This week, we’ve gone from five days of school for my six-year-old, four days of nursery for my three-year-old and three days in London for my husband to all of us being at home all the time. I’ll be honest, I was terrified by the prospect, and now that schools are closing, there’s going to be a lot more of it ahead. But we’re a few days in, and I’ve learned a thing or two.
1. It’s good to have a schedule
The first thing I did was break the day up into hour-long chunks and make a schedule, which includes creative time (baking, craft, art, writing stories), quiet time (reading, audiobooks, jigsaws, board games), academic time (downloaded worksheets, projects) and exercise time (park, garden, trampoline, online yoga). I think this helps me more than it does them, although I do believe kids like routine. I found the idea of the whole day, yawning and empty, really overwhelming. But an hour of this and an hour of that feels much more doable.
2. It’s good to abandon the schedule
On day three, we abandoned the schedule. My son was moaning about it and I didn’t have the energy to fight. Plus, I reasoned, if I let him choose what we did, he’d probably cover most of the bases anyway, just in a way that made him feel more in control. So we went to the park, we made up a story, we read books and played with kinetic sand and watched a film. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I have the schedule to fall back on, but I don’t feel like we need to stick to it rigidly every single day.
3. It’s good to get creative
We’re in this for the long haul, I reckon. Our kids will miss interacting with each other. I’ve started something in our school Facebook group where any child can post a video setting a task for their peers (write a story about a given topic, draw a picture of your favourite book character, find out some interesting facts about a historical figure or a place or an animal) and anyone who wants to can take part. It’s a nice way for them to see one another and feel like they’re part of something. There are loads of ideas like this popping up. Display your artwork in the windows for kids out on walks to spot. Build something different with Lego every day for a month. Find the ones that suit your kids, and get started.
4. Reach out to friends and neighbours
We all need one another to get through this. It’s going to take a village. We’re in self-isolation right now and I’ve asked friends locally to do the odd thing like picking up a prescription or a cucumber, and as soon as we’re out of it, we’ll repay the favours. One good thing that’s coming out of this nightmare is a great sense of community. I’ve seen people offering to walk others’ dogs, teenagers offering help with childcare and our local conservative club has turned into a hub for people to drop off food to be delivered to those who need it.
5. Make use of the internet
The resources available online are incredible. From worksheets and activities to virtual museum visits to free streamed plays and stories, the internet is going to be your friend through this. I personally think we’re all going to have to relax our screen-time rules, especially if we want to get anything done. Share the best ideas you find with your network. Together, we’ll get the kids through this trying time, and they might even learn something they wouldn’t have learned at school.
6. Get strict on snacks
If your kids are anything like mine, they will whine for snacks all day, every day. If they’re going to be at home for weeks on end, you need to have a system. Mine is this: each morning, I put a selection of snacks for each of them in plastic tubs and put them on the kitchen side, where they can reach them. I also fill two water bottles so we’re not using hundreds of cups. They can eat their snacks whenever they like, but when they’re gone, they’re gone. And it’s working pretty well. Another option I’ve seen is to draw up a price list for different snacks and give them a daily allowance.
Good luck, fellow parents. You’ve got this.