homeschooling because of covid-19: play time is learning time

I can feel it. The panic and overwhelm that has led you to this post on how to homeschool your child during this COVID-19 outbreak. I am here to tell you to take a deep breath and relax. I’m serious. As different and new as this time is for all of us, this might be the moment you need to finally learn that play time can be learning time. In this post, I am not sharing anything on how to find worksheets or start a learning corner in your house. Instead, I am going to share some finds from my own homeschooling journey to use as examples of how and why it is important to learn that play time is a valuable part of your child’s learning time.

My daughter is a teen now, but, ten years ago, she liked to make desserts like this frozen treat for me and her dad

1. Playing in the Kitchen

I can hear you now telling me that I must be crazy if I am suggesting that you let your child loose in your kitchen without any supervision. Hold on, now. I am not ever going to suggest that a child under 12 years-old be left alone in the kitchen, but, I am totally suggesting that while they are in there with you, you let them have some fun.

In the photo above, my child was about six years-old and she had learned the joy of freezing a liquid and making popsicles. She decided to take the idea one step further and creating some type of popsicle cake with fresh fruit. We had discussed all of the fantastic things that you could possibly make, what was possible with our resources, and what we thought the outcome would be. We came up with extra silly ideas like trying to make popsicle spaghetti to this frozen juice cake above. This silly play time activity was a science and math activity in the making as we developed a hypothesis, tried different measurements of liquid, paid attention to the time that it took for the cake to freeze and generally experimented with different ingredients.

Think about the merit of play time when your child is asking for the ingredients to make slime putty, a dollhouse, or some type of special food item.

Garbed in my scarves, my little darling found joy in dressing up when she was a little.

2. Dress up Time Fun

Children under 10 years-old typically enjoy dressing up and playing make-believe. I am over forty and love dressing up in new dresses…but, I digress. When children are dressing up, their imagination is being activated. They are bringing into their play all of the information they have already learned so far from books, things they’ve observed, etc. and begun to arrange this information into dialogues they are expressing through creative play. As we are in close quarters now with our children because quarantine behaviors are in effect, consider engaging your child in a creative play activity of dress up. Will you allow them to dress you up in silly make-up or do a hair tutorial on you? Will you participate in their creative play activity where they invite you to tea and you must dress in your finest royal gowns? Participating in this type of play with your child helps boost creativity and allows their imagination an opportunity to have free expression.

Outside time in nature is not banned. Get outdoors!

3. Bask in Mother Nature’s Sun

COVID-19 directives have all revolved around the importance of social distancing. This is when you stay at least six feet apart from strangers and not participate in social gatherings of more than ten people. However, that does not ban you from going out into your backyard or visiting a park if you are able. I went for a walk yesterday with my teen and taught her how to make a whistle out of an acorn cap. If your children are younger, consider including outside play time into your routine so they remember how to jump and run and don’t forget what the sun looks like. You can do this and still make sure you are not close to strangers.

Have your child assign the family different roles to play in a story they will direct! This is a re-telling of an Anansi tale directed by my daughter seven years ago. Her dad and I were characters in the story, she was the narrator and her dad and I edited the film and video of the pictures she drew and colored.

All of these suggestions are simple to actualize and work well in small spaces you have to occupy during this viral outbreak. Trust your parental intuition and recognize what you have the capacity to accommodate and participate in. At the end of the day, know that allowing your child to play is just as important, if not more important, than arranging for them to learn in other ways. Be kind, be patient and be easy. You got this!

Dr. Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a homeschooling parent and researcher on homeschool issues. Learn more at

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