Self-isolating concerns me not least because both my children have a healthy appetite, but also because trying to work at the same time will be hard. Without school meals, food costs are going up so many will be counting the cost made worse when parents can’t get to work. Others are juggling working from home with looking after children and some screen time is likely to be totally inevitable, but previous childcare ‘fails’ have shown me that setting aside a couple of hours to be present with the kids does pay off in them letting me work uninterrupted. I know my children can amaze me by how much they can go off and do their own thing when I need them too; just as long as I don’t try to make a phone call!
Routine, routine and routine
Kids often feel lost and play up more when there are big changes to their usual routine and one of the things discussed by parents already in lockdown is that having a plan helps everyone cope with cabin fever. This image came up in a group I am in and it’s fairly close to what we do when we have time at home when the kids are off school. In the morning I get the kids to help me get the washing machine on, feed the pets and make their lunches. We stick to school hours as much as possible for meals and in the time after lunch I’ll do a wipe round of bathrooms while the kids wash up and after dinner I’ll make sure the washing up is done and the various toys and ‘projects’ being worked on by the kids are tucked away. I also switch the morning ‘academic time’ with ‘craft’ time as I find my kids focus better on their own things if we have already had time together.
I’ve recently found that the kids work better with the radio on, and https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds has a huge stock of interesting podcasts. Mine quite like the idea of a ‘project’ and will happily research away. Here are museums that offer virtual tours.
I am a solo parent and so I make sure that when the kids are in bed I take a little time to do something for myself e.g. crafting, catchup on the phone with friends or having a bath. I also make sure that I plan the days activities the day before, print out resources and ensure desks are reasonably clear.
In the time slots we have together these are my planned activities, and I’ve put some links at the bottom too.
At the start of each week we make biscuits, a good recipe here – we like making gingerbread biscuits – they reduce the cost of snacks for the kids during the week. Decorating the biscuits can take up some time too although I rarely let this occur unsupervised! We also had a lot of fun baking bread during the Beast from the East when all the shops near us ran out of bread, its useful and never went to waste but goes without saying to trim nails and wash hands well first!
Plant some bulbs (good selection here) and seeds in the garden – think about what veg it might be fun to grow for the summer. Focusing on these small things can really help everyone stay positive and its good fun as well.
Papier Mache – this was a fantastic project that we did last year over a half term, it has to be worked on in layers then painted and with Easter in the way how about making some paper mache easter eggs for an easter hunt? Or decorate empty egg shells (use the insides for baking!) alternatively places like Baker Ross have some fun craft inspiration – you don’t need to buy their kits to do them!
Depending on how strict the quarantine will be get we will be going for a walk everyday, go to the park, go to the woods and enjoy spotting signs of spring, maybe download a bug bingo card or two before you go out. When we have been infectious in the past we go out after dark with torches for a walk just to get fresh air.
Are there any badges for scouts or guides that your kids really want to do? My youngest is bugging me to do Communicator and Digital Citizen with her and so we plan to find different ways to communicate with the people we would usually see each day, my oldest wants to do Pet Care and Space so we are going to try those.
How about some science? Lots of fun can be had experimenting with simple home ingredients here.
Have a board game competition over multiple days, chalk up the winner but vary the difficulty so all ages in the family get an equal chance to win.
Watch old movies together and talk about them
Skype family and friends – make sure that they don’t feel left out.
When I want to get some work done I have had success with these activities:
We rarely have time in a normal week to investigate the online subscriptions that the school pay for but many offer access to Purple Mash or Education City, these are well worth exploring if you have the tech to do so at home and they will be free – ask school now for a code if you’ve lost yours. Twinkl is currently offering a months free access to all their online resources
Magazine subscription – mine have Whizz Pop Bang! and Brilliant Brainz, which keep them very occupied.
Take a roll of lining paper and stretch it across a table, let the kids design their street, draw houses, parks, people. Mine took this a stage further with playdough houses, playmobil people etc – it meant we had to eat on our knees for a few days but it definitely kept them occupied.
Yoga! Yes seriously – just as I get frustrated when I can’t get to the gym the kids get wound up when they can’t move around. We have a great book called ABC Yoga which usually resets the day and if the weather is too bad to get out offers some movement.
A craft activity is great but can get unfocused especially when I am trying to focus on work, how about making some easter cards or sending letters to school friends or family. I will often move my laptop into the kitchen so the kids can do some focused craft while I focus on some emails.
Indoor camping – I have a small 2 man tent which I put up indoors, along with the saucepans from the play kitchen and a couple of sleeping bags and rucksacks I can rely on a good few hours work being achieved. I usually find them in a nest inside reading stories.
What half finished kits have you got lying around the house? Could there be a focus on finishing projects (like the half stickered butterfly mirror we have gathering dust) and displaying them somewhere? Or let the kids design and create an art gallery and hang up some string then peruse their work and offer to buy your favourite.
What about letting the kids make their own online photo album? We all take dozens of photos but how often do the kids see them? Download their favourite photos and set them up with a creative app to make a photo book which they can print and look forward to receiving. Groupon offers some good deals.
Lastly – tidying. Believe it or not a good clear out of the play areas and bedrooms often occupies my children more than any new toys, they find old possessions and remember old games. What starts as a chore can often lead into hours of play – and for me at least that time is spent very productively working at my desk. Get the kids to read their books and donate any they have grown out of!
Craft supplies, have you paper, printer ink, sellotape, glue sticks and scissors the kids can use safely?
Have a search on marketplace and look for secondhand toys that your kids might enjoy, make sure they are well cleaned!
What resources have you squirreled away in a cupboard waiting for that rainy day. I’ve spent today clearing cupboards and found 36 polystyrene eggs, two handfuls of chicks, a roll of lining paper (see above) and at least a dozen workbooks for Key Stage 1 upwards that the kids have never finished.
Kids are worried too, not just about themselves but for their friends and families. This is a time to reassure them that they are unlikely to be ill but if they do get ill they will get better quickly.
How to get the kids on board with jobs around the house – explain this is new for all and its time to work together. My kids are Y2 and Y4 but they can be trusted to put the washing on, wash up (not glasses and knives) and run the hoover round.
Supermarket deliveries – pick a timeslot in advance. My delivery yesterday was affected by a number of substitutions and the driver said they were busier than Christmas!
Limiting access to the news for the whole family and adults catching up once or twice a day so that I am able to better focus.