So many of us lead such busy lives which involve a crazy number of logistics … jobs / school / childcare / clubs / mealtimes / maybe squeezing in the odd night out. This means long periods of uninterrupted time with our nearest and dearest are rare.
With the spread of the Caronavirus, families around the UK are facing potential lockdown or self-isolation. This is quite frankly for many, an overwhelming thought. What the hell am I going to DO with them? We will go CRAZY stuck inside together. Many will be working from home and face juggling parenting with work as we are thrown into home schooling mode.
So how do we turn this challenge into a positive opportunity? Can we flip how we view this? … It presents a pretty unique opportunity if looked at in a different way. How often do we get the chance to spend uninterrupted, quality time with our family? Not that frequently. Life is full on. Why not embrace it while it lasts?
It’s all about taking control. We are feeling incredibly vulnerable right now which kicks in all kinds of anxiety. If we can take control of our own personal situation we will feel FAR better about things.
So these are my top suggestions …
WHERE TO START:
No. 1. Draw up a blank timetable for each day / the week. , with either hour / half hour blocks. I’m going to make it roughly the length of the school day so there is plenty of down time built around it too. But you can make it fit the hours you want it to.
No. 2. Brainstorm. Get a big piece of paper and write down all your ideas for how you would like to / need to fill your time. (loads of ideas to come).
No.3 Fill in your timetable with what is going to happen when. Kids like to know what is going on when (as do we), it makes them feel secure.
No. 4. Set boundaries / expectations. Just as at school, they do not watch screens all day, they do a variety of learning and playing etc, the same is going to be done at home. Emphasise the fun they will have.
This is an example of possible day:
HOW DO YOU PLAN WHAT TO DO?
With kids aged 4+ I would start by having a family ‘meeting’. Make it round the table with drinks and snacks in the middle. Everyone could have their own pad and pencil in their place. Make them feel important and responsible.
Explain what you are doing (making a plan for the week / fortnight / longer). Talk to them about how it might be tough at times but it is also going to be brilliant fun.
Talk about stresses and boundaries and how at times it will be too much. What will you do then? (I’m going to give suggestions further down).
I’d do it in this order …
What do you actually HAVE to do? For work? School? Life ? Whack that on your brainstorm paper first.
Next … what would you really LIKE to do? That you never get time for normally? You can really think outside the box here. (again lots of ideas about to follow!)
Lastly .. what are winners for your family? What are they into that you could get prepped for and schedule in? (Lego? Colouring? Baking?).
RIGHT! THE IDEAS.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO / HAVE TO DO.
Do you have work to do? If so, you need to be realistic. It is going to be hard to work with your kids about. You may be able to get a couple of hours in during the day (could be a movie opportunity for the children) but you may be squeezing work into the evening instead. This is not ideal, but it will massively reduce your stress levels during the day. If you try and work with your kids around you will keep getting interrupted. Parent guilt will be kicking in which always makes us feel uptight.
Have the kids got homework to do / music practise etc etc? When is the best time to do this?
Housework. Children have the capacity to destroy a house in the blink of an eye. Schedule cleaning and tidying into your timetable. When my children help with jobs, I always use the oven timer (or Alexa) to time them. They usually have 15 mins to do whatever job they are helping with and they have to try to do it before the timer beeps. It usually works! Then they do one more job for another 15 minutes. I find half hour is the max before moaning kicks in.
I’ve also got a few ‘cleaning games’ that I tend to play with my youngest (who is 3). These involve ‘the great dust hunt’; ‘cobweb detectives’ and ‘mop it up’. I’ll expand 😊…. ‘The great dust hunt’ involves putting on a pair of woolly gloves. They then have to run their fingers over surfaces and any they find dust on (it sticks to the glove) they then dust with the duster. ‘Cobwebs detectives’ involves wandering round the house with a duster seeking out and destroying cobwebs! ‘Mop it up’ … pretty simple, we have a tiny mop so when I mop they help. I usually get them to go along the cupboard lines as the little mop is really effective on the edges!
