On the LookOut: How to keep children busy amid COVID-19

Home schooling  children

It's been nearly two months since schools, colleges, universities and other tertiary institutions were ordered to close on March 23.

While most international schools have commenced online classes, a whole lot of children have been left and spend most of their time playing at home as their schools are not offering such. The most heavily affected are children from the rural areas since the village set up does not provide such opportunities.

Even some parents in urban areas whose children have the opportunity to learn online are not able to have their wards participate due to varying reasons. These include poor financial stand, largely due to the hit that their businesses have also suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rendering them unable to purchase smart phones and associated internet bundles.  Additionally, some parents are not tech-savvy due to illiteracy. On the other hand, the poor network coverage has rendered some areas unable to have good Internet signals and this is compounded by electricity rationing currently being exercised by our sole energy provider, Escom.

Children playing in Malawi
Children enjoying extended play. Photo by Mingi Chavula

These are unprecedented times, during which we all have to accept a new normal. Being confined to home or indoors can be particularly challenging and overwhelming for parents and caregivers tasked with keeping their children entertained for the extended school holiday.

But how we can keep our children busy and entertained during the pandemic? Since there is minimal movement, getting creative is a great way to fill the hours when going outside is not an option. Keeping busy doing something fun is the best way to fill the time while at the same time bonding with our children.

We can begin by setting up a timetable for each day. We may need to ask our children what they would like to do next and draw up a timetable together. This way, it will give them a sense of independence. But be mindful to suggest some balance as well with some structure. The timetable could flow as beginning with breakfast, chore time, mid-morning snack, free play, lunch, naptime, outdoor play, mid-afternoon snack, screen time, fitness fun, dinner and bath time.

Children idle their time away
Children idle their time away. Photo by Mingi Chavula

It is upon us as parents to utilise this period positively. Let’s get the kids to help out with house hold chores. Of course, chores need to be age-appropriate, but everyone in the house can chip in and do their part. Herewith are some chore ideas: Water the plants, help feeding pets like: dogs, cats; helping with laundry such as: washing of clothes, ironing clothes, sorting out the clothing; Making their beds, sweeping and mopping their bedrooms, setting the table for dinner, help with preparing lunch or dinner.

This may not sound fun to some children and this calls for a motivation. Simple rewards in form of a crisps and favourite biscuit or drink to those children that complete their chores may be appetising and alluring thereby encouraging them to do it again next time.

But the children should not just be left without school work. We can revise the different excises they did at school. This will make them not to forget what they had been learning at school. If they do not have text books, we can invest in some, including second hand ones and go through with them.

There are also other websites that offer age appropriate mathematics, English and Science lessons that are not syllabus specific which we can download or print material for free, they include: tlsbooks.com.

It is a time to embrace the opportunity for quality time with kids without many of the usual distractions and to share in fun activities that we do not always find the time to do under normal circumstances. This time also provides us with a unique opportunity to do things differently.

Since some parents are also working from home it is an opportunity to notice some bad behaviours in our kids like use of foul language, fighting, this will help parents model them to better responsible children.