Five ideas for fun things to do if your child is ‘shielding’

by Paula Nagel, Educational Psychologist

1. Keep in touch creatively

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Maintaining connections with friends and family has been a challenge for everybody recently – but for those who remain shielding whilst others take more steps back into society, it is particularly essential not to feel left behind. Whilst video calls have been a favourite for some, others may find these tiring or perhaps uncomfortable sitting at a computer or looking down at a phone. It can be a good idea to have lengthy periods of the day which are screen free too, especially when at home for most, if not all, of the day. Why not spend some time on more creative ways to keep in touch? Whether that be writing a good old-fashioned letter or designing a card?

If you have some spare photos, help your child to add a personal touch by making their own photo collage postcards using photos and scissors. Make a collage on one side and then get writing on the other side. You could also incorporate other ‘memories’ into your collage such as tickets from an event you went to together. Pop the postcard in an envelope to keep it looking its best!

2. Nurture something

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Whilst children may often appear to be after instant entertainment, planting seeds is a fun activity which can provide a real sense of achievement as your child watches them grow. See if you have any spare seeds that you could grow at this time of year – they can be planted in an old yoghurt pot and then transferred to bigger pots as they develop – something that children can take charge of.

Herbs such as coriander and rosemary can be easily cultivated on a windowsill. A particularly helpful gardener might also want to consider growing carrots or other veg for future use in the kitchen! You can take an old carrot top and place in a pot with soil - soak in water for a few days beforehand to encourage green shoots. Or how about making use of the seeds inside an orange? There are lots of tutorials online if you need some tips. Creating labels is also a good idea so you don’t lose track of your assortment of seeds – why not decorate some lollipop sticks?

If you have some plants already, you could also explore how to propagate these into new plants – leaf cuttings from the original plant can be put in a jar of water. Once roots appear they can be planted in a pot with some soil. As well as brightening up the house, these could make a lovely gift for friends, family or perhaps a neighbour that has been looking out for you – along with a handmade ‘thank you’ card! You don’t need to invest in any gardening materials for any of the ideas above, just make do with whatever you have around the house eg you could make use of an old spoon for the digging of holes in the soil. Encourage your child to take a picture once a week of their creation so they can look back on its growth.

3. Plan something

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Every day and even every week can feel the same at the moment, especially if you aren’t going out of the house so regularly. In order to mix things up a bit, why not ask your child to pick their favourite notebook and each evening make a note of three things they would like to do the next day? Encourage them to try to pick different things and sometimes to set themselves a challenge to do something that they might not have done before. For example, if your child has been able to go out for a walk, why not pick a different time of the day to go? An early sunrise walk might be the chance to see a different side to your area that you haven’t seen before – it’s often easier to spot wildlife when it’s quiet too. Whilst it might be hard to get up early, it could be a one-off adventure and you can set some time aside for resting afterwards. Or perhaps they haven’t helped with the chores before?!

Your child could also use this notebook to make a note or drawing of three things each day that they have enjoyed – these needn’t be big things but could simply be that they received a nice message from a friend or helped make something tasty for dinner. Whilst helping your child to focus on the positives, these techniques also help them to focus on the present.

4. Move yourself

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Even if you are able to go on a walk, keeping bodies active indoors is still essential. Whilst there are a multitude of workouts online, you may find that they aren’t quite right for you and your family, especially if your child has a health condition to contend with as well. Why not instead encourage your child to design their own workout? During their planning, encourage them to work their way through the different parts of the body and to think about any exercises they know which may help to stretch and strengthen them. Make use of online resources such as those designed for different conditions on the NHS website and pick and choose what is relevant to you – once your child has got the hang of the technique of that particular exercise by watching the video, they can incorporate it into their own workout without the need to watch the online video every time, unless they want to!

There are lots of sites out there that provide inspiration – why not have a look at Super Movers which combines learning with a quick burst of physical activity – perfect for a break in the school day. You can learn more about the benefits of getting active if your child has a special need or a disability here.

We are all sitting down much more than usual so remember that sprinkling some stretches and movement throughout your day is likely to be more beneficial than one burst of activity each day. Ask your child to think about how they could make the exercise part of their routine – for example could they always do ten minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner? How could they help themselves to remember to do it? Remember there are also items around the house you can use to help you stretch, for example holding a towel in between your hands can help when stretching arms.

5. Make the most of outdoor time

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If you are able to venture out, ask your child to consider how they can make the most of their time outdoors. As well as exploring different routes in your local area, your child could make a list beforehand of certain wildlife or other things that they want to look out for. For example, can they spot four different types of bird or ten different coloured cars? Whatever it might be, it will provide a focus for the outing and help bring your child’s mind to the present moment by focusing on the world around them. Encourage them to capture some of these moments by taking a photo.

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, you could also think about how you might encourage more wildlife – how about making a DIY bird table or birdbath or a feeder? Could you attract a hedgehog by leaving out some water and making a wildlife area filled with plants, grass, leaves and soil? This may encourage eyes to watch what is going on out of the window rather than just on television!

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