Updated: Aug 26, 2021
2020 was no doubt been an extremely challenging year for everyone. Lockdown has presented some tough challenges to parents with working from home and being tasked with around-the-clock childcare.
As children worldwide continue to settle into an online learning routine and spend most of their time at home, many have also begun to exhibit mental health challenges. Our children are experiencing fewer opportunities for active free play. They are spending more time on passive devices such as the iPad or watching tv, etc. Passive play doesn’t require our children to use their imagination. Rather than them exploring feelings and experiences in 3D, passive play is about absorbing another’s imagination. Children have a natural tendency to “act out” their own experiences. It’s how they make sense of their world; when they do so, social learning occurs, and they begin to understand things like cooperation, competition, empathy and perspective-taking.
We sometimes overlook children’s experiences, but changes in their routine as significant as those we’re currently experiencing during this pandemic can significantly impact their mental health and overall development. We must dedicate some time to take them out of the digital world and try to find some sense of “normal” in the middle of a pandemic, so let’s put the iPads away and go analogue with these activities!
1. Explore Nature
Place a piece of sticky tape on your child’s wrist (sticky side out) and go to your local park for a walk. Let them collect leaves and other items to stick to the tape and make a nature-themed bracelet. Bring notebook and crayon/pencils in hand, and draw the trees, plants, flowers and observe what’s budding. Collect rocks and paint them or write a message for loved ones.
2. Arts & Crafts – Build-a-pet
You’ve heard of build-a-bear, but I bet you haven’t heard of build-a-pet! Yes, that’s right, build a pet, any creature your child can fathom! Encourage your child’s imagination, a cat with straw legs and a poofy tail? Why not?!
You’ll need a shoebox, craft tools, pompoms, googly eyes, construction paper, feathers, pipe cleaners and anything you can find around the house!
3. Let’s get Physical!
Balloon tennis! No racquets? No problem. Draw a line in the middle of the room and use your hands! Each person that misses scores a point. Perfect for giggles and great for hand-eye coordination.
4. Can we go to the park?
Yes! Bring some old pillowcases for a Potato sack race! Work on your child’s motor skills, and an old game with a few old pillowcases does equal endless fun.
5. Let’s Race!
Since you’re already at the park, why not have a three-legged race too! Team up in an adult and child combo and see who wins! Winners get ice cream on the way home!
Parents often find that it is easier to leave their children to play on their own. Children can occupy their own time with their toys or that they (children) sometimes even prefer it. This time in the pandemic offers an opportunity for you and your child to grow closer together. While it can sometimes be frustrating to teach your child something new, or even managing a tantrum, try to cut them some slack. The pandemic has been brutal on our little ones too. Guide them, model the behaviour you would like to see and practice playing. Yes! You read that right; practice playing with your children by setting aside some time and picking one activity to work on.
Remember to stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands often and practise social distancing when interacting with people outside of your bubble.