The lockdown period has been challenging for everyone. Some because they are lonely and don’t have enough to keep them busy, and others because their household has never been so busy! Most if not all of our families will fall into this second category, because besides work and many other responsibilities – parenting is a full-time job in itself. Having little ones and keeping them entertained can seem completely overwhelming, but there are a few simple rules you can apply when spending time with your children.
The first and most important one is keep it simple! Don’t over complicate play time. The simplest activities are often the most enjoyable. For instance last night I went ‘moon hunting’ with my two pre schoolers in the buggy before their bedtime. It was the highlight of their day seeing the colours of the day sky meet the night sky and the big bright moon shining up above us. It was a real sense of adventure for them heading out in their PJ’s after dinner and bath. 15 minutes of uninterrupted time for them to ask me all sorts of questions. The fresh air also helped me a lot, and I forgot about all the tantrums they’d had throughout the day and the mess they’d made throughout the house.
Some other ideas:
- Simple Eye Spy around the garden – I spy something that is red, I spy something with wheels, I spy something that needs water to grow…. This can be kept so simple but can entertain little ones for quite a while.
- Hide and seek (inside and outside). This is always fun
- Making a face with the garden leaves outside (all you need is a paper plate and some glue or cellotape). Children love collecting ‘treasure’ from the garden, this is all part of the fun. Just encourage them to look for facial features (hair, nose, lips, eyes etc).
- Relay exercises. Running to the wall and back, skipping to the wall and back, hopping to the wall and back, crab walk to the wall and back, star jump to the wall etc. It wears them out and they love it.
- Making a cubby house with any boxes you may have at home (nappy boxes are a good one). You can also use chairs and put blankets over as a roof. This can be fun to play in, and a nice area for little ones to have their lunch or morning tea.
The second rule is the importance of quality over quantity. When your child is struggling to play on their own, is pulling at your ankles, or even throwing things on the floor and yelling and screaming– quite often they aren’t misbehaving, they’re just wanting some uninterrupted time with you. Sometimes stopping what you are doing (even if you are in the middle of dinner preparation or cleaning the bathroom!) and sitting down with your child for 5 minutes and playing with them will set your child on a different course for the rest of the day. It’s the ‘time in’ principle. So often when our kids misbehave, we send them to ‘time out’ when really what they need is ‘time in.’ 5-10 minutes of play with you is the fix they need (that’s no phone, no sending emails or facebook, no folding washing at the same time!). They have your attention and to them that is the most important thing in the world. By engaging with your child without any other distractions around, they’ll often carry on playing by themselves quite happily as they have had their ‘fix’ of mum and dad that they were so desperately wanting. And that allows you to get on with other important things. Remember quality over quantity, 5-10 minutes goes a long way!
It’s important to be kind to yourself parents! You are doing your very best, under very stressful circumstances and uncertain times. You are not a trained teacher, and it’s perfectly normal if you feel that this whole parenting gig is not coming naturally. It is hard work! We can’t wait to lighten your load when we re open, and help you navigate your way through this new ‘normal.’ Until then – remember to keep it simple with your children, and that ‘time in’ goes a long way.