Comedians, DJs, and other performers are online bringing activities to cooped-up families, says Ciara McDonnell.
Our day-to-day worlds have narrowed in the past few weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak, with family units hunkering down for the foreseeable and parents juggling home education with working from the kitchen table.
Into the breech have stepped people of all disciplines and backgrounds, offering online classes and activities to children to relieve the boredom of isolation.
Cork-based comedian Laura O’Mahony knows what it’s like to be cooped up in a house with small children.
The mother-of-two and co-host of children’s television show, Body Brothers, has teamed up with her four-year-old daughter, Polly, to read stories on Instagram (@lauralolslots) every night at 6pm.
“I thought about what would ease my own mind and give me a little break every day and that reading to my children, and other children, would be a lovely activity for us all,” she says.
“My idea was that other grown-ups could go have a wee or a tea or a piece of cake, while I mind their babies for 15 minutes,” Laura says.
The events of the last few weeks have had a dramatic effect on O’Mahony’s work.
Her sold-out show at The Everyman theatre was cancelled, and while the team hope to announce a new date soon, the entertainment industry has taken a battering.
Laura remains typically upbeat about it all.
“We will all laugh again, and I think the audiences will be even more thrilled to see us when all of this is over,” she says.
Laura is determined to make her piece of the internet a carefree zone during these trying times, and to be able to do it with her daughter is the icing on the cake.
“I think Polly is more popular than I am! In general, doing this every day keeps me sane and those who are following my page have reported that it’s helping them to have moments of happiness, too.”
DJ Stevie Grainger says his industry faced immediate disaster the moment social-distancing became a reality.
“I mainly make my living from festivals and parties, but as anyone in the music business knows, you have to be able to adapt quickly in these circumstances: this industry is very tough, even in the good times,” he says.
Stevie has put his DJing skill and collection of 10,000 records to good use over the last number of weeks by streaming live children’s discos through Twitch (www.twitch.tv/steviegcork).
He believes that music is for everyone, and is one way to keep us sane in the weeks and months to come.
“Music is universal, really, and even though the kids’ stuff is cheesier than I would normally play, it’s all about fun for all and it’s very inclusive,” he says.
Along with dance teacher and choreographer Andrea Williams, Stevie has been running classes at Nano Nagle Place for migrant children and children with special needs and has seen first-hand the impact that music can have on children.
Stevie says that it’s essential to remember the children when times are particularly tough.
“I think it’s important to use the extra time to encourage other positive activities that are good for the mental health.
"Sometimes, I feel we all live in a bubble and even a parent who’s at home every day, like me, appreciates this extra time with them.”
Pastry chef Shane Smith wants to arm the children in his family with the ability to bake.
It has been an extremely difficult number of weeks for the chef, whose place of work has closed until further notice, and following a recent trip abroad, he is self-isolating in Dublin, an hour’s drive away from his beloved parents.
Baking on Instagram (@ChefShaneSmith) has been his solace.
“I have always been a big advocate for families to spend more time together cooking,” he says.
“Now, more than ever, I felt it was a good time to use social media to my advantage.
"I’ve called my baking videos Cupboard Creations and I try to upload a simple, fun, 3- 4 minute video every day or two.”
View this post on Instagram
It doesn't get much tastier than these. . . . . #CupboardCreation #potatoskins #easyfood #stayathome #familybaking #familycooking #homedinner #pastry #bakery #baker #instafood #instachef #instayum #chef #cheflife #follow4followback #followforfollow #pastrychefsofinstagram #foodstyling #foodshare #Dublin #easyfood #yummie #nomnom #foodporn #COVID19 #buzzfeed #buzzfeedfood #pastrydelights Ingredients 4 medium potatoes 1/2 large onion 75g bacon 100g cheese salt and pepper 2 medium eggs
Ranging from brown bread to coconut macaroons and everything in between, Smith’s recipes are easy and quick.
The response has been fantastic.
“I had a feeling it would be popular, but not to this extent,” Shane says.
“Over the past week, I’ve had thousands of video views and hundreds upon hundreds of people from Ireland, and further afield, send and tag me in pictures of their beautiful bakes. It’s very humbling.”
Seeing communities galvanise over the last week is extremely hopeful, says the chef.
“It might sound cliché, but in times of difficulty and uncertainty, it’s truly Irish to see everyone come together.
"We have a very tough time ahead of us, but if there is one thing I am certain of, we will bounce back from this.”
Kinderama, a Cork-based business that helps children develop emotionally and physically through movement, drama, and music, has had to close temporarily.
Owner Stephanie McSherry says that the last few weeks have been extremely tough.
“Like many other businesses, when all the creches closed, we had to close, too.
"We’ve been in business since 2004 and having to ask all the teachers to go and apply for mortgage breaks and jobseekers’ allowance was absolutely heart-breaking,” Stephanie says.
She has been running daily classes through her Instagram page (@kinderamaireland), while her friend Sian Horn, of Elite Pilates (@elitepilatesstudios), is doing the same for parents.
The reaction has been incredible.
“We have been just blown away by the lovely comments, sharing, and, best of all, the video clips people tagged us in of their kids doing the classes,” Stephanie says.
Update: In recent days, Stephanie updated her followers to say that she would be taking a break from posting videos as she will be spending her time looking after a family member. She encouraged people to keep watching and sharing the videos. Sian is still posting videos.
The science columnist with the Irish Examiner, Dr Naomi Lavelle, has been putting mini scientists through their paces with a stream of daily experiments on her Instagram page (@sciencewows), designed to expand the mind and give everyone a break from reality.
As a mother, Naomi knows exactly what we are all going through right now.
“I saw a number of parents on social media expressing concerns about how they would entertain their children without the usual distractions and places to visit,” Naomi says.
“I am always sharing experiments, in one form or another, so I thought it might help some of them out.
"I am also a big believer in being able to do science experiments at home, with whatever you have around the house, and that seems particularly relevant, at the moment.
"I try to share simple experiments that children can do with things they already have at hand,” she says.
For the parents who feel overwhelmed by their new role as educators, Naomi says not to worry.
“We are all on quite a roller coaster ride, at the moment; none of us have any past experience to base this on.
"I think we need to go easy on ourselves and take it one step at a time, until we work out some kind of system that works for us.
"Until then, extended screen time or a movie day curled up on the couch won’t do our kids any harm.”