Many New Jersey parents will be pondering this question this week: How do we keep our kids engaged, while ensuring that their educational and intellectual development does not languish?

It's a conundrum they're facing after hundreds of school districts announced closures in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered all districts to close effective Wednesday, with New Jersey schools instead sending their students resources for home and online instruction.

An expert has some suggestions.

Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg of Pediatric Occupational Therapy Services in Waldwick and Teaneck said the key here is routine, routine routine.

"Make a routine for your children as if they were in school," Warburg said. "Activities change every half hour or so, even less if they (are) really little kids."

She said to post that schedule, and stick to it. Give plenty of free time in between activities, and ake sure everyone knows what to expect.

Warburg said home educational engagement means both educational and physical activity. She also places a high value on at-home reading at every age level.

"I think reading is one of the most important things a parent can do with their child educationally, regardless of the age of the child," she said. "I think discussions among adults analyzing what they're reading can be really productive as well."

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She also suggests chores as part of the at-home routine.

"Kids are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for," she said. So, a 7-year-old or an 8-year-old can begin to make their bed with assistance. So what do we get out of this activity? Why do we care about chores? No. 1, they develop a sense of responsibility. No. 2, it's a physical activity that requires practice. No. 3, they can work on sequencing."

Warburg said kids get a good sense of accomplishment out of doing something productive that contributes to the household. She suggested meal prep as another activity that can be adapted to any age.

Warburg also advises incorporating the outdoors in daily routines away from school.

"So weather permitting, I think kids should be outside a lot," she said. That gives them the opportunity to exercise several muscle groups, boost their motor skills and improve their core strength and endurance.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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