Keeping your children busy during coronavirus lockdown

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As we all stay at home to save lives, the UK’s current coronavirus lockdown brings with it a unique challenge for most.

Nobody expected this COVID-19 pandemic to happen in 2020, let alone to be taking conference calls or answering emails from the dining table whilst juggling parenting, home-schooling and feeding our children.

Unless you’re a teacher or childcare practitioner by trade, it can be difficult to adjust to this new (temporary) life – and hats off to those who teach and care for our children every day, you’re all superheroes!

One thing that most teachers would say is that having a routine and schedule in place will make the days go quicker and encourage the children to try and stick to some normality at this strange and uncertain time.

We’re creatures of habit so there is bound to be lots of confusion, particularly from children surrounding why we’re having to stay at home and not see family and friends.

So while the days stuck at home may fill you with dread on how you will spend your time and keep children busy without leaving the house, remember to take breaks and structure the day like school with short bursts of ‘traditional’ learning with their workbooks split up with more hands-on fun activities.

Get kids to keep a diary and list their wins and losses for the week. This will help you all assess how you can change things up for the following week and improve your time together.

Your children are the ones who attend school every day so take their lead as to how they like to learn and try and get them involved where possible with planning the day ahead.

Also, don’t stress about the mess. Kids will still be kids. Use the time in the ‘school day’ to keep busy and get everyone to tidy up for half an hour at 3.30pm before dinner.

Most importantly, remember we’re all in this together and are all trying our best to get through it so don’t be hard on yourself as a parent.

All your children really need at this time is your reassurance that they are safe in the family home and that brighter days are coming.

If you need some inspiration for how to keep the kids busy at home, here are some suggestions and resources:

Literacy

  • Make bookmarks and encourage children to read 5-10 pages of a new book every day
  • Create your own book as a family, each adding a new part to the story chain with illustrations
  • Write letters to family members who do not live in your house and who you cannot see for the next few weeks. Keep them updated about what is happening at home and encourage children to ask questions to receive a reply
  • Review films – Disney+ has just been released with a 7-day free trial and monthly subscription thereafter at £5.99 a month. There are hundreds upon hundreds of family-friendly films you can watch and ask children to review the plot, characters, cinematography etc.
  • Pobble365 has a daily writing challenge based on a picture. They have started a story which children can finish based around a different theme every day.
  • Use Literacy Trust to find resources for younger children from birth to 12.

Maths

  • Go on a treasure hunt to find different around the home and garden. Look for certain shapes, lengths or measures
  • Create a tuck shop at home and let children have a budget each week to spend. Make healthier items like fruit cheaper and biscuits/crisps more expensive to help them manage their money wisely and stay food smart
  • For older teenagers, let them plan a day out or holiday for when life returns to normal. Again, have a budget in place and let them plan travel, activities, accommodation etc for all the family
  • Play cowboy-style shoot out where two players stand back to back and the first to answer a quick-fire maths question gets a point
  • Use a pack of cards to play The 24 Game. Using only the numbers, pick 4 random cards and try to make 24 using BODMAS.
  • Create a chalk clock outside on the patio and get children to use their body to make the hands of the clock at a set time.
  • Play classic board games such as Battleships (co-ordinates), Snakes and Ladders (counting), dice games (probability), and even Scrabble (adding up points of letters)

Science

  • Make paper aeroplanes and see whose design flies the furthest. Find examples of patterns online
  • Get experimenting. Make fizzy potions, slime and lava lamps using household objects like bicarbonate soda, oil and PVA glue. Ask children to describe what is happening to the molecules
  • Grow herbs in old plastic tubs, the easiest way to introduce gardening to beginners and can be done indoors
  • Take part in wildlife watch in the garden or on your daily walk for exercise
  • Set a project to come up with ideas about how to protect the environment and what ways you can be more eco-friendly at home
  • Teach children (and yourself!) how to code. Watch tutorials here or do an Hour of Code with Tynker