If they house is relatively clean and tidy(ish), stress levels will be much lower.
THE FUN BIT.
What you would LIKE to do? You are going to have the opportunity to really explore something that you might never get time for usually.
Encourage your small people to think outside the box. These are my ideas so far …
- LEARN A NEW SKILL.
My daughter frequently tells me she wants to learn the piano but so far we have done nothing about this. There are some fab tutorials on YouTube teaching piano. My plan is to grab a tablet, find a good tutorial, set it on top of the piano and let her start. This can then be put on the planner. We might even schedule in a concert for her to show off her new skills by the end of the week.
Skills can obviously be ANYTHING, it does not have to be musical. It could be keepy uppies, gymnastics, knitting, loom bands, making bread, yoga, martial arts …. Anything at all! You tube is so useful for learning and with kids aged 4ish+ they should be able to do at least some of this independently. If they are younger, you can work on a new skill together.
COMPLETE A CHALLENGE.
This can mean anything you want it to! My kids enjoy a challenge so I’m going to put this into our time table. I will probably link ours to an educational goal so we are tackling some school work. So spellings / maths etc. It could be a reading challenge. For younger kids it could be a play doh challenge, a food based challenge, a phonics challenge, a tower building challenge, a balloon challenge … working on catching – how many times can you pass the balloon to each other without dropping it? Anything at all. I’ll probably make up a sticker chart to reward them when they practise. Have you heard of Mims and Family? They make AMAZING badges which would work brilliantly as a reward for completing a challenge. Well worth checking out. www.auntiemims.com @mimsandfamily.
- PROJECT TIME.
Kids tend to love a project. Get them to pick their own theme … dinosaurs / gardening / The Victorians / Space …. Whatever they are into. Or it does not have to be one theme at all, it could change daily. Get a scrapbook or re-purpose an old colouring book / magazine / activity book and go for it. Many of us have lots of books at home but if you don’t, take a trip to the library before potential isolation and stock up. We went at the weekend. I got some for me too (I love a project as much as the next person!). They can trace pictures, print things from the internet, find out cool facts … whatever they like. Stick everything in the book as they go and see how the project evolves.
This is so important. Just like dogs we all need a good walk every day! If we can’t actually leave our property but are fortunate enough to have a garden, get out there for the exercise. Ideally you want your kids running around, stretching out their muscles and raising their heart rate. A great way to do this, even in a small space is to set up an obstacle course. They can do this themselves or help you to. Eg: run from one fence to the other, skip to the back door, jump up and down on the trampoline 10 times, do star jumps next to the gate, hopscotch to the washing line … you get the idea. If the exercise needs to be done indoors, you can do exactly the same thing in your house. You can time the laps, get them to mix it up, do it backwards. Whatever. And you should definitely join in too. They will love it and you are going to need those endorphins 😊.
Joe Wicks has brilliant home HIIT sessions aimed at kids on YouTube. These are well worth checking out: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=joe+wicks+kids+workout . This would be a great way to start the day.
There is also some fab kids yoga on YouTube … check out Cosmic Yoga: https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga @cosmickidsyoga . She is amazing and also teaches them mindfulness … calmer kids = win!
‘If in doubt, go out’ is a favourite mantra of mine. This is obviously going to be much trickier but hopefully many of you have some access to at least a little outside space. Gardens tend to be pretty neglected in early spring and you can get your little people helping to make it a tidy and fun place to hang out again. Sweep up the dead leaves, wash down the patio, fill the pots with fresh compost, possibly paint the fence … the shed … the garden bench. Order in seeds and pots (or go and get them now in readiness) and start planting. These will need to be kept on an indoor windowsill for now.
