Lockdown is a surreal time for everyone, like being stuck in a time-warp where everything has slowed down. And yet, with two under-fives at home, somehow things have also sped up! I wouldn't usually use this platform to talk about personal matters, but in these times, many, like me are experiencing a strange blending of home and professional life, to which we are not used.
With a backdrop of Joe Wicks, Cosmic Kids and regular intervals for help on potty training, conference calls with colleagues feel different. There is something wonderful about being able to work productively (hopefully) without missing out on the everyday challenges and rewards of your own family. It's refreshing and in many ways feels right, like an extreme extension to flexible working, which comes with widespread acceptance (it's great to see newsreaders in their own homes too!).
But it's not without serious challenges for families at home, and my work with Growing Minds keeps that reality very much in focus. We know that lack of access to settings and other professional or even social support for families with under-fives is likely to disproportionately impact disadvantaged families. Many families are finding themselves working strange hours to fit everything in, and then there are those struggling with much more essential needs - how to source nappies affordably, and tinder-box situations for families in relational crisis or experiencing domestic violence.
Not to mention the impact that this lockdown is having on mental health, the full extent of which we are unlikely to understand for some time. Worth keeping in mind then, that Covid-19 will have deep and long-felt impact on some families, as well as potentially causing more children to start school behind their peers when it comes to their readiness for formal education ('school readiness').
For the majority, there is the more banal question of how to keep the children entertained, and even developmentally stimulated, for their parents' benefit as well as theirs! But rather than sifting through a bombardment of online resources for constant inspiration, why not think local, think smaller scale. Use a few sources of inspiration, maybe neighbours, maybe organisations you already know - sources from your school or nursery or online with the library. My local WhatsApp groups are helpful, and what a good time to build neighbourly and local networks, which will persist long after this virus has gone.
One last thought - there is no better time than now for reading with children. We know all the reasons this is great for children, but for adults too, books provide a perfect activity that you don't need to think up yourself! Sometimes I read to my children, sometimes we just talk about the pictures in a book. I always feel afterwards that the children have had some quality parent time, whether it was focussed on the story, my children's active imagination or just sitting and having a hug quietly and appreciating the art work!
New research reveals that 34% of parents say their children are being read to more during lockdown, and more are taking part in other traditional activities such as board games (62%), arts and crafts (60%) and listening to music (51%). But 22% of parents say that neither they or their partner are doing any home education with their children during the lockdown, and 14% of parents are not reading with or to their children.