In these difficult times, we've joined forces with a Consultant Clinical Psychologist to explore how to entertain kids during lockdown.
Parents have a difficult job these days. We have to find ways to keep our kids educated and engaged while also staving off boredom in our children. On top of that, many of us still have a full-time job to worry about — these certainly are interesting times we’re living in, and for a lot of us, it can get a little overwhelming.
Currently, a third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown. That’s a lot of children climbing the walls, desperate for a bit of entertainment and excitement. During this new normal, where we can’t simply let them go over to a friend’s house and the movies isn’t an option, we have to come up with new and creative ways to keep our kids entertained at home — while also keeping them challenged and connected to the world around them.
This isn’t an easy task by any stretch. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. We’re all muddling through as best we can. To help you out and give you a bit of a boost, Jooki has decided to partner up with Dr. Sarah Mundy, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and author of Parenting Through Stories, a parenting handbook and a series of interactive children's books to help parents and children make sense of the world together. Dr Sarah has given us her expert advice on how to entertain kids at home while self-isolating. Dr. Sarah has worked closely with children for the last 18 years and has a keen insight into how children’s brains work and keeping them engaged.
According to Dr. Sarah, the problem most families will run into is that they have “over-entertained” in the first few weeks of lockdown, and now their kids feel like caged animals. The secret, according to Dr. Sarah, is to have a balance of exciting and calm activities.
So where can you start? Dr. Sarah outlines her top tips below.
Try to Avoid Anxiety — Get Kids to a Calm Place
Entertainment isn’t always about constant excitement. Kids and adults alike need periods of calm to recoup and truly appreciate the fun times to come. We all need space to breathe, reflect, and rest. From time to time, get kids to sit down and relax — maybe you can do a calm, mindful craft activity, like coloring or painting. Maybe you can listen to zen music or watch a movie as a family. This will help to not only chill out your children, but it’ll also help them with any feelings of anxiety they might be feeling in these uncertain times.
Remember to acknowledge your child’s feelings — it’s okay for them to be worried and we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss their concerns. Avoidance is never a cure and can actually make anxiety worse.
As Dr. Sarah says:
“I think the key to making things work at home, particularly with all the uncertainty and anxiety around us (for both children and parents) is to stay connected and help our bodies feel calm. We need to ensure that we are all feeling more grounded before blitzing on the entertainment and to focus on doing things together, not apart ("we" not "me and you").”
Related: How to reduce anxiety in children
Avoid Too Much Competition
Competition might sound like a fun way to get the adrenaline pumping and really engage your children, but too much competition can be detrimental. You want to keep most of the focus on doing things as a family unit to make your child feel secure, accepted, and supported. Rather than pitting your kids against one another (no matter how playfully), try to get them to work as a team. Try collaborative games or give your children a project to work on together.
Dr. Sarah recommends the following:
“Keep things playful and fun. Try to avoid competition or too much pressure where possible. If you have more than one child, set them a task which is achievable and that they need to do together (our clay fish treasure hunt was fantastic).”
Use the Power of Nature
Our worlds have shrunk recently, but we’re still allowed to enjoy nature. Those of us lucky enough to have gardens can make use of them all day.
The outdoors can represent such a change of pace. There are so many reasons to go outside and get some fresh air. The outdoors can even give us energy and boost our immune systems! What’s more, there are so many fun activities you can do with your kids outside. You can play ball games or tag, or get out the paint and not worry about the cleanup afterward.
Dr. Sarah has a great suggestion when it comes to using the power of nature.
“Nature naturally helps your body calm. You can keep children of all ages entertained through scavenger hunts, for example.”
Get Active Together
Even if your kids seem reluctant to get off the couch and move around, exercise and activity are a huge part of keeping kids entertained. They might love the idea of vegging out for a day or so, but at some point, they will undoubtedly become grumpy, bored, and frustrated. Rather than dealing with these issues when they arise, try to be proactive. Dr. Sarah recommends engaging in physical activity together. Try going for a cycle ride or having a dance together. You could play soccer outside or even do some family yoga.
