For many parents, home-schooling has finally come to an end, which brings with it perhaps mixed emotions – the joy of our children seeing their friends again, tempered with a slightly eery silence around the house. If, like me, you’re running a business from home, the return to some kind of routine is welcomed. I can finally cross off genuine ‘to do’ tasks on my list rather than reflecting on the day, then writing down and crossing off at the same time what I actually achieved! Seriously, tell me I’m not on my own here?!
Keep the plates spinning and have some fun
By the time this article is published, the school Easter holidays will have either already begun or be about to start, so that’s another 2 or 3 weeks keeping a multitude of plates spinning, not least entertaining the children, and managing the business. One of my biggest concerns right now is how to organise things so that the school holidays don’t feel like ‘just another lockdown’. As rules slowly begin to ease, here are some top tips to keep those plates spinning, and dare I say it, even have some fun!
First off, ditch the guilt! News headlines don’t make for good reading right now – from the impact of too much screen-time, to children missing out on learning, but the fact is, as parents we’ve been doing the absolute best we can.
I bet there’s very few people reading this who haven’t at some time over the last year heard the smashing of plates as they hit the ground. It’s not the end of the world – we pick the pieces up, and we carry on. Note the word ‘calm’ doesn’t feature here – let’s be realistic!
Don’t panic, you can’t keep them entertained everyday
Talking of which, don’t panic! I’m writing this as the holidays approach, and feel a rising tide of fear within me as to how on earth I’m going to manage my work deadlines, keep my child entertained, and squeeze in some much-needed time for myself. I don’t have all the answers, but here’s something I do know – what children need right now, is play, play, and play.
Even if you’re concerned about children’s ‘lost learning’ believe me when I say children naturally learn through play, so if you focus on the play, then learning will follow.
That doesn’t mean it’s up to you to keep them entertained every day – that’s not just unrealistic, but also gets in the way of nurturing their own imaginative skills.
There’s a lot of science to back up how boredom stimulates creativity, independence, and problem solving, so when you hear those two words (I’m bored) hold your nerve – children are great at finding things to do on their own, and unstructured free play is the best kind of entertainment there is. They’ll get the hang of it soon enough, and you may be surprised at how little their choice of play revolves around screen-time too.
Easter Holiday Entertainment
Having said that, it’s always good to have a few play ideas up your sleeve. Here are some of my favourites:
- Have a boredom buster lucky dip jar – write play ideas on lollipop sticks or strips of paper, and pop them in a jar. Next time boredom comes along, direct children to their lucky dip! Ideas could include drawing a self-portrait, building something that floats, doing a random act of kindness, creating an object from cardboard boxes beginning with the letter C, or creating a maze from sticks and stones. Top tip: Getting children involved in suggesting activities makes it more likely to be successful!
- Holidays are a great opportunity for children to learn basic life skills such as washing, cooking, laying the table, or simple DIY. Very young children can match up pairs of socks (great for colour/pattern recognition); older ones can help you with cooking, or plan weekly meals, helping with shopping and budgeting – this is a favourite for my 14-year-old.
- Take it in turns to show and/or teach a screen-free skill to the family. This could include tying shoelaces, colouring in, playing football, or singing. It’s a great way to build confidence, and improve communication skills. Why not share one of your business-related skills?
- Try a treasure hunt with a difference: Alphabet – find objects beginning with each letter of the alphabet, or cut out each letter and hide them around the garden. Community – a hunt outside asking questions about the local area e.g., what colour front door does No 6. have? Or create a series of QR codes to hide. Each code is a clue to solve, until the final one reveals where the treasure is!
- Rather than sticking to familiar walking routes, take a die with you, and roll it to make decisions about where to go next e.g., rolling 3 = straight ahead, 4 = turn left, 5 = turn right, and so on. See where you end up!
- Get the children to draw round each other’s hands on paper, cut them out and walk around the house or outdoors measuring ‘how many hands’ particular objects are, comparing the difference between hand sizes.
- Shadow Art – place plain paper on a flat surface outside, and arrange the favourite toys around the edge of the paper. As the shadows are cast, trace the outlines – add in details later. Extend the activity to create a shadow puppet theatre!
- When children are watching TV, turn the subtitles are on. It doubles the chances of them becoming a good reader!
- Collect together everyday items such as paper, buttons, bottle tops, paper clips, cardboard tubes, fabric offcuts, and crayons – create a handy ‘go to’ box for free play on a rainy day.
There’s no need to over complicate play for children of any age. It’s often the simple things which give the most enjoyment, and can entertain for hours, leaving you to get on with the business in hand, or even enjoy some play time yourself!