Ordinary magic: the power of pandemic parenting

Alex O'Donoghue

Written by Alex O'Donoghue

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Comforting reminders for tired parents

We believe in the power of parenting. And play! Combine the two and you have a winning recipe for feeding your little one's brain with all the right stuff.

So do you need a crash course in education for your children to thrive?

“No,” says Rachel Carey, an occupational therapist and mother of two small boys in South Africa.

“Children learn most through play that is free, spontaneous and fun. Given a safe, clean, nurturing environment, they will drive their own development and learning.This is particularly true for younger children. They are learning through experiential play and their sensory systems - touch, hearing, sight, and so on.”

EasyPeasy is about supporting parents to better connect with their little ones, using play for enhanced learning. And giving a bit of advice here and there for parenting pain points. We're in awe of the job parents are doing during lockdown, and want to take a moment to remind everyone that pandemic parenting is just as good as pre-lockdown. 

Our 4 takeaways for parents

  1. You were already your child’s biggest influencer before coronavirus. With children spending up to 70% of their time amongst family and community, much of their learning is shaped by parents and carers - who don’t necessarily realise how influential they are.

  2. You don’t need expensive toys and structured activities – early years learning takes place in the most ordinary ways.

    Don’t pressure yourself to design a busy schedule or master activity plan every day. Simply allow your children to lead play and learning through their own curiosity. If you're stuck for ideas, check out our tips for making home a more inspiring play space.

    This might mean setting up dedicated areas with different, rotating toys. It can also be as easy as sitting near your children while they play, affirming what they do. Enjoyment needs to be a priority when learning.

  3. If you play, read and sing with your children, you are doing an excellent job.

    Although this sounds simple, and it is, it is also important not to feel guilty if you don’t feel like spending all your time helping your child to learn. Parents need breaks, too, and time for themselves, particularly during self-isolation. Self-compassion and connecting with other parents is enormously helpful.

  4. Children learn best by being involved in learning, actively engaging with their environment, and trying lots of different activities.

    They grow skills simply by talking with their parents, playing together and getting involved in what older people are doing (like cooking). Think about your daily life as the perfect school for your child.

It's OK to take a break

Putting your children in front of Frozen while you hide in your bedroom is also a perfectly natural response during the day! Just try to engage and be present with them where you have the capacity. You and your children don’t have to get everything right, all the time, day in and day out.

And on days when it feels like everything is failing, remember 4 golden words: this is not forever.

Fun ideas for brain building

1. Imaginary Safari

Learning goal: being imaginative

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How to play: 

  • Turn a room into an 'imaginary safari': you can create a fort or den out of chairs as your 'lookout'.

  • If your child doesn't understand the word 'safari' you can say: "we are looking out for animals".

  • Make pretend binoculars with your hands and scan the horizon; ask your child what they can see.

  • Encourage your child to describe the scene. Build on their ideas - for example, if they spot a giraffe, point out its long neck.

  • Keep looking out for lots of different animals and jungle activity.

  • Tip: Prepare for the game by looking through pictures of animals and naming them together. Or you can play with toy animals so your child feels inspired with some animal ideas.

2. Body tracing

Learning goal: Self-confidence and self-awareness

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  • Ask your child to lie down flat on a large piece of paper on the floor and put on some relaxing music.

  • Trace gently around the outline of your child's body with a pencil and comment on their body parts as you go. Show your child their outline and draw in their smaller body features as you describe them and name them together.

  • Tip: This is a great opportunity to introduce new words - e.g. 'the thigh is the top part of my leg' or 'the ankle is the boney bit which joins my leg to my foot'.

3. The Laundrette

Learning goal: shape, space and measures

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  • Put out some washing and ask your child to help you separate it into two piles: white clothes and coloured ones.

  • Explain that if white clothes go in with the coloured clothes; they change colour.

  • Praise your child when they sort things the right way. When your child is finished, ask them to put the white laundry into the washing machine.

For further support and reading, Julian Grenier from Sheringham Nursery has prepared a handy resource list for parents.

How to talk to your kids about coronavirus (article) https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus

How you and your kids can de-stress during coronavirus (article) https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-you-and-your-kids-can-de-stress-during-coronavirus

https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/how-talk-your-child-about-coronavirus-covid-19

NSPCC support for parents with young children:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/support-for-parents/cope-with-tantrums/

Babies and toddlers:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/support-for-parents/baby-parenting/

Staying safe online:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/parental-controls/

Children home alone:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/in-the-home/home-alone/

Parenting if you have a mental health problem:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/support-for-parents/mental-health-parenting/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/parenting-with-a-mental-health-problem/parenting-and-mental-health/

If you have a disabled child:

https://contact.org.uk/advice-and-support/

 

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