What an odd time to be experiencing, isn’t it!? This COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives so suddenly, and many parents are left trying to figure out how to deal with this new normal of being stuck in our homes.
Schools are closed indefinitely. Work is being done online (from the Pre-K level to the highest education).
Most of us are in a shelter in place order and are not to leave our houses unless absolutely necessary. Which means many people have lost their jobs, or are attempting to work from home as their company finds new business models to accommodate this.
As a result, we are having to very much live in the moment and are in survival mode, but we’re also being forced to plan long term for things like groceries that aren’t readily available to us anymore.
Parents are figuring out how to manage work lives at home, while helping their children with schooling.
Instead of having tons of free time at home, many are feeling overwhelmed with their sudden onset of new responsibilities and wondering how to get it all done.
We aren’t all in the same storm… we have various challenges we are facing right now. But we are all in this together. There’s something comforting about that fact.
Resources for Parents
My goal with this page is to have resources for parents readily available during this time. Everything from help managing your meal planning, to scheduling your days at home with kids, finding online educational activities, help finding up to date information on the pandemic and more will be put on this page. I will continually update this page with more links as resources as they become available to us.
Full list of what you’ll find on this page:
- Where to find information about the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Managing Your Family Needs
- Groceries and Meal Planning
- Tips and resources for getting organized with groceries and meals
- Getting your family on a schedule that works
- Managing household tasks
- Extra Resources
- Educational Resources for Kids online
- Managing Distance and Online Learning
- Activities for Children
- Mindfulness and Stress Relief for Parents
- BASIC Cooking Help and Food Preservation Help
Information about the COVID-19 Pandemic
There is a lot of misinformation out there. This site is not the place for medical information. So I first want to start by saying to please remember to get information on the pandemic from reputable sources. I go directly to my state’s website, to the CDC, and WHO.
Search for your state’s information (it should be a .gov site) to stay up to date locally. This is the state of Maryland’s official page: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/
The Center for Disease Control can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/
And the World Health Organization can be found here: https://www.who.int/
For managing your life at home, you’ve come to the right spot to find help with scheduling, home-schooling, family organization and more!
Managing Your Family Needs
Groceries have been hard to come by lately, which feels so weird, right!? We live in a time when we can get pretty much anything delivered in as little as 2 days time. We are used to being able to get whatever we need when we need it. Not now.
Now we need to plan for fewer outings, slower shipping speeds, less items available, and to be unable to find pick up or delivery windows for groceries. We now have to make larger grocery purchases, be able to live on what we purchase for quite awhile, and be able to make sure we get everything we need in our latest order to last about 14 days at a minimum.
Groceries and Meal Planning
The goal is to stay home right now. If we must go out, face masks are recommended. Our family is NOT GOING OUT. Not even to the grocery store. We are using grocery delivery and pick up services only.
These delivery and pick up times are hard to come by, so there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind.
- Sign on sometime between 12 am and 6 am. This is your best bet to be able to find and reserve a spot for a grocery delivery. Time slots are added then for some reason, and they go FAST.
- Grab a delivery and just add a few items to secure your spot. You do not need to have your list completed or even have any of the correct items that you’d like on it yet.
- With most services you have until the day before to make alterations or changes to your order. So, I grab the spot, and then over the course of the next week I add items, change quantities, etc. I just keep a running list and update it daily as I think of things.
- Don’t stockpile, but do think long term. Since we aren’t going to the store every week right now for fresh fruit, we stocked up on canned fruit. Good thing, because we’ve been eating it for a couple of weeks now. And for our family of 4 we can finish 1 can per meal, or 3 cans a day pretty easily. Sometimes we do a bit less than that, but it’s a good number to plan on to make sure we have enough items to get us through to the next delivery.
- Stock up on things that last long term. Canned goods, freezer items, dry items, baking needs, etc.
- Get organized. Know what you have and what you need. Get a list going of your freezer and pantry inventory. Cross things off as you take them out, and add things to your grocery list to make sure you get all that you need in your next delivery.
- As soon as your order is delivered, grab another time slot. Odds are it is at least a week out, and might be more like 10-14 days. Just keep checking until you get secure a spot. You can always change it later, but you want to have a time reserved just in case.
Tips for Getting Organized with Groceries and Meals
I know I just casually mentioned to keep inventories and lists going of your freezer and pantry and grocery list. Some of you are shaking your head at that thinking how on earth am I going to add that to my plate that is already full!?
