Goes without saying that these are testing times. Aside from Jared Leto, who was on a silent meditation retreat in the desert for twelve days and blissfully unaware of the unfolding world coronavirus pandemic - there are barely five minutes to the hour where Covid-19 does not dominate the globe’s collective mind with a tidal wave of concern and unfolding chaos. From domestic worries on the availability of groceries and toilet roll, to parents the world over taking a crash-course in home schooling while simultaneously working from home, for some (fortunately not us yet) mandatory quarantine, fears for our elderly loved ones and the pressures on health systems to financial uncertainty from seeing what savings you might have shrink from the biggest market fallout since 2008.
How quickly the virus has spread and how sharply the death toll is rising is both incredulous and unnerving. With every day the net seems to be closing in as you learn of someone's Uncle contracting it or someone who tested positive who frequents the places you might visit. I pray that my home country, the UK, can stem the bleed and stop the virus spread quicker and with less lives lost than some of our European neighbours. As an expat living so far away from my aged parents and sister, ‘distance guilt’ is brewing and I implore family to limit their movements and stay at home. At least my parents have some experience of this as on returning from a trip to see us at the end of February (see pic below with my Mum!), they took the incredibly considerate decision to self-isolate for 14 days, independent of any government advice, as had they picked something up from here or the plane (which they had not) they didn't want to carry the burden of responsibility should they have passed it onto others. Their garden will be grateful come spring when it is blooming from the extended man-hours spent tending to it.
In Singapore, we have been living with the virus threat for two months already - since just before Chinese New Year, in mid January. Daily temperature checks at school and other public spaces are now normal, the children's military hand-washing indoctrinated. The Singapore government are smashing it out the park (with their methodical contact tracing since the first cases, tough measures and now even a contact-tracing app) in keeping us safe but we all have to do our bit. 80% of new cases are from residents or Singaporeans returning home from overseas. #SGUnited has become our hashtag - social distancing, staying at home where possible, working from home, postponing or cancelling any travel plans. Our pop ups and events have fallen to the same fate but if we are to stop this in its track we must all do our bit and take the short-term hit. My inbox has been awash with C-19 (love how we just cannot resist truncating every word in the English language) updates from retailers, our doctor’s surgery, marketing agencies just about everyone. Instead of taking my daughter to the doctor about a rather minor rash, we had a video call instead. Whilst we are still allowed to go out, we do with caution, consideration and take ALOT of antibacterial wipes with us. I try to choose independent retailers and coffee shops where I can #buylocal and support small businesses like my own! I am SO grateful for those who continue to buy our bags online.
The memes that circulate the internet are keeping us smiling as we globally adjust to this new normal. Our children’s school has just closed early for a week of e-learning (that might be extended) before the Easter holidays. As our plans for the holidays have been shelved, we will hunker down at home and the prospect of keeping the smalls occupied is a weight. The school has provided a great week of resources so education is covered. But it is the ‘boredom’ factor and going stir-crazy from minimal outside excursions that concerns me. I work from home and hands-up, it is easy for the kids to dive into TV too often if I am trying to finish something off.
As my phone pings with ideas from friends on activities & projects, I thought to pop them here on the blog together with some other ideas I thought might be fun to try. Do use this list as a bank of ideas and also please COMMENT below with your own suggestions on how not to go bat-crazy with the kiddos while spending more time at home. Whilst these days are worrying, let us try to remember those health care workers on the front line and how short life is. Engage with your children and enjoy the family time if nothing else! Emily XOXO
✰ FEND OFF BOREDOM IDEAS ✰
1. PHYSICAL The amazing Joe Wicks, aka THE BODY COACH is streaming live (UK time 9am so think that’s 5pm our time) 5 minute workouts for kids. If you miss that you can find a bunch of others on his YouTube channel over here. Especially great if you do not have access to an outdoors space.
2. MINDFULNESS Cosmic Kids - teaches mindfulness, yoga and situational advice on being kind.
3. OBSTACLE COURSE - if you have access to a garden (or push the living room furniture to one side?), why not create an obstacle course using household objects or cones. Ideas could be to hop x 10 spaces before throwing 3 balls into a bucket, sprint to another spot, 10 x jumping jacks before cart wheeling back to the start. Timing kids always gives a great sense of competition and nothing like a score chart to see what their PB is.
4. WHEEL SPIN - I’ve made the kids a spinning wheel to give them an idea of what to do if the inevitable line “I’m bored” or "I don't know what to do" creeps in. It took 5 mins to make!
5. CREATIVE We’ve long been fans of Art for Kids Hub - Dad Rob gives quasi daily drawing tutorials drawing alongside one of his four children. He shows really good shading techniques and the family challenges are fun - see our family effort from Sunday evening below!
6. TRY NEW ART MEDIUMS - if you follow me on instagram you might have seen that I love a bit of life-drawing. I’m not suggesting this for the kids but you could challenge them to do a self-portrait sitting in front of a mirror or draw a sibling.
I will be getting the children to try new materials like charcoal, pastels, watercolours and drawing in different scales like life size (just use cheap brown paper and masking tape to a wall). Or why not try to mimic a famous artist like Jackson Pollock or Andy Warhol? You could get the scissors out and try some Matisse style cut outs.
For more advanced sketchers - my friend Amanda in New York recommends Carson Ellis. She is setting art assignments with the hashtag #quarantineartclub Follow her tutorials, upload your work and share with others stuck in quarantine around the world. Amanda’s sons have also made treasure maps and comic strips. Hugo's 'Doggie Dude' comic is an inspiration. 👇🏼
7. FACEBOOK LIVE - WITH THE GAIAHOOD - Every day at 2:30PM (GMT+8) this week (23rd March onwards), Orgayana will host a live FB class from one of our (orgayana) TheGaiaHood ambassadors: Bootcamp with kids, veggie/fruit/leaf printing, cooking, nature crafts, yoga & meditation. Listen live or afterwards. Check it out here.
