Let's play: Creative ideas for indoor family fun during the coronavirus pandemic
Parenting during the Covid-19 outbreak is tough and juggling the demands of employment, childcare, educating your kids and housework can be a struggle. Yet amid the fear and uncertainty, families are encouraged to remember the importance of playing together. Jenny Lee reports...
FOLLOWING the closure of our schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents are left with the daunting task of having their kids at home 24/7 for the foreseeable future.
With Facebook feeds full of links to online learning, free worksheets and educational videos, many parents are feeling under pressure to turn their kitchens into a classroom.
But Jacqueline O'Loughlin, chief executive of PlayBoard NI, the lead organisation for the development and promotion of children and young people's play in Northern Ireland, warns of the importance of remembering to incorporate play into children's daily routine.
"Amidst current uncertainty as a result of Covid-19 and with our lives being turned upside down, it's important to remember that children will still need to play. Playing helps to develop children's resilience and enables them to deal with stress and anxiety. Playing also allows children space and time to make sense of the world around them."
All children are born with a natural drive to play. It is a biological, psychological and social necessity that is fundamental to the healthy growth, development and well-being of individuals and communities.
"Over the weeks and months ahead take time to enjoy play with your children, work through emotions and generally have some fun. Follow your children's lead, encourage fun activities, and adapt a playful approach to everyday tasks," adds Jacqueline.
Getting fresh air and exercise is also important, although the dismay and anger that followed scenes of packed parks and beaches this weekend should serve as a warning: keep your distance (at least two metres) from people not in your immediate family and only go out in your own garden or your immediate area (some EU countries now stipulate no more than two people together at a time).
Of course for some, they may be forced to self-isolate for a period of time. And when children spend more time indoors it can sometimes be challenging to keep them entertained. Playboard have come up with some great indoor play ideas for children to try:
:: Loose parts play – let children stretch their imagination using free and found resources or 'stuff' from around the home such as tissue paper, scraps of fabric, a wooden comb, shells, pebbles, pegs etc. Remember, toys or loose parts for children must not present a choking risk.
:: Play a game of chess, dominoes, card games or a board game.
:: Build a den using sheets, blankets, material, pegs, cushions, carpet mats etc.
:: Have an indoor teddy bear picnic and invite some cuddly friends to join in.
:: Dress up – hunt out some old shoes, dresses, skirts, shirts, ties, scarves, hats, bags, brief cases, belts, jewellery, sunglasses, old mobile phones, walkie talkies, torches or binoculars.
:: Set up an indoor treasure hunt.
:: Cardboard tube marble run – use cardboard and tape to design a course for marbles.
:: Bean bag tossing – make targets on the floor to throw beanbags into.
:: Build a masterpiece – create different structures using marshmallows and dry spaghetti.
:: Make you own dollhouse out of a shoebox.
:: Enjoy yummy smores on a cosy evening in.
:: Balloon badminton or ping-pong – use paper plates or table tennis bats and balloons to turn your living room into a sports arena.
:: Make your own playdough.
:: Make your own music using household objects such as pots, pans or empty bottles.
:: Camp out, inside.
:: Turn off the lights, close the curtains, and with the help of a torch, take turns making shadow shapes on the walls, with your hands. See who can make the best shape.
:: Bake some treats together.
:: Let your children entertain by putting on a show with costumes and props.
:: Decorate paper aeroplanes and guess whose can travel furthest.
:: Get creative and spend an afternoon doing arts and crafts, colouring or painting.
:: Have a disco dance party – let everyone pick their favourite songs for their own disco playlist.
:: Spend time together looking through old photos and share stories from the past.
:: Get the whole family to work together to complete some jigsaws.
:: Make sock puppets and put on a puppet show.
:: Try jewellery making using everyday items like bottle tops, shells, pasta, noodles, beads, paint, string or wool.
:: Using paper recyclable cups children can build and be creative.
:: Make a mess with messy play using shaving cream in a pan. You can add some food colouring and don't forget everyone will need an old shirt and some towels.
:: Make a sensory bag by squirting some hair gel or lotion along with some odds and ends craft items into a baggy and squeeze.
:: Don't forget the simple joy of hide and seek.
:: For more play ideas, visit Playboard.org.