How a Subscription Box Service Gave Me Confidence to Teach My Toddler During Quarantine
There was a distinct moment during shelter in place where I realized the (warranted) sighs from working parents frustrated with homeschooling while holding down jobs and stepping in as household IT support didn't entirely apply to me. I worked from home; I was frustrated; I was trying my best to fill my daughter's day with exploration and education. But my 28-month-old was just on the brink of beginning preschool. In fact, it was just days before the SIP order that I got an email from a preschool saying they'd likely have a spot for my daughter in the next few weeks.
So when a neighbor mentioned how great it was for her daughter to see classmates via Zoom, I sighed a different kind of sigh. We hadn't started schooling so, well, we didn't have anything formal to follow, or anyone familiar to see. And it was at that moment I reassessed the random Instagram Live gym and music classes we'd been joining. It all felt a little directionless; we didn't recognize anyone. Though I knew I was trying my best, I felt guilty that my daughter was at a pivotal point and ready to absorb the world and socialize in a classroom setting — and with her usual gym and art classes all canceled, it was up to me to come up with something. It needed to be fun, somewhat educational (again, she's 2), part of a routine, and easy to execute. I did a bunch of research to see how other parents were entertaining their young tots and knew what to do. Hitting play on some virtual class wasn't going to cut it. I needed to teach her, even if I didn't know how.
After looking through various activity subscription box services, I chose Little Passports's Early Explorers subscription box for 3- to 5-year-olds. It was geared slightly older — my daughter is not even 2 1/2 yet — but it had such strong reviews that I felt confident it would provide me with exactly what I needed: direction, a routine, and engagement. Here's how it worked:
What Is Little Passports?
Families can travel the world with a Little Passports subscription ($13+ per month), choosing from five different subscriptions, each catered toward a different age group and activity. They even have a Summer camp box now! Each month is themed to a different country and features toys and souvenirs, activity sheets, and even additional online activities. Preschoolers even get their own box, which is focused on different educational themes, like music, oceans, or dinosaurs.
Why I Chose Little Passports
Prior to starting Little Passports's Early Explorers program, our mornings went something like this: I'd check to see the time, check my list of "virtual classes" happening, and plop my daughter in front of a screen where a stranger read a book to her, or sang her a song. It felt so forced and gave me a false sense of success for the day. OK, she did something developmentally forward, I'd exhale while hiding the confusion on my face. Little Passports is an award-winning program and I knew it would help.
What Comes in the Early Explorers Subscription Box
As I mentioned, my daughter is just shy of being 2 1/2 years old, so I knew that some elements of the box might be out of our reach or interest level, but the Early Explorers Subscription kit had just what we needed:
A fun orange suitcase, wall-sized world map (more on that), stickers, activity booklets, and a welcome letter that sort of helps guide the adult through the box itself. I wasn't entirely sure where to start, but once I figured it out all of the pieces made sense. I'd be guiding her — slowly — through a series of fun activities that would teach her about exploring the world.
What I Loved About Early Explorers
The first week had hits and misses — I didn't always have her attention, and sometimes she'd just want to dump things out of the suitcase as the activity — but I was patient and we tried again later. Now a week into it, it's become a constant in our day.
When we walk into the living room and I'm not sure what to do with her next, I point to the map. I ask her if she remembers anything about the animals we talked about yesterday (penguins, elephants, etc.), or to point to a continent. There are activity booklets that we've only just scratched the surface of, and they all fit within the theme.
The service is perfect for me because teaching isn't something that necessarily comes naturally to me. I was putting in the effort before by picking virtual classes and doing my best to educate, but it was ad hoc. And since I second-guessed my efforts — Is this educational? Is this what we should be doing? — the box silences those negative voices and enables me to be an even better teacher than I was before.
How We Maintain Our "School Station"
I guess I'm a sucker for large beautiful maps because once I unfolded it and hung it up against the front window, both of our eyes lit up. I try to organize everything back into the suitcase each night and rotate what's in front, so that there's a new shiny thing for my daughter each day.