Right now, the internet is alive with hilarious memes from working parents. Millions of people across the globe now find themselves facing an unprecedented challenge: how can we inspire our children to use their time wisely, while we work from home?
We want to soak up this quality time with our children, but we need to pay the bills too.
For many, reaching an effective work life balance – in the midst of a national crisis – feels simultaneously urgent and impossible. As a parent, I know just how hard this balancing act is. So to help all working parents out there, I have sifted the internet to bring you the top 25 ways to keep your children entertained over the coming months. You’re most welcome.
1 – Make a time capsule
2020 will now forever be firmly cemented in the history books. Why not create a family time capsule to be opened in 50 or 100 years? Try and include: letters, pictures, art work, or maybe even a video, where the children interview the family. Extend this further by asking the children to make a map and a set of instructions for whoever digs up the capsule in the future.
2 – Mini experts
With the hectic pace of our daily lives, we often don’t have time to find out more about the topics we love. For example, the Tyrannosaurus rex, the Great Fire of London, Marvel comics, Dracula, Lionel Messi etc. Ask the children to create a detailed fact pack about their chosen topic. This could be produced on large paper, a PowerPoint presentation or a verbal speech that the whole family can listen to.
3 – Family deep belly breathing
To unwind together, enjoy some family relaxation. Breathe in through your nose. As you do so, imagine the air filling your tummy with air. Feel your tummies expanding. As you breathe out, slowly exhale through your mouth, trying to make the exhale as long as possible. Imagine pulling your belly button in towards your spine as you exhale. To extend this further, imagine a beautiful flower floating on a calm, blue ocean. Use your exhale to gently move the flower along the ocean. Enjoy focusing on just your breathing. If you have got access to music, play some meditative music to accompany your relaxation. Afterwards, discuss how it made you all feel.
4 – Chalkin’ marvellous
If you have any, chalks are great learning tools. Use them to practise spellings, to teach younger siblings their tables or just to create masterpieces. For example, find out about an artist, and then challenge the children to have a go at creating a work of art outside, in the style of… Clarice Cliff, for example. Rainbows have become a symbol of peace and hope in these troubling times, so why not fill your patio with the biggest rainbow imaginable?
5 – Look after our feathered friends
Collect a range of materials that birds may need for their nests. Moss, dried grass, feathers, twigs etc. Pop them in a basket and enjoy watching the birds use what you have gathered. Extend this further by asking the children to create a fact file of the birds who visit your garden regularly.
6 – Natural art
Collect as many interesting items as you can from the garden, leaves, feathers, snail shells. Anything which captures their attention. Using your artistic skills, draw the objects in as many ways as you can – using different materials, different colours, and draw the objects from different perspectives.
7 – Family keep fit
Each take it in turns to lead an exercise class for the rest of the family. Check out some examples on YouTube. Just type in ‘exercise classes at home.’ Or, challenge the children to make up an exercise class for you to complete. They’ll need to make their own lesson plan, and draw out each of the exercises.
8 – Get to a station
Place a series of objects spaced out into the garden, one number less than you have in the home. For example, if there are four of you, pop out three cones. Play some music while everyone runs around the garden. When the music stops, you all have to try and run to a cone. The person who is left without a ‘station’ has to do a forfeit. This could be, to do 10 star jumps etc.
9 – Stick to a routine
Routines make children feel safe and secure. Why not create a timetable for the day that you all agree on? Draw it up on big paper, or a whiteboard, and display it for you all to see. The example below, which would be suitable for children between four and five, gives everyone structure to the day. You can also schedule your work commitments around their down time.
9 am – PE with Joe Wicks
10 – 11 am – creative time
11 am – 12 pm – down time
12pm – 1pm – lunch
1 – 2 pm – creative time
2 pm – 3 pm – down time
10 – Talk about your feelings
This is a time of real uncertainty for many of us, especially children. Learning through play and discussion will help to support the children’s mental wellbeing. Ask them how they feel, and what you can support them with. BBC Newsround is a great talking point for younger children. Watching and reading the news together, if your children are old enough, can be very empowering.
11 – Family word games
Try and include some games within your daily routine. Whether it’s Cluedo or Pop-Up Pirate, the children will be utilising many skills. Word games can be fun too. For example, sit around a table and make a story, by each adding only one word at a time. To give this more structure, use an image as the stimulus for the story. For example, a scary house. To extend this even further, ask your child to write the start or the ending of the story.
12 – Enjoy a book
Now is the perfect time for the children to pick up a book that they have been meaning to read for ages. Sit back, relax and absorb yourself in a great yarn. YouTube is full of some wonderful family audio books. Why not huddle around as a family and enjoy one together? David Walliams is kindly releasing one audio book a day for the majority of April.
13 – Obstacle course
If you have got outdoor space, set up an obstacle course and enjoy some healthy family competition (hopefully tantrum-free).
14 – Dance off
Nothing is better than belting out some old dance anthems, right? Rediscover your old Now compilations, and enjoy a family dance-off? Old VS young? Boys VS girls?
15 – Towers
Younger children love to build towers (and knock them down, obviously), so challenge them to build the highest Lego or Duplo tower imaginable.
16 – Put on a show
If you have any budding dancers or entertainers in the family, ask the children to put on a show for you. Why not Facetime some relatives to watch it too? This one should give you a couple of hours’ peace.
17 – Sticks and twigs
Collect as many sticks as you can. Think of a different adjective for each one. A thesaurus may be needed. For example, brown, gnarly. If you can, use them to draw in the earth and the sand – practise spellings / tables / equations. Or pop some googly eyes on them and create a family of sticks. Use the stick family as inspiration for writing, art or role-play.
18 – Rock painting
If you Google, ‘creative rock painting,’ you’ll find plenty of designs to inspire the children.
19 – Build a den
Who doesn’t love a den? Use cushions and throws to make a spectacular indoor den – the perfect place for a snack and a story. Or, if you have the space, try and make an outdoor den using only natural or upcycled materials.
20 – Bug hotel
Pinterest is teaming with incredible bug hotel designs. Use them to inspire the children to resource and create their very own creepy crawly heaven. Extend this further by asking the children to make promotional materials to advertise their hotel’s grand opening.
21 – Treasure hunt
Hiding a treat in the garden can provide hours of entertainment. If you have the time, leave a set of clues for the children to follow.
22 – Learn something new
The internet is bursting with generous offers from a range of businesses and organisations. For example, professors at Yale University are sharing their acclaimed wellbeing course with the world, absolutely free, and Fender are offering three months of free online guitar, base and ukulele lessons. Equally, many businesses are offering free, online yoga classes for children. The perfect way to start the day.
23 – Tracking kindness
#Coronakindness is trending. For those working parents with older children, ask them to come up with their 10 favourite acts of kindness in response to COVID-19. To extend this further, ask them to locate where in the world the event happened, or started.
24 – Salt dough
Younger children will love moulding, shaping and squishing this easy to make dough. Mix together: 1 mug of salt, 1 mug of flour and ½ a mug of water. You could use it to make Easter or Christmas decorations, or even hand or feet imprints. When the design has dried, it can be painted too.
25 – Wish jar
I don’t know about you, but lockdown has made me very reflective. My family and I have started to think about the simple things: the things we take for granted. Why not turn those longings into something positive? Each time you wish for something, whether it be to go to the beach, to see grandma, or to play in the park, write it down, decorate it, and pop it in your family wish jar. When the time comes, and life is back to normal, enjoy making each of your wishes come true.