For the children of non-essential workers schools are closed. However, on-line teaching has been established and although the pedagogy is obviously different the curriculum is being adhered to. The programmes set by our schools must take priority over other proposed activities designed to relieve tedium and boredom. The suggestions I make below are meant to supplement what our teachers are continuing to do to make sure that our children continued to be educated.
The closer proximity of children to parents, many of whom are working from home actually means that parents can more effectively participate in their children's education by being involving in their learning and children can better understand the work of their parents and this situation may have a positive payoff for both when we resume normal activities.
The speed with which the Covid-19 outbreak has spread has changed all of our lives immeasurably. If you are a parent or in some cases a grandparent, suddenly confronted with how to cope with several months without schools, nurseries or, indeed, older relatives who can help with childcare day-to-day life changes and one must think about how to deal with this situation.
My home institution is the Institute of Education. Here are some down-to-earth suggestions from our staff to maintain "your sanity" and some of the ideas and tips put together to keep children of all ages (including adults one hopes!) "constructively-amused" and hopefully allowing you time and space to do your own work and keep you and your family an even keel. We have composed a list of on-line resources that can supplement the school curriculum and relieve anxiety and ennui.
Firstly, here is a list of resources for children of any age:
This group, set up by a mother and teacher who was looking for ways to entertain her children when they were in self isolation, quickly got hundreds of thousands of followers and is packed with tips and suggestions for what to do with your kids, as well as offering a hefty dose of moral support.
A website packed with five-minute ideas to keep your kids busy. Ideal if your working days have suddenly become an exercise multi-tasking in extremis.
Audible has announced that hundreds of children’s books will be available to stream for free, and you don’t even need to register.
Teacher-created planning and assessment materials, including daily timetables to support home learning.
Secondly, here are things to do with babies and preschoolers at home
Whether you are trying to fit your work around nap times or you've suddenly been confronted with the loss of crèches, you might be worrying about how to entertain a baby under the age of one if you can’t leave the house.
As babies grow older and sleep less they also need time for adult company and stimulation. Babies can entertain themselves for short periods of time but please always keep them in your line of vision when they are awake. Give a baby a basket full of safe kitchen resources such as wooden spoons, non-glass measuring containers, safe plastic implements and most babies will explore these for a period of time on their own with an adult close at hand.
The suggestion is to come up with ideas that engage different senses – ‘so for touch, you could try water play, you could pop a baking tray on the floor, add a little water and float a rubber duck in it – this will encourage tummy time and they will love learning about cause and effect too.’ (Babies and young children must always be supervised around water, no matter how shallow.)
‘Or for sound, create a circle of toys that make a noise, around your baby – this encourages movement during tummy time, or pre-crawling circles. You could pop some light foil over baby's legs and let them listen to the rustle and crunch as they kick. Or for sight, you could turn the lights off and run a shallow bath, add some glow sticks for a baby rave!’
Treasure baskets (see below) are simple ways to keep a baby entertained: ‘They are a great way of creating sensory experiences for your baby – take a box or basket and fill it with baby safe bits and bobs from around the house. These can include brushes with bristles to stimulate the sense of touch, shiny objects such as spoons or chunky bracelets to simulate sight, for example.’
Don't feel like you need to wheel out something new every day. As you probably know from experience babies absolutely love repetitive play as it helps to strengthen the synapses in their brain when they learn something new, so don’t tidy up activities, if it is safe to do so leave them out and let baby go back to them again and again.
If you’ve taken your child out of nursery, or they’re used to being looked after by grandparents who are now self-isolating, then they might be unsettled. But, reassuringly, most neuro-typical children are quick to adapt to change. They often take their lead from us, and if we’re feeling stressed or anxious (which, let’s face it, is a totally normal response right now) then they might notice that. The real question might be how will the grown-ups respond to the change in routine and then convey this to their young people? It’s unsettling for many of us we must all allow ourselves a period of adjustment and allow our children and young people to do the same.
And even though your child’s still quite young, don’t feel like you should be hovering over them every moment of the day. Children of this age need time to play on their own. Imaginative play, for example, is incredible at this age and it is important that children have this opportunity to express themselves and try out situations through play.
This doesn’t mean you need to buy a whole new range of things for your children to play with. You don’t need to buy any new toys as you can easily maximise the impact of the toys you already have. Toy rotation is extremely effective. Categorise your toys: cars, books, soft toys, dolls and so on. Leave out one category box and put the rest away – out of sight. Every week swap the box around and it’ll be like Christmas with new toys each time! You can also do this by theme if you have an older child (sea life, space, construction) and use different types of toys within that theme, a book, puzzle, soft toy.
Resources and things to do with babies and preschoolers:
Susie Robbins’ instagram account, which features great ideas for treasure baskets and games for babies and preschoolers.
Another great Instagram account filled with clever ideas and wonderful treasure baskets for babies to explore
Claire Balkind’s Instagram features great ideas for treasure baskets, as well as play prompts for babies.
Every day Tumble Tots are running free live sessions on their Facebook page at 10AM, which are available to watch later on YouTube. Perfect if you’re stuck indoors and you feel like your child needs to burn off some energy.
