5 Ways to Help Kids Socialise in a Time of Social Distancing
Published 01 April 2020 at 05:29
“I don’t know how we are going to do this. I have taken the next 3 days off. But after that, with both me and my wife working from home and kids having nothing to do, nowhere to go. I don’t know how we are going to manage. The problem is, we don’t even know how long social distancing needs to continue. The kids can’t go to their friends’ house, they can’t go to the park, what do they do?” said my exasperated brother who lives in Canada.
My call with him prompted me to write this article. We in Hong Kong are a few weeks ahead of the rest of the world. Children need socialisation. Much has been written about it on how socialisation helps them develop. But in day to day life also, socialisation is instrumental in uplifting their mood, motivating them to try out new things.
Photo Credit: FamVeld
While keeping kids creatively occupied is still a challenge after so many weeks, we have come up with some socialising strategies. In this article, I'm listing out some very creative ideas for socialising that I have come across from different parents.
Before getting onto the list, I would like to start by clarifying the meaning of social distancing.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging people to use the phrase ‘physical distancing’ instead of social distancing. This, the WHO country office says, is to provide a clear understanding that the governments’ directives to stay home amid the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak is not about breaking social contacts with family and friends but about keeping a physical distance to ensure the disease doesn’t spread.”
Having said that, it’s imperative to understand, it is an absolute must to avoid crowded places and to be in the crowd. In a crowded area, you do not know who is infected as the symptoms don’t show for quite a few days. This is one virus that jumps very easily from one to another. So, crowds and crowded places are an absolute no.
Keeping these 2 vital points in mind, in this article, I enlist some very creative ways I have found parents in HK have kept their children socially entertained in these times.
Photo Credit: Anutr Yossundara
This one is my favourite. It takes away time and distance from the equation. What remains is the pure joy of being with friends and learning with them. This is a great idea if the friends live far apart and traveling to each other’s place might not be an option.
This group of kids each plays an instrument. They decided on a song, found online sheet music for their instruments and they practiced together every day. By the end of 4 weeks, the group had a full song ready which they played to their parents. What a wonderful way to utilize time and resources!
The same can be done with dancing. Choose a song and choreograph it together with friends.
I have written about this in my previous article also. Some several institutes and businesses are offering online classes now. Enrolling friends together in small groups helps build a bond and promotes learning of a new skill. Some online classes I have come across are coding, story-telling, public speaking, dancing, yoga. Just to name a few.
Photo Credit: GOLFX
Inviting a small group of friends (2-3) for a play date. One can team up with other like-minded families and arrange playdates amongst kids at each other’s homes. During these playdates, the parent-in-charge can get then to do some fun and creative activity. Here are some ideas: baking cakes and cookies, pizza making, art & craft, clay modelling, create puppet shows. This way every parent gets a respite for some time. (Before inviting or accepting an invite, do ensure the other families involved do not have a history of travel or sickness).
Photo Credit: Andrey Popov
Big social gatherings are a sure no-no at the moment. However, kids can’t be kept indoors indefinitely. They need to go out in the fresh air. These days, all over the world, the air is cleaner and the sky is bluer with the pollution levels down. If stepping out of the compound of your residence is not an option, within the compound one can play games that do not need one to come too near. Some of the things I found kids in my neighbourhood doing at various times of the day: skipping rope, playing with bubbles, playing badminton, play hopscotch in the hallway.
Photo Credit: Leszek Glasner
Family Bonding Time
In most places, our everyday life has become very fast and busy. Both for kids and parents. With work from home also, we are still busy. A point to consider the commute time you are saving. Use that time to bond with the kids. From my observation and experience, if you give time to the kids, they are mostly able to figure out what to do with their own time. Harmonious playtime with kids can be a great stress buster for us parents as well. Here are some ideas for family bonding: Playing board games together, watching movies, sharing anecdotes from your childhood, playing your favourite childhood games with them. For working parents with young children, this is a great time for kids to learn how to play alone and amongst themselves.
Photo Credit: Nestor Rizhniak
What I have mentioned are only some of the strategies. They may or may not resonate fully with you or your situation. Even if they do not work for you, you will get ideas to create your strategies. It is only a matter of time before all this is over. By being creative currently, we are not just engaging our kids, we are also teaching them to problem solve, to make good use of time, to be creative and to be resourceful. Let us all make this time experience of a lifetime for our kids. Let’s give them a time that they will remember with good memories in times to come. Let us give them lots of stories to share with their future families.
What are the strategies you are following to keep your child/children engaged while you work during this time? Please share it in the comment box. We learn from each other.
By Shalini Bindal
About the Author:
Shalini Bindal is a Professional Coach certified by International Coach Federation (ICF). She focuses her coaching efforts on Teens, Parents and Women. Her one-on-one Cut-the-Clutter programme is designed to change the child’s thinking from negative to positive. Before becoming a Coach, she was a Human Resources professional and Corporate Facilitator. A mother of two teenagers, Shalini has lived in India, Belgium and now in Hong Kong. Email her for a 30-minute free in-person or virtual session firstname.lastname@example.org