best bits is the animated 1Jour1Question where kids’ questions are answered. Read one of these a day with your kids and discuss them. Not only will you be helping to build their comprehension of French, but you will also be helping them to build their understanding of the world around them.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s list, the Granby Zoo in Quebec is doing an educational video in French on their Facebook page every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This would be a great thing to watch with your kids and then discuss what they watch to reinforce the vocabulary covered and make sure they understood what was discussed.

If you have a Netflix subscription, watch the French version of Nailed it! We watch it as a family and in addition to laughing at the bad cakes, we have learned new slang, like “C’est Du Gâteau!” This would be a great activity for a more advanced French Learner. But many movies and shows on streaming services come in other languages. Fiddle with your settings and see what you can do to switch the language for your kids.

And let’s not downplay humour. There is the classic Têtes à claques. But warning, this is not for your younger children, but teens might appreciate the humour in this favourite webseries. And don’t be surprised if they pick up some slang.

Other places you can explore with your kids:

Merci à:

  • Lindsay Allison
  • Stéphane et Tanya Beaulieu
  • Derrick Bulley
  • Lorie Hamilton
  • Kay Kolenko

Who all made suggestions of websites and apps to help me build this list.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 Day 6 – Virtual Field Trips!


It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

Note: I completely forgot that today was the Spring Equinox (for Northern Hemisphere) and Fall Equinox (Southern Hemisphere). The day is of equal length. Take a minute to talk about this with your kids. Here is a list of simple activities.

If your family is like mine, you are getting tired of seeing the same set of rooms over and over again. Luckily we live in the Internet Age, so we can use our computers and devices to at least look at the rest of the world.

I have gathered a list of virtual field trips, but before I start, you should spend a bit of time trying to figure out how to show these on as big a screen as possible. Use a wire to link a laptop to your TV. If you have a smart TV, link your device via your wireless network using something like Bluetooth or Apple TV. If you have a projector, hook up the laptop to the projector. Then these will be much better.

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden – Every day, while the zoo is closed due to COVID-19, they are hosting a “home safari”. They are about 20 minutes long and you can access today’s and all the previous ones at the link above. 

Granby Zoo – Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, this small zoo is having visits with their animals on their Facebook page. These presentation is in French, so this would be a great activity for the second language learners in your house.

Animal Cameras – A variety of facilities have live webcams that you can watch. They are static but still cool. If I watched this with my kid, I would have them try to identify the animals in the webcam. We would do some research on the web to see if we are right.

National Museum of Ireland – this is an extensive collection of specimens. You can tour multiple floors of the museum.

Carrickfergus Castle – Virtual tour of an Irish castle in Northern Ireland.

The Louvre – One of the most famous buildings in the world, you can tour its Egyptian antiquities exhibit and the Galerie d’Apollo. There’s even a tour of the remnants of the Louvre’s moat. Did you know the Louvre used to have a moat? I did not. (Requires flash to run)

VanGogh Museum – brought to you by Google Arts and Culture, you can tour the museum exhibits and see the art of this great master. Make sure to click on the photos along the bottom to access the different floors.

Google also has virtual tours of the National Parks available on Google Expedition and the Google Arts and Culture ap. They were designed for use by teachers in the classroom, but since you are homeschool during our period of social distancing, you might as well use them.

Google Maps – This is honestly one of the best ways to see the world from your couch. You’ve used it before to get directions, but now use the streetview to see what it looks like. You can also visit locations that you might never make it to, like the Adélie Penguin Rookery in Cape Royds, Antarctica or the Roman Colosseum. Google also has a gallery with the places they are featuring. This article has even more places listed. You can also go to space and visit the International Space Station and Pluto,  Why not have your child pick a place they wish to visit and then start at your house and use Google Street View to virtually navigate to your destination.

Google Earth is also another great place to go. Once it launches, you can go to the Voyager section where you can find articles, games, quizzes and other interactive features. Or just explore the world.

