As I type, we’re halfway (hopefully!) though NZ’s COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?! While life in a bubble still perhaps feels a bit surreal, this strange new normal is actually history in the making. Our kids will be telling their grandkids about this one day! I’d love to be a ‘fly on the wall’ and hear the anecdotes their future selves will share. Will it be memories of distance learning, ballet classes in the garage via Zoom, or maybe the daily family walk around the neighbourhood spotting teddy bears and coloured-in Easter eggs? Maybe it will be helping in the kitchen more often, or the fact that Mum cooked dinners from actual recipe books, using more than one pot. No doubt they will remember that whatever it was they were doing, they were doing it with their family… 24/7! We’ve been given a precious gift alright – but ‘some assembly is required’!
Here are 10 more ideas of ways to use all this wonderful quality time we’ve been presented with…
1. Take a stay-cation
Easter camping and school holiday road trips may be off the table, but we can still mix things up with a lockdown mini-break, especially over the long weekends of Easter and ANZAC Day. You could pitch a tent on the back lawn or drag a pile of mattresses into the lounge for a family sleepover. I know, I really like my bed too, but I suspect that these little moments of surprise and fun are the memories our kids will carry with them.
2. Make a movie
Here’s another great opportunity to harness the power of technology. This could also be an ongoing project – brainstorming, script writing, casting, costuming, location scouting, filming and editing. Most smart phones have filming and editing capabilities, and this sort of highly-detailed project could take hours… and hours. While our kids are understandably enjoying some bonus screen time during the lockdown, it’s a good idea to encourage them (especially the teenagers) towards the creation of content, not just the consumption of it.
3. Read a series
There’s nothing like reading aloud to draw a family together. Start a series of books and incorporate reading a few chapters into your daily schedule. And if you feel like ‘binge-reading’ – why not?! If you find an author you and the kids love, share it on social media and maybe you could even share books with others in your community via a mailbox drop (on your way home from essential grocery shopping of course). While the libraries are closed, some offer a borrowing service for audiobooks and e-books, as do other e-book platforms.
4. Throw a dinner party
So you may not be able to invite anyone outside the family, but you could get the kids to plan a theme and menu for a special dinner together. This could absorb many hours with planning, invitations, decorations, outfits, music and entertainment arrangements, not to mention the cooking! You might even like to use a video calling platform to have a virtual dinner party with another bubble.
5. Play games
This is a great time to get back to basics. Board games, card games, improvisation games, Googled games… it’s time to press play! For the more competitive folks, you could start a leader board whereby you update scores daily – especially if it looks like each family member is showing a strength at a particular game and the honours can be spread around. We’ve also heard some great lockdown adaptations of old classics – like FaceTime Hide and Seek, whereby you call a relative on FaceTime, turn the volume up on your phone and then hide the phone somewhere in your house for your kids to find by following the sound of their far-away family member’s voice. Or for the older and braver, you could try Hide and Seek in the dark, with just a torch for the seeker. Thanks daylight saving roll-back for making this one not such a late night!
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6. Give each other space
There will be plenty more together-time in the coming weeks, what there might not be a lot of is alone-time! Schedule some time each day where everyone in the family is encouraged to be by themselves for 30 minutes or so – in their rooms, at their desk, in the garden or on their bed. Some downtime will do everyone good. Time to read a book, play quietly with a collection of little toys, even take a nap. Then come back together for some afternoon tea and a shared activity – helping kids see that the connection in their family is still strong, even if Mum needs to be by herself sometimes!
7. Keep moving
Fitness is key to our health and well-being, and vital for our immunity! Keep up the physical activity as a daily essential – a walk, a scooter or bike ride, an online Pilates class, GoNoodle (a kids’ dance and fitness website), Les Mills classes (weekdays on TV1), a dance party in the lounge – anything that gets the heart rate up for at least 30 minutes will be good for the whole family.
8. Bake bread
If you can manage to get your hands on some flour, have a go at making bread with your kids. It’s a rich and meaningful experience, and not one that we necessarily have time for in the busyness of normal life. It’s slow too – the kneading and rising take time, in fact the process could take all day if you want it to! But what a special way to while away the hours and for children to see a process through from start to finish. Extra for experts – try some hot cross buns!
While the closure of schools has sent some parents into a spin of home-schooling preparation, and dining tables across the country have been transformed into learning hubs, we can also be encouraged by the amazing learning opportunities our kids have simply being at home with us, doing everyday life and subsequently picking up some valuable life skills. Cooking, for example, has our kids following recipes, weighing and measuring ingredients and observing basic scientific reactions between ingredients – a treasury of learning! Self-directed reading, art and creative writing – priceless! Bear in mind that the six hours our kids would normally spend at school is not all spent on textbook study and spelling bees. An hour of focus at the dining table with parent supervision and gentle encouragement equates to a gold star for all – so go easy on yourself Teacher Mum and Teacher Dad. Do your best with any prescribed study or lessons and then look for incidental learning opportunities that will occur naturally throughout your day together.
10. Take a technology break
Yes, this is technology’s time to shine and we are all extremely grateful for the digital connection available to us in this time of physical isolation. However, we need to keep in mind the addictive nature of technology, especially social media platforms, and balance our online connection time with plenty of tech-down-and-switched-off time. The news, the reviews, the social media feeds – these platforms are going to be a constant source of information in this season, but we don’t need to engage with it all day. Check in perhaps once or twice a day, more so for any work requirements, but balance your engagement with plenty of real-life non-digital activity. You know the books, recipes and musical instruments we’ve talked about on social media – now’s the time for rich and real experiences to become more than just a status update!
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