Well, I promise you it will make your life easier! It’s only time consuming ONCE. Yes, you have to sit down the one time and list everything out and get a count on your items. But then, you just change the quantity as you remove something from your inventory. And when you go to make your grocery list, it is SO MUCH EASIER. All you have to do is look at your inventory sheets. No more getting up and checking how much you have of this or that.
So, to get you started, I’ve created a family meal and grocery printable guide. You can print your copy by clicking here. The printable sheets include:
- Freezer inventory sheet
- Pantry inventory sheet
- Grocery list
- Master list of Family Favorite Meals
- Weekly Meal Planning sheet
You can print these each week, or laminate them and reuse. I prefer to spend the one time fee of purchasing an inexpensive laminator, rather than having to buy printer ink. This is the laminator that I purchased on Amazon, and it works great.
The master list of family favorite meals is really helpful to have as well. Do you ever feel like you get stuck in a rut with cooking? You cook the same meals over and over? Keep a huge master list of all of the family favorites to help expand your ideas and remember some of the family favorites.
The weekly meal planning sheet helps tremendously in making that grocery list. In fact, in times like these it would be helpful to print two weeks at a time, and have all of the meals planned out.
Then pull out the grocery list printable, and look at your weekly meal plan for two weeks, along with your pantry and freezer inventory sheets, and you’ll have your list prepared for your grocery delivery or pick up in no time.
Get Your Family on a Schedule
This blog was built because I love schedules so much and it was the first thing I recorded on Mama’s Organized Chaos! Our babies are on schedules from the moment they are born, and they are sleeping through the night very quickly as a result. I am SO passionate about schedules.
Times like these are no different, and the whole family can benefit from having some sort of a schedule in place.
Benefits of Family Schedules
Children do best when they know what to expect. They also do best when they have expectations- they always rise to the challenge. Free play all day, or expecting them to fit in their school work at some point on their own is just not going to go over well at any age. Older children can play a more integral part in creating the schedule, but even our 5 year old has helped to create her schedules for a couple of years now!
Mama also does best when she knows that she’ll get some time to get some work done LOL! It really benefits everyone.
How to Get Your Family on a Schedule
At a minimum I do what is called a block schedule. We don’t over schedule by any means. We try to keep flexibility in our day. I explain more about a block schedule here, but basically you chunk your day into basic tasks each hour.
We get up at the same time 99% of the time. Yes I still let my kids sleep in here and there.
We have an established bed time for the kids.
And in between, we have chunked the day into things like outside time, sibling time, focused learning (school), help out time, family play, etc.
With each transition everyone knows what to expect, and there is no complaining because it’s just what the schedule says to do!
In addition to the free block schedule, you can get our weekly printable to help plan out your entire week. Grab it here and enter the coupon code “CovidSchedule” at checkout to get it for free during this quarantine time.
I keep our house picked up. We clean up toys when we are done with them. We pick up all the time and it feels so nice around here to not have cluttered toys everywhere.
Cleaning, however, doesn’t happen that often. I also want our children to see that cleaning happens and be involved.
One of the new things we’ve added to our daily routine is a family help out time. Right after breakfast, we all pitch in to empty the dishwasher, put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, and do one other household task.
Each day we do something different. We might clean one bathroom together. We might have laundry to put away from the day before. We might dust one room. Or it might be helping out in the garden. It’s something small, but it keeps us cleaning and taking care of the house.
More Resources for Managing Family Needs
- Printable for getting your baby on a schedule so you can work
- Printable Weekly Block Schedule – use coupon code “CovidSchedule” to get it for free
- Printable – The Ultimate Family Organization Bundle
- Meal Planning When Life is Crazy
- Learn About Pantry Staples to Always Have on Hand
- 15 Mom Hacks to Keeping a Clean House with Kids
- Get Motivated to Clean When You Are Overwhelmed by the Mess
- Printable Checklist of Surfaces You Need to Disinfect
- Realistic Cleaning Schedule for Busy Moms
- Conquering the Laundry Pile
Educational Resources for Kids Online
ABCMouse– Get this subscription for free by going to abcmouse.com/redeem and entering the code SCHOOL7771 during this period of school closures.
Inventures in Learning– This is a new Facebook group that was set up by The Little Gym here in my hometown. They are doing virtual field trips from a ton of places and anyone can join in as these are public events.
