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Quarantine with children (and activities without social pressure)

Carlotta Cerri

We’re going through an unprecedented time in our history. Our freedom of movement has been removed, and we’re forced at home in the hope of flattening the curve of this invisible threat that is COVID-19.

Many of you are writing to me asking what to do with your kids at home. So I thought I’d chip in with a few ideas.

But first things first. Living together 24/7 doesn’t mean that everybody has to do everything together. Which is why in this list you’ll also see “do nothing”: parents can do NOTHING while children do something, children can do nothing while parents do something. It’s GOOD for children to get bored, that’s when they start playing independently, figure out what to do on their own, and get the most creative. It won’t happen right away, but it will happen, keep trying.

If you work from home

If parents work from home, I know what it means, I’ve worked form home with my kids for 5 years, and in the last 10 months I’ve done while traveling the world full-time.

Take your space: my kids know the expression “Mummy space” and when I say they are likely to respect it. Alternatively, make a sign together with your child that you then put on the door of the room where you work or on your chair when you’re working: the sign can be a simple hand with a cross on top (much like the “Don’t touch” one) and it means they need to give you your space. Again, it won’t happen right away, but keep trying. Practice makes perfect!

If you can’t work from home

If you can’t work from home, please consider resting. Consider turning off devices, and playing with your children. Consider detoxing from society, fast life, and social media. Consider doing something for yourself.

Yes, yourself. Now that your life is not scheduled minute by minute, take the opportunity to dedicate time to your children, but also to yourself: learn something new, exercise at home, listen to a podcast, an audiobook, do an online course, follow online conferences, anything that interests YOU.

Take advantage of this unprecedented time to spend QUALITY TIME with your family, and do those things at home that you have never been able to do, because when you work you’re never at home, and when you’re on holiday, you go away and come back needing a holiday from the holiday.

Learn to enjoy being at home

I dreaded being at home alone with Oliver for a long time, because I always felt it was harder, time passed a lot quicker when we were out and about with friends.

Two years ago, when we spent two months in Canada, I realised how little quality time I was spending with my kids even if I was with them 24/7 (I worked form home). I also realised how little down time — time when you don’t have anything planned and just stay at home — I had in my normal life.

I went back home (then in Spain) and made changes. Fast forward to today, and I love being at home! Kids have learnt to play even more independently and together since we left to travel the world 10 months ago, and after the first months of doing as much as we could everywhere we go, we now sometimes spend many consecutive day just at home. Just being. Just resting the body and the mind. Just recharging batteries. Kids need it, parents need it.

One last thing: Be kind to yourself and to your family!

These are difficult times. It’s not time to ask more from our children, it’s not time to set more rules, it’s not time to enforce strictly the rules we already have.

It’s time to be more empathetic than ever. It’s time to treat crisis with more kindness and less eye-rolling. It’s time to help more. It’s time to have very few, clear limits. It’s time to stop saying so many NOs. It’s time to understand, to listen, to breathe, and to use whatever strategy we can to control our anger.

Emily was refusing to do basic things that both kids usually do, and I was finding myself asking her over and over, and getting upset. So I looked at what she liked doing (for example, clean the table) and I started asking her to do just that: with everything else, I have accepted that she needs more help right now. The situation has improved a lot in just few days.

A few ideas for activities

This list is for both you and your children, and everything you see in this list can be done TOGETHER or INDIVIDUALLY! Kids love to be involved in house chores or literally anything that they can do with you. Often, they’re amazing helpers!

You can also take this opportunity to make a routine with a for your children that you always wanted to create (ie. for example, put them to bed earlier).

When I have recommendations, I added links. When you see a flower 🌸 next to an item, it means I wrote an article about it or about something similar: you can find it in the recommended articles below the comments.

Please stay home, and stay safe.

  • Read
  • Listen to podcasts (But Why?)
  • Listen to audiobooks
  • Listen to music
  • Sit on the couch and talk, NO DEVICES
  • Play board games
  • Do nothing
  • Organise the house
  • Clean the house 🌸
  • Wash the windows 🌸
  • Mop the floor
  • Vacuum or swipe the floor
  • Hang the laundry
  • Hand wash underwear
  • Go through every room, one by one, and throw away/donate what you never use 🌸
  • Do the same with your closets 🌸
  • Draw
  • Color
  • Pick a theme (ie plants in New Zealand, African animals) and make a poster by drawing (or printing and colouring)
  • Learn the sound of birds on this website (better on the phone)
  • Play with letters (I always recommend the Phonic system) 🌸
  • Play with numbers
  • Do yoga (Yoga with Adriene (English), Yoga con Xuan Lan (Español), Yoga con Eliana Dell'Anna (italiano), Cosmic Kids Yoga)
  • Meditate (just sit in circle and breathe in, breath out)
  • Create new habits (ie sleep earlier, read before bed)
  • Make a routine poster 🌸
  • Do nothing
  • Rest
  • Watch a documentary, 15 minutes a day until it’s over (Our favourite: Disney Movies and Our Planet)
  • Start recycling
  • Make a castle with chairs and blankets
  • Stick a huge piece of paper on the wall and paint with water colors 🌸
  • Cook
  • Bake cookies 🌸
  • Wash, peel, grate, cut vegetables
  • Sort clothes to donate to charity
  • Exercise together (7-minute workout app)
  • Watch a tennis game, or any sport that you like
  • Do nothing
  • Pour water from one bowl to another using different containers (in the bathtub, shower)
  • Make musical instruments with what you find around the house
  • Play drums on pillows (great stress releaser)
  • Make a clock and learn to read the time
  • Make a calendar and learn months and days
  • Play hide and seek
  • Dance to Super Simple Songs 🌸
  • Reorganise furniture, make your place feel new (my mom used to do it all the time and I loved it!)
  • Cut paper
  • Stick paper
  • “Draw with newspapers”: cut things, people, animals out of newspapers and stick them on a paper to make drawings and stories
  • Learn how to make things with paper (boats, airplanes, hat…)
  • Make a doll house with what you find around the house (the shoes is a car, the table and chair are the rooms, the pillow is a bed…)
  • Jump the rope!
  • Play pet: Oliver and Emily play it all the time, one is a cat/dog with a rope around their belly as the leash, and the other is the owner
  • Use paper tape (masking tape) to: makes roads for Lego cars, make the path for an obstacle course using chairs, pillows, coffee tables etc GET CREATIVE!
  • Make puppets and create a puppet theatre show
  • Record simple videos for friends and family
  • Organise a virtual meet-up with your kids’ friends (use Zoom, Skype, Talco, Whereby…)
  • Cook and have a virtual family meal, aperitif, birthday party…
  • Do nothing
  • Join the many FREE live classes that dance schools and activity centres are doing online (my kids are doing one from Bubble Marbella just now!)
  • Watch photos and show the kids photos of when you were a child (printed or digital)
  • Make homemade play dough (lots of tutorials online)
  • Pretend to be animals and find clothes in the closet that could make you look like that animal. GET CREATIVE!
  • WHEN CRABBY, ADD WATER! Trust me, water always fixes every mood! Pour water from one container to the other (change container to make it more challenging), bathe the baby doll, wash clothes, wash windows, have a long bath…

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