In these uncertain times with self-isolation within families and social distancing from the wider community, I’ve put together a really practical and helpful stay at home survival guide for parents to use while their children are at home. I hope you find it helpful, spread it far and wide with others.
Stay clam, playful and optimistic. We can do this together!
For many people this is the first time we’ve had our children all at home together for such long periods of time, without holidays and travel involved. The weeks and months ahead may therefore feel really daunting, even overwhelming.
I can understand that feeling too, but I think it helps to be calm and remind ourselves we can TOTALLY DO THIS and we are perfectly suited to the task ahead. Yes, it will require a period of settling and adjustment to new routines and preparation will be your friend here.
Let me help you get started with this simple guide and don’t forget, you will also find me sharing DAILY PLAY and LEARNING IDEAS over on my Imagination Tree Instagram feed (where I often chat to camera behind the scenes and show you how-tos and set up videos too.) Also, I am going to open up the doors to my private membership site for parents PlayLab EARLY so that new members can hop on board and have weekly advice, videos, training and materials from me directly. This will be a great stress reliever as I will do lots of the work for you! Hop on over here to sign up to register your interest now, ready for when the doors open in the next couple of weeks!
Ok, let’s start our Stay at Home Survival Guide!
Firstly, take the pressure off yourself. You do not need to be perfect at organising timetables, fun activities and teaching material. It will absolutely be ok if some things slip for a while. YOU know your child the best and WILL be able to provide well for them during this period, including their educational development. Their teachers will give some guidance and there are plenty of ideas online for a lifetime of learning ideas. Kids are amazingly adaptable, including being able to catch up again with their learning. This is not forever!
If in doubt, keep it PLAYFUL, fun and as active as possible as this is the proven best way to learn and retain new information. This could look like running around the house to hunt for hidden phonemes/ sight words against a timer, instead of studying boring worksheets, for example. This will also help keep them moving as much as possible which is very important when going out is no longer an option.
I DO suggest stocking up as early as possible on loads of basic sensory play materials and learning resources.
Everything in this list will be useful in making play dough, slime, cloud dough, salt dough, dyed rice/ pasta, scented sensory play materials, sensory writing trays and LOADS of creative art activities. This combination pretty much covers all bases! Find the recipes themselves in the archives here and in my Sensory Invitations to Play Cards.
These are inexpensive but really useful to have handy in the cupboards for the days when you want to pull your hair out with frustration! If in doubt, ditch everything and get messy!
This list of learning materials will obviously depend on the age and stage of your own children, but it covers a good range from approx preschooler to older Primary school. These are versatile resources that can be combined in a variety of ways to make all kinds of DIY learning through play games and activities. You’ll find the ideas themselves in the archives here (scroll down) and over on my daily instagram updates. PlayLab members will get them delivered directly on the membership site too.
MAKE A PLAN
Planning ahead will also be your friend here. Make a loose schedule for the weekdays and then be sure to plan in sensory play time and open-ended too. This will help everyone feel calmer and aid relaxation as the pressure will be off you to think on your feet. Here is a suggested week-day plan for children of school age. It might look very different in your home and some days you may skip everything for a day climbing trees or having a Harry Potter movie watching marathon instead maybe!
I can’t say exactly how long each session would be as that would depend on your breakfast and dinner times, but I’d imagine around 30 mins per activity in the morning, with 10-15 minute breaks. And then longer stretches during free play and creative/ science projects in the afternoons. Read aloud time works really well straight after lunch while they’re still at the table, for about half an hour. This can also be an audiobook, of course!
Plan for long periods of open-ended play, quiet time and creativity. Kids are brilliant at play, so provide them the tools/ space/ time and let them get on with it! The sooner they get used to this, the better this part of the day will be.
The best thing we can do with them is get them out into nature (unless they are showing symptoms of course.)
Find wide open spaces in the countryside such as nature trails, empty beaches or the woods and let them run wild climbing trees, building dens and burning off as much energy as possible.
