23 August 2021

What to do with your little ones now that your world has become very small

| Lottie Twyford
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Barbara Butt playing with kids and leaves at Evatt Preschool

If it wasn’t for COVID-19 lockdown, Woden Community Service’s Evatt Preschool team leader, Barbara Butt, would be playing with all the kids in the courtyard. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Now that we’re well into the second week of the ACT’s second COVID-19 lockdown, parents are asking, “What on earth are we going to do to keep the kids entertained?”

Luckily Netflix exists, but when you want to turn off the TV and keep little minds and hands busy, early childhood educators have some tricks for you to keep up your sleeve.

According to Woden Community Service’s Evatt Preschool team leader Barbara Butt, the best thing to do is take a look around the house to see what you have at home.

“You can make something like ‘gloop’ which is just corn flour and water, but has some really interesting properties and is quite sensory, too,” she says.

“Often it’s the parents who will get stuck in and play with that for longer than their kids.”

Other options include an alphabet scavenger hunt, where children have to go through the house to find things that start with each letter of the alphabet; making homemade kinetic sand; or doing other kitchen experiments.

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“Use junk mail catalogues to let children make a themed picture and then do a talk about it,” says Barbara.

Other craft suggestions could be yarn animals, beading and iron-on beads.

Barbara also says it’s important to spend quality time together while off electronic devices, including getting into the garden; doing some weeding; looking at clouds; finding bugs and learning about them; doing children’s yoga; or even doing some composting experiments.

“When you’re reading or watching something, make up a couple of questions at the end to see if the children can retell the story,” she says.

Barbara also suggests letting little ones connect with their friends, cousins or other family members they’d usually be playing with using technology such as Zoom or Skype.

“If parents are feeling anxious, I’d also encourage them to reach out to their usual service providers for help,” she says.

For Braidwood Palerang Early Intervention director Annabel Yagos, the most important thing for harried and stressed parents at this time is to remember that this week is not an academic emergency.

Instead, it’s a time to focus on strategies and find activities that can keep everyone entertained and calm.

“When you find yourself getting frustrated or upset, we have a rule in our house of instead of raising your voice, lower your tone,” says Annabel.

With four children at home, Annabel knows only too well how important it is that kids are entertained and engaged, without needing 100 per cent of their parents’ attention.

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“I recently challenged my children to build the ‘world’s biggest marble run’ and they spent hours on the living room floor building contraptions with toilet rolls, bottles and other household bits and bobs that had a bit of length to them,” she says.

Another good one is to get a parent to cut a bit of paper into lots of different shapes and sizes, and then challenge children to see how long it takes to put it back together.

“The peg game is another favourite of mine,” says Annabel. “See how long you can make a peg run through the house and then add some challenges to it.”

For children who are used to having quiet spaces allocated to them at school, Annabel says building cubby houses under the dining table with whatever you’ve got on hand can be a good replica of this.

If you’re looking for craft activities, Annabel suggests anything from birdseed holders – which don’t need anything more than yoghurt pots, lard and birdseed – to making playdough and sock puppets.

She also suggests letting kids have a go at ‘unsupervised cooking’, although she says it’s a good idea for parents to measure out the amounts of ingredients such as flour, sprinkles and eggs before letting their little ones get creative.

Under the current COVID-19 lockdown guidelines, ACT childcare centres remain open, but only for children whose parents cannot care for them from home, generally because they are essential workers.

Stay up-to-date with COVID-19 information and advice on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website.

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