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A Guide to Lockdown as a Family

Thanks to the government’s latest response it is clear we are now in lockdown mode at home for the near future and for many of us, this means with our kids. Here are some fresh ideas for how to keep busy (and sane) without leaving the house.

1. Keep a schedule and stick to it

As all parents already know, it is very important to keep a routine for children or bad behaviour can emerge. Creating a timetable for each week will help to structure their day and also help you, the parent in remembering schoolwork and covering a varied range of stimulating activities. You can download schedules for pre-school age here and primary school age here. There are tons of worksheets that you can download from BBC bitesize that are in-line with the current UK curriculum.

Your high school children will already have a schedule from their school including time-based homework assignments. We recommend studying together in the same room (i.e. at the kitchen table or dining room) so that the younger ones can take example from the older ones and you are on hand to help – however, if your younger children are too noisy and keep disturbing/distracting your older children then we recommend letting them complete their work in their own space (i.e. bedroom or den).

If there are two of you then we suggest regular parent swapping that looks something like 4 hours on, 4 hours off to help balance the load. If you are working from home then it will help you both get work done whilst the other takes up the lessons and supervision. It also gives each parent a break so that they can mentally and physically get refreshed before the next “shift”. Don’t forget to display your weekly planner in the kitchen or hall so that everyone gets to see it and no-one can forget what’s next!

2. Let them help with the cooking

Everything is a lesson and cooking is the perfect time to bond whilst getting help with your meal prep. Lunches can be made for self-assembly which will entertain the kids whilst also nourishing them, for example, these French Bread Pizzas or Cooking With Kids Salad-In-A-Jar which are great to make together with minimal mess!

Dinnertime can be a fun cooking lesson for children who are old enough, teach them how to read recipes and the importance of measurements and let them help with basic tasks such as chopping vegetables, mixing in a bowl, stirring in sauces and peeling potatoes.  Another way to keep young children occupied is to give them plastic containers and utensils to wash in the sink – this can provide lengthy entertainment while you cook.

You can find a full range of ideas for each age group in the BBC Good Food Guide here.

3. Keep on top of housework together

With all of you at home there is bound to be more housework to do to keep the place clean and tidy, so why not include your children in the upkeep and encourage them to complete chores in exchange for pocket money. You can scale the amount based on the age of your kids and by the effort required for individual tasks. 25p for emptying the dishwasher, 50p for taking the bins out, £1-2 for cleaning the car, etc. Now is the perfect time to enforce better hygiene standards in your household to prevent germs from spreading so whip out the cleaning supplies and all of you can get to work together!

With little kids, it’s easier as naturally, they want to do everything big people do, and with enthusiasm! With school-age children, you may find it harder but that is where a reward system comes in handy. A sticker chart or strip of vouchers can be a good incentive but remember, you can’t expect the job to be done as well as you would – there may be some bits of floor that weren’t mopped or perhaps the bed hasn’t been made as neatly as you’d like. At the end of the day, it all counts towards a better work ethic and teaching children to respect the space they use every day.

When you have older children and teenagers we recommend giving them tasks as and when they need doing rather than handing them a long list of chores that will seem overwhelming. Setting basic ground rules such as ‘make your bed when you get up’ or ‘bring your laundry hamper when it gets full’ will help get them into a good rhythm so that when a new job needs doing, it won’t be a big ask. You should aim to work side-by-side with them. Don’t give out directives while sitting on the couch watching Netflix, it’s supposed to be a family effort.

4. Freshen up your space

Now is the perfect chance to utilise your freedom and put your spare time to good use. Your home is going to be where you spend most of your time and usually we don’t get a chance to properly analyse the layout of our less-used rooms. Rearranging the furniture and changing up your bedroom, bathroom, playroom and other neglected spaces can really perk up your mood. Those niggly decorating jobs you’ve been meaning to do can finally be put firmly on your to-do list!

You may even find that your new routine requires a different space, i.e. bringing the bigger table into the kitchen so you can all work together or moving your bed to the opposite wall to get more sunlight in the afternoon, for example.

It is also important as we mentioned previously, to give each other space. This is new territory for your family, all being home at once using the same space – it may be helpful to set up reading nooks and activity corners away from each other to keep some peace.

Art and crafts activities are especially great tools for this as you can display your creations around the house to brighten up old spaces and the kids will appreciate having their work on show. Some great craft ideas can be found here and here.

5. Virtual Playdates

Everyone is in the same boat during this quarantine, so it may be helpful to find other parents and kids that yours are close to and arrange skype meet-ups. It can be useful for sharing ideas between parents and great for kids to socialise. Most families have smartphones, tablets, or computers with Facetime or video conferencing capabilities so choose a new activity each day. One day, your child and his friend can play charades via Facetime. Another day, they can build LEGOs together. They can talk to each other via Facetime as they build.  This is important for kids who want to stay connected to their friends but can’t get together in person. It’s also a great way to get kids active (and off the video games) for a little while each day.

Grandparents who are missing the grandkids would love this, as well! Grandparents may enjoy having a dance-off or may enjoy reading a favourite book to their grandkids. These are great ways to stay connected in these “stay home” days.

6. Stay fit with fun exercises

Exercise is still as important as ever and can be a wonderful way to break up the day from sitting at your desk or watching TV. Celebrity coaches and fitness instructors are offering online courses via videolink including Joe Wicks from “Lean in 15” fame. His first live workout was streamed by hundreds of thousands at its peak as schoolkids across the country experienced their first school day from home. You don’t need any equipment just a screen, an internet connection and some comfortable clothing.

If you have an outdoor space then utilise the garden as much as you can, even if it’s just a yard, the fresh air has multiple proven benefits for mood and mental health. Here is a list of ‘Home Workouts to Tighten and Tone‘ the body, plus 12 at-home workouts to do with your kids here.

7. Screentime is not the enemy

An optimal day for children, according to the health officials, involves a mix of physical activity, unrestrained play, a big chunk of sleep—and a very limited amount of time on screens. For children ages five to 17, the guideline is two hours or less. For toddlers and preschoolers over two years old, it’s one hour. For younger children, “sedentary screen time is not recommended.” We advise parents to involve children in setting limits on their tech use, and to monitor their own tech activity in front of children, too. We also suggest creating a routine for off-screen activity—there are enormous health benefits that come with replacing tech time with play, sleep, or outdoor activity.

In usual circumstances, it would be considered bad parenting to allow your kids to sit on their tablets and consoles all day but it’s important to remember that is how they connect with their friends during this rather lonely isolation. You can use online tools and videos for educational purposes and even schedule some screentime into your daily lesson plan, don’t worry about relying on electronics too much – we all need a break from time to time! You can even make a den or cosy nest together and have a movie night by setting up your laptop.

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