8. PINTEREST - Pinterest is your FRIEND. There are SO many wonderful, creative projects there it is easy for people of all artistic levels to get inspiration and ideas. Here are some butterflies I made with Elyse last week. Create a board of ideas to draw on in the coming weeks.
9. GARDENING - whether you have a garden or not you could try and sew some simple seeds. Last year we successfully grew FROM seed some baby carrots! Give the children the job of watering, weeding etc. Add it to their timetables so they take ownership and responsibility.
10. SEWING - Easter is nearly here and one project I plan to do is making Egg cosies with my two. I found the one that I made when I was about my daughter’s age of a baby chick. Sewing is a great way to strengthen fine motor skills and the sense of satisfaction after they’ve made the egg cosy will be delightful. You can also find cheap Sewing Kits in places like Spotlight , Daiso or Mr DIY in Singapore. As this blog is getting quite full, I will share this sewing project in another one!
11. KNITTING - my daughter, Elyse, got a starter knitting kit for Christmas. I am hopeless but luckily we had some relatives staying who were amazing at it. She has already knitted a scarf for her bear and a bobble hat for barbie.
12. READING The children will read independently, to me and also to each other. Other ways to enjoy books is through audio books - Audible has a wide range of books for all ages and now they are FREE to listen to! Elyse has just started listening to Alice in Wonderland read by Scarlet Johansson.
13. WRITE LETTERS The art of letter writing has been replaced by whatsapp and facetime. My son, as part of his Cubs' activities recently had to make and write a letter to Singapore healthcare workers. It was beautiful (see below). Why not get your children to write to possibly lonely Grandparents or friends in quarantine or even to thank health-workers like Rufus did. It is a good moment to reflect and who does not love receiving a letter, especially if it has a colourful, foreign stamp on?
14. e-LEARNING TIPS Friends in Hong Kong have been home-schooling and largely in lockdown since January. Sheryl has these helpful tips on how to keep e-learning fun!
- Get the children to make their own timetables so they take ownership of them, can personalise with drawings.
- Use reward stickers as incentives.
- Use fun things like swimming goggles and lab coats to make science projects fun. Try using smarties as counters for maths tasks.
- Let the kids work from wherever they are happiest to, does not always need to be at a desk.
15. COOKING Cooking is a life skill that is often overlooked. I still remember my Dad teaching me how to make spaghetti bolognese, we were always involved in French toast on the weekend and of course cakes too (my Mum’s Express Chocolate Cake recipe is the BEST - should I share the recipe?). Learning is learning so why not let them help with making their supper or lunch - it has the added benefit of helping fussy eaters be encouraged to try new things too.
My children enjoy making the following kinds of foods: apple crumble, vegetable kebabs, cupcakes, fruit salad, dumplings and sushi. Jamie Oliver is a great resource for ideas and recipes. Heck, I might even get the seldom-used pasta maker out.
16. #Togetherathome - Chris Martin from Coldplay started an instagram Live last week playing requests and being his adorable self, John Legend took the baton next and the incredible Charlie Puth, Niall Horan thereafter - worth looking up on instagram and enjoying a free gig from home. It’s also encouraging for kids who are learning an instrument!
17. VIDEOS - we are all enjoying the funny videos that are circulating even the children. My son is into film making and is thinking on what short films he might make. Apps like GREEN SCREEN are really easy to use and Rufus makes all of his videos on his iPad - why not make a funny movie or there is always tik-tok...
18. TYPING CLUB - it has long been a bug bear of mine that the children use all these devices and apps for learning but they do not know how to touch type! We are doing 15 mins a day with typingclub.com - it’s free and I’ve created different accounts for each child so that they can dive back into it each time. Even my 83 year Dad is giving it a go!
19. BOARD (not bored!) GAMES - jigsaws, board games (favourites are DOBBLE, Pictionary, Articulate), dominoes, snakes and ladders, jenga, snap and teaching your children old fashion card games. Rufus my son has a couple of magic tricks kits too so think these will be revisited!
20. 30 DAY LEGO CHALLENGE - set the children a daily building challenge. Here are some ideas to get you started.
21. FLORA/FAUNA PROJECT - we are lucky to live on a tropical island with regular visitors to our gardens like golden orioles and hornbills. One idea is for us to keep a tally on birds spotted in the garden or on a walk as well as researching, drawing and finding out more about our Singapore bird life.
22. VIRTUALLY TOUR MUSEUMS - holidays been cancelled? Take a tour of some of the best museum and galleries in the world.
23. PROJECT EXPLORER - aimed at different school age groups, watch documentary style videos from around the world. Why not follow this up by getting out the Atlas or globe and finding where in the world you have just learnt about? Work out the distance from that country to your own.
24. CAPITAL CITIES QUIZ - fair to say that the boredom threshold for my two when on a walk is low (or maybe because its 32 degrees plus, 85% humidity, who knows) so one thing we do to keep them from moaning is the Capital Cities Quiz. What is the capital of Australia? In which South American country is Lima? It sounds simple but keeps their attention and they are learning too.
25. BEDTIME STORY WITH DAVID WALLIAMS - listen to best-selling author David Walliams reading some of his stories or others by Roald Dahl for FREE over here. Or head to the super cool World of David Walliams and print out activity sheets on Gangsta Granny or resource packs about his book Bad Dad for FREE too!
Share your ideas on keeping the smalls busy at home by commenting below! 👇🏼