How to keep kids busy at home during the Corona Virus Outbreak
Kenya, like most of the countries that have confirmed the presence of coronavirus, has suspended learning in all learning institutions after confirming the 3rd case of coronavirus. All learners in day and boarding schools at all levels of learning from primary school, secondary school to university were required to leave the school premises as one of the measures to minimize the extent of the spread of the virus. All companies were also urged to allow employees to work from home. Most families are therefore overwhelmed by the dilemma of being productive while working at home and at the same time learning the basics of homeschooling of which the concepts are rather foreign to most households. Most Kenyan families are accustomed to the 8-5 work schedules of which most of the parents leave their homes at the crack of dawn and come back later in the evening when the children have all retired to sleep. Similarly, in most of these Kenyan homes, there is the privilege of having a live-in nanny also referred to as a house help, hence for most parents and children, this is an opportune time to bond as a family. So, how as a parent do you hack the balance between being at home with your children and also being productive in your work while at home? Here are some tips that we can use while balancing homeschooling and working from home dynamics.
- Have a family “Talk-Time”
Don’t assume that children understand the changes that are happening to the country and the globe at large. Most of the children may be feeling overwhelmed with the changes and may be afraid of the time lost in school especially if they are in the final year of their school calendar: Class eight and Form four. Have a family dialogue to discuss the changes that are happening and inform them of the reasons behind the school closure. Ensure that they are not anxious about contracting the disease, but that they should be cautious when interacting with others at home. That they should observe personal hygiene such as washing hands frequently, sneezing on their elbows rather than on their hands, minimizing social distance and coming up with creative ways of showing affection and greeting each other at home. During this time, when the entire country is dazed with fear especially during the regular news reporting time, ensure that you have positive dialogues regarding the management of the epidemic and assure them that the government and all the other relevant authorities including the health care personnel are doing all they can to ensure that the epidemic is contained. Encourage them to pray for the healthcare practitioners who are in the front line in managing the epidemic.
Come up with agreement dialogues on how those changes are likely to affect your interactions at home. Ensure that they understand that they are still within the school calendar and hence they should also technically study from home just as you will be working from home. This will enable them to manage their expectations as some of them might imagine that the family is on holiday and hence expect to have a laissez-faire living style during this season.
Set a family timetable
Children thrive on routines. Kids are used to following a schedule and they are happier when things are consistent. As a family, come up with a working timetable that accommodates every -one in the family. In the timetable schedule for activities that are to be done around the home such as house chores and activities that are school-based. Ensure that the children understand that while they will be working on their school-based activities and enjoying their leisure time, that you too are expected by your organization to provide some deliverables and outcomes in as much as you are working from home.
Ensure that kids come up with a time table that they will be using at home and communicate the expectation that the timetable will be followed as it could have been if they were in school.
Take advantage of all the available e-Learning resources on the internet to ensure that your child keeps abreast with the learning required from his/her age bracket. Currently, the government through Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development has the KICD Edu channel TV Broadcast lineup and the KICD radio timetable that you can encourage your child to listen to or watch on. https://kicd.ac.ke/our-services/educational-media/kicd-radio-timetable-2018/.
Publishers such as Longhorn are also running a free e-learning program that has content for learners within the CBC curriculum, the primary school session and high school session https://elearning.longhornpublishers.com/mod/quiz/processattempt.php.
There are other e-learning platforms depending on the skills that you would wish your child to acquire during this season. Some of the e-learning platforms are to ground learners on technology applications such as coding. Others provide a wide varied source of information such as U-demy among others. The costs of enrolling in those programs vary.
Regulate screen time
As recommended by world health organization, children under the age of five should have limited or no screen time. According to various studies, the unstructured playtime is more valuable to young children’s developing brain than electronic media. When introducing digital media to children, make sure it is of high quality in terms of content and ensure that they are watching with an adult so as to minimize the passive screen time. Too much or poor quality screen time has attributed to issues like irregular sleep schedules or shorter duration of sleep, behavioral problems, loss of social skills, violence, and less time of play, which is very important to the growth of the young child’s mind. If a child is of an age in which they can engage in quality screen time, regulate the amount of time spent watching TV and encourage the child to watch educational TV programs such as National Geography. If they are watching the screen media from the internet, ensure that you install you-tube for kids as their primary source of getting media content online among other child-friendly social sites such as Kiddle. Some of the youtube channels that the child can subscribe to include: crash course kids to learn on science, science channel, Sci Show kids to explore curious topics, national geographic kids, kids learning tube among others. Make sure to regulate and be on the look-out on the kind of content that your child is interacting with while online.
Make reading fun!
Engage the children in various reading materials. If your child is a football fan, allow him to read the sports section of the newspaper. For younger children, make reading more engaging by allowing for read-aloud exercises. In addition to reading, ensure that you stock up on the various craft supplies like manila papers, scissors, adhesive tapes (sellotapes), crayons, old newspaper cutting, to encourage your little artist and scientist to develop their creative parts of their brains.
Engage your little learner on any of the four critical skills of the 21st century: Communication, Creativity, Critical thinking, and Collaborative skills. Always bear in mind that with all the changes that are happening in the world today, it is not so much what the child knows that will set them apart, but what they can do. Try and ensure that you enable your child to build on the critical skills required for him or her to thrive within the changes in the 21st century.
Dr. Linda Kimencu, is a lecturer at Kenyatta University. Founder of Learning Gaps Education Consulting