How to keep children entertained and relaxed during quarantine

Nehal Samir
13 Min Read
Young mother working at home and feeling displeased while her kids want to play with her.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most countries have imposed restrictions on international or inter-state movement. Most companies have asked their employees to work from home, whilst at the same time, all nurseries, schools, and universities have closed their doors, forcing their students to learn from home.

A total of 2.34 billion under-18 people live in one of the 186 countries that have imposed some form of movement restrictions due to the virus. 

Meanwhile, 60% of all children live in one of the 82 countries with a full (7% of countries) or partial (53%) lockdown, accounting for 1.4 billion youth who have had their learning affected, according to latest UNICEF figures.

“I was having a conference call for work, and I was finishing a required task, but every second my child cries or asks about something.”

“I had to leave the conference call every five minutes to ensure everything is alright with my children, as they are staying in the room alone.”

“I am really stressed due to the closure of schools and nurseries, and I try to do everything at home for my children while I am working.”

In the current circumstances, almost all mothers anywhere in the world have said at least one of these complaints.

For a working mother, it has never been an easy to find that balance between work and family. Mothers frequently carry feelings of guilt and stress due to having to divide her attention between work and family responsibilities.

With the pandemic still in full swing, the problem has only got bigger, adding yet more difficulty and the need for further flexibility on the shoulders of full-time working mothers. Now, they face the added need for flexibility as they focus in their work while having their children at home full-time during quarantine. 

It is not just mothers that are facing more responsibility during the lockdown – it is both parents who have to try to keep their children healthy and occupied at home. This comes in addition to adapting to the new lifestyle with the movement restrictions in place.

Here are some tips and ideas to keep your children occupied and healthy at home, whether you’re a working mother or not.

1- Stick to a daily routine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Child Mind Institute both recommend that parents maintain familiar routines as much as possible. If this isn’t possible, you can create new ones, especially if children must stay at home.

This includes establishing a routine for waking up, eating, and going to bed around the same time every day. Consistency and structure are calming during times of stress. Children, especially younger ones or those who are anxious, benefit from knowing what’s going to happen and when.

The Child Mind Institute explained that setting a timer will help children know when activities are about to begin or end. Having regular reminders will help stave off meltdowns when it’s time to transition from one thing to the next.

2- Discuss the coronavirus with your children in an honest way.

The pandemic is the dialogue of the hour, so the WHO advises parents to discuss and talk about the coronavirus with their children, using honesty and age-appropriate language.

3- Support your children with at-home learning, and make sure time is set aside for play.

Another WHO recommendation for the parents is to support their children with at-home learning, whilst making sure that time is set aside for play. One option for home-learning includes e-learning courses whilst parents have work. In their free time, parents can also help their children with the courses as a way of bonding.

4- Help children stay in contact with friends and family members through telephone and online channels.

Everyone needs to stay in touch with their loved ones and friends – it is also a way of creating mental wellness. The WHO recommends that parents help their children stay in connect with friends and family members.

There are a lot of ways that the children can stay connected with those closest to them, including telephone or video calls. With home internet connections common, they also can play video games online together.

5- Make sure that children have time away from screens every day and spend time undertaking off-line activities together. 

The WHO advises parents to make sure that their children have time away from screens every day, and spend time doing off-line activities together.

The organisation also recommends parents ensure that their children do not spend significantly more time than usual on video games.

These last two pieces of advice might make parents feel even more overwhelmed about finding some creative activities. But there’s no need worry here, as there are plenty of creative activities that can take place at home.

1- If it is possible for you to move outside your home, it is a wonderful opportunity to take family walks and bike rides. This is a fantastic opportunity to have a change of scene, just remember to maintain social distancing with others outside your family unit.

2- Help your children express their feelings by drawing a picture, or even writing a short story or a poem. Children love these kinds of creative activities.

3- Talk with your children about the importance of helping people during an unprecedented crisis, directing them to gather toys and clothes that can be donated.

4- Get children engaged in kitchen activities. For example, you can ask them to bake a cake with you, or after work. Before making lunch, ask your children to go and look at what ingredients you have in the kitchen and ask them for their suggestions for a healthy menu.

5- Even though there may be travel and movement restrictions outside, you can still get children moving inside the home, through dancing or trying online yoga and fitness classes. You can even play outside in the garden, if you have one.

You can refer to websites such as YouTube that have plenty of child-friendly workouts. If you have work to complete, you can set your children a challenge and leave them doing these exercises while you work.

6- Take to telling stories to your children, or, if you cannot narrate alone and you need help, you can check audible story websites, such as Audible. The website offers free stories for children up to age 18 in different languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Japanese.

7- Try to make your children feel productive by making them organise their toys, rooms, clothes, school supplies, books, and games. Also, try to make them have fun while organising.

8- It will be likely there will be a bit of boredom with movement so restricted. But to stop your little ones getting bored, you can set a different theme for every day. For example, you can set one day for wearing Halloween clothes, another day for Yoga and fitness, another one for sports, another one for dancing party, and so on. You can also plant seeds in cups and put them either on your windowsill or the balcony.

Ideas for offline games

After work hours or during the weekend, you can compensate your children by playing with them some offline games. One is quite spoilt for choice with what one can do, but here are some ideas for offline games.

Guess the Film: In a type of charades, one member of the family acts out various names of films and other family members try to guess the film.

Autobus Complete: Here, every member of the family takes a pen and paper to write at the top of the paper a column for a letter. They then try to find the name of a person, dish, animal, country or famous event that starts with that letter. 

 The first person who starts picks a letter and says it to the other players and everyone tries to write names for things starting with that letter. The first one who finishes them all says “autobus complete” and the game finishes.

Calculating the score begins when players say all the items they wrote in each column. If two or more people write the same name, it will be calculated at 5 points for it. If they write unique things, they take 10 marks. Add them together and write the number in the result column to decide the winner.

Ghamza: Players write different numbers, with all members agreeing on a specific number as the distinguished one. They then have to turn all the papers on their back and each one takes a paper and hides it.

For example, if the agreed distinguished number is 3, then the one who gets the paper with 3 written on it has to wink to all the other people. The one who got winked has to throw his card on the table without revealing the number identity, and so on, until there is only one person left at the end who has not had wink.

If anyone of the other players took care of the wink and discovered the identity of the distinguished number or who has it, then this one will win.

The last one who has not caught the wink, he will ask who has the paper with the chosen number. If they guess the right person, he will win. If not, he will lose and the person who has the paper with the chosen number will win.

Bingo: In this party standard, each player will take a paper and write the letters B, I, N, G, O above five vertical columns, with one letter appearing above each column.

Each player must write under the B column, the numbers from 1 to 15, and in the I column numbers from 16 to 30, the N column should have numbers from 31 to 45. Meanwhile, the G column will have under it a number from 46 to 60, and the O column will have under it numbers from 61 to 75.

Then each player will call out random numbers depending on what is best to make a BINGO of five in a row, horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. The one who finishes first will win.

Other games: you can also play with your children domino or cards, connect four, UNO, Bank of Chance, among others. Also, you can build puzzles with your children, an activity which has really caught on in recent weeks as the lockdown continues.

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