As the Los Angeles teachers strike enters its third day, parents not sending their kids to school (and most of us aren't: Recent stats indicate about 82 percent support the teachers' cause) may find themselves at an impasse in terms of how to keep the kids entertained and hopefully, in some small way, educated. This is not a vacation for our kids, and they should know that. If you work from home, as I do, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Yes, having your sweet spawn around while you work might be distracting, but there are moms and dads who work office jobs and have little ones they can't leave alone. Decisions have to be made and they aren't easy. Either way, there are options.
Grandparents, aunts and uncles and sitters may be called upon to help in the case of smaller children requiring supervision while parents are at work, but some people don't have this option. In this case, the city's parks and recreation centers are the way to go. There are dozens throughout the city, and some have extended their existing after-school programs into earlier hours (many free of charge). For a full list via the mayor's office, click here.
Expanded programming and activities are taking place at most L.A. public Libraries (73 locations) during the strike, with a focus on STEAM (science, tech, engineering, art and math). Older kids can be left alone for these or extended reading times. See a list of library branches here.
For those of us with more flexible schedules or able to take some time off, taking the little ones to the city's museums provides an educational and fun way to spend your days. Many are free for kids during the strike. We recommend the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center, the Griffith Observatory, the Getty museums, the Huntington Library and Kidspace in Pasadena. They likely will be more crowded than usual right now, but they also provide your child with the interaction they're missing while out of school and the opportunity to make new friends.
L.A. Unified students get free Metro rides during the strike, so take advantage by going Metro to the above or have an adventure! Metro and LADOT DASH and Commuter Express all are participating between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. on regular school days. Bus operators will check L.A. Unified student IDs on-board.
OK, let's say you don't have a lot of free time to be traipsing all over town. Your kid is home and bored. You don't want to rely on the TV, iPad or cellphone for entertainment, at least not most of the time. How do you make that time productive? Here are some of the things I've been filling my daughter's schedule with.
Reading: Most of us have a nice selection of books right in our home. If you don't have time to hit the library, try shopping your own shelves. My 12-year-old is reading Toni Morrison and Emily Dickinson right now, books I saved from college. She reads two hours a day and afterward we discuss what she's read. I thought about making her write an essay, but when she resisted I realized that discussion was not only more engaging but a great opportunity for us to bond (and force myself to take a break from work). Smaller children who can't yet read can be given coffee-table books. Have them look at the pretty pictures and then talk about what they see.
Cooking: With the new year, many of us are once again resolving to eat healthier. Part of keeping these resolutions is making new habits easy to do. Preparation helps so much. My daughter and I looked online for healthy food hacks and DIYs (Tasty is a great place to find them), then we hit the market and bought all the ingredients. She's had fun chopping fruits and veggies, throwing stuff in the blender and storing in the freezer, and we're both eating healthier snacks while she's home.
Cleaning and organizing: Another change many of us try to make as a new year begins concerns organizing, cleaning and decluttering. Marie Kondo's Netflix show is surely adding to the tidying bug for many. Have your kid follow her methods or simply do it the old-fashioned way by going through their toys, clothes and junk and making a box (or many) to give to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Then have them help you (I know this is more challenging) do the same with your stuff. If not throwing away, at least organizing (home office workers almost always have a desk that needs some attention, don't we?). Less fun is straight-up cleaning, the kind that often gets missed — under appliances, in corners of rooms, etc. Pay your little helper in cash toward something they've been wanting and they'll feel a real sense of accomplishment in earning it.
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Exercise and meditation: Most of today's kids know YouTube and "YouTubers" too well, so you probably don't want to encourage kids to spend more time on the site, but a little searching yields tons of fitness and well-being gurus who provide workouts and relaxation techniques. As adults you probably already know a few, but introducing your child to them for an hour a day can be great for their minds and bodies. Yoga and cardio DVDs are an option, too. Or just designate dance time, in which they play their favorite music and boogie for a bit. Join them when you can. You need it.
Art & crafts: Another way to make your child's online time more productive is the bounty of cool crafting and DIY sites that might inspire artful creation. Check craftster.org for links and ideas. And I've also got a great craft project to suggest: signs! Have our kids make creative and colorful signs that support their teachers! They can also make signs if you plan to participate in the Women's March this weekend.
Picket with the teachers
If you have the time and desire to do more, have your little activists take their masterpieces to their school (or even another school) and join the picket Iines with them and the teachers. Give the strikers some of the healthy snacks you packaged, too. It feels good to support an important cause. This strike isn't easy for anyone, especially with the rain, but you can make it something your offspring will never forget, a formative and ironically teaching moment that will encourage them to fight for what's right now and in the future.
Check utla.net often and follow the teachers union on social media for the latest on the strike and to get more ideas and support. Also, join groups such as Parents Supporting Teachers on Facebook to network with other parents and get even more ideas on stuff to do with your kids.