Having to balance work and childcare in your own four walls or not being able to work and fearing for your job – all of this puts an enormous burden on families. It is normal to feel stressed or overwhelmed. It is important to talk about this with the other parent or someone you trust and find solutions together. What can specifically be done to ease the situation? Where can I get help? (Digital) discussions with other parents in a similar situation is also important and helpful.
Organisation is everything
When reimagining everyday life in the current situation, it can help to look back at the last few days: what has gone well so far, what hasn’t? Maybe it’s time to establish a weekly family council? Children and parents sit down together and define basic conditions. It is important to consider the needs of all family members and try to look at them through children’s eyes. A weekly schedule designed by everyone with fixed rituals in the morning and afternoon can help. This should be hung up in a clearly visible place. Pictures can be painted or stuck on for smaller children so that they can “read” and understand the schedule, too.
Structure is particularly important when parents work at home. It is best to plan when to do certain work and divide it up into that which requires a lot of concentration and that which is easier to handle. If possible, do not plan to take on difficult tasks in the afternoon or evening when the children are tired and your willingness to cooperate is on the decline.
Healthy food on the table every day
In addition to work and childcare, you now have to think about balanced and child-friendly meals every day. A weekly meal schedule can make every day cooking with children much easier. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for the following week can be planned together. If you know what there is to eat every day, you can shop according to your needs and you don’t have to go to the supermarket as often. Simple food plans with recipes that are suitable for children can be found, for example, on the German Nutrition Society’s website www.fitkid-aktion.de.
The Gaumenfreundin blog provides helpful tips and great weekly schedule templates to print out.
Activities at home
When schools and nurseries are closed, your own home can also become a space for creative play and learning. The following ideas and suggestions can be easily integrated into everyday life. Simply try things out and see what suits your family.
Children want to move
There are lots of videos or info pages online with exercises for children. Highly recommended: on the basketball club Alba Berlin’s YouTube channel, the children and youth coaches put a new sports lesson online every day for three age groups – nursery, primary and secondary school. This is how to turn your own home into a sports facility. Children’s yoga is also a great opportunity for exercising and relaxing. A free PDF with exercises to print out is available here.
Wherever possible: go out for some fresh air. Forests, big parks and fields are particularly suitable. But: keep your distance from other people!
There are also exercise opportunities in the home: Try classics such as “Hot and Cold” or “Simon Says” and invent new commands. Or build a balancing and climbing course with chairs, pillows and mattresses. You can build a “laser labyrinth” using crepe paper through which you have to move.
There’s finally time to introduce the children your favourite bands or to discover new ones together. So, put on some music and sing and dance together! Music is also good for parents in tense situations.
Involve the children
Children like to help, want to participate and be involved in our everyday life. Cleaning, cooking or tidying up together can also be fun.
Maybe you’ll find some great things to play with when you tidy up together: a cardboard box for crafts or discarded clothing for dressing up. Now is also a good time to sort out toys: either to sell them later or to put them away in the cellar for a while. When you take them out again in a few weeks, they’ll be as interesting as something new.
Older children can already prepare meals and cook following simple children’s recipes. Even if it doesn’t work perfectly straight away, it’s a learning process. The children feel that they are providing support and are proud of the result. Baking and decorating their creations can also keep children busy.
Using media services
If media for children is used responsibly, it provides opportunities to learn, relax or get freedom to work. It is important to have a balanced everyday life with enough time for each other.
TV and radio: “Die Sendung mit der Maus” is currently on every day on WDR instead of once a week. Furthermore, the episodes are available on the app and in the media library.
“Tigerenten Club Spezial” is now on SWR in the mornings from 8 am, followed by “Planet Schule”. The programme’s website also offers a wide range of learning resources and films. All offers are available there free of charge and to download.
NDR is now airing an extra edition of the children’s programme “Mikado” on weekdays from 9 am until 1 pm with radio dramas, readings and a range of knowledge for children aged 7 to 13.
Learning aids: There are numerous learning platforms that offer a trial version free of charge in the current exceptional situation. These include scoyo and Sofatutor. In the KiGaPortal, there is some free inspiration for crafts, games and singing for nursery-aged children or a cheap monthly subscription.
Websites and apps: Seitenstark is a network of websites for children with high-quality standards. The site presents 60 websites with varied offers for learning and joining in. There is an article on Eltern.de that presents recommended apps for children.
Camera: A great way to spend time: Taking pictures with a camera or mobile phone for a picture story or diary. Or to send to grandma and grandpa or friends.
Books and audio dramas: Many libraries also let you borrow children’s books online, here for example. Streaming services offer numerous audio books for children.
Creativity and games
Despite everything there is on offer, children should also be given space for free, independent play so that they can live out their fantasies and develop their creativity. Building blocks, Lego, finger painting or watercolours, PlayMais, fuse beads, marbles or craft materials are all suitable. Water pearls also offer countless possibilities for playing. The resin granulate becomes colourful, shimmering balls in water that are fun to play with. You will find other suggestions on the Mama Kreativ blog, for example.
Creative game materials can also be easily produced yourself, for example, dough or salt dough. There are countless ideas online (clearly presented e.g. on Pinterest).
Older children can make small gifts and send them by post. Or they can implement their own projects creatively, create mind maps or wall newspapers on an exciting topic. Spring and all its diversity it a good topic to explore.
Get active together with your children: even without many additional materials, the home offers a variety of opportunities for playing and learning. We only have to expand our horizons a little and look at the world through a child’s eyes.
Title photo © Jürgen Fälchle / adobe