And if you really want to go for a virtual field trip, check out the Slow TV offerings on YouTube or your favourite streaming app. Coming out of the Norweigan broadcasting service, you can literally enjoy every minute of a seven hour train ride or canal boat trip. There are shorter one too, so don’t be intimidated 

If you need more places to look at, this article has links to MANY cultural institutions that have opened their virtual doors.

And finally, remember, unless you have recently returned from abroad, are in a high risk group or are actually sick, you don’t have to stay indoors. Try and go for a walk once a day. Try going around your neighbourhood or the local nature area. Bring a water bottle and a sensible pair of shoes. Just remember to keep your distance. Explore new areas, as long as you are safe.

And if you have made it this far, there is a movement to hang a silly face in your front window tomorrow, March 20, 2020. Have your kids make some silly faces for tomorrow. Make them big so they can be seen by the families going for walks.


This post was made with the research help of the following people

  • Tabbatha Capehart Higginbotham
  • Andrea Laliberte
  • Ann Arden
  • Ryan Furlong

All great teachers. Thank you for your help.

What to do with your kid: Covid-19 Day 5 – Not All Screen Time is Created Equal

Greetings all!  (My son said I needed more gravitas in my posts.)

It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

Today I want to have a little talk about screen time. There is a general consensus that we need to limit screen time for children, but there is a growing body of work that shows that not all screen time is created equal. A good general rule is that technology that lets you create is better than those that just have you consume.


There are a lot of aps and websites that are available to create with. I am going to list a few, but there really are hundreds out there.

Google Suite – Yup. Google. You can do a lot with their free cloud office apps. Your kids can write stories with Google Docs. They can use Google Slides to create photo collages of their activities. Google Sheets can be used to make mosaics or patterns for cross stitch and knitting. They can use Google Sites to create a daily blog to share a daily diary. If you have access to Microsoft Office, then much of it can be done there, but the bonus of Google Suite is that it is all free and can be accessed anywhere.

iMovie – it’s on your iPad – Have your kids make movies about their day to send to their grandparents. Or make an epic saga using their action figures and stop motion animation.

Minecraft. Yes, Minecraft – The core of Minecraft is the gathering of resources which are then used in the building of structures and the crafting of tools. And while the physics may be dicey, the structures users are capable of making are amazing. Challenge your kids to recreate their houses or neighbourhoods. Have them design their dream room. It will cost you money, but so many kids already have this game, it is worth looking into.

Google Music Maker – Google Labs has an experimental music program that lets you create music using colours and shapes. Garageband on your iPad will allow you to make music as well.

Google Jamboard – this is one of my current favourite apps. Part of Google apps, it works on both the Chrome browser on a laptop/Chromebook and as an app on mobile devices. Designed as a digital whiteboard and brainstorming tool, the mobile app has a great assistive drawing tool that lets you replace a very bad drawing of a cat with a line drawing of a cat. It currently costs money for the general public to use, but if your kid attends a school that is part of Google for Edu, they can access through their school account. Encourage them to make picture books and comic strips.

These are but a few options out there. Give your kids a chance to create with technology and you may be surprised at what they are able to do.


Before I make some suggestions, not all consuming is evil, especially in times like these. There are media properties that can be a great comfort to all of us at this time. Remember, many children are upset by the disruption in their routine, the absence of their friends and the restrictions to their movements. Giving them their favourite TV show or movie for a couple hours a day is not a bad thing. It could give you a chance to get some work done or have some much needed “me time”. Remember, you have to maintain your mental health as well. Or sit with them and watch it again. 

I also remember my childhood. I am a member of Generation X. I grew up as a latch key kid and the daughter of a single mother. I had a *lot* of unsupervised TV time. Some of it was not what we would call educational. (A-Team, I am looking at you.) And I think I have turned out alright. 

So let them watch Frozen or Paw Patrol for the 1000th time. It will be okay.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 Day 4 – St. Patrick’s Day

Hey all!  

