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Ask the Experts: Keeping Children Healthy and Happy

In this blog, we asked the experts (teachers and parents) to share their advice for keeping healthy and happy whilst learning at home.

Posted on Thursday 09th April 2020

We know these are challenging times for most people and we have to look after our mental health and wellbeing during this time. There have been so many examples of people coming together such as the NHS clap, and rainbows and bears in windows for children to spot on their daily walks. At TTS, we have been asking teachers and parents (the experts) for their top tips for keeping healthy and happy during this incredibly challenging time. Here is their advice …

Try and keep a routine

  • “The main thing to bear in mind, is keeping a bit of ‘normal’ in every day (particularly as these are really not ‘normal’ times). Most children respond incredibly well to an element of routine and be guided by the child. By the same token, do not beat yourself up, remember that you are the child’s parent, not their teacher and you can only do what you can do.” Pamela Hanigan, Teacher and Dyslexia Specialist, and Rachel Gelder, teacher and BDA Practitioner.
  • “Let children rest and support them emotionally by still keeping structure to the day (different activities at different times) as for a lot of them, change will be stressful.” Katie Lackey, Year 1 Class Teacher
  • “On wellbeing…we’re keeping as many things as normal as we can, our morning routine, bedtime, no home-school at the weekends, etc. Be very mindful that this is even harder for them than it is us, as they understand even less than we do.” Kate Williams, Childminder 

Find times to talk

  • “Allow them to talk about coronavirus, we can’t pretend it’s not happening.” Laura Kelly, Trainee Early Years Teacher and Parent to 3 children
  • “Set aside some time at bedtime to talk, to find out if there is anything they are sad about or worried or scared, but also happy or excited too. Give them time to talk about it.” Caroline Sawkins, Parent
  • “Don’t rush bedtime. This is often the time when all their worries will come out. Be ready to talk with them.” Kate Williams, Childminder

(it is important to talk to children about what is happening. There are a lot of useful websites that are providing free advice and guidance on how to approach this. You know your child best, so choose the most suitable way. A few examples of websites are Children’s Commissioner, Child Mind Institute, BBC News and Young Minds.)

Keep in touch

  • “Keep contact with school, friends & family. I’ve been playing FaceTime games with my niece & nephew everyday like Kim’s game & rock, paper, scissors.” Hayley Winter, Early Years Teacher
  • “Let them ring or facetime friends that they might be missing. Look at photos together to remind them that life will go on afterwards and all the fun things you will do together when it does.” Gemma, Parent and Teacher

Get Outdoors (if and when you can)

  • “Get in as much outdoor play as possible – this will be a) good for their wellbeing and health and b) they will be learning whilst they play.” Katie Lackey, Year 1 Class Teacher
  • “We have been going in the garden every day, playing catch, running races and especially chasing bubbles round the garden.” Caroline Sawkins, Parent

(Please be sure to follow government guidelines with regards to spending time outdoors and follow guidelines for social distancing)

Keep busy and look for ways to make things possible

  • “My children wanted to go camping one evening, so we set up a campsite in our living room. We have a jar full of activities and they choose one every night. They also have daily chores to earn their screen time, like washing toys and cleaning.” Siobhan Binnion, Parent
  • “Don’t think about what you can’t do, think about how you can make it possible in a different way. If you would usually go for a picnic, go for one in your back garden or in the living room. You can still have all the fun of making and preparing! If you usually have a night out at the local restaurant then have a theme night at home. Learn the language, dress for the occasion, play themed music and make decorations.” Catherine, Teacher
  • “Include lots of fun, play and movement in their day and put family time and well-being first! There are so many people doing live videos, sharing activities and inspiration so dive into this and get creative. I know we have a lot on but don’t be afraid to get messy and silly e.g. building a den or having water play in the sunshine. This is a special opportunity to be home and really present with your children so my best advice would be to cherish it; in the blink of an eye we will be back to daily life.” Chloe Grey, Nursery Teacher
  • “Let them get involved with the day to day chores, to make your life easier too! It’s still life skills at the end of the day. Art and creativity is good therapy. Mine like putting on shows. Baking and cooking are always well received.” Gemma, Parent and Teacher
  • “Play games such as Snakes and Ladders, dominoes, cards, Scrabble, and a whole heap more. Many of which teach valuable skills, whether we realise this whilst playing, or not! Do some exercise together, bake cakes, learn some useful life skills. Simple games such as ‘Kim’s Game’ and ‘I went to market’ and any game which requires them to follow instructions, are great to play as a family and help to develop auditory memory. Mazes, dot to dot’s and spot the difference games are great to develop visual and visual sequential memory.” Pamela Hanigan, Teacher and Dyslexia Specialist, and Rachel Gelder, Teacher and BDA Practitioner.

Children learn from us

  • “Try to remember children absorb much more than we realise so trying to remain calm and not having the news or radio on in front of them is important.” Jess, Parent and Consultant for a mental health charity
  • “My main advice would be that children pick up on your feelings so stay positive and share your feelings with each other. Do what you can and reach out for support if you need it.” Hayley Winter, Early Years Teacher

 Healthy Bodies and Healthy Minds

  • “Have regular meals and snack times. Ensure children are drinking plenty of water. They may forget with routines changing. Outdoor time is essential as much as you safely can. If you have no garden then go on a daily walk seeing what you can find. If you are finding that Joe Wicks workouts are a bit much for young ones then see if you can find the Zumba Kids videos, they are much more accessible for exercise for the whole family. And … relax.” Jodie Lopez, Parent, Former Teacher and EdTech Consultant.
  • “Keep them active, we do PE and go for a walk in the afternoon.” Laura Kelly, Trainee Early Years Teacher and Parent to 3 children
  • “Above all else, maintaining good mental health for the whole family should be your priority. Having good mental health helps us to relax more, achieve more and enjoy our lives more. There are simple things we can do to look after our mental health and well-being. There is some free expert advice and practical tips from the NHS. Janine Medway-Smith, Nursery Practitioner

And a final message to parents …

  • “Don’t try and do too much! You are not teachers and no one is expecting you to be. Take the time to enjoy your children and learn together. Have fun!” Beverley, Teacher and Parent
  • “Playing is learning! Quality time with your children is precious. Parents are doing their best and this is more than enough! They know their children best and they know what they need.” Caitlin McGahan, Year 1 Class Teacher
  • “Take each day as it comes. Some days will need to be a film and PJ day. The most important thing is to keep your little ones happy. If everything is a battle take a step back and rethink, no one will achieve anything if you’re both stressed.” Stacey Hughes, Parent and Teacher
  • “Breathe – everyone is anxious and scared, make allowances for everyone’s feelings, your own included. You don’t need to be a superhero.” Gemma, Parent and Teacher

Superheo

Be kind to yourself and look after yourselves!

With thanks to Pamela, Rachel, Katie, Kate, Laura, Caroline, Hayley, Gemma, Siobhan, Catherine, Chloe, Jess, Jodie, Janine, Beverley, Caitlin and Stacey for all of your advice.