The Boundaries, The Bargaining & The 9-5’s!
Here at Glandore, we have always been huge advocates of flexible working, but with the current situation this has given people the extra challenge of working from home with children in tow. While most of us are in unchartered waters when it comes to home schooling and full-time early years childcare, we’ve all found ourselves to be in the same shared position. Most of us haven’t had to be our children’s teachers at this level, so we thought it would be useful to share some tips and activities to help keep everyone happy at home.
1: Set up a Daily Structure (Practical)
Any childcare professional will tell you how important routine is when it comes to maintaining happy children. If your little ones are used to getting to crèche or school at a certain time, try to keep to that schedule. If their day starts at 8.30 in crèche or school, try to start their home care at the same time. You don’t need to be overly rigid and stick right to the minute for this, but establishing a routine at home quickly will help everyone transition more easily.
If your children are used to breaks at certain times make sure to build those into your day. Children’s attention spans are much shorter than ours so don’t expect them to keep going just because you can. Snacks and exercise breaks are important to build in, for them and for you.
Also, try to make sure you finish up your home crèche or school at the same time as their regular day. Maybe you can set an alarm to go off, so everyone knows that it’s family time now. The alarm doesn’t have to be a copy of a school bell ringing, it could be one of your children’s favourite songs instead.
2: Have a Designated Space for Mess
We’re all going to be at home for the next while so we recommend designating a school/crèche area if you can. Children need space to play and that play can often be messy so it might be wise to make the kitchen your home childcare centre. From paints to glitter, Lego to toy cars, and all of the tiny parts of your children’s toys, we all know how quickly toys can take over the house.
Children are used to being in the same room for the day, whether in crèche or school, so keeping the home childcare space consistent will help with their sense of routine.
Be mindful of your child’s attention span. They may only stay with an activity for 10 or 20 minutes depending on their age so be realistic and try to match your child’s attention span with an activity that’s suitable for them. This should also really match the projects you are setting yourself. If you have something that needs your focus then perhaps leave that until everyone is in bed.
3: Activities in Your Home
One aspect of a Montessori classroom that can be easily adapted to home childcare are the practical life exercises, things like hand washing and cleaning toys are particularly timely.
Young children thrive on repetition so expect that they’ll do the same activity over and over again, from polishing an ornament, moving clothes pegs from one bowl to another, pouring dried pulses (lentils, beans, peas, whatever you have handy in the kitchen) from one container to another, or dividing them between different sized containers. These exercises all help with hand eye co-ordination, developing pincer grip and are also great for building concentration.
Physical exercise is a vital part of the day, in fact it’s so important that it should happen multiple times a day. Don’t worry, we’re talking about short bursts not half hour workouts! Having a simple one minute stretch and shake session first thing in the morning can be a great signal that school time is starting. We like this one and we bet it’ll give rise to a few giggles along the way! If your little ones are getting restless it can be a good way to re-centre everyone throughout the day too.
Aside from one minute wiggles, there are lots of activities you can do at home. Old favourites like having an egg and spoon race can help with balance and concentration and can double up as a cooking class if you let your child help when you’re boiling the eggs.
On the subject of races, lots of children love running so if you have space outside you could set up a racetrack or obstacle course in the garden to make things a bit more interesting and hold their attention for longer.
If children’s yoga is more your speed there are lots of great tutorials online to follow along with. This might not work quite as well for younger children as their attention span is shorter, but you can always pick and choose the parts that work for your child. Some simple breathing and stretching should be manageable for even the youngest toddlers.
A great area of Montessori exercises that you can adapt to your home are some of the sensory exercises. Use what you have in the kitchen to make your own tasting game. Pick up to six different tastes and fashion a blindfold so your child has to use their taste buds to figure out what each ingredient is. Some of the things that you might have handy are different fruits like bananas, apples or berries, yoghurts, mashed potato, and rice cakes.
Another game that you can use your blindfold for is making a mystery bag full of small objects. Take a bag and add up to 6 small objects that feel interesting e.g. a toy car, a Lego brick, a small stuffed toy, a small ball, a crayon, a wooden utensil, or whatever you have at hand. The child wears their blindfold while they put their hand into the bag and try to guess what each object is, just by using their sense of touch. You can change the objects after a few goes to keep your child’s interest but let them know that you’ve changed things and there’s something new in the bag. The last thing you need is for your child to have a melt down because something has changed without them knowing.
As we’re all going to be at home and spending lots of time together there are going to be some nice opportunities for real life maths. You could start teaching your child about grocery shopping and how to make a shopping list. This could be a nice opportunity to teach your child about buying only what your home needs and why we need to make sure everyone has enough groceries. If your child has a particular snack that they love you can talk about how many you’ll need for a week at home.
You can use the objects you have at home to do some basic maths exercises. For the younger children activities like sorting are a great way to introduce fundamentals like big and small e.g. take a box of buttons or Legos and sort them by colour, see which is the biggest pile, which is the smallest pile, simple addition of putting all the blues with all of the yellow etc.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts activities may not be your favourite thing, let’s face it, they can get very messy and not everyone is into them, but children love them. You can let your children play freely with your stash of paper/markers/paints/pencils. We’ve just missed St Patrick’s Day but there are lots of spring and Easter activities that are perfect for the next few weeks.
One great way to keep everyone busy is by making some homemade playdough. There are lots of simple recipes online, but this is one of our favourites:
Method: Mix two cups of flour, half a cup of salt, ¾ cup of hot water, 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. They can all be mixed together to make a basic playdough and if you have food colouring to hand you can add a few drops to create coloured playdough too.
If you want to add more texture, use one cup of wholemeal flour and one of plain flour, and if you want to add another dimension add a drop or two of food essences like mint, lemon or vanilla for some scented playdough.
Don’t worry if your child decides to taste it, the playdough is made from all natural ingredients and has so much salt that most children won’t go for a second taste! The salt acts a preservative too so the playdough should last at least a week if you keep it in an airtight container in the fridge when it’s not in use.
4: Managing your Child’s Emotions
We’re living in strange times and our children are sure to pick up on the oddness of being at home so much. Little ears hear a lot more than we sometimes realise and can come up with all kinds of ideas or explanations for what’s going on. It’s important to talk to them and reassure them that they are safe, that they are being looked after and that things will be okay.
Most Montessori classes have a daily circle time where everyone sits together and checks in about how they are. We think it’s a great idea to do a version of this at home too so children can have an opportunity to say if they’re worried about anything and you can address it in a way that’s appropriate to them.
This can be a great time to introduce positive affirmations or mindfulness techniques to help monitor and manage emotions, especially if you have a child who’s prone to worrying. If you’re looking for some resources to help with this we recommend checking out My Higher Shelf, an Irish business based in Dublin who have a fantastic range of books for children and adults in the areas of mindfulness, feelings and emotions.
We know that these are challenging days and we have more of the same ahead but setting up a strong routine early on will make it easier for everyone to adapt to their temporary normal. If we can take something positive from this, we can see it as a unique opportunity to bond with our children. It’s a chance to teach them resilience and to show them how to think of others in difficult times. We hope this post helps a little and gives you some ideas that will help to keep your home a happy one in the coming weeks.