Updated: Apr 9
Lock-down and extreme measures to try to reduce the number of daily cases have left parents having to juggle between work, homeschooling and trying to keep their children away from passive screen time as much as possible.
Here are some ideas on what to do:
1) Pick something new for them to learn: rollerblading, cycling, skate-boarding, skipping, hula-hoop, badminton - or anything that doesn’t require for them to touch other things apart from their own!
Playgrounds aren’t the safest places to play in at the moment (in some countries they are even temporarily closed) since many children and adults touch the facilities. But when kids cycle or rollerblading, for example, they only use their own things. A garden or a public or private place are fine: just choose a time of the day with less people around.
2) Get an interactive book. Parents are often busy, between work and household chores, so they can’t always be there to read a book or to teach something new. Books with interactive pens are a great way to entertain your children teaching them something new. Try books with interactive pens that teach languages or read stories.
3) Get a CD player and some good story books or children's music. I know that CDs are a bit out-of-fashion but I was so pleased with my purchase a few months ago. I got some exciting stories for my child and some music he likes. Now when he asks if he can watch something I tell him to listen to a CD instead - and he loves it.
Since then, when he is bored, he picks up a story or his favorite music and puts it on by himself. He doesn't need to ask my permission, like he would do if he had to take the tablet. And, with the tablet, there would anyway be the temptation to switch to a cartoon. This really helps him to learn to listen and pay attention to details. Now we have a little bit of a CD collection, from detective stories to CDs that teach about history to music that he can dance and sing along to.
4) Make crafts together. You don’t need to be artistic, I am not. But thanks to books on the subject or Pinterest - or simply one's own imagination - we make things and children can be very creative. The last thing we made was a spaceship with a big carton box that once contained a new fridge. The box had been lying around for a week before I had the time to make it, but it was worth it. But sometimes you don’t need much: just some string, blu-tack and a random object will do. We made a “laser” maze in the corridor with objects to avoid.
5) Engage your children in activities that you like, exercise together, dance together, put a song on that he or she likes, cook together. It may take much longer than usual but it will be instructive and rewarding.
6) Play a board game. They are available are for most ages. I have been playing board-games with my son since he was three, starting from something really simple like Zingo or Dobble or Rino or Sneak It. Once you teach, children can play with others or there are games they can even play by themselves, like patience: all you need is a deck of playing cards!
7) Even if they can’t go out or if they aren’t allowed to meet other people there is no reason why they shouldn't keep learning what they like. Enroll him or her in online lessons or select some YouTube tutorials. If you can afford them, opt for a tutorial lesson, as kids will be more attentive if they know the teacher is watching them. I know it isn’t exactly screen-free, but they would look at the screen only when they need to listen and then go back to practicing. And I don’t classify this in the same way as passively watching a cartoon. I have enrolled my child in online drawing, dance and piano lessons and they all work well. But I have seen that you can now find almost any kind of online lesson, from language, to cooking, to craft to even football. A lot of them offer free lessons or free trial lessons at the moment. 8) Practice what they are learning online or what they learned before. I always assign a little bit of time every day for my child to practice what he learned.
9) Read them books or, if they are old enough, buy some books they will love. A book about something they love so they will be interested in continuing to read. I know that there are a lot of simple books written for children to read, but choose the right one. Some of them are particularly nicely written. 10) Get some educational toys, some are made from recycled materials and kids can be entertained for hours.
11) Teach them about plants and let me start a little garden, where they can see plants starting to grow.
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About the author:
Violetta Polese is a journalist who has written a number of guidebooks, including City Trail Guides to Hong Kong, The Netherlands and Sudan. She has also written for National Geographic and other well-known Italian publishing houses. She is now completing a new book “Hong Kong with kids” to inspire and encourage parents to discover all there is to do with children in Hong Kong. She is a licensed tour guide in Hong Kong who loves sharing her passion for and knowledge about Hong Kong. She is passionate about travelling, languages, nature, cooking and different cultures. Asia is where she finds herself most at home.
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