It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day.  What started as a feast day for a saint has morphed into a celebration of all things Irish, especially in the Irish Diaspora. Today’s activities are focused on exploring the symbols of St. Patrick’s Day and Irish Culture.

History of St. Patrick’s Day

Read over these sites with your children. Discuss the information in these sites.


Shamrocks are a symbol of the Irish and of St. Patrick’s Day. Some fun activities you can do around shamrocks.

Make a shamrock and hang in your window – There is a meme travelling around that suggests this very same thing. All you have to do is put a Shamrock in your window on March 17th. That’s it! You can print one off the Internet or follow the instructions in this video. The idea is families on their daily walk can do a shamrock hunt. Join in. 

There are other art ideas. There is one on this page that uses the toilet paper or paper towel rolls you can fish out of the recycling. Another uses the cork from a wine bottle.  Another option is to print off this shamrock I found on the Noun Project (which BTW is a great site). Then have your child trace around the shamrock using a variety of lines and colours, until you get something like this example

If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where spring is in full swing, look for shamrocks on your daily walk. See if you can find a four leaf clover. Before you go, read over these facts about four leaf clovers with them to get them excited about the hunt. Or you can memorize them and drop them randomly on the hunt. 

Irish Music

Irish music has become a mainstay of the music scene and there are many songs that are favourites of St. Patrick’s Day. You will have to do some careful curation to find those that are appropriate to share with children, but dig out your old CDs, fire up your favourite streaming service or turn to the trust old YouTube to share these with your kids. As a bonus, find the lyrics and have a sing along. 

Here are a few:

And while this is not quite a “traditional” Irish song, it is sung by the great Irish Rovers and is very accessible to children. It is a favourite from my childhood and I can still sing it off the top of my head.

Irish Dancing

The Irish have a rich tradition of dance. And luckily for us there’re YouTube, which has tons of videos to show us how to do it. You won’t become an expert, but you will have fun trying out the steps and your children may have an appreciation for how hard the art actually is. It would also go well with some of the Irish music from your sign along.

You can also watch clips from the Riverdance shows. Or see what your favourite streaming service has to offer.

Irish History

For older kids, an exploration of the rich history of Ireland might be interesting. Possible topics:

Irish Monasteries – Historian Thomas Cahill wrote a popular history of this period called “How the Irish Saved Civilization”. You can find ebook and audiobook copies through your local library. An older child could read this and then see what other historians say about Cahill’s thesis. This can lead to good discussion around interpretation of history.

The Potato Famine – This is a good short video on it. This event lead to what was called the Great Migration where the Irish left Ireland and moved around the world in hopes of a better life.  Your kids can research where they moved to and how their culture continues to influence those places.

The Troubles – The Troubles refers to a time of sporadic communal violence in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until the mid-1990s. Various parties were involved including civilian paramilitary organisations, politicians, the British Army and the police. This article is a good overview. It is also well documented in Irish Culture, with songs like Bloody Sunday, Invisible Sun and Zombie and movies like Some Mother’s Son and In the Name of the Father. Again, you are going to need to use parental discretion here as a lot of the movies are intended for an adult audience, but you know your kids best. If I were to do this activity with my own son, I would give him an overview of the conflict and then jump into a discussion about the use of violence in political history. Our own family history touches on this as my paternal grandparents were members of the Dutch Resistance and my son has grown up with stories about the actions they took as part of their struggle against the Nazis. You could also go with the effects of colonization as the British had conquered the Irish at various points in their history and British citizens had moved to Ireland. This would tie in nicely to much of world history. This would also be a great use of those rhetoric skills your kids worked on during the Ides of March.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 Day 3 – March 16 – Keeping Busy

Hey all! 

It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do with your kids at home. 


Seriously, have them help you cook. Even if all you are doing is opening a can of soup and microwaving it, you are teaching them skills they need for adulthood. More traditional cooking involves a great deal of math, often the measurement of fractions.  Let them help you measure the ingredients and mix. Have them set the timer and monitor it. Yes, it will take longer than if you did it yourself and it will probably be messier, but you will build a lot of neural pathways in their brains. And you may inspire them to cook more.

