Practical tips to engage children during lockdown , especially for working parents
We know that the pandemic has been challenging for most families, but it has been especially hard on those families with children….
With the schools closed, a sound plan to keep the children engaged indoors in a meaningful way making sure they are not glued in front of a screen for long may seem daunting !
It’s hard for the working parents to balance both work and family, & especially for working moms juggling between work and kids, meeting the expectations of both can be very exhausting without a proper planning.
What can we do about this ?
Here are some simple practical hacks that are useful not only for children to keep them engaged in a productive way, but also for parents to maintain their work life balance with ease.
Keep reading to know how !
First of all, let’s talk about how parents can set some boundaries to keep up with their work without disturbing their family life more comfortably :-
1-) Communicate Expectations
Communicating with your employer about the struggles you are facing during work from home, can go a long way !
When you talk to your boss before hand that you have kids at home, and when you attend a call from office, sometimes, it might be interrupted, this will put some pressure off your shoulders !
Also, whenever possible, request a flexible work hour so that you can schedule your work when the kids are napping or busy for few hours.
At the same time, Communicate with your kids regarding your work schedule ; the time during which they cannot disturb you,
Giving a heads up to your kids before attending a call from office will let them know that if they need any help , they need to wait or do it themselves…
2-) Take Turns to Help
In the current times, while practising social isolation, you can share the load with your spouse or the other family members. While you remain busy with work, your spouse or other young and healthy family members can also engage the kid indoors.
Since it’s likely that both you and your spouse are working from home, schedule your and your partner’s worktime so that while one works, the other can look after the kids.
3-) Set up a workspace
Use a separate room (in which you can close the door) or set up a space for your work where there are no distractions.
If you create a small space for your work, you will be able to focus on your work more peacefully & can manage worktime and family time more effectively, whereas, if you juggle between work and kids together, it will be highly stressful for you .
4-) Take “hug” breaks
Don’t work continuously for long hours, take a 10 minutes break from work after about 1 hour, & give hugs to your kid or just taking a break to refresh yourself ; asking your kids how they are doing, is a great way to not just release your stress, it makes the kids feel great too ! When kids know that mama is attending us time to time, they are happy & less likely to cause any ruckus while you are working…
5-) Set boundaries
While you are working from home inside a room, you can hang a don’t disturb card on the door (especially when you are doing something that requires lot of focus or attending an important call), so that, family members know that they need to keep the kids away from your working room,
And with older kids, keep in mind that if there’s any problem, or fight among siblings, they need to solve by themselves.
6-) Pre-planning your day
Pre- planning your schedule before a day is a miraculous saver of time and effort !
I have seen my mom pre-planning for everything !
Be it for the next day meals, for any trips, even during these times of lockdown, she pre plans buying essential groceries, etc so that there’s no last minute hurry at all !
I am sure all moms are great at this !
Make a list of the things you need to do the next day,
Your work schedule, baby’s feeding time, napping time, which activities they will be doing, online sessions, some small preparations ahead of time goes a long way giving you the benefits of both work & leisure time making your life a lot more easier and stress free.
Its important to learn to take care of yourself first & meet your own emotional needs before you can meet the needs of your child !
Don’t underestimate your need to give yourself the time & space to take care of yourself.
Do anything that makes you feel better everyday ! Taking a walk, Listening to music, Talking to your loved ones, Watching TV.
Give yourself the luxury of time first!
8-) Exercise and stay fit
Exercise together to stay active even when indoors. Short sprints across the halls and fun dance workouts are a great way to release energy.
Parents can get the kids to help out and join in their daily workout or devise simple exercises that they can do together.
Skipping rope, spot-running and jumping are activities that are easy to do indoors.
Infants can enjoy tummy time and massages a couple of times a day.
Getting up early and doing some fun workouts every day keeps you active both mentally and physically . It releases endorphins and other good feeling hormones boosting your mood making you ready for the day…
Make it a habit to exercise every single day and see how much that sweat pays off for you !
You will be amazed at the amount of work you can actually finish easily when you are happy, healthy and active !
9-) Enjoy nature
Being housebound all day can get boring at times. The whole family can spend some time outdoors in the balcony, terrace or home garden without leaving the house spending some time appreciating the beauty of nature, breathing in fresh air. Getting some fresh air and vitamin D is vital for proper growth.