The field trips range from dairy farms to firehouses and so much more. They are live events, but you can watch them after the fact as well. They create worksheets for all levels to go along with the learning, and are super interactive saying hi to the kids and answering questions during the lives.
Supplementary Elementary School Resources– The public school system here in my county shared a TON of resources with us. Here are the links to the google docs that are accessible to all:
- PreK (abcs, counting, and STEM)
- Author Readings
- Foreign Language
- Social Studies
- Physical Education
- Virtual Field Trips
- STEM Enrichment
- Language Arts
–>I wrote this post awhile ago on how screen time can be beneficial for children. I am sticking to it! If you need some reassurance on all this screen time, read this: 10 Benefits of Screen Time for Your Toddler (all kids really).
- Audiobooks with Kids- Tips to Get Started
- We’ve been having fun with shows about animals and volcanoes- all sorts of things! This post is 150 Educational Shows on Netflix!
- Ultimate list of Fun Online Resources for Kids
- 101 Fun and Free Ways for Kids to Learn At Home
- Amazing Online Learning Opportunities for Kids When School is Closed
- Kids Science Shows on YouTube
- Create Your Own Homework Packets for Home Learning
- YouTube Channels that Teach Kids to Draw
- Free Online Books for Kids
- Best Educational Apps for Kids
- Reading and Writing Resources for K-12
Managing Distance and Online Learning
Suddenly our children are on computers for school! They are video chatting and going to learning sites, etc. Not only do we need to learn more about how to best support our children’s online learning, we need to be able plan what this looks like in our daily family schedules.
Our kids need to learn to use computers. We know this. Even before this pandemic, schools were already moving towards tablet usage instead of textbooks. It’s just a very digital focused world right now, and we’d be kidding ourselves if we ignored that when it comes to teaching our children.
Here are some great resources to get you started with using online learning with your kids:
- Keeping Kids Digitally Organized Using Google Drive
- Computer Tutorials
- Making the Internet Safe for Kids
- 13 Activities to Make the Most of Video Chats with Kids (from PBS)
- 10 Sites and Games to Teach Kids to Type
- Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Screen Time- 10 Benefits for Kids
In addition to familiarizing ourselves with software, programs, and safety, we also need to think about how this will fit into our children’s day and week. No matter the age, I prefer using a block schedule. Block schedules can work for babies, preschool aged, elementary, and even high school. Heck, I use a block schedule for ME.
Block schedules help to chunk the day and give focused time on specific activities. It helps older children and adults to really focus in and complete a task and feel in control of their goals for the day and week. It helps younger children transition to different activities throughout the day.
Get our weekly schedule printable for free by clicking here and using the coupon code: CovidSchedule
All children can help to create this schedule. My 5 year old helps out!
Once you have your schedule, figure out how long each day your child needs to work. Keep in mind that homeschooling is NOT all day. Successful homeschooling only has focused work for a couple of hours. Try your best to do this so your children aren’t feeling overwhelmed.
In reality, your child’s teacher may have sent more work than necessary to help “fill” the time. Reach out to them if necessary. Everyone is figuring out this whole distance learning thing together, so be kind to the teachers as they muddle through this as well!
Our goal for our 5 year old in Pre-K is to do 1-1.5 hours of school per day. Some of that is on the computer, and luckily her teacher has provided a lot of hands on activities and “brain breaks.”
For older children, try scheduling a block of time in the morning, and a block of time in the afternoon to split things up and give them a mental break.
Activities for Children
The other side to all of this time at home, is finding ways to “entertain” our children and pass the time. If you are like me, pretend play and free play get boring from my standpoint. I can only do so much of it.
Our kids also need some variety in their days. Arts, crafts, science activities, and even just some new easy talk games are much appreciated by our kids. Things like playing red light green light are SO simple, and can help to just give a change of pace.
Younger kids are going to take right to many of these new, fun activities. And older kids might take some convincing to do something they don’t “feel like doing”, but they’ll take to it once you start! If you have that block schedule in place, they won’t argue it and you’ll end up with some great family time.
Schedule an activity block in your day, and pick just one thing.
