While we all tend to look forward to some holidays, the situation surrounding the COVID-19 is quite different; while schools are in fact closed for the time being, families are encouraged to stay home as much as possible. In addition to possibly not being able to go out, stress levels may be higher than usual in the household. While a previous blog tackled the issue of how to talk to your kids about the Coronavirus, here are a few practical ways that you can occupy your children during this unsettling time.

Set up a routine
This might be especially helpful if you are working from home. Explain to your children how the day might look like so they will be prepared, and also for you to feel prepared in facing the coming day. If you would like to include school-based activities while your kids are at home, try and coordinate their activities, with the time you’re also working so an overall distraction free environment is kept for everyone. For example, a subject per day can be chosen and some short worksheets or activities can be prepared beforehand for the coming week.

Move around
Unfortunately, playgrounds are not the ideal place at the moment, but exercise is crucial for all the family’s mental & physical health. Find some time to do some light exercises together at home to keep healthy and happy. If you have an outdoor space – use it! Try fun things like setting up a small obstacle course in the yard/terrace. You can also do indoor exercises like jumping jacks, stretching, jogging on the spot or dancing to some songs!

Be creative
While it can be tempting to switch on the screens during this time, sitting in front of a screen for a week will affect both a child’s and an adult’s mood and the joy of it will wear off quicker than you’d think once it’s so easily available. So, while some additional screen time will not be catastrophic, here are some fun activities to keep your children occupied:

  • Make playdough at home (simple recipes can be found online)
  • Let kids help you cook or bake (cookies, cereal bars, homemade pizza). you can even make a special theme night and cook different foods which may be used as meal-preps for the coming days.
  • Chores can be a fun learning experience too – watering plants or helping you around the house
  • Do crafts together (many ideas can be found online)
  • Play board games Do crafts from items you have at home
  • Watch a movie together – many times children may watch TV alone so some family screen time can be a nice change
  • Look up some simple science experiments you can do at home
  • Read a story together then act it out with each other or by using dolls/toys
  • Paint – the extra downtime might give you a bit more flexibility to get messy

Stay in touch
Being at home for most of the time can feel isolating. Make sure to reconnect with other friends & family over the phone if possible so you don’t lose touch with others. You can even discuss fun activities with your kids which you can do once the situation calms down (without giving them an exact time to when this may happen). This may help children have something to look forward to while being inside and away from their own friends.

Give each other space
On a final note, both children and adults are used to having their own alone time & space, whether at school, home or work. Try and respect each other’s routine and boundaries during a time where you will all be spending more time together. Maybe it would be possible to set up small space where the children (or you), can go to relax, listen to some music, read etc. This physical space will serve as a visual boundary for everyone to know that when the person is there, they need some time for themselves.

Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Chat Bar Coordinator within Willingness Team. Michaela aims to further her studies locally by pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy in the near future.