Give yourself a break from work and go outside ( terrace or your garden) to enjoy nature !
It helps you to calm down your mind and prepares you well enough for the next day ! Try it !
Children can help water the plants, count the flowers, or pick herbs from your green corner at home. Watch their eyes fill with wonder and amazement as they explore the variety of leaf designs and textures.
10-)Spend some quality time with kids each day
Spend some time with your kids, preferably before starting your work. Cuddle up, tell stories and play with them without any distractions.
By doing this, kids will not crave much for your company and will happily play later on.
Activities to keep children engaged at home :-
1-)Establish a Routine
It is important to keep children busy at home and establishing a routine will make that easier for you. Make a time table and stick to it.
This will help you plan and manage what your child is doing throughout the day. It will also go a long way in instilling discipline in children, while also giving them a sense of purpose.
2-) Enroll in Online Activity Classes
Take time and try to understand the interest and hobbies of your kids. Accordingly, you can enroll them in different activity e-classes such as General Knowledge, Art and Craft, music classes, etc.
Participate in different summer camps.
Give them a specific fun task to do based on what they have learnt in the activity class. This will help to channelise their energy while doing something creative and productive.
You can also subscribe to an audio app for children like Audible, where children stories are shared in a fun and engaging way.
3-)Setup a Creative Space at Home
Consider setting up a creative space for your kids with lots of craft supplies such as paper sheets, glue, tapes, kid-friendly scissors, glitter, craft kits, etc.
Encourage your kid to create something new every day using those supplies.
Prepare a list of art and craft, or other creative indoor activities for the day or the entire week in advance.
You can arrange a few craft supplies (some colour papers, pencils, sketch pens, scissors, glue, etc) for the particular tasks of the day, or ask your child to arrange for the day on your kid’s creative space to avoid a mess.
Activities can be :-
▪️Painting with pom poms
▪️Decorating boxes, and many more…..
This activity is self engaging and it can keep kids busy for hours building their creativity, imaginative and expressive skills, fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, praxis, imitation skills and concentration .
It’s very important that we appreciate their work, by showing off to every one how beautiful your kid’s work is, giving them hugs, hanging their paintings on the wall, or keeping their crafts at some special places !
These small acts can build up a strong self esteem in your child and also encourage him/her to do more creative work.
4-)Encourage a new hobby:
You can help your child pick and develop a hobby.
Hobbies don’t have to be conventional. Offbeat hobbies like
▪️Conducting experiments at home
▪️Learning a musical instrument
▪️Gardening and even,
▪️DIY activities like building your own telescope are great ways to engage your child..
Hobbies aren’t just good distractions, they help develop your child’s concentration levels, teaches self regulation and channelises their energy in highly productive ways instead of sitting for long hours infront of the screen.
Origami for example, helps improve working memory and hand-eye coordination. A lesser known fact is that Origami and Mathematics are very closely related and your child can learn anything from measurements to fractions using Origami.
When your child shows you any new piece of art/craft he has created or any new music he has learned to play, show lots of enthusiasm, sit with them, ask- “what new things have you learned today?” encourage them to do more…
If you show your interest in their creations, they will be more than happy to not just keep themselves engaged productively with the hobbies, but will become much more disciplined in the house.
5-) Creative Play with Toys
Encourage creative and pretend play with toys.
You can arrange some toys for children to play on their own or group games with you when you have free time.
Toys like blocks, magnetic blocks, playdough, magnetic shapes, etc are the easiest & excellent ways to enhance your child’s creativity requiring a minimal amount of prep time.
Encourage them to build different things like houses, roads, flowers, animals, etc using their imagination and from the picture guides.
Free play with these toys can help build a child’s visual perception skills, eye hand coordination, praxis, problem solving skills, imaginative skills
& also can engage your child for hours.
If your child is about 5yrs or older, encourage them for pretend play or telling stories using dolls, kitchen sets, doctor sets, toy animals & birds.
Alongwith the above activities with playdoh, blocks, etc, pretend play helps develop role play, thinking processing skills, language skills, creative story telling, etc.
The above activities require very less preparation time, are self engaging and have tremendous importance for development of different areas of your child !
Give them a try !
