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Coronavirus: How to keep your kids happy and learning during school closures

Sunita Ghosh Dastidar is a former secondary science teacher and masters student in Science Communication at Imperial College London. @sunitadastidar

See more of her content at sunitainscience.wordpress.com

Schools across the UK are closed for an indefinite period of time. How can you keep your kids entertained during lockdown?


Millions of children are off school due to coronavirus. Exams have been cancelled, and after school clubs are closed. These school closures are concerning many parents, who are trying to find ways to transition their children into life in lockdown. They won’t have much contact with their friends, and are likely to have to spend hours with their parents or guardians.

Create a routine for your child


As a former teacher, my advice is to keep to a routine. At school, children are used to
following a schedule, so making a framework for the day will help create normality and
structure. Let your child have a say in how their day will look. Together, map out how their
week will look. Ask them when they usually have snacks and lunch at school. It is important
to break the day into small frequent breaks. Breaks are important for productivity. I would
suggest small 15 – 30 minute breaks, depending on your child’s age. This gives them a
chance to reset and helps with their learning and focus.

Limit screen time


During these breaks, it can be tempting to rely on tablets, phones and TV to entertain your
children. It is important to avoid an overreliance on screen time as it has a negative impact
on mental health, and can disrupt sleep patterns. But, if they are used wisely, screens can
be a useful parenting tool. To prevent your child from over-indulging on screens, have
scheduled time in your timetable for screen time, and make it clear to your child for how
long. Still, there are days when it is easier to let your child watch their favourite TV show –
get through the day and go back to your routine the next day.


Keeping active


“Aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day
across the week,” say official NHS guidelines. It suggests that parents or guardians should
reduce the time their children spend not moving. Dancing to music can be an easy way for
children to keep active. Joe Wicks, the online fitness influencer, runs free online PE lessons
to help children keep fit during lockdown. Every weekday, at 9am, Joe holds 30 minute live
classes on his YouTube channel called ‘PE with Joe’. Exercise can have benefits for both
physical and mental health.

Continue learning


Some schools have begun preparing materials for children to continue their learning at
home, while many education charities, such as The National Literacy Trust, are also offering
free resources on their websites. Many teachers stress that parents and guardians should
continue to practice essential English and maths skills such as times tables.
The BBC have recently announced that, starting 20th April, BBC Bitesize Daily will deliver a
tailored day of curriculum relevant learning for children of all age groups. Tony Hall, Director
General of the BBC, says that the BBC is “are looking forward to ensuring every child can
continue to learn, and have fun, through our high-quality teaching and accessible education
offer.”


Here are three ways to learn and have fun:


Literacy

Comedian and children’s author David Walliams is releasing
free audio book extracts on his website daily at 11am, from
his ‘World’s Worst Children’ book series.


Science


Shelley Allen, Head of STEM at Burgess Hill Girls Junior School in Sussex, has created a series
of videos showing fun science experiments that can be conducted at home during
lockdown. The experiments require few materials that can be found in most households.
They include making a homemade lava lamp, a skittles rainbow and a coca cola volcano
eruption. The videos and written instructions can be found on the school website at
https://burgesshillgirls.com/news/four-fun-science-experiments-for-children.

Arts and Crafts


Fenwood House Day Nursery in Swinton shared a craft idea to keep children busy during at
home. Everyday ingredients such as plain flour, salt and water can be used to make a timestamped stone. This can then be personalised with decoration.
Instructions:

  1. Mix the ingredients to create a stiff dough.
  2. Roll out onto a hard surface. Sprinkle with flour to
    avoid sticking.
  3. Press handprints into the dough.
  4. Bake in an oven on lowest temperature for 3-4
    hours.
  5. Personalise with paints, then varnish to seal in any
    decorations.

Article by Sunita Ghosh Dastidar

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