These are all resources linking to some great activities to do with our kids at home, and you have all the supplies you need already:
- 20 EASY Activities to do at Home With Young Kids
- 25 Preschool Activities and Printables
- STEM Activities and Printables
- Disney Princess Memory Match Game
- 30 Days of Lego Play
- 20 Easy Sewing Projects for Kids
- Free Coloring Pages
- 70 Activities to do with Kids At Home
- Travel Activities to do At Home with Kids
- Family Friendly Travel Themed Activities
- 1000 Coloring Pages Free Printables
- 24 Super Simple Indoor Activities
Mindfulness & Stress Relief Ideas for Parents
I am not anxiety prone. This pandemic though… WHEW. It’s causing me some stress. My husband has to leave the house and go to work. He’s got very minimal exposure to people. He goes to work and interacts with a few people. It’s not much, but the reality with this virus is that’s all it takes. It makes me worry.
I try not to read the stories quite honestly. But every once in awhile once crosses my news feed that I click on. It’s the story of a younger healthy adult that died from this virus. Or it’s a nurse talking about how patients are dying all alone and can’t be with their family.
And this virus is invisible. That makes it even more scary.
For me, my days haven’t changed too much. So I’m not feeling the stress of the change of pace per say. But many are. So many people are home without work, or working from home, and having to help school their children, etc. It’s a crazy time, and it’s a stressful time.
We need to manage our stress. The best way to do that is to be mindful of it. We have to admit we are stressed, and then find ways to deal with it and manage it. Not only do we need to do this for ourselves, we need to do it for our kids. Our kids notice our mood and feed off of it. So, if we want a happy household, we need to ourselves be happy and calm.
Over the last year, we’ve learned that our daughter is a highly sensitive child. It’s a very special quality in children and adults (20% of the population is thought to be highly sensitive), that’s been researched a lot and has some huge upsides, and also some huge challenges.
One of the challenges, is that our daughter has REALLY big emotions that she can’t yet “control” and those emotions come out in the form of really long tantrums/fits. I tell you this, because over this last year we’ve been working with a therapist that specializes in working with highly sensitive children.
One of the most basic yet most useful things we’ve learned, is that it starts with us, as her parents. If we are not taking time for ourselves to de-stress, reboot, feel rejuvenated, etc., we simply won’t be successful in supporting our daughter.
When we take the time, however, the emotional outbursts (or fits) are significantly reduced.
This practice can benefit everyone- whether you have a highly sensitive child or not.
So, what do I do to de-stress and stay mindful? For me it’s writing. If I take time to work on my blogs, get things done, and write about my feelings… I feel great. Writing is therapeutic to me. And, knowing that my to-do list is taken care of is also of huge help when it comes to de-stressing.
When I look at our schedule during the day (me being home by myself with two young children), that time has to happen before they wake up. I only get about 1 hour of interrupted time to myself during the day. So, if I want my ME time, I have to schedule it to happen in the morning.
Focusing on the positive is also a really big factor in staying happy. Again one of the things we’ve learned in our therapy with our daughter, is to get out of the bad cycle of focusing on the negative emotions. We point out the happy emotions as well.
As adults, I think we need to do this for ourselves. This quarantine is rough for so many people. Staying home is hard for many that love to socialize and get out. I’m sure everyone could write a list of all of the negatives to this quarantine. Take the time to write a positive list though. Actually write it down.
What are the good things that have come from this quarantine? Have your kids and your spouse join in. Hang it up. Reference it. That list probably has one common factor- FAMILY. We are getting a plethora of family time right now. And family and love is what life is all about. Take it in and enjoy the slow down.
At night, my husband and I are also now having a daily check-in. We started this to have discussions around how we are supporting our daughter- what worked and didn’t work each day. I also want to include us though. I want to include a check-in about everything. How we are feeling, how we are dealing, what’s working, what’s not, on all fronts.
Here are some ideas to help stay mindful and keep your stress in check:
- How to Have an Attitude of Gratitude
- 30 Day Mental Health Challenge
- For Those of You That Might Be Bored- 100 Things to do – And yes you can be bored and busy all at the same time. I NEED projects for myself otherwise I would go insane. I started this blog when our daughter was 4 months old. It wasn’t ideal timing, but I needed it for me.
- Stress Relief Apps
- 101 Ways to Reduce Stress
- Lavender Aromatherapy Dough – Playdough for adults!
- Natural Remedies for Anxiety
BASIC Cooking Help and Food Preservation Ideas
Now I know a lot of stress for people is coming from basic needs right now. Food.
Many people are used to picking up dinner or going out. Many are used to frozen pizzas that you can just pop in the oven. Right now, it’s hard to get our hands on those pizzas, and even pizza dough to make your own pizza is hard to come by! Restaurants are closed, and while they remain open for pickup, we are staying away.
