As children, we have all had an amazing time playing in the park, running around with friends and sliding or swinging through playground equipment. But, at present, most of the kids are restricted from stepping out owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the second wave of the virus hitting India in April, 2021, almost every state began imposing a lockdown. While working professionals are bracing themselves and continuing to work from home, children seem to be having a hard time.
Activities to keep children engaged
In order to keep children occupied, several indoor activities can be introduced as part of their routine.
With schools and play schools closed, one of the best ways to bring out the creativity of children is through art and craft sessions. Not only does this enhance their focus, but also, strengthens visual learning.
American clinical neuropsychologist Katie Carey Levisay, talks about this on CNBC, and says, “Creating something for ourselves and others helps our sense of self-efficacy, or the belief in our own abilities.”
While going outdoors for recreational purposes is unimaginable amid these testing times, the closest a child can get to the world outside is through gardening. Simple activities like planting a sapling or watering a plant daily, helps activate the senses and provides a very unique and deep sense of achievement.
Richard Louv, author of the book, ‘Last Child in the Woods’, rightly notes, “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow. This reduces the richness of human experience.”
Cultivating the habit of reading has multiple benefits, from improving vocabulary to enhancing communication skills as well as concentration levels . This is all the more true when it comes to children.
American writer Kate DiCamillo highlights this and says, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.”
Board and card games like Uno, Scrabble and Connect can really get the childrens’ brains buzzing. Even building blocks such as Jenga and Lego help in keeping their minds active.
Generally, yoga and meditation is considered an activity for adults, but it is time to break that stereotype. Yoga offers enormous benefits for children too. It improves their flexibility, strength and overall state of being.
In the current digital age, children tend to easily get hooked on phones, laptops and tablets. Besides inducing a sense of lethargy, it has a negative effect on their minds.
Instead of giving space for kids to spend time with gadgets, parents can help them explore free audiobooks and podcasts, like the one offered by Audible . This is a great way to boost their listening skills and build general knowledge.
Parenting during the pandemic
Triparna Bhattacharyya Sharma, mother of a three-year-old kid, Jayveer, talks about how his new best friend is an iPad. “With both of us working, Jayveer’s morning routine started off with watching cartoons on the television or the iPad. Very soon, this became addictive. So we had to churn out other innovative ideas to engage him,” says Triparna.
“We bought some colouring books, materials and origami. We also got him a few car games and balls. We consciously made efforts to play with him and get him involved in other activities. In addition to this, we encouraged him to do household chores like cleaning his toys, doing laundry, and washing vegetables or fruits,” she adds.
Another parent, Mamta Neve, who has two children - an 11-year-old school going daughter and a two-year-old son.
While Neve’s daughter is busy attending online classes, her son often turns out to be restless during the lockdowns.
“To keep him calm, we have got him puzzles, colouring and story books. They have been quite helpful so far,” says Neve.
Udaipur based educator Ishani Verdia, and co-founder of the Sahaj Natural Learning sees a silver lining amidst all this. She says being at home is reconnecting many families.
“This pandemic helped bring families together, and established a good connection between parents and their kids,” she says.
How can we make it better for the tiny tots?
Parents like Neve have had to answer a barrage of questions from their children.
“The kids have asked many questions like, why are we always home, why are restaurants and stores closed, when are we meeting our grandparents, when do we go to school and so on. And, we, as parents, have no choice but to give them the hope that things will soon become normal,” notes Neve.
Globally, lockdowns are affecting the health and education of children and adolescents alike. But, it is important to hang in there. Besides parents, NGOs, schools and educators have a massive role to play since they form an important link between the children, parents and the community.
Conducting online workshops for children to simplify and explain the ongoing health crisis and giving them tips on how to deal with the changes can bring out a positive change.
Edited by Roshni Shroff
Some resources and links on how to keep children engaged during the pandemic: