Our ‘Lockdown’ Experiences
When Cotton Boulevard asked whether I would like to write a couple of paragraphs about our lockdown experience as a family with two small children I agreed but the more time in ‘quarantine’ has progressed, I have discovered that I am probably not best placed to be writing a blog post about home school, productivity, dawn until dusk Montessori-inspired activities…
Having never written anything like this before, I did a quick scan of google for ‘lockdown with kids blog’ for examples and lo and behold there were several results for ideas and inspo pertaining to the above. However I would be a massive fraud if I attempted to emulate these shining examples of parenthood so I thought I would put together a couple of points that we as a family have found useful during these testing times. Hopefully some parents may see this and not feel like they are failing their offspring because their attempt at building a full-scale rainbow using neat little multi-coloured handprints hasn’t lived up to its Pinterest-inspired dream.
Sack off the home school
I write this from the privileged position of having a Reception-aged child and a toddler so I understand those with older children don’t have this option. I have been shamed by the school group upon many occasions with regard to how much parents are managing to achieve with their children. I have a 4 year old who is reluctant to complete any structured learning, which is fair enough, she is 4. I stopped putting pressure on myself and on her when I realised she will learn what she wants and at the speed she wants. Home schooling is very unlike traditional schooling and whilst I am IN NO WAY AN EXPERT, I have adopted this to mean everything is a learning opportunity and if we are clever we can hoodwink our kids into learning unwittingly. My daughter’s class was learning about life cycles so we grew caterpillars into butterflies (from www.insectlore.com); magic beans in clear glass jars with cotton wool (I made her keep a bean diary to catalogue the changes); sowed sunflower seeds which we are about to transfer outside. Little children love watching things grow and taking responsibility for things. The butterflies in particular were an incredible activity that kept the children engaged for weeks while they watched them change and then fly away fully fledged (one died but we won’t talk about that, RIP little mate). We consolidated this hands-on learning by watching YouTube videos and books about metamorphosis and time lapses of things growing. We drew lifecycles of other metamorphosing creatures like frogs and took care of the other household plants to learn about what living things need to grow.
Other little budget and quarantine-friendly activities we have done include: making a ‘documentary’ about our heritage (our children are a mix of at least 5 different ethnicities!); making a ‘baking show’ when cooking brownies (packet mix brownies I hasten to add, I’m not one of those supermarket flour-stockpilers); creating outfits from scraps of fabric for peg dolls and a mindfulness/ growth mindset journal that I have started for her. We have dug out all our lovely things that the children were gifted for Christmas from family and friends that we never found time to play with. Everything is an ‘experiment’ such as putting all the plastic sea creatures in a Tupperware of water and freezing it. They spent ages in the sunshine using various implements trying to ‘rescue’ the trapped creatures which prompted a discussion about changing states of matter and freezing and animal habitats. It also appeased my toddler’s destructive side.
I have an extremely dreamy, quizzical and deep-thinking 4 year old who is interested in facts, animals and nature and how things work. She loves to read and has become a fluent reader since lockdown started purely because that’s what interests her. I think the key to home learning is identifying your children’s interests and going from there, encouraging them in the topics they like. Sneaking facts and learning into everyday activities. Tricking young children into learning and encouraging them to ask questions. Unfortunately, my wonderful 2 year old is clearly going through some sort of early teenage angst as he is making it very tricky for myself and the 4 year old to spend any long amount of time working on anything so we take what we can. And when all else fails….
TV TV TV TV TV
The TV is a reviled member of most young families’ household but not ours. We love our TV. At the moment the absolute fave is ‘The Magic Schoolbus’ on Netflix. And what a goldmine we struck when we discovered it! SO MANY EPISODES! SO MANY PEACEFUL HOURS! Plus, it’s very educational so massive bonus. We don’t have a tablet except the Kindle but there are so many tablet apps that dress learning up as fun games.
The world record of how little time has elapsed between a child’s mealtime and asking for a snack has been broken by my daughter many times over. She has set the record at around 20 seconds following the end of a meal which is often mysteriously never completely finished, despite her apparently being ‘STARVING’. One of my major discoveries during lockdown has been how 2 young children need constantly fuelling throughout the day. So keep those cupboards and fridges stocked up.
We are obviously not encouraged to shop for non-essentials at this time and I feel under enormous pressure each time I visit a supermarket to not pause for more than 3 seconds in an aisle for fear of being mistaken as a ‘browser’. Let alone being seen dipping into a non-essential shop for non-essential craft materials. Therefore unless you are fortunate enough to stumble upon a rogue bag of play sand amongst the broccoli (please hit me up, those things are like gold dust), we have to make do with what we have. During the recent lovely weather, the children used plastic drawers taken out of a storage stacker as makeshift paddling pools. We dragged out a play tent that had been in storage due to lack of space inside to make an exciting outdoor hideaway. We are melting down any leftover (miracle) Easter chocolate to make Krispy cakes. One day I dragged our massive cheese plant outside and my daughter cleaned its leaves with an old cloth (scraping the barrel I know) She was very proud when it sprouted a new leaf, which was completely down to its leaf treatment and not the fact it had come out of its winter hibernation of course. Another time they spent a good hour or so cleaning the muddy little tikes car with soapy water and an old sponge. I find children of this age can be encouraged to think boring things are fun if we use the right words and try and conjure up some enthusiasm for them.
Ignore Social Media
My insta account looks like I am giving my children the most enriching and exciting experiences from when they wake up until the time they fall asleep (at the time they’re supposed to, in their own little beds OF COURSE LOL). Our lives are obviously not like that. And similarly, other peoples’ accounts will only show their highlight reel and the days their kids wear adorable matching clothes, not the day that nobody gets dressed or brushes their teeth until 1pm. Our adorable baking video? 3 eggs ended up on the (carpeted) floor. I lost my rag a couple of times. It was not calm or even mildly enjoyable (for me- I’m pretty sure the children liked it.) I am well aware that I haven’t given ground-breaking earth-shattering parenting tips. We have not been blessed with a peaceful mother-earth style home environment daily. I have had many occasions on which I have been yearning to scroll my phone mindlessly in peace, or rustle a wrapper in the next room without a child racing in ready to steal my snack. Some days I think my soul will drain out if I hear MUMMY one more time. My early morning weekly trip to the supermarket is like being at a peaceful yoga retreat. I continue to work part-time as a nurse which is actually often respite from the intense environment at home. BUT I miss the children the second I walk out of the door and am so excited to see them upon my return which shows this brief time away is necessary in order to ‘reset’ and come home ready to try my best the following day.
I hope everyone is staying safe and well and finding their own way in this new ‘normal’. We as a family have enjoyed the slower pace of life. Others I know have found this period a living hell and feel trapped at home. Everybody has their own challenges and all we can do is our best.