The best way to avoid getting this virus is to stay away from people. We are doing just that, which means NO leaving our house unless it is essential. Dining out and ordering food for pickup is not essential. We can do this all at home.
But that means we need to stock up on some essentials, and then learn to use those essentials. We need to learn how to store food properly, and how to make things from scratch.
If I can’t buy pizza dough, I need to make it. If I can’t buy bread, I need to make it. If I can buy bread, but I can only get groceries delivered every few weeks, and I don’t have the freezer capacity to store that bread and keep it fresh, I need to make bread instead when I need it.
Blogging communities are blowing up right now with the sudden influx of people wanting to learn how to make their own bread. It’s a real need right now!
So, if you have your freezer and pantry inventory sheets and your grocery and meal planning sheets ready, let’s now figure out how to make items and store them!
I like really good bread. LOVE it. So, as I was reading about how to make my own bread, I found that the best way is to use a dutch oven. After some research, I purchased this amazing dutch oven on amazon. It has great reviews and a high heat rating. I am SO excited about this. I know that I am going to love making bread, so this was a no-brainer investment for me!
Dutch ovens help you to bake light airy artisan type breads. Bread machines will yield a much denser bread type and I much prefer the airy breads.
- How to Bake a Basic Loaf of Bread
- 2 Ingredient Greek Yogurt Bagels
- Super Easy French Bread
- How to Make Banana Bread
- How to Make Buttermilk Biscuits
- Simple Homemade White Bread
- Easiest Loaf Bread Recipe Ever
- Easy Homemade Pizza Dough
- No Knead Artisan Bread
- Beginner Artisan Sourdough Bread
I am starting my bread making adventure with this No Knead Artisan Bread recipe.
Food preservation can be a bit overwhelming. I will admit, I am totally scared to try my hand at canning. I found some alternatives, however, that I am comfortable with. What we do is freeze things and use a vacuum sealer.
We invested in freezer space to start. We have an upright freezer and a chest freezer in our basement, and then of course the one in our kitchen.
Vacuum sealing is SO easy to do, and I can also vacuum seal cans! These vacuum sealed cans are not shelf stable and can not be put in the pantry like normal canning, but they can be put in the freezer and stay perfectly good.
So, here’s what we do… We buy meat in bulk from a butcher and get it pretty inexpensively compared to the grocery store. We separate it into the correct portions for 1 meal, and then vacuum seal it. We also seal vegetables this way. We buy fresh vegetables from the store, or grow our own, vacuum seal and freeze them in single meal portions.
In addition to that, any wet items we put in glass canning jars, vacuum seal them with this attachment, and freeze. Make sure you get freezer safe jars. I put things like soup and spaghetti sauce in this. I make my own spaghetti sauce, so if I ever have tomatoes that are about to go pad, I puree them up really quickly and freeze the puree in one of these jars as well.
Here are the supplies you need to start vacuum sealing and freezing in jars (this is exactly what we purchased on amazon and love):
- FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer
- Vacuum Sealer Rolls
- Vacuum Sealer Canning Jar Attachment
- Freezer Safe Canning Jars
And here are more great tips on food preservation:
Using Leftovers and Not Wasting
One of the things we really need to focus on right now with fewer trips to the grocery store, is how to use leftovers, or fruit that is about to go bad, etc. We don’t have room in our lives for wasteful practices right now!
Here are some great ideas on ways to use extra ripe fruit or vegetables:
- Blueberry Chai Jam
- Peach Preserves Recipe
- Apple pie filling for canning or freezing
- Tomato Puree
- Fresh Fruit Compote
- I found this amazing site that has a “Waste-Not” Series! She talks about how to finish remaining ingredients such as tomato paste, half and half, etc. It is so helpful and she even links to recipes and tells you how much you’ll need! Click here to see the Waste Not Series!
You can also freeze fresh fruit and use the frozen fruit in smoothies. And I will admit, I don’t go into near as much work for tomato purees as above, I just blend and freeze. We can keep things simple and save our food easily.
Leftovers are eaten for lunch the next day, and often we purposefully make enough of a meal to have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. It just makes life simpler if we are cooking less often.
I hope these resources are helpful to you. I will keep this page updated with any new information I get and think might be useful to everyone. If you have anything you’d like added or to see me add, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll get to work on it!
~Stay safe, stay home, stay healthy!