For older children, have them research a recipe they think they can make in your cookbook collection or from sites like this one online. Have them make a shopping list and pick it up as part of your weekly shopping. (Bonus points if they can do it from the supplies you have laid in for your quarantine.)


Let’s be honest, no one likes cleaning, but it is a necessary evil. Especially during a pandemic. Give your kids a chance to do their part. Have them do the dishes or empty the dishwasher. Teach them to clean the toilet or put their laundry away. It is another step in helping them learn to be functioning adults and gives them an activity to do that can also incorporate a bit of physical activity.

And yes, they won’t be as good at it as you would. That doesn’t matter. Give them some gentle feedback and encouragement to improve. But let them do it.


Do some yoga. There are great videos on the Internet to lead you through it. 

Dance. There are video games that you can dance with. Some of those have made it onto the Internet as videos. Play them and let your kids dance.

Just move. There is a great website called Go Noodle that has TONNES of movement videos that involve exercise and dance.

Go for a walk. Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t go out. It means we need to limit contact with people that we don’t live with. There is a whole world out there. Go for a walk around the block. Drive to a local set of walking trails (weather permitting). Explore a neighbourhood that you have always wanted to see. (We may be heading to a wealthy neighbourhood to look at rich people’s houses.)

Build a Leprechaun Trap

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. As a lead up, have your kids make a leprechaun trap out of things you already have in the house. Lego and other toys. Craft supplies. Things from the recycling bin, like empty toilet paper rolls. Rumour has it many of us have more of those than we know what to do with.

When they are done, take some pictures to send to family or have them do a video chat with a loved one to show off their creation. Then leave it out to see if they catch a leprechaun. Don’t forget to take the bait but leave a treat, like candy or a few coins.

What to do with your kid: COVID-19 Day 2 – Ides of March

Today is the Ides of March, it is an important day in world history. It is the day that Julius Ceasar was killed in the Roman Senate. This act put the final nail in the coffin for the Roman Republic and lead directly to the creation of the Roman Empire

So how can you use that to distract your kids if you are practicing social distancing? In lots of ways. 

What happened?

There are a lot of places on the web to find information on the Ides of March. 

And once they understand the events, make sure to show them the classic Wayne and Shuster sketch.

For Younger Kids

Have them watch these videos on tying a toga. Then hand them a sheet and let them try. There is a boys’ version and a girls’ version.  Then you could discuss why there are differences between the togas.

Julius Ceasar was responsible for the creation of the month of July. Read this page to your kids and then take a look at the calendar. What do they see? Have them redesign the calendar, creating a month for themselves. How long would it be? Where would it go?

How to Make Roman Mosaics for Kids – the Romans made beautiful mosaics. This is an easy thing to recreate at home. These instructions use construction paper, but you can use anything really, magazines, fabric scraps or yarn. 

Teaching Kids About Roman Numerals – This is a simple activity involving a piece of paper and a pencil. Or a white board and marker.

For Older Kids

Investigating the Caesar Assassination – This is a great investigation activity that you can run in your home where they approach the death as if they were investigating the crime. Would be great for your true crime fans.

Rhetoric – The Romans were famous for their use of rhetoric in decision making. Speeches were studied, memorized, parsed and performed. There are many great speakers and speeches that come from this period. Julius Ceasar was said to have been a great speaker. The speech that Shakespear wrote for Mark Anthony in his play Julius Ceasar is considered to be one of the greatest in history.  This is a good overview of the topic. Have your kids use these techniques to convince you to do something, like let them have two desserts.

The Roman Number system is unique and so was their math. Show your kids this video. And then have them practice this style of multiplication.

Rome was known for its complex architecture. This page has multiple projects related to Roman architecture.  Your kids can use stuff you have around the house to make these builds. (Tip if it says poster board, use a cereal box.)