Engage in a Creative Project
Your kids are little creativity machines! At this young age, they have wild ideas running through their minds all the time. Give them an opportunity to exercise their imaginations as well as their bodies. Throwing themselves into a creative outlet, whether it’s writing, painting, or acting, can be both entertaining and educational. What’s more, once your kid gets engaged in a creative project, they can while away the hours without even realizing it.
Dr. Sarah agrees:
“Make a family film together — scripts, prompts, different roles — ours is about dad fishing, being scared by his toddler dinosaur, falling into the paddling pool, being eaten by a shark, and being rescued by nurse mummy!”
Have Some Screen-Free Time
Your kids might groan at this one, but much like getting them to exercise, getting your kids to switch off and disconnect periodically is vital for them. It’ll also help them to enjoy their screens when you allow them their allotted time. There are a lot of reasons to go screen-free — don’t fall into the trap of thinking your kid is entertained if they’re in front of the TV. There’s every chance they’re understimulated and bored.
Dr. Sarah says:
“Have time away from screens and help your children learn through other means (we have asked our older children to write us a quiz based on their knowledge or books rather than Google, which helps them learn to think about what they know and how to phrase questions in their own way. It also helped us learn more about them — I didn't get the question about famous Minecraft YouTubers!).”
Appeal to All Five Senses
If you really want to entertain your kids at home, try to think of activities that appeal to all of their senses in a different way. This is a great way of shaking things up and engaging them in different activities. You can even try dividing up your day into five sections and challenging yourself to come up with different activities for each sense.
Dr. Sarah says:
“Do activities which stimulate different senses — touch (playdough), sound (music, singing), smell (cooking together, smelling flowers), taste (eat what you have cooked or make a sculpture of marshmallows and skewers and cook them on a fire), and sight (look at pictures together and draw them).”
Enjoy Stories Together
There are so few things all human beings can agree on, but a love of stories is something we can all enjoy. Stories are a great way of bonding, sharing information, and going on a journey. Now is a perfect time for families to tell stories, read, and listen to audiobooks together.
Dr. Sarah says:
“Read together and make up stories together — imagine the outside world even if you can't see it.”
Keep Some Structure to Your Day
Entertainment isn’t all about excitement. Your kids also need (and crave) structure and routine. Now is a difficult time for them — they need a sense of normalcy and predictability. It can’t all be fun.
Dr. Sarah agrees:
“Try to keep a structure and predictability to the day, whatever the age of your child.”
Adults: Be Kind to Yourselves
Finally, when it comes to you, as a parent, you need to learn to give yourself a break. You have a hard job under normal circumstances, but added to that is the complication of lockdown. You want to make your child feel safe and secure while also keeping them entertained. You’re not going to achieve this perfectly — and that’s okay. You’re human. You might have days where all you want to do is eat junk food and watch TV. That doesn’t make you any less of a parent. And we’re sure your children won’t object, either.
This is a point Dr. Sarah strongly emphasizes:
“[Parents] need to minimize the shoulds and not put too much pressure on themselves for the children to be involved in adult-led entertainment every hour of the day. Family mindfulness and yoga (yoga pretzels are great) are also helpful.”
To sum up, Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sarah Mundy has the following tips for keeping children entertained:
- Parental self-care is important. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be in the right frame of mind to help your children.
- Working together should be key. Keep the focus on collaboration.
- Structure is as important now as it ever was — keep an element of predictability in your day.
- Go for a balance of different types of activities.
- Accept that your children won’t always engage in an activity as you had hoped! This is okay. Your child is an individual and they can’t be enthusiastic all the time, nor can they care for all things equally. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth exposing them to it.
The Jooki is the best kids speaker and music player out there today — load it up with your kids’ favorite music, assign playlists to the figurines, and get going. Your kids will love to incorporate the Jooki into their daily entertainment.