Play! Chalks, ball games (I read someone that one of the best things you can do for your child is play catch with them every day. They will gain strong hand-eye coordination which will help them in all areas of life). Make an outdoor den / fairy house. Do some outdoor science experiments (making a volcano is fun) … https://sciencebob.com/make-your-own-volcano/ . Make mud pies / witches potion etc etc. Give them some pots and bowls and a spoon and some access to mud and then quickly make yourself a cuppa and watch from a distance 😊. (Loads in our GROW bundle on outside play and garden projects and EXPLORE for dens and fairy houses).
- INDOOR PLAY.
So many options here.
‘The great bookathon’. We have a lot of books in our house. Some are favourites which are read all the time, others have not been off the shelf in months. Why not try and read them all? Together or independently. Whatever works best is your family.
Board games. Not original but actually a great way of passing an hour or two. Have you got any you have never actually played?
Puzzle Race. A favourite game of my 3 year old is ‘puzzle hunt’ which come from the @fivemmintemum book ‘Give me Five’. I would HUGELY recommend this book if you have pre-schoolers, it is packed with ideas of really simple things to do together that you both will enjoy. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Five-Minute-Mum-minute-people/dp/0241443628/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2SKBSCZWIK2HB&keywords=five+minute+mum&qid=1584352132&sprefix=five+minu%2Caps%2C797&sr=8-1
Our version of puzzle hunt involves getting all the peg puzzles out and wrapping up each piece in newspaper. We then mix all the parcels up and place the puzzle boards in different parts of the room. We then take it in turns to unwrap each piece and have to run to the puzzle it belongs to and put it in its slot. It is loads of fun 😊.
Tuff Tray. Have you got one? If not, you might want to nip out to B&Q. These offer so many opportunities for different play. There are some fab ideas here: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/ClaresTots/tuff-tray-ideas/
Cards. I came across these cards at a baby event last week and they look ace. They are called ‘Play Prompts’ and if you are feeling particularly stuck for inspiration they would be a great help … @playprompts https://playhooray.co.uk/products/playprompts
Paper games. The good old pen and paper offers a great opportunity for play …. Battleships, noughts and crosses, how about learning some origami or making a fortune teller? This is a 'no mess' quick win.
Play dough. Simple but effective. Fancy making your own? Try adding scent, texture, glitter etc. (we have a whole section on this in our CREATE bundle).
Make your own board game – Get each of your kids to design their own and then play them together. Encourage them to include dares / forfeits / advantages if you land on certain squares.
Baking. Most kids love baking. Our family favourites are shortbread, brownies and scones. I’ll put the recipes out if you fancy making them with your clan. (See TABLE TIME and EXPLORE for loads of inspiration).
Make a camp / den. So simple. So effective. They often spend ages building it and then playing it in so you might even get 5 minutes peace 😊.
House safari / treasure hunt / trail. With my youngest, we often grab a pair of binoculars or a magnifying glass and go round the house ‘on safari’. Essentially you are spotting animals and plants around the house. They are everywhere … flowers on wallpaper, soft toys, piggy banks, soft toy animals, book covers … you will be amazed how many ‘wild animals and plants’ are under your roof.
Treasure hunt. For older ones write out clues to lead them to an object or another clue. This is fun to make. Once you have made one for them, encourage them to make one for you / each other.
For younger ones, give them a visual tick list of things to hunt for around your house / garden. (There is a pre-made one in COSY).
Craft. This is kind of endless really! It depends how adventurous you are feeling 😊. Junk modelling is always popular and it essentially involves emptying out the recycling and seeing what they can create. This book is amazing for this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Am-Not-Toilet-Roll-Recycling/dp/1783124067/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=kids+craft+book&qid=1584353546&sr=8-4
There are loads of craft ideas here: https://www.happinessishomemade.net/quick-easy-kids-crafts-anyone-can-make/ which are simple and quick.
