What to do to keep kids at home entertained and learning amid Covid-19 lockdown

Photo / Getty

Photo / Getty

As New Zealand continues its lockdown and kids are stuck at home, a high profile New Zealand educator is warning parents they don't have to be perfect.

Neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis said caregivers needed to have realistic expectations of themselves as parents as they entered a stressful time and tried to juggle two jobs - parent and teacher.

"Don't aim for perfection. Remember that the research says kids get good outcomes if they have 'good enough' parents. So that takes the pressure off you. You don't have to be a good parent, you just have to be good enough."

He also warned against falling into the trap off letting kids be online all day and recommended striving for at least two hours of device-free time each day.

"A whole amount of online correlates to anxiety and depression and we don't want this crisis to be that kids spend all day staring at computer screens."

Instead aim for a balanced curriculum encouraging kids to have free play, play outside and let them get bored because it leads to creativity.

"Getting bored and making a hut is every bit as important as doing their maths homework on their computer."

Wallis said parents should be looking at devoting at least 20 minutes a day especially devoted to them and let the kids chose what they played with.

Parents would also not be expected to spend their whole day with their children and Wallis said the amount of teaching required would be far less as the number of kids was far less.

At home, six hours of teaching could be done in just over an hour with the parent being actively involved. Another hour could be supported learning where the parent did their own work alongside them.

Most people were "pretty useless" at teaching so adults should instead try and learn with their kids and focus on the process rather than telling them the outcome or answer.

Children aged around 7 and under they did not need schoolwork and would learn just as much through child-led play.

And if everyone was stressed - he suggested bursting into song and getting the kids to join in.

While AC/DC probably wouldn't calm everyone down, singing a children's song at the rate of a resting heartbeat would.

And while parents were worried about keeping their kids happy during a stressful time, they also needed to look after themselves.

Setting aside 20 minutes a day just for them where they soaked in a hot bath or sat in a special place with their partner with their phones off was also important because they needed to look after themselves so they could provide the best care for their kids.

Parenting Place senior family coach Jenny Hale said having a rough plan in place was important for kids who were used to the predictability of a school day.

"Children actually wobble if there's a free for all... Children love there being a plan."

While the plan didn't need to account for every 10 minutes, it would give children an indication of when they might play, have intervals, do maths, spelling and reading or even a time in the day for board games and crosswords. Free time was also really important.

And while parents didn't have to replicate school at home, they should follow their children's lead and let them choose the things they did at school at home, she said.

"These things start strong and by the seventh day you might not want to keep up with calling the roll or whatever it is but I would start with plenty that's planned and kind of wean yourself off it a little bit."

Hale hoped employers would adopt flexibility for parents who were also expected to work from home.

"You can't leave children for long periods of time. If you do, it's not a great outcome."

She suggested parents check in on their children and break up their working time with spending time with their kids. She advised against leaving children to fend for themselves for hours and hours.

"It usually turns feral if you do."

The Parenting Place is also updating its Parenting Place daily with additional resources and advice.

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.