As a parent, so much of our life revolves around routine. Sleep schedules, meals and snacks at certain times of the day, child care drop off and pick up times, and the numerous activities that we take part in.
But all of a sudden thanks to the current isolation requirements relating to COVID-19, many of our favourite activities are either closed or on hold until an indefinite date.
No more local playgroup, Mother’s Group, storytime at the library, catch-ups at the playground, swimming lessons, birthday parties or visits to grandparents.
So here at Toddle, we wanted to give some realistic, doable ideas for the types of things that you can do with your little ones from the comfort of your own home, while also getting some of your own tasks done.
If you have relatives or friends that you normally see, they might be missing you and your children as much as you are missing them.
Why not set up a video chat so that everyone can see each other’s smiling face? It doesn’t need to be a long chat, in fact, most children’s attention span would suggest a five-minute call would be ideal.
You’ll know your child’s moods and can suggest the optimal time for the call (for instance, many parents find their child is more open to this sort of activity in the morning just after breakfast).
Depending on the age of your child, the interaction from the other party could take the form of:
· Blowing raspberries and making silly faces
· Reading a short story to your child
· Watching your child make a creation with play dough
· Telling each other jokes
· Showing your child a toy or object that has meaning to them
· Enjoying a meal or snack at the same time and talking about what you are having.
· Performing a puppet show
· Bringing their pet on the screen to say hello
· Showing some photos of them with you and your child
There are so many fantastic videos available online of celebrities or authors reading children’s books. A quick online search for your favourite titles or authors will no doubt reveal some hidden gems that your child will love listening to and watching.
Download colouring in pages
If your child has a favourite film, character or superhero there are tons of sites that offer free colouring in pages to download.
If you’ve got a birthday or special occasion coming up, you’ll be able to find printable cards that the children can colour in. Think birthdays, anniversaries, Easter or Mother’s Day.
There is something about ice that kids just love, and if you’re after an easy way to keep them amused - this is it.
Grab any freezable container you have (tubs, empty yoghurt pots, ice cube trays, balloons or little plastic cups) and place a small plastic toy inside (keep the size of the toy large for younger children that still put things in their mouth).
Think mini figurines, toy animals, LEGO people, leaves or gumnuts, or just some glitter. Then fill the container with water and freeze overnight.
The next day, remove the ice blocks from the container and let little ones squirt them with warm water, throw them about, or whack them with a spoon to try and get to the contents. They could even play with them in the bath.
Sensory play doesn’t have to mean buying fancy equipment. You can create sensory experiences at home using everyday ingredients.
Draw the town
You might not be able to go to the café or the park, but you can have fun with this. Do you have some big rolls of paper or a cardboard box that you could open up?
Grab some markers and draw a map of your town on the paper. Add all of the elements that your child will know, such as their house, a friend’s house, the library, their favourite café, the supermarket, and their child care centre.
Use toy cars or toy people to drive or walk around the town and visit different locations. When they’ve had enough, pack it away to use another day.
Helping with chores
For older children, there’s nothing they love more than being useful. Use this time at home to teach them some skills that they might not normally get to do.
For instance, you can teach them how to measure out the washing powder and pour it into the machine. They can help you prepare a shopping list, perhaps by drawing the items required. Little ones often love jobs like dusting, especially if you’ve got a feather duster that can double as a fairy’s wand or a pirate’s sword.
Children of all ages love helping with cooking too. Allow yourself plenty of time for them to ‘help’ you throw the vegetable peelings into the compost bin, stir the cake mix, shake the salad dressing, or add the salt and pepper to the mashed potato.
Have you ever noticed how little children are often just as engaged with a piece of ribbon as they are with the latest educational toy? To them, everything is interesting.
So make the most of this and pull together a treasure basket for your child to enjoy, simply by walking around the house or garden and collecting treasure.
Whether it’s in a basket, a shoebox, or wrapped up in a blanket you can add things such as:
· Measuring spoons
· Tennis ball
· Mini spatula
· Measuring cups
Anything goes! Try to avoid using typical ‘toys’ such as teddies or trucks. The idea is to make other items more interesting and appealing by presenting them in a new way.
Give it to your child for a short time each day, around 20 minutes and watch them go through it piece by piece. Naturally, you’ll want to avoid any choking hazards or anything that you wouldn’t want your baby to put in their mouth. You’ll need to supervise them while they explore it, but it’s so much fun to watch.
If you’re missing the support of your own Mother’s Group, coffee group or book club, why not set up a time to catch up after the little ones have gone to bed? It’s so important to schedule time to recharge your own battery during this tricky time.
Free child care during COVID-19
Remember that as part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement (April 2020) child care is now free of charge for working parents. Visit Toddle.com.au to connect with your child care centre or a new centre. Remember, if you’re a frontline essential worker you can ensure that your query is flagged as a high priority.
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