Even if you can’t get outside or go further than your own garden/ yard, its possibly to get creative with your movement games.
Have a mini Olympics, make obstacle courses inside and out, jump on the trampoline, have disco dance parties, make up silly walks, play computer dance games etc!
Watch some kiddie yoga online, do stretches or family HITT workouts.
UTILISE SCREEN TIME
Screen time is not the enemy, it’s a useful tool!
I suggest planning it into your daily schedule for times when you need a quiet period for your own planning/ admin/ online shopping/ work etc. You need some space from each other to keep the routine (and peace) flowing well.
Also, watching movies can be turned into an educational activity by asking them to rate them afterwards and complete movie review sheets! Watch nature and science documentaries, create projects based on the topics learned. Shows like Horrible Histories are a great springboard for fun projects.
This is really important as it helps keeps kids calm and focused. It’s a great stress and anxiety reliever too, which will be very beneficial with the daily news updates and worries.
Stock up on sensory ingredients and dedicate a time of day to this. You can also move sensory play to the bath or garden for better containment if you’re worried about mess.
Use the checklist above and then find my Sensory Invitations to Play cards full of recipes to help! (These are currently 25% off to try and help make them as accessible as possible to everyone.)
READING & WRITING
Audiobooks will be fantastic during this time, as will read aloud time together. Try reading in a makeshift fort, in the dark with torches, while they’re in the bath or outside.
Find new books and review them for other kids online.
Write a book diary, make bookmarks, make a library role play area at home, read TO each other, read poetry and use all these experiences to inspire some writing too.
School aged kids can be fantastically independent in their writing projects. You just need to offer some inspiration with open-ended prompts such as: write a story/ comic/ quiz book/ poem/ book review/ information-based project etc.
Keep it purposeful and fun, it does not need to look like “school”. Writing real letters to family members and friends that you can’t see in person will be both fun and meaningful.
Older kids could set up private YouTube channels and share ideas there with their friends online!
Make use of the myriad of great resources online. Let THEM be the teaching tool and guide you need.
Keep the art supplies freely available and they will surprise you with their creative ideas! Save recycling and encourage them to make towns/ junk models. homes for their toys/ pretend gadgets etc.
Painting, drawing, sewing, paper mache, salt-dough and clay modelling are all great on-going projects.
Watch YouTube for tutorials on learning new skills eg crochet, sewing, tie-dye, weaving etc.
Play music, put on shows, dress up, create costumes from newspaper, do face painting, do talent shows, learn stop motion animation- the list can be endless!
A cardboard box is endless fun for all ages- just be creative with what you add!
Creativity involves lego, photography, cooking, trying smoothie recipes, having bake-off contests, creating projects for other kids.
Create loads of art then finally put together an exhibition! Take photos and share with family members via WhatsApp or online.
So many possible ideas- ask your children what they love to do the most!
This is by far the best thing your children can do, especially when in balance with some learning time. Give them some dedicated space for play and schedule it into the day.
Make resources available and include plenty of loose parts for play as these are open-ended and can be used in a myriad of ways.
You could do learning all morning then creative projects, free play and screen time in the afternoons for example. This model would work well and be really easy to achieve.
You could theme the weeks so that there is a different focus eg talent show to work on one week of afternoons, science fair to prepare the following week etc.
Get the whole family involved in some of these big games and challenges- it will be a great stress reliever and lots of fun!
Grow beans, make lava lamps, make fizzing potions, play with water beads, make slime etc.
Search Pinterest for so many ways to investigate using household materials!
Design and make your own science fair at home!
I have plenty of ideas in the Imagination Tree archives to keep you busy for a long time! Here’s a quick list of links to the deeper archives:
Finally, keep in contact with others through phone calls and FaceTime. Encourage each other and share great ideas and tips that you find online. Let’s keep communicating and laughing through it all and we can get through this together, even when physically apart. I am hoping your elderly loved ones are kept safe.
If this Stay at Home Survival Guide has been useful for you, please consider passing it on to others as this helps me as well as them. Thank you! x