Social distancing. Who knew that this would be a thing?! The general encouragement to keep our distance from one another, in the hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19, is a wise and prudent thing. As we’re faced with the unprecedented reality – and uncertainty – of global pandemic, it’s helpful to know there are things we can do to play our part in the prevention of widespread infection and, ultimately, the protection of our most vulnerable members of society. So here we are distancing ourselves socially and potentially even self-isolating. That’s all very well if you’re an independent adult with a comfortable couch and a Netflix account, but what about those of us who are housebound with kiddos? Fellow parents, we’re going to need a plan! These are the days of ‘outside the box’ thinking and glass-half-full optimism. Rather than being ‘stuck at home’, we have the opportunity – potentially the obligation – to hunker down and spend some quality time with our kids. But as I said, some creative thinking and entertainment strategies would be helpful right now! Here are ten things for you to try at your place.
1. A new routine
Kids thrive on routine and school-aged children are accustomed to following a timetable. If your family’s regular schedule is dramatically affected by cancellations and closures, it will help to create a new ‘at-home’ schedule. Write it up on a blackboard or stick it to the fridge – kids love to know what is happening next and having some structure will also help curb the potential overwhelm for parents looking at a long day ahead. Structure the day into blocks of time (a great chance to teach kids more about telling the time!). Schedule the things kids are already familiar with from their school day – ‘news’ or show and tell, morning tea, lunch time, fitness, spelling, SSR (as in Sustained Silent Reading, like at primary school in the 80s. Not sure if it’s still a thing? If not, now’s a good time to bring it back!). Inject some fun and surprises, and plenty of things to look forward.
2. Take it outside
We may be at home but we don’t need to be stuck inside. Get plenty of fresh air – outside in the garden, at the park or at the beach. Social distancing prevents us from being up close and personal in public spaces, but it doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the great outdoors – especially if we head somewhere with plenty of wide open space and lots of fresh air.
3. Phone a friend
Texts are great but a quick phone call to a friend or family member, just to say ‘Hi’ and ‘Thinking of you’ can mean more than we’ll ever now. Kids can be great at phone calls – they’ll get excited about a chance to use your phone, and who doesn’t love a cute kiddo voice on the other end of the line?! You could schedule a daily ‘phone a friend’ and catch up with people you may not have chatted to for ages in the midst of busy ‘normal’ life. Kids could check in with their classmates too.
4. Start a project
Been putting off that intricate kitset model the grandparents gave your kids for Christmas? Or the ‘learn to crochet’ kit that’s been sitting in the cupboard for years? Now’s the time! I recently set my kids up creating a photo album using an online photo processing company – another time-consuming project I’d been putting off but is now providing my kids with endless entertainment and creative outlet!
5. Free time
While this may be a great opportunity for spending lots of time together, parents need not feel the pressure to entertain their kids 24/7. It’s good for our kids to be able to play/create/draw/write on their own, inspired by their own imagination and creativity. Allow time in the day where kids know it’s their turn to come up with their own entertainment and are free to choose their activity. Supervise, check-in and show interest absolutely, but feel free to leave them to it – allowing our kids space for unstructured and independent play is of benefit to the whole household.
6. Use technology
Screens can get a bad rap in parenting, and fair enough, but technology could really step us as our friend in this season of clipped wings. There are endless options for educational apps, websites and podcasts out there – some your kids will be familiar with from school and may even have accounts that they could open up and continue their learning with at home.
7. Scrapbook it
You’ve probably noticed – we’re living in a very interesting time! As a family, you could document your experience of COVID-19 with a scrapbook or journal. This is the sort of moment in history we will be telling our grandchildren about. Scrapbooking, journaling or documenting the events from their own perspective is a valuable experience for children providing limitless learning opportunities – and a fascinating memoir for future reference.
8. Plant a garden
Time on your hands at home is conducive to gardening! Get the kids involved – whether it’s planting a bed of winter vegetables or potting up some colourful flowers or herbs, there are plenty of ways to while away the hours in the garden.
9. Declutter, sort, tidy, clean and give
Oh yes, spare time at home is perfect for decluttering! There are two types of people in this world – the type who are instantly excited by my use of the ‘D’ word, and the type who have already skipped on to idea #10.
Either way, you know it’s true – that cupboard you’ve been ignoring, those wardrobes full of clothes that no longer fit the kids, that junk drawer overflowing with, err, junk. It’s time! Make it a team effort and enlist the help of the kids to sort, tidy, clean and donate. Loads of learning opportunities here too – aside from the feel-good vibes of tidy spaces, you could have some interesting conversations with your kids about consumerism, the difference between needs and wants, ethical shopping/manufacturing and sharing.
10. Do something for others
By definition, self-isolation and social distancing are pretty inward-focused activities. There are still plenty of things we can do for others though, and great opportunities to get our kids thinking about our neighbours and our wider community. You could do a mail-box drop of encouraging hand-written notes or drawings. You could phone your neighbours, especially the elderly, and see if anyone needs anything picked up or dropped off. Contactless deliveries (here’s another surprising term destined to be our new normal) aren’t a health risk – you can safely leave things on someone’s doorstep and maintain your social distance. There are ‘virtual’ ways we can do things for others, too, like sharing something funny or empowering online – some good news amidst the mayhem, for example.
This is a great conversation to have with the kids… Martin Luther King Jr once said:
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
Brainstorm with your kids – ask them to think about what others might be needing, and how you as a family might be able to help. And remember, looking after ourselves at this time ultimately is looking after others. As we all play to the tune of ‘stop the spread’ and ‘flatten the curve’, help your kids find reassurance in the fact that keeping our distance physically is one of the most helpful things we can do for other people right now, especially those who are vulnerable. And while they’re at home with nothing do to but think about others, get them to Google Martin Luther King Jr. There’s a 1000-word research project, right there.
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