Starting Monday 23rd March, there is no school until further notice. It is like a very long holiday and we all know how hard it is to keep children entertained over the long holidays, so here are some tips from us on how to spend an unknown length of time at home with your children.
Keep a routine
Children do better with a routine. Don’t plan every minute (it won’t work anyway) but try and stick to bedtimes unless it’s a special night, make sure they get a mix of activities, and give them downtime. Also try and stick to healthy meals and regular mealtimes, because your children’s activity levels (and mood!) is closely linked to food.
You can try and have a few hours of educational activities and then go into normal playtime. The more structure you give them, the less they will notice the sudden changes.
Take a different approach to learning
Sitting at school isn’t the only way to learn. Many educators, including Maria Montessori for example, consider child-centred learning the best way to teach a child. This means letting the child choose what they learn based on their interest and the main pedagogy being “help me do it myself”. Unfortunately, letting children do things takes time and patience, which we often lack. Anyone who has had a toddler knows how much easier it is to just put their shoes on and get out the door!
But now is the time to slow down and give your children this time to explore “practical learning” or “life skills” – develop motor skills by helping them make their own snacks (note: you are helping them, not the other way around), help them keep their room clean, including using a broom or mop; have them choose their own clothes and get dressed, but also put clothes away (you may notice their own things aren’t accessible to them, so a little home improvement may be necessary), but they can also learn to wipe the table correctly, peel vegetables and much more.
Make all this part of your day. It will take longer – a lot longer in some cases – but this is quality time you spend with your children, teaching them skills school can’t give them.
Speak to your children
Take the time to talk. Talk about the situation (we’ve created a guide on how to discuss Coronavirus and isolation with children), but also about other things.
How are they feeling? What do they miss? Can you replace it somehow? Let them tell you all the things you are usually too busy for.
After a few days, the “no school” excitement will make way to some boredom, but also tantrums and tears. The best way to cope is to be patient and to talk to each other. You are anxious because you know what is going on outside your house, but they will be anxious too, because they feel the change. So, talk it out and give each other time.
This is a weird time for your children and so you may need to get a little creative when it comes to activities. Their toys are fun for a while, but then they will become boring, especially when you have no friends to play with.
So give them a little more freedom. Building a fort with all the blankets in the house? Why not! (Ideally suggest this yourself early in the day so there is plenty of time to return the blankets before bedtime.) You can also build a little slide, make a shop with an old cardboard box (take the time to paint and decorate it), build cars or start a big puzzle. If you have some tape, let them wake up to an entire town marked on the floor in tape: shops, car parks, roads… your entire house can be used for this!
We like things to be organised and as adults, we sometimes try and reign in children’s creativity a little to make it more realistic, but make sure you indulge little. It will give you all a bit of much-needed carefree time.
We. Need. To. Be. Active.
It’s hard when you can’t go out to a playground, but we all need to move our bodies or we will go crazy. If you have a garden, you are lucky. If not, it is a little trickier, but not impossible, you just need to adapt a little.
It may be a question of moving furniture around to make room for some “outdoor activities” inside. Give them space to run, jump, and roll around. Maybe play tug of war together, do a jumping jack contest, make an obstacle course (you can use tape on the floor to mark obstacles) or let them take part in some workout videos (yes, there are absolutely child friendly ones). This may get a little loud and rowdy, but unusual times call for unusual rules. Try and find one “safe” room to play with a ball, back a goal and practice kicking.
You can also work on motor skills
Use toys or paper cups to make a slalom course to walk through, play freeze frame or try different dances. Hopscotch is great and can be done indoors (use an erasable marker on tiles), the wheelbarrow, limbo or even a maze made of toilet roll if you happen to have a lot of it or just with yarn, or create an indoor bowling alley in the hallway with paper cups and a soft ball.
The goal is to use up some of that energy and have fun together. Make sure you get involved; you need some fun too!
Give your kids plenty of time to process. Even if they don’t understand everything, they know things are different, and they need their quiet time. They can be left alone to play what they like (remember they don’t need to be entertained 24/7) and you can spend quiet time with them reading and talking.
To make story time more interesting, you can have your story read by an astronaut! And there is also StorytimeOnline with lots of stories your children may not know or currently have on their shelves (sadly, libraries are currently off limits). And on Instagram, Savewithstories is full of actors and authors reading books to children. If having Olaf or Anna read you a story isn’t a treat, then we really don’t know what is!
Take a look in the mirror
Your children are not the only ones in isolation. You are, too.
Regularly take a moment to yourself when the children are busy and check in with how you feel. First of all, you need it. By taking a moment and reflecting on how you feel, you will get a good idea of how your children feel. Do you need more structure or less? Do you want to just sit back and relax in front of a film together? Do you all need a good laugh by playing dress up (or catwalk)?
Are you stressed and maybe passing the stress and anxiety on to your children? Regularly check yourself to make sure you aren’t getting lost.
If you’re looking for more tips on ideas to help with the adjustment of being at home, check out our other reads below. We’d also love to hear from you, drop us a message in the comments and let us know how you’re finding being stuck at home.