Yes, we all need to stay at home but that doesn't mean your children have to be bored, says Michelle McGlynn
The pandemic has seen sudden and drastic changes in all of our lives as we each do our part to limit the spread of Covid-19. This is especially true for children.
Dr Aiysha Malik, with the European branch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, says: “Children are likely to be experiencing worry, anxiety, and fear and this can include the hopes and fears that are very similar to the fears adults are experiencing.”
We are already aware of the benefits of fresh air and exercise for our physical and mental health and this is especially true now.
With this in mind, we asked parents and experts to suggest some fun outdoor activities for children.
This year’s Olympic Games may be postponed but that doesn’t mean you can’t hold your own.
Nicola Gregg, who co-wrote the book 25 Challenges to do Before You’re 12 with her husband Greg, says her three boys really enjoyed their family Olympics.
They went all out, holding opening ceremonies and doing medal presentations. They even made their own medals out of clay.
Laura Erskine, parenting expert with BabyDoc Club, suggests making your own kites (don’t worry, there are YouTube tutorials) and decorating them with accessories.
“The endorphins released from outdoor exercise will help keep spirits up, while the fresh air will help everyone to sleep a little easier at night,” says Laura.
Jaime Amor of Cosmic Kids Yoga says yoga is a great way to deal with stress for both children and parents. “We release tension through the movement but also through the calmer moments where we just breathe and let go of worry and stress.”
Cosmic Kids Yoga offers videos that teach basic poses and you don’t even need to own a mat.
Blogger Cliona O’Connor, aka LeanMeanMomma, recommends planting seeds with your children, giving them something to take care of while at home. Plant wherever suits you, in the garden or in containers on the windowsill — ideal for keeping a close eye on the growing seedling.
This is a great time of year to take up birdwatching, according to Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland, as bird migration and nesting seasons are under way.
BirdwatchIreland.ie offers lots of fun, educational activities for kids and parents will find the learning resources for teachers helpful.
While learning about birds, why not help them by building bird feeders and nest boxes?
Children will learn new skills while constructing the boxes and in the process learn more about the birds, their habitats and food.
Niall Hatch says learning about native birds and how our actions can affect them helps children to feel connected to nature.
Making fairy houses is another valuable way to strengthen the connection between children and nature, according to Early Childhood Ireland. This gives little ones a chance to use their imagination as well as giving them a new friend to visit right in their own garden.
Cliona, who is a mother of four, found it difficult to get her daughter interested in going for a walk one evening and so her husband suggested the budding author take inspiration from nature.
Looking at all of the things around them, he asked her to think about how she would describe them if she was to write the scene around them.
Putting on a show is a wonderful creative outlet for children and one that will get the whole family together to play their part.
“Between costume fittings and scriptwriting, this is one activity that will put everyone’s skills to the test. Record the final show for posterity,” says Laura.
Take your kids out to stargaze over the coming weeks — there are a number of spectacular events you might be able to spot.
You don’t even need a telescope because many of the night-tine wonders can be viewed with the naked eye.
David Moore of Astronomy Ireland says Venus is visible until the end of May. Lyrid meteor shower will take place later this month while it’s anticipated that comet ATLAS will appear in May.
Make a music wall by gathering household objects that can produce noises. Attach them to a wall and your little ones can channel their inner Mozart. Early Childhood Ireland says a simple melody can transform us from feeling down and sad to happy and cheerful.
Here is an easy activity you can do almost anywhere. Simply pick up a stone and check out the insects living underneath.
Nicola and her sons did this and found all kinds of creepy crawlies they’d never seen before. They looked up the names and learned about each one they found.
No stones? You’ll find myriad bugs in the grass.
Every child should experience making a den or a fort and now is the perfect time as it offers children a space of their own to chill. “Get out your pop-up tents or help your children to build a fort in the back garden using a sweeping brush, the clothesline, and some old sheets,” says Laura.
“Fostering children’s innate creativity by providing artistic outlets is an important way to relieve stress and support their mental health,” says Bronwyn Carpenter from The Happy Art Studio in Cork.
Some of Bronwyn’s suggestions include splatter painting using paintbrushes, water pistols, and spray bottles; putting a few drops of paint into shaving foam to make fluffy paint; and making sculptures out of rubbish.
Get the little ones investigating by creating a treasure or scavenger hunt for them. Laura suggests getting older kids to come up with clues for the younger ones, or you can think up your own in the evening and hide them while the kids are asleep.
Nicola came up with the idea of throwing a garden party and it’s something the neighbours can get in on too.
Decorate your garden, bring out a table and chairs, get some food, and then throw on some music and get the party going. Your neighbours can do the same and there you have it — a social distance neighbourhood party that will help everyone to feel a little less isolated.
Sport is a fun way to keep active and the endorphins that are released with this exercise will help you and your child feel better about the day ahead, says Laura.
“Football, volleyball, badminton, and frisbee are all great fun to play, especially when the whole family get involved together.”
Photographer Tara Donoghue says it is more important than ever to encourage children to express themselves through art.
She is encouraging people to create a visual diary — one photo each day — to keep a personal record of this time in their lives.
You can also create a photography scavenger hunt for them in the garden.