History

  • Write a journal – we are all living through history so get children to record what is happening along with their thoughts and opinions
  • Create a family tree using photographs of all family members
  • Design a coat of arms
  • Ask children to write postcards to their future selves and predict what life will be like in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time
  • Use the Museums of London resources service to access videos about historical topics while museums are closed

PE

  • Rotherham-based Primary Sports Coaching is doing a daily challenge on their Facebook page with different tasks each day. PE teacher Mr Wood will be setting a warm up, a skill and a challenge – like a mini PE lesson – for all the family to try.
  • Take part in The Body Coach live PE lesson on YouTube every day at 9am
  • Set up games or obstacles in the garden for motor skills like throwing, kicking, balance and encourage children to practice sports and hobbies outdoors where possible
  • Play games indoors such as ‘the floor is lava’
  • If your child takes part in the Daily Mile at school, continue this at home by using your one permitted walk or run a day to break up the ‘school day’ when you feel your children need a break away from learning. Choose quieter times and less frequented routes near to where you live.

Art

  • Make a collage or scrapbook from old magazines and craft materials
  • Create rainbows to brighten up windows and join in the online movement of Eye-Spy
  • Host your own art exhibition and get children to constructively critique each other’s work, focusing on positives and how they think it could be improved
  • Construct models such as dolls houses, ‘little towns’ for cars to drive around, robots etc using your empty recycling materials like cardboard boxes or plastic tubs
  • Put animal figures in front of a window or patio door to create shadow silhouettes that children can draw around
  • Use a digital camera or phone camera and let children get to grips with photography

Life Skills

  • Learn a new language or skill such as sewing/crochet, musical instrument or sign language. Look for free courses for children
  • Take part in role play, especially with younger children. Set up a café at lunch and have the waiter take orders/chef prepare lunch, go to the ‘library’ and choose your three books for the week out of your existing collection, set up a school and let your children teach you what they’ve learnt
  • Clear out old toys and wardrobes to declutter and decide what can go to the charity shop or other children and what you could sell to make pocket money. Photograph items for selling sites
  • Let children learn how to cook one dish a week or help with baking. Produce a recipe book of all your favourite meals
  • Encourage chores once school time is over. Just because they’ve been home all day doesn’t mean this should stop
  • Talk – talk about challenges, fears, feelings, aspirations, plans for when this is over

Pre-school children

  • Create art outside with chalk on patios or a tub of water to paint the fence/wall
  • Practice pouring and scooping. Save old plastic tubs and pots in different shapes and sizes and transfer water, rice, pasta or pompoms between them
  • Cut a hole in the top of an old tub with a lid and get toddlers to push items through – again, pompoms or pasta shapes work well
  • Fill a large tub or baking dish with water and get your toddlers to scrub clean their favourite toys (not soft ones!) works well with figures, trucks/cars, animals etc. If you don’t want to do water play, how about hiding toys in jelly, sand or rice and letting toddlers dig them out
  • Sort items or toys into categories – colours, characters, types of animal (farm, jungle etc)
  • Making shopping lists by drawing items on paper or using print-out images. Help your child’s soft toys to go to the imaginary shop and collect items on the list
  • Research Montessori activities to help children learn life skills from an early age. Based on the principle of ‘learning by doing’, let your toddlers help in the kitchen by cutting bananas or spreading crackers/bread, ‘folding’ laundry or filling the washing machine, dusting

Boredom Busters

The words all parents dread – ‘I’m bored’. Why not fill a jar with ideas of activities and pull one out when ever anyone utters those words. Deal is, everyone must take part.

Social Media Lockdown

Most children, particularly those who are due to finish primary or secondary school this year, will no doubt be devastated they won’t see their schoolfriends again for the foreseeable future. So they will of course want to keep in touch via social media.

But while they spend more time at home away from friends and more time online, cyberbullying and sexting are predicted to rise. Keep an eye on your children’s online usage where possible and be mindful of a change in mood, appetite, seeming anxious when checking their phone or becoming secretive. These can be signs something isn’t right.

Ensure your children know they can talk to you or an older sibling about any issues they may be facing.

Resources

Twinkl learning packs and schedule planners

BBC Bitesize

RMBC Suggested Home Learning Resources