Finding genuinely enriching activities that children will engage with can feel impossible when there are infinite video games to be played and films to be watched during isolation. I have been recommending individual activities to the parents of my own students, and the three key considerations are:
- Choose activities that are a bit different to what they would be asked to do at school, so that they feel special.
- Explore topics and subjects that aren’t included in the main school curriculum, but would still benefit them.
- Don’t overload them with options – one main activity a day will be more memorable and meaningful.
I have recommended three tasks below, which can be adapted to meet individual interests and levels.
ACTIVITY 1: ARTISTIC reading – audiobooks plus DRAWING
This is a good one for children who like to draw and who would benefit from extra reading/story time. Audiobooks allow children to hear wonderful stories and improve their vocabulary, especially when there is a good narrator. While independent, silent reading is brilliant, it is just as important for children to hear words spoken correctly and with the right intonation to learn to love language.
How to do it:
- The app/website Audible has made a selection of stories FREE, without the need for an account. Head over to https://stories.audible.com/discovery to access these.
- Ideally, choose an unabridged story and ask your child to read along with the story by downloading the book online. This will let them follow the vocabulary and see how the narrator emphasises words to give meaning.
- However, for a completely free version, or if your child is reluctant, they can simply enjoy the words without the text.
- At the end of each chapter or listening session, simply pause the audiobook and have fun drawing the main characters and events. Cartoon comic strips can be particularly fun to create. As well as being a bit of fun, doing this really encourages children to visualise stories, which is important for comprehension.
Activity 2: Learn to code for free
No one can deny that this is an increasingly important skill for children to learn in our tech-centric world. Schools do now teach some basic coding, but there has never been a better opportunity to invest a good amount of consistent energy into this. Coding also teaches children to think logically and break actions into chronological steps. Parents should sit with their children while they learn to navigate the site they choose, but within no time their children will be able to complete the tasks independently.
How to do it:
- There are lots of different websites that teach children how to code. For beginners, I suggest starting with Studio Code, which has created amazing guided Hour of Code lessons. Children learn to code a project in an hour, such as a Dance Party animation to share with friends or a Frozen themed game. The beauty of the site is that children should be able to follow the steps independently. Head to https://code.org/learn for their full options.
- For more experienced coders or older children, there are other websites to explore. I recommend Code Emoji (https://www.codemoji.com/) and Scratch, which was developed by MIT (https://scratch.mit.edu/ ).
Activity 3: Do something musical!
Music has innumerable benefits for brain development, despite being sadly underrepresented in the average school timetable. If your child has instrumental lessons already, it’s a good opportunity to encourage them to practise more. If not, encourage them to get creative. Either way, to make this activity realistic, it’s important to emphasise fun possibilities, rather than instructing them to do repetitive rehearsals they will resent.
How to do it:
- For children who already play an instrument: They can try to figure out the notes to songs they already know, make up their own music or make a video diary to monitor their progress. Without school, they have more time to be creative, so they don’t just need to repeat the ‘bare minimum’ their instrumental teacher asks for each week. You can also find free ear training exercises (useful for ABRSM aural preparation) at https://tonesavvy.com/music-practice-exercise/215/interval-identification-ear-training/
- For everyone: get singing! There are plenty of karaoke versions of popular songs on YouTube, which they can commit to learning off by heart and performing for family, or for a video diary.
- If you have an unused instrument gathering dust at home: Dig it out and get googling some free tutorials – there are lots of free lessons available for every instrument imaginable!
At Tempus, we are helping our students and parents through the Coronavirus isolation. You can find out more about how online homeschooling help works on our method page, and get in touch if I might be able to help.