And a fabulous book which might just get you through, particularly if you are not a natural crafter is ‘Quick crafts for parents who think they hate craft’. It is brilliant! @emma_scottchild. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quick-Crafts-Parents-Think-Craft/dp/1785042483/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1H5Q2HP9I88KS&keywords=quick+crafts+for+parents+who+think+they+hate+craft&qid=1584353723&sprefix=quick+crafts+for+%2Caps%2C240&sr=8-1
We also have a whole family bundle linked to being creative (CREATE), full of pre-planned ideas by the artist Jenny Leonard. Her ideas are amazing.
RANDOM IDEAS THAT COULD FIT INTO ANY CATEGORY:
Food. Kids eat, A LOT. Why not get them involved? They could be chef for the day / meal. Get out the recipe books and let them pick something to cook. (See TABLE TIME).
Letter writing. Encourage them to write to their friends / Granny / cousins. They could start a whole pen pal relationship which could carry on post isolation. Receiving a physical letter in these days of screens and instant messaging is a pretty wonderful thing.
Talk. Yes, I know, there will be plenty of noise. BUT, try and initiate conversations where you all get to know each a little better. Here are some suggestions to get you started …. https://findingtimetofly.com/conversation-starters-for-family-dinner-time/
Play date via Skype / WhatsApp / facetime. Why not schedule in a virtual playdate? They can chat to their friends and ‘play’ (again, another opportunity for a cuppa?!)
Disco. This does not have to be a loud crazy affair. You could a) make it a silent disco where they dance to their own music. OR you can put much more chilled music on and have a ‘calm disco’ where you dance in a relaxed way together. my daughter loves me playing the music from Swan Lake and she just dancing round and round in her own world for ages!
Music. Do your kids enjoy rhythms and music? Then encourage them to make their own band / instruments and they can jam along with their favourite songs. (See HAPPY for so much more on this).
Read ALL the books. I popped this in earlier but it’s worth saying again.
Make a photo album. Go through your phone and choose a selection of photos to get printed via an online printing company. When they get posted back you can let your kids make up a photo album / scrapbook of a special event or just day to day things you have photos of. (brilliant template in CREATE for this).
Colouring. Such a simple thing but most kids love it. In my family we simply google whatever they want to colour in… eg ‘cute puppy colouring’ (my daughter) and print a few off. This definitely buys you some quiet time wins.
Declutter. Can you encourage your kids to go through their stuff? Is there anything they have grown out of? That another child would benefit from? It can feel so good to get rid of ‘stuff’.
Random acts of kindness. The time is ripe for this. Can you put together a care package for an elderly neighbour? Give someone a ring who may be stuck inside with no company? Write a letter / draw a picture and post it to a local care home residents? What ideas can your children come up with?
Meditation / mindfulness. This offers an excellent opportunity for some quiet downtime and if you schedule it in every day you are starting to help your kids form such a positive habit. Cosmic Kids can help with this (link above) or this is a great place to start… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5RkzsbaPiE
Positive statements. How is your child’s self esteem? And your own? If you think it could do with a little boost, a great thing to do is start using positive statements with them. This is beautifully effective. A wonderful resource for this are YesMum cards created by the amazing Hollie de Cruz aka @yesmummum . Check them out here: http://www.londonhypnobirthing.co.uk/shop/ they are brilliant.
Gratitude and Journaling. Something my children stated last summer was gratitude journaling using the ‘Happy Self’ journal. It is absolutely fab and I could not recommend it more … @happyselfjournal https://happyselfjournal.com/products/happy-self-journal?utm_source=google&utm_medium=ppc&utm_content=The+Happyself+Kids%27+Daily+Journal+For+Boys+And+Girls+Aged+6+To+12&utm_campaign=&gclid=Cj0KCQjwx7zzBRCcARIsABPRscP42ancuCd3HFv0oMk2F6YlBJ7K8SsXb9Jmvw96JrCpR8YsacFgXgUaApf8EALw_wcB
- SCREEN TIME.