Especially during these times, parents can definitely try out the above activities, it not just keeps your child busy, it gives you enough time to focus on your work without any hassle , and relax your mind as well !
6-) Engage them in age appropriate Household chores
Kids love to be of help !
Engaging your kids in household chores everyday, helps build their confidence, self esteem, gives them a sense of worthiness & makes them more responsible, confident and independent adults ! It also teaches them important life skills & promotes a healthy parent-child relationship.
Give your child 1 or 2 simple tasks every single day- that is age appropriate to him/her and they should complete the same task every day. Appreciate when they do well & when they complete the task on their own.
Give them small rewards like- their favourite dish on weekends, or playing their favourite group game or letting them watch their favourite movie if they consistently finish the task assigned to them for a week.
Tasks can be anything like:-
▪️Filling up water bottles
▪️Cleaning up their desk after finishing their studies or art/crafts
▪️ Cleaning up their room after playtime, etc.
7-)Meditation and yoga
Practicing meditation and yoga every single day helps relax the mind and body and develops a strong immune system.
Which is very important during these times…
Make it a habit to get up early and practice meditation for about 15–20 minutes every day. Involve your kids also to do so (if they are old enough). You will definitely notice your mind and body getting relaxed if you practice meditation everyday.
Kids will become much more organized, calm and productive when their mind is relaxed.
Show them different pictures/videos of breathing exercises for kids like bhramri (buzzing bee), kapaalbhati(bunny sniffs) to create interest in them…..
Practicing Yoga can help build strength, dexterity, flexibility, body awareness and self esteem.
8-) Outside play
Since parks & schools are closed, what children miss out the most is outside play with friends.
Play is the most important form of learning for children and is essential for development of all areas of your child !
Encourage different kinds of animal walks, jumping games, obstacle courses, ball games, balloon games , group games whenever possible !
If outside play is not possible everyday, plan for some kind of jumping activities, animal walks, ball games, balloon games indoors and plan outdoor games on weekends.
Make them fun & competitive with rewards for the winner !
Participate with your kids to have lots of fun, it will keep you healthy, active and refresh your mind preparing you for the next day and week !
Get your kids to move !
They love it !
Involving in these kind of play activities is very essential in their early years of life for development of gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, emotional and social skills. So, inorder to reduce the screen time and dullness in the child, they must be engaged in different kinds of movement activities !
You can find different creative ideas in Pinterest, Facebook parenting groups, YouTube, etc. Make a list of them for a whole week in advance and it will be much easier to follow.
9-) Virtual Socialization
Since schools are closed, children are deprived of interacting with their friends in real and it might take a toll on them !
They might be feeling frustrated, lonely, anxious, insecure and unable to express it fully leading to behaviour problems like throwing tantrums, irritability, disintrest in activities.
Letting them talk to their friends through video conference calls, or allowing them to play online games for short periods of time under your guidance can help them release their stress and have fun time.
10-) Nurturing Culinary skills
Getting kids into the kitchen is a great way to cultivate their budding independence and instill healthy behaviours for life. Cooking can be a pleasure for children of all ages. Start with the basics such as :-
▪️ Preparing sandwiches
▪️ Setting up simple breakfasts such as cornflakes/toast butter jam.
▪️You may also teach them how to wash fruits and vegetables or
▪️ Help them master the art of garnishing.
Also, take necessary precautions in the kitchen and keep hazards like hot pot handles, hot food and liquids, sharp or heavy utensils away from the children.
If involving children in kitchens is difficult with your busy schedule during weekdays, then plan out for the weekends, let them help you out with these little tasks.
Lastly I would like to say that, although we all are facing some challenging times, it has also given us an opportunity to be with one another, to know our family better.
If we focus on the positive aspects that this period has given us, we can stay happy and when our kids see us happy and positive, they will be happy as well !
To all the working parents reading this article, you got this !
Stay Happy !
Stay Healthy !
Stay as Optimistic as you can !
Stay Home !
My name is Abhipsa Parida.
I am an Occupational Therapist and I have been working with special kids since 5 years.
During these challenging times, it’s quite difficult for working parents to maintain balance between work and family, and this article was requested by many parents.
Enjoy reading !
I am sure the practical tips suggested here will be very valuable to all of you.
Happy parenting to all my readers !
If you have any questions, you can mail it to me at :- email@example.com .