Even discounting the recent lockdown, there are times when your children may be around the home and at a loss for things to do.
In these situations, the temptation is always to allow the kids to find something to keep themselves occupied and that often might mean phones and PCs etc. However, when children are at home it’s important to keep a structure to daily life.
Here are a few top tips on the subject.
Keep their day segmented
Children need structure and demarcations. Left to their own devices, they’ll be inclined to spend all their time in play.
So, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules along the lines of saying that certain times are theirs to make their own amusement and other slots are for joint activities.
Note that it’s important not to get them thinking that there are times to have fun/play and times when they have to do things that aren’t enjoyable – i.e. “learning”. It’s much better if learning activities are delivered, for younger children, in a playful context.
Avoid becoming seen as the figure who requires “study”
Remember, children need to play with you on things that aren’t related to direct learning as well as those that are.
Make sure you play with them in hide-and-seek or “pretend robot”, as well as reading and number learning games etc. That reduces the distinctions between “learning”, as something you require them to do and “play”, which is something they do alone.
Your objective is for them to see as many activities as possible as fun.
These can be very funny and require little or no formal materials in some forms.
For example, play a game like “who can think of another word for..” or “how many colours/animals/countries can you think of..”.
That will improve their vocabulary.
You can grow this into spelling games. You might need a pen and paper, board or magnetic letters for these but keep them funny. Laugh with your kids when they make mistakes and be prepared to pretend to make a few yourself so they have a chance to win.
Above all, in this area and others, don’t criticise your children for getting things wrong. Downplay the idea and keep it positive and amusing, otherwise, they might instantly start seeing these as “lessons” – which may be counter-productive.
There is a vast list of options here, depending upon the age of your children.
Even with younger kids, games such as running a pretend shop and ‘selling’ items whilst taking money/giving change can hugely help with basic arithmetic.
Another option is joint baking, letting them read and weigh out the measures and making some adjustments.
Do be careful to keep the sums commensurate with the norms for their age though. Trying to bring on their numbers too quickly is controversial in terms of downstream benefits and it may put children off maths entirely if they struggle to cope.
One good idea here is to have a treasure hunt. Your kids have to find it based on written and pictorial clues, one leading to another.
This can be very helpful to both their reading and deductive reasoning skills. Encourage them to ask about words they don’t know.
Yes, this does take a little effort to prepare and make sure you don’t suffer the humiliation of forgetting where you’ve hidden the treasure (yes, it has happened…).
In all, with a little bit of effort and time, you can join your children in fun and games while helping them to learn at the same time. Have fun!