Surviving Self-isolation with the kids
A few friends of mine, self-employed parents, have this month called and uttered those dreaded words no-one wants to say and no-one wants to hear, for fear it may spread to them too.
"The kids have had a potential Covid outbreak at their school."
An intake of breath followed by a sigh and then overwhelming sympathy because we now know what this means - fourteen straight days at home with the kids.
If lockdown number one was challenging this is the second round without the novelty, without the sunshine, without the "it’s so good to have quality family time though, isn’t it?" But at least the schools are open. Until they’re not because a child coughed. Quarantine is so much worse than lockdown 2.0.
For us working-from-home parents, expect to feel as if you are letting everyone down every day. Juggling work and children is difficult in normal circumstances, let alone with work and children flying around in the same room!
So recently, I’ve been going over some of the things that worked best last lockdown when we were surviving self-isolation with the kids.
Here are a few ideas on how to keep the kids entertained and stay sane(ish).
In the first week of the last lockdown, we dug out our old Nintendo Wii and got competitive playing table tennis, bowling and competing in Just Dance. I hate gaming, but this active gaming is so very different and I think this will be even more of a lifesaver in the winter.
There is now, of course, the Nintendo Switch but we haven’t yet upgraded. Add it to my Christmas list! Meanwhile, we are doing game exchanges with friends to keep it interesting.
Cosmic Kids Yoga has also always been a favourite of ours and my daughter has loved it since she was 3, and is still enjoying it at 7 years old. Head to YouTube to join in with the Cosmic Kids yoga taught through fun stories with child-friendly poses. As this is an independent activity (and a quiet one) it provides a great opportunity to catch up on work while the kids are occupied.
Craft is key to surviving self-isolation with the kids. I have to admit, I’ve lost some of the energy for carefully planned out projects. To be honest, I’m not sure how much my daughter ever really enjoyed it. She’s far happier if I empty craft materials onto the dining table and allow her to get creative. Not as creative as I have to be when I find new ways to compliment her creations, but it keeps her happy and she doesn’t need me to hover over her. She gets lost in her own little world, especially if I put Kids Radio on for her.
However, Christmas is one of those rare times we may be able to to create crafts with the kids that we actually want to put up. Usually, I’d never dream of doing anything for Christmas before December, but desperate times and all that. Decorations can be really fun to make together - Christmas bunting, salt dough ornaments, felt ornaments. We’re attempting a Christmas wreath tomorrow so check back with us because if it goes well we’ll share our techniques with you next week!
For Christmas present wrap we opt for the more eco-friendly brown paper because most wrapping paper is non-recyclable. However, it can be a bit dull so why not use self-isolation to let the kids loose with some stamps, creating seasonal patterns on the paper?
Ready, Steady, Cook!
I love cooking with my daughter. During lockdown though, we stepped it up a level. I’d let her go through my cookbooks, pick out what she wanted to eat and then we’d make it together.
Surprisingly, kids are great assistants in sushi making. They love filling it and then rolling it up. There’s quite a lot they can take part in. Making your own Pizza is also great fun because everyone can choose their own toppings.
You could also take this one step further and put on a dinner date night. I haven’t done this one myself, but I saw some great pictures online of either the kids dressed as waiters giving mum and dad a restaurant-style service. Or vice-versa the kids all dressed up being served candlelight dinner by mum and dad. You know what they say ‘if you can’t go to the party, the party must come to you.’
International Experience Day
This is great for when Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam are doing your head in (what’s with that firestarter Norman anyway) and you need to escape to another world. Travel may be restricted but the imagination is not. Pick a country and make a day of it - Mexican Day, Italian Day, Japanese Day. We dress in clothes we might wear in that country, play traditional music and make traditional food. We’ll also do activities or play relevant games. Here are a couple of examples to get you started:
Dress in the flag colours
Learn Italian for ‘hello’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and use them all day
Find Italy on the map
Look Italy up in an encyclopedia or the internet and prepare three facts each to share over dinner
Play Italian music
Make your own pizza
Watch Horrible Histories ‘The Romans’ whilst eating Tiramasu
Dress in Kimono or other Japanese styled clothes
Learn Japanese for ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and use them all day
Play traditional Japanese music as you attempt origami
Look Italy up in an encyclopedia or the internet and prepare three facts to share over dinner
Make Sushi (it’s easier than you think and kid-friendly)
Snuggle up to watch Spirited Away
Use What You Have (life-hack included)
It’s easy to panic and stress about the kids being bored and climbing the walls, but wait a minute! Why do we always feel like we are surrounded by kid’s stuff? Oh yes! Because we are surrounded by kid’s stuff, whatever they might claim.
Now, like me, you may have been on the receiving end of ‘I don’t feel like playing with my toys’, ‘I’ve played with all my toys’, or ‘my tops are boring.’ Well, I have a life hack to share with you. Ever notice how as soon as you start to have a clear out the kids become overwhelmingly attached to things they’ve not looked twice at for years?
Whilst I’ve learnt now to pack boxes for the charity shop behind their backs, I’ve also discovered that this works the other way around. That’s right - the old fake-sort-out for the charity shop that will see them proving so hard that they love the toys you claim they never play with, that they’ll amuse themselves with them for the rest of the day. This works equally way with board games. Beware, this technique will not be as effective if used to frequently so please use responsibly.
In my household, we call this Saturday night, but it can be on any evening and start in the late afternoon. The best thing about this one is that, if you can pull it off, it’s nice and relaxing for you too. Theoretically, this shouldn’t be different whether you have boys or girls but age will play a part. What you’re going for here is a good old sleepover vibe with all the creature comforts and the fun games. Maybe not horror films and Ouiji board though, they can scar themselves for life when they’re older and with their friends.
Make dinner easy and maybe go shopping for snacks together (if quarantine allows). On these nights we break the rules and tend to have a floor picnic whilst watching a film or having a good natter. We play a question game to find out more about each other like ‘what’s your favourite…(flavour of ice cream, animal, band etc)’, ‘who is your icon’, ‘what’s your best memory’, etc. In traditionally bonding I allow nail painting and we do facemasks (the kind you don’t associate with a virus, hopefully). Pyjamas are mandatory and we usually watch a film snuggled in a blanket as we each eat our favourite snacks (popcorn for me, pringles for her).
I really believe that my daughter will remember these evenings as much as she remembers holidays and school plays. Especially as a single mother, this puts aside really proper bonding time and reminds us that she may be 7 years old and I...well...older, we are great company for one another.
There are so many great ideas for keeping the kids entertained when they are off school and you're all having to quarantine. Hopefully your child's school has sent them home with some work to do and that will keep them busy. In terms of getting them to do this work, well that's a whole new challenge. Here's some extra ideas through to inspire them in their free time:
Many of us self-employed parents have become so in an effort to balance working life with family life. So it's no surprise that 2020 has really been a challenge because it's thrown working and being parents into the same place at the same time. If you're having to quarantine (and hopefully you're not poorly), I hope the above ideas help you keep balance.
Self-isolation with the kids, especially when you're working from home, is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole. You're Alice, getting bigger, then smaller. Feeling like you're crazy and also the sanest person in the world. The important thing to remember though, during all the madness and frustration, is that the title of the story still begins with 'Alice's adventures'. Sometimes the most turbulent times turn out to be our biggest adventures.
So please share your ideas for surviving self-isolation with the kids below. And, as one parent to another, may the odds be forever in your favour!