I’m not going to put this into my main ‘time table’ because it is bound to happen later in the day when we are all knackered and sick of the sight of each other. I would imagine we would end up watching a movie at the end of each day. (I’ll probably hide in the kitchen and drink wine at this point!). And older kids will want to play screen-based games.
WHAT TO DO IF IT ALL BECOMES TOO MUCH.
It is going to be intense hanging out together so much more. But these ideas might help relieve some of the pressure.
Make a code word in advance. This sounds a bit mental I know, but if you let your kids know it in advance (or you can choose one together), they know when they hear it you are nearing your limit. My one right now is ‘BEETLEJUICE’ (it feels really good to shout it 3 times in an American accent!!). My kids find it hilarious and it tends to break the tension nicely 😊. My son’s current one is ‘chicken nugget’!!
Secret spots for everyone. Carve out a timeout zone or ‘secret spot’ for everyone (in advance, not when everyone is cross). Get them to make them themselves so it is a positive place they want to go to. This can literally be some cushions in a cosy corner with some books / colouring / a puzzle / a few toy cars. Everyone can retreat to theirs when it feels needed.
Have an early bath. Is it 5pm but you have had enough? Pack them off for an early bath and then jammies. This change of environment often helps everyone calm down and then you might even get them to bed earlier.
Breathe. This works. When you are feeling the stress, step away and take at least 5 really deep breaths. In through your nose for as long as feels comfortable and then out through your mouth as slowly as possible. Place your hands on your tummy and feel it rise and fall. Try and get your kids to do the same. ‘I breathe in calm; I breathe out tension’ is a great mantra to repeat while doing it.
Have a hidden chocolate / treat stash. Sod hoarding loo roll, this is WAY more important.
Calm app. This is a brilliant app. It is fabulous to give you some time out and helping you to switch off. It would be a great resource to help provide some chilled time in the evenings. @calm / https://www.calm.com . (They are doing a free trial at the mo).
‘This too will pass’. Be kind to yourself, you are doing your best. If you lose it sometimes, that is totally normal. Don’t beat yourself up.
Positive statements. These can be a great way of boosting your resilience. Rather than ‘What is going wrong’, try and consider ‘what is going right?’. Statements such as ‘I am doing my best, and that is good enough’. ‘I can do this, I have what it takes’. ‘I’m capable of amazing things’ are a good starting point. You literally need to repeat them to yourself as a mantra. Perhaps write them up in your kitchen and mumble them to yourself like a madman when things get a bit rough 😊.
Grab some ‘me time’ where you can. For me, I thrive on a sense of achievement. I struggle when I have been with the kids all day and I feel like I have achieved very little. A really effective way I have found to overcome this is to exercise first thing in the morning. I do a YouTube Joe Wicks HIIT class most mornings before the school run. They are roughly 20 minutes, he properly works you out and I feel SO MUCH BETTER as a result. I have achieved something before the day has really begun. Boom. I will definitely be doing this if we are isolated. I also like using YouTube for yoga and mindfulness. (Yes I am obsessed with YouTube). Whatever 'me time' means for you, make sure you give yourself some.
HOW CAN I HELP MORE?
It would feel daft not to mention my resources because I have been dropping links to everyone else’s left right and centre. The Positive Family Academy produces awesome family ‘bundles’. These are online resources for you to enjoy with your family. They all include video workshops with leading experts in their field, downloads, printables and a huge number of activities to do together. They are all themed differently and come under headings such as COSY, CREATE, GROW and EXPLORE. They get sent straight to your inbox so you can get cracking straight away.
I have slashed all my prices so they are accessible to anyone and everyone who would like a little help. Each bundle can be bought for £1 (normal price £6.99) with the code SENDHELP and will provide you with hours of pre-planned activities. If you would like all 8 bundles, these can be bought for £5 (would normally be £56 to get all 8). They range from outside games to inside art and a huge amount in between. They will keep your going for hours and they are all designed to be done in the home. I really hope they are of great help to you.
Good luck everyone and I hope you find plenty of positives in the bonus family time.