If you’d always fancied learning baby sign language or would like to develop your toddler’s communication skills, Unfortunately, this service is still not free. Tiny Talk are offering e-sessions for £4 a time in lieu of IRL classes. Use the website to find a teacher near you and view their weekly schedule…
Beautifully illustrated teaching resources that can be printed off at home and are available via a subscription service. Again, unfortunatelythis service is not free. There is a 25% discount during March
An Instagram account run by two primary school teachers, with great games for getting your child ready for school – perfect if they’re nearing school age and have been unexpectedly taken out of nursery.
Things to do with primary school-aged children at home
It might be tempting to launch straight into a full school-style timetable with your primary-school aged children, but you’ll find that could be too intense for most children. Do not try to recreate the school structure. It's impossible – the school day is based on having 20-30 children in a classroom, so you’re never going to recreate the rhythm of the day that they would have at school, in fact it’s going to be a lot more intense, if you’re playing with a child one to one, so it’s also important to make sure they’re going to play independently.
The key is to pick the right activity for your children – both in terms of the right level (find things that are a bit difficult for them, but not impossible) but also reflects their interests. This is your chance for your child to explore their particular interests and talent more – so if they’re really fascinated by dinosaurs let them do a project on dinosaurs, this is your chance to let them guide you.
We are all going to have to cut ourselves some slack over the next few months and respect individual space. Some suggest setting your children up with things they can run with for hours. One such activity is setting up junk fashion shows. Give them masking tape, bin bags and newspaper, it costs nothing, you’re being creative and interesting. If you’ve got a bit of outdoor space, get them to make their own fairy houses. Kids’ imaginations are amazing, if you set them up, they can go on for hours.
Resources and things to do with primary school-aged children at home:
Joe Wicks is promising to be the nation’s PE teacher in these strange times. He’s running daily live PE sessions for kids on his YouTube channel every day at 9am for free. This service is probably known to you and very popular with children (and adults who join in!)
Yoga and mindfulness (in the Zen Den!) for children aged five and up – perfect if your child is feeling anxious and unsettled at the moment.
The husband-and-wife team have started doing free art workshops on Instagram at 12pm on a Wednesday. Perfect for a child who is missing art classes, or an adult who could really do with 30 minutes of downtime…
Weareteachers.com have published this fantastic list of children's authors who will be doing live readings of their books while kids are off school.
Cypher is putting on coding e-courses for children aged 6-12, with four different groups within that age range. At £195, this is horrendously expensive, but include five 1.5 hour sessions with 4-6 students per class, so good if you’re hoping to recreate a classroom experience for periods of time. One hopes that they can provide a free or very much cheaper service to all.
If your children are learning to read using phonics, PhonicsPlay have made their site free to use during the coronavirus outbreak, giving everyone access to videos, games and flashcards.
STEM educators looking to make science fun for kids, their website is full of ideas for at-home experiments your kids can try while they’re off, as well as live online shows for £5 per child but again it is not cheap
The much-loved author’s website is currently offering up a plethora of lesson plans, quizzes and games, all based around his iconic books and characters, for children to use at home.
Things to do with secondary school-aged children at home:
Older children should have access to an e-learning hub and already have been assigned specific work and provided with a programme. Your job is to fit this into both you and the child's day. It is therefore important that you collectively work out your own schedule that takes into account their interests as well as yours and all the household tasks that need to be done. A secondary school teacher who was preparing students for months of social distancing last week explained that it’s important to take their fears about loneliness and isolation seriously. ‘We asked children what they were concerned about before they finished up on Friday, and they weren’t necessarily worried about contracting the virus, it was the loneliness.’ For this reason, she doesn’t recommend you instantly take away your child’s phone or Xbox, for example, as these are all ways they’ll be connecting with their peers and friends.
‘alk to them about what they’re worried about – reassure them that it’s normal to be worried at a time like this, but it’s all temporary and it will get easier as they get used to it. Give them an opportunity to show off their knowledge and skills, whether that’s in demonstrating some work they’ve done, or helping you prepare a meal for the family.
Use the opportunity to talk to them about healthy eating, get them to weigh out ingredients for you – things that give them a sense of responsibility and a chance to be productive. A routine is important – try to get them to get up and dressed at the same time each day and have regular mealtimes. Apart from anything else, it will make it a lot easier when they finally do go back to school.’
As with younger children, use your child’s hobbies and what they’re already interested in – if they’re in a band, help them set up their rehearsals via a video conferencing app, or if they’re interested in board games, a site like Dicebreaker (see below) allows them to play online with their friends. They can hone their language and cultural skills by conversing with peers in other countries who are also confined to their homes.
Here is a list of some resources and things to do with secondary-school aged children at home:
Create quick-fire quizzes for the whole family by topic or key stage, especially good if you’ve got a couple of competitive teenagers. You can sign up for free, and the premium version is currently free for teachers to sign up to.
The free language-learning app breaks things down into fun, bite-sized chunks.
A bit niche, but if your child is a music student, the music composition tool is offering free 90-day licences of their creative tools at the moment.
The publisher is offering free 90-day trials of their digital learning and teaching services, including digital versions of their textbooks.
Google is offering virtual tours of some of the world’s leading museums, galleries and cultural landmarks – including the Tate, the Eiffel Tower, the Pompidou and the MOMA in New York. The list is growing fast
Allows your child or teenager to connect with and play board games with friends and family members they can’t see IRL at the moment, online. (You can have a go yourself!)