It’s been challenging to stay connected to other people thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Educator Kerry McArthur has some tips for how to ensure your children still have social connections.
Over the last year it has been apparent that both logical thought and fear have kept us from socialising and spending time with friends. As adults we have found it hard, but we have different coping mechanisms, which does make it easier.
Small children, however, battle to understand why they can’t go to school, visit family or have playdates. Social and emotional development are just as important as academic learning, and we need to find clever ways of ensuring that our children stay connected.
Virtual playdates are a great way to start this process. The challenge is keeping young children entertained and focused while on virtual calls with a friend or family members, so to help you along, here are some ideas of what you can do to keep their attention during a virtual playdate.
Before you get stuck into the actual playdate remember it does not have to last long. Just a few minutes of connection will do the trick.
- Read a story together. Each family will need the same story book and one of the parents will read the story while asking both the children to answer questions or find objects, etc. You may even be able to find an electronic copy that you can project onto the screen.
- A building challenge can be done using playdough or Lego. Have the children create something together using prompts, a storyline or their own imaginations. Encourage them to talk to each other while doing this.
- Singalongs are another fun way to keep your preschooler entertained. Put their favourite Disney or action songs on the computer and share your sound, or on a speaker that is cranked up, and let them go wild singing and dancing together.
- Puppet shows can be an engaging activity where an adult could be on a third screen/connection or the children can do puppet shows for each other. This could follow a session where they have made a sock puppet together during a different playdate.
For slightly older children (5-8 years) you could incorporate the following ideas:
- Use the technology – allow the children to play with the filters while chatting: they will spend the time giggling and laughing at each other when using the different filters or backgrounds that come with the app you are using.
- Drawing – have the children take turns in choosing something to draw, either physically or virtually. You could provide them with object cards that they need to turn over (in turn) to add to their drawing, thereby creating a mystery drawing, which will result in much hilarity when they have drawn a dog wearing a hat and carrying a bird.
- Board games can easily be played together if each child has a copy of the board: again there are apps that can be played together on shared screen.
- Netflix party – there’s a new that lets you show a movie or show on Netflix with friends. One person can control the show for the entire group and then everyone can use the chat to communicate while you watch the movie.
Once you have decided to start allowing playdates again it is important to teach your child the need for ongoing hand sanitising and mask wearing. Agree with the other parents beforehand what controls you are going to put in place so that both families are on the same page and aiming for a common goal. Some guidelines to consider are:
- If your child or close family members have a higher risk factor it would be advisable not to do physical playdates.
- Before agreeing to the playdate have an understanding of the other family’s control measures and their own Covid-19 compliance.
- Where possible hold the playdate outside in park or similar open area.
- Keep the playdates small, limit it to one or two friends and where possible keep the social distance bubble going.
- Don’t allow contact sports or games.
- Ensure that all toys or equipment are sanitised before and after the playdate. Where possible have each child provide their own toys.
It is vital during this time that we keep in mind the importance of social connection. There is no normal anymore but we can make it less scary for our children by keeping their social circle the same either virtually or physically.