Coronavirus | The yeas and nays of working from home

Coronavirus | Tips for parents working from home to keep their children engaged

Home bound Mother and daughter exploring nature at outdoor garden  

“There is a dark cloud over us,” says toy-innovator and science expert Arvind Gupta. The 67-year-old, who has made science fun for millions of children across the world through his ‘toys from trash’, says that there “is a silver lining” to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As people opt for working from home, this is a golden opportunity for families to bond; parents and children can work on exciting projects together, discover what they always wanted to, but never got the opportunity to do.” Arvind says that the Internet is a good place to start. “There is a lot of junk out there on the Web,” he warns. “But it also has some great resources.”

Among them, is his website, arvindguptatoys.com that has over 4,000 videos on making science toys from everyday objects such as old CDs, rubber bands, straws, and PET bottles. They are available in 18 languages; there are books to download as well, and all of the above can be accessed for free.

Make the most of it Try your hand at gardening, household chores or create something new

Make the most of it Try your hand at gardening, household chores or create something new  

With schools shutting down, and adults being advised to work from home, it is only natural that parents are at their wit’s end. How does one keep children engaged in something worth their while, keeping gadgets at bay?

Homeschooling parents share their notes. Chennai-based mother of three Deepa Packiyanath, who is home-schooling her 16-year-old daughter, says that they go on small walks around the neighbourhood. “We play UNO and board-games and also try our hand at some Zentangle; it can be relaxing.”

Deepa says that since the teen years can be tricky, what with their mood swings, she prefers to tailor the day around her daughter’s moods. “I sometimes pick a subject she is studying that day, say psychology, and keep all our conversations around it,” she adds.

She feels that keeping children completely off gadgets might be difficult. “I cannot restrict them entirely. Just the other day, their gang was making plans to play a game online together,” she says.

Parents of toddlers and young children need not look elsewhere for resources. “Involve them in age-appropriate everyday household activities,” says Madhu Karthik, mother of one, and founder of Lila Learning Space in Erode. “We can encourage them to chop vegetables with us, peel onions and boiled potatoes; and when we cook, we can teach them about the various flavours as we add the masalas into the dish,” she adds.

Even washing clothes can be made into a fun activity. And children love water. “Older children can help dry clothes; they can place pegs on the line with a parent to guide them,” says Madhu. It does parents good to invest in some open-ended toys such as blocks. “Children can play with them in multiple ways,” she adds. This is also a good time to stock up on art supplies. “We can come up with a theme a day. For instance, we can ask them to paint one animal each day for some variety.” This, she feels, will keep children occupied for at least an hour.

Madhu says with some soil, an empty coconut shell, and a handful of coriander seeds, children can be shown the joys of growing something on their own. Simply throw in a few seeds into an arrangement of soil inside the shell, encourage the child to sprinkle some water in it once in a while. “Imagine their excitement when they see it sprout and grow!” she smiles. “They will be hooked. Even after schools start, this exercise can continue. Tomatoes and chillies are easy to grow at home.”

R Senbaga Poonguzhali, a Coimbatore-based homeschooling mother, speaks to us over phone amid the din of children chattering around her. Poonguzhali says that while parents can bond with their children over even mundane tasks such as cleaning shelves at home or folding clothes, she prefers to just “let them be”.

“As adults, it can be difficult to keep playing with them,” she feels. And if left alone, children come up with their own games. “They come up with stories, characters...they approach me when they run out of ideas and I only gently suggest something. They take off from there.”

As Madhu puts it, “It is okay to get bored. Boredom is not a bad thing,” she feels. “It always leads to something creative.”

Expert speak
  • Early childhood education expert Padma Srinath, who has five decades of experience and is a consultant at Adyar Theosophical Academy, says she feels that this period could be well utilised by parents and children to enhance their knowledge and build relationships.
  • Children can collect twigs and dry leaves from gardens and construct animal figurines, taking help from online tutorials.
  • Singing can stimulate the lungs. Apart from this, kids can be taught breathing exercises such as pranayama and this could be done as a family.
  • Let children draw kolam patterns on the floor every morning and evening. It is a great exercise for mindfulness and helps improve focus.
  • Children must be introduced to the concept of sustainability. Parents could give them the task of making something useful out of waste they find within the house. For example, mats or rugs can be made out of old saris or dupattas. These can then be donated to organisations such as Blue Cross where animals are in need of such soft mats.
  • (As told to Chitradeepa Anantharam)

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 5:27:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/home-not-alone/article31098803.ece

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