Surviving lockdown with kids

This blog post was contributed by Sherie Bell.

I am the mother of Penelope (3 years), Denver (5 months) and other half of Mike. Going into isolation I was already on maternity leave so luckily for me I didn't have the expectation to work. Being in isolation with my family I have learned a lot about each of my children and along the way stepped up my parenting.

Prior to isolation my parenting style was based on finding things to entertain us, so we spent every weekend at the pool, museum, playgrounds, visiting friends and family. With all of those options unavailable to us, I had to think about how we were going to entertain both children and keep my own sanity.

Here are five ways I've kept my sanity while entertaining children in isolation:

1. Routine

I am very much driven by routine, I love having a routine as well as plan A, plan B and plan C. I knew one of the only ways I was going to manage being at home full time with a husband and two children was by keeping some sort of routine. Our routine is incredibly flexible and having a 5 month old on a sleep schedule helps guide our routine.

It helps me feel settled and if I'm settled I then have the patience required for spending time with a sassy 3 year old version of myself. It also helps Penelope knowing how her day is likely to pan out, she won't ask to watch a movie 50 times a day if she knows she will get screen time first thing in the morning (while mum caffeinates) and after lunch (while mum re-caffeinates).

I found it helpful having an arsenal of activities I could call upon, I got some ideas from Pinterest, Instagram/Facebook but the majority of my brilliant ideas came from friends and family.

2. Fun activities

With the potential of each week being like groundhog day I decided that we would have a theme every Friday, we would dress up according to theme, do activities aligning with the theme and try have some fun as a family. I'm lucky my husband and pets also oblige.

So far we've had Superhero Day, Pyjama Party, Birthday Party for Dad, Sports Day and as I write this I'm dressed as a fox for Book Day. The activities are easy to find online and haven't been too challenging to carry out,. We've already got quite a lot of dress ups (every dress up party we've been to we have kept the costume from, so we have quite the collection).

We also had one other day a week where there was a "big" activity that would take more planning and preparation. We opened a mini-mart, had a movie night, opened a cafe, Easter was an egg-stravaganza and Mike took Penelope for a Daddy-Daughter date (I was the waitress at the "restaurant"). Each of these days and activities have been as fun for us as they have for the kids, we've enjoyed coming up with the games, costumes, food and activities.

3. Sensory play and crafting

I'm first to admit I'm not the type of mum who gets messy, I'm happy to leave that to our amazing daycare teachers. However, with no daycare during this period I've had to reassess messy play. One of the first things I discovered after making lux flakes slime is that Penelope doesn't like slime and won't play with it. But when I filled a tub with water and gave her toys to wash and dry she happily entertained herself for ages.

I've discovered a lot of the sensory activities have been easy, we have a lot of the supplies already and if we don't most activities can be adjusted to suit what we do have. My favourite sensory craft we have done is collecting flowers and leaves to make a rainbow. This included getting outside to collect different flowers and leaves, sorting into colours, playing with the textures and painting them onto paper - discovering which ones stuck easily and which didn't. This was an ongoing activity that kept all of us interested all day.

4. Let's get physical

We get out of the house every day at least once (staying in our bubble area). We live on the flat and only two blocks to a beautiful garden and soccer field. I've started going for a jog on my own every second morning (good for filling my stores of required patience/energy!), and in the afternoon we all go for a walk or bike together.

On our journey we have found a swan plant that has been full of caterpillars, Penelope has loved the life cycle of the monarch and yesterday we saw our first butterfly. Getting outside for fresh air and to burn some energy is so important, especially with an energetic 3 year old. And Denver loves watching her run or bike ahead of him.

5. Down time

We are not super-parents - we can't keep up the fun activities all day every day. We allow Penelope to have screen time, and we encourage her to recognise when she may want some down time. During this period she has started taking herself to her bedroom to sit in the sun and read books....often with her dog for company. She's become more independent and relies less on us for entertainment, she's happy to use her imagination to play with her toys.

I've had a couple of breakdowns, days where I haven't had the energy I did the day before, days where I miss being at work, days where I desperately miss adult company. Those days we have more screen time than usual and I don't feel guilty about it. It's hard being at home 24/7, it's hard being many different roles for the kids during this time, and some days it's nice to cuddle on the couch and watch movies together.

I am grateful for the extra time we have had together as a family, but I will never again take for granted the ease of buying a coffee from our local cafe or catching up with my girlfriends for a wine - doing it by Zoom just isn't the same!

Here are some activities we've done during isolation, and we will probably revisit these post-isolation!
  • Gave toys a bath
  • Created an obstacle course
  • Learnt to limbo
  • Sock basketball
  • Teddy bear hunt
  • Tea party
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Made our own superhero shields
  • Played floor is lava
  • Made a hut under the table
  • Baked brownies, cookies, cake and muffins
  • Made a beauty salon
  • Drawing outside with chalk
  • Painted with ice
  • Played with playdough
  • Did a toy parade
  • Played with bubbles and a ramp for cars
  • Filled balloons with activities, pop balloon to release activity
  • Created a laser challenge in the hallway with streamers
  • Made a paper mache egg
  • Set up camping in the garage
  • Painted handprints
  • Played with slime
  • Pass the parcel
  • Treasure hunt
  • Egg and spoon race
  • Indoor cricket
  • High jump onto airbed
  • Pillow fight
  • Went for a walk in the rain and jumped in puddles
  • Watched a movie and had a bath at the same time
  • Made poppies with egg cartons
  • Found a pile of leaves to throw around
  • Kids yoga
  • We also discovered TikTok and have made a few with hilarious results!

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