How Hilaria Baldwin Is Social Distancing with Four Kids amid Coronavirus: 'It's a Big Shift'

Hilaria Baldwin chats with PEOPLE about how she and Alec are handling the day-to-day at home — and how daughter Carmen put their situation in perspective

With four kids under the age of 7, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin have had to get creative at home when it comes to making sure their little ones are educated and entertained as they practice social distancing due to the coronavirus.

The couple and their children — sons Romeo Alejandro David, 22 months, Leonardo Ángel Charles, 3½, Rafael Thomas, 4½, and daughter Carmen Gabriela, 6½ — have migrated to a more rural location away from their New York City home as COVID-19 continues to spread. And in a candid chat with PEOPLE, Hilaria reveals that “one of the hardest” parts of their situation “has just been to put on the brakes for the kids.”

“Like, ‘Nope, you’re not going to school. Yes, Mommy is going to home-school you.’ And I don’t know how, but I’m figuring it out! It’s been, ‘No, you’re not going to your gymnastics classes,’ and, ‘You’re not going to your dance classes,’ and, ‘We’re not having playdates,’ ” says the fitness instructor and Mom Brain podcast co-host, 36.

“All of a sudden, we are in a very different routine. And finding that routine was difficult, also, because it was ever-changing at the beginning. It was like, ‘How serious is this?’ ” Hilaria adds.

Alec Baldwin & kids
Hilaria Baldwin/Instagram

Once they did make the jump, life has been about “creating a new routine of, ‘We’re gonna be cooking at home every single day, and we’re gonna be spending lots of time together,’ ” she tells PEOPLE. “And it’s wonderful because spending time with family is so precious, but at the same time it is a lot and it’s a big shift.”

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One of those shifts has been how to keep her children entertained, engaged and learning different things every day while also finding time for self-care. (She’s currently learning to paint her nails and dye her hair at home.)

“The most important thing for you to stay sane and for your kids to actually do what you want them to do is for you to keep it varied,” Hilaria advises. “So I’ve been trying to do different things — we did some art class. We’ll do games [with flash cards]. … [I try] to constantly keep it interesting for them ’cause I find if I try to have them do an activity for too long, they start to glaze over.”

While the mother of four considers “paper-and-pencil” activities “probably the most important work” in her kids’ at-home schooling, she also allows iPad games “as a reward” and makes it a priority to take them outside to run around the yard. And sometimes, they find things like deer antlers, which will then spur a mini animal-science project.

“People will joke about how kids are always asking, ‘Why?’ Why this, why that, and they want to go down this whole rabbit hole of why things are, why things could be a certain way. Go down that rabbit hole with them,” Hilaria encourages other parents. “Even my 1-year-old, one of his favorite words now, he goes, ‘Why?!‘ And I’m like, ‘How are you 1 and you’re asking why?’ But he’s the youngest of four, so there you go.”

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The real-life lessons both the kids and their parents are learning amidst the global health crisis? The ability to look at the big picture, and understand even more about the importance of their time together.

“Alec and I were complaining about it a week or so ago and Carmen was asking about it and I said, ‘Carmen, nobody wants to be doing this right now. It’s frustrating for us all to have to stop our normal lives,’ ” Hilaria says. “And she’s like, ‘I don’t know what you guys are talking about, I love this. I love spending time with you. All I want to do is spend time with Mommy and Daddy and my brothers.’ ”

“And it kind of stopped us in our tracks and our mouths were open and we were like, ‘Okay, let’s go with that mentality, because that sounds so much better than complaining, which is what we’ve been doing!’ ” she adds.

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