Every day the Coronavirus seems to throw something different at us. We have all been told to maintain social distancing and many families are now self-isolating. And now schools across the country are closing with no set date for reopening.
Easter holidays we know will not be the fun, active break most of us had planned as travel plans are cancelled. Full on lock down similar to that going on in Italy and Spain may be only a few days away and no one yet knows if children will return to school as planned at the end of the the planned Easter holidays.
These are surreal and worrying times when so much seems uncertain. However, the one thing us parents can be sure of is that when our children are no longer in school, but are unable to take part in normal activities, we will have to come up with other ways to entertain them, very possibly without leaving our own houses or gardens.
Here are some ideas of how to structure and plan the days ahead that will helpfully help to create a sense of normality and calm for all family members.
As yet we have no way of knowing how long our children will be a home when and if schools are closed. But sticking to some kind of routine will help both parents and kids. The normality of this will help to keep kids calm, especially older children who will be aware of the severity of the situation around them.
Consider getting up at roughly the usual time, get dressed, eat breakfast and start your day as if you were going to school. Ask the kids to help you draw up a timetable for the day that includes variety of activities. While you don’t have to stick to a rigid regime, planning out the day will make it run more smoothly for you and the kids.
We all know that bored, frustrated kids can play up and misbehave making this difficult time even trickier. With a plan to keep them engaged in a range of activities we can hopefully reduced that happening.
Break up the day by creating a timetable
In your new daily schedule, block out a set amount of time for each activity. This will depend on your child’s age, but for example you could plan for an hour of schoolwork followed by a 15-minute snack and then an hour of art and craft. Then reading and some time in the garden before lunch. You don’t have to follow it to the exact minute, but at least everyone will an idea of what the day is going to look like.
Consider what your children enjoy doing. That could be anything from baking and painting to building lego or playing board games. Have a dig through cupboards and you’ll know doubt find a range of games and toys that are both fun and educational. Trivial pursuit, scrabble and monopoly are great options.
Definitely have a few 15- to 30-minute blocks of dedicated child-led play. The more a child plays, the more they learn to play and keep themselves amused.
Ask your school for advice
Schools up and down the county are preparing to for children to take part in remote learning. From internet-based lessons to worksheet packs. These will provide a very useful structure, particularly if any lock down period extends beyond the planned Easter holidays.
While school is still open make sure that you have what you need to access all that is available such as login details and the necessary books. Speak to your teacher or email them. Ask if you can keep in touch with teachers during isolation and any period of lock down. This will be especially beneficial for older children who may be studying for exams.
Set up a suitable place to work from. That could be a desk or a kitchen table. Create a little classroom and make that fun for your kids by asking them how they would like it to set up. Are there things they have at school that they could also have at home? Maybe they could set their pencil cases and books our they way they would on their classroom desk? These little actions will encourage children to get on board with the new way of learning in this new environment.
Keep kids active
If at all possible, make sure your children are still getting exercise. Despite the limitations there are still things you can do. If the weather forces, you to stay inside then consider trying out a kid’s online exercise class. Think star jumps, squats and running on the spot. Sure-fire ways to let off some steam. You’ll find lots of videos on youtube.com if you need some inspiration.
If you have a garden, even a small one, encourage the kids to get out and play in the fresh air. Ideally let them do things like play football, cricket, ride their bikes or jump on their trampoline – whatever helps them burn of some energy – but remember old fashioned games like skipping and hopscotch don’t need much space. Or how about a little toy obstacle course? Easy to set up and fun to do.
If you do have a garden, then let children explore it. What bugs can they find? How about doing some digging or looking for and identifying different types of plants.
As the weather gets warmer and drier the garden is going to be a very valuable resource.
Screen time can be a good thing
If your children love playing on the PlayStation or iPad, then factor in some time for that during the day. Make screen time predictable: have a set time in the schedule so children know when to expect screen time and what they have to do to earn it such as tidying their bedroom or an hour of reading or schoolwork.
When that scheduled time is over switch the screens off. Don’t leave TV on as background noise and therefore constant distraction from other things. Possibly turn on some music instead.
Remember that screens can be your friend. If parents are working from home while also looking after their children, then frankly letting kids have some time on gadgets can buy you valuable l time to make work calls. No parent wants their kids to be on screens too much but sometimes we all have to compromise a bit to keep juggling everything which is absolutely fine.
Use screens as learning tools too. See our list below of some great websites that are both fun and educational for kids of all ages.
Games to practise alphabet, numbers and shapes. More suitable for EYFS
Shaun the sheep website which teaches children how to make online games.
A variety of educational games. More suitable for Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2
A great resource packed with information and games for kids of all ages.
Maths and English practice suitable for all ages from Reception upwards
Website with lots of educational games. Suitable for all.
Great resource for parents home schooling
Website with lots of educational games. Suitable for all.
Register for a free trial and get 2 weeks free access to reading resources. Suitable for all.
Children’s website about all things space. Suitable for all.
Education quizzes on different subjects. Suitable for all.
Practice tests for Year 6 children.