You have managed to do something that at the onset seemed nearly impossible. You have successfully homeschooled your little ones for the last few months, all while balancing all a full-time job and any additional challenges that have come along as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Now that most summer camps are closed and activities around the country are severely limited, you are faced with a new challenge: How to engage your little ones, and encourage physical and emotional wellness at home during a COVID-19 summer. Believe it or not, adding simple healthy practices to your child’s daily routine can create structure and promote consistency while providing stress relief and a source of fun for you and your child – even during a pandemic.

While your child has likely developed some healthy habits from school, finding ways to consistently reinforce good health at home can be challenging when you are not sure where to begin. Here are four practices you can incorporate into your child’s daily routine to promote good physical and emotional health during your time at home this summer.

Mindfulness meditation practices

Mindfulness meditation is a way of training our minds to achieve a mental state of calm concentration and positive emotions. Taking a few minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness with your child can help you both to relax and bring an accepting attitude to the present moment. Mindfulness practices can also help to decrease stress and anxiety and increase compassion and empathy. A great way to introduce your child to mindfulness practices is to begin with mindful listening exercises. Listening exercises can increase your child’s ability to focus along with her or his attention. One fun way to encourage mindful listening is to have your child close their eyes and encourage them to identify the sounds they hear around them. Another fun mindful listening activity is to play parts of a song for your child, and encourage them to listen for a specific instrument.

Physical activity

Physical activity plays a vital role in the overall health of your child. It helps your child to develop stronger muscles and bones. Physical activity can also have a positive impact on your child’s emotional well-being by reducing anxiety levels, building positive body image and improving relationships. During this time it may be difficult to come up with fun indoor physical activities. What Moms Love is full of great resources on how to engage your child in indoor physical activity.

Reading as a form of comfort

Not only can reading help build your child’s vocabulary and comprehension skills, reading can also be used to comfort your child during times that may seem scary or uncertain in her or his life. Reading with your child can also help to begin conversations that address feelings that they may be experiencing. Books that focus on emotions can be particularly helpful. Here are a few book suggestions that address emotions, stress and difficult times for young children.

  • Llama Llama Mad at Mama
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day
  • No David!
  • How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear?

Healthy snacks

Being at home during this time could be the perfect opportunity to reinforce your child’s healthy eating habits. Healthy eating positively impacts your child’s mental health and emotional well-being. Now is the time to find ways to further develop healthy eating habits in new and exciting ways. For parents of picky eaters, this may mean including your little ones in the preparation process, and coming up with your very own special recipe. Another way to make healthy eating fun is by cutting food items into animal shapes and using colorful things to decorate them. Click here for creative recipes that are sure to bring out your inner chef!

Additional resources

Mindfulness
Mindfulness Bootcamp for Students

Mindful Listening for Kids

Sounds Right: A Mindful Listening Game

Physical activities

30 Indoor and Outdoor Physical Activities for Kids
Resilient
Communities D.C

Reading resources

Sesame Street in Communities

Reading Rockets

Healthy snacks

Healthy Habits for Homeschooling during Covid-19

50+ Healthy Kids Snack Ideas

References

1.Davis, D. et al., Psychotherapy © 2011 What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research. American Psychological Association Vol.8
2. Crescentini, C., et al.©2016 Mindfulness-Oriented Meditation for Primary School Children: Effects on Attention and Psychological Well-Being. Frontiers in Psychology, 2016, Vol. 7:805
3. Clay, R. ©2017 The Link Between Food and Mental Health, American Psychological Association Vol.48, No.8

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Caleb-Harris, MPH, is a Program Coordinator with the Early Childhood Innovation Network at Children’s National. She focuses on early childhood development and mental health.

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