Schools across the UK are closed for an indefinite period of time. How can you keep your kids entertained during lockdown?

Millions of children are off school due to coronavirus. Exams have been cancelled, and after-school clubs are closed. These school closures are concerning many parents, who are trying to find ways to transition their children into life in lockdown. They won’t have much contact with their friends, and are likely to have to spend hours with their parents or guardians.

Create a routine for your child

As a former teacher, my advice is to keep to a routine. At school, children are used to following a schedule, so making a framework for the day will help create normality and structure. Let your child have a say in how their day will look. Together, map out how their week will look. Ask them when they usually have snacks and lunch at school. It is important to break the day into small frequent breaks. Breaks are important for productivity. I would suggest small 15 – 30 minute breaks, depending on your child’s age. This gives them a chance to reset and helps with their learning and focus.

Limit screen time

During these breaks, it can be tempting to rely on tablets, phones and TV to entertain your children. It is important to avoid an overreliance on screen time as it has a negative impact on mental health, and can disrupt sleep patterns. But, if they are used wisely, screens can be a useful parenting tool. To prevent your child from over-indulging on screens, have scheduled time in your timetable for screen time, and make it clear to your child for how long. Still, there are days when it is easier to let your child watch their favourite TV show – get through the day and go back to your routine the next day.

Keeping active

“Aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day across the week,” say official NHS guidelines. It suggests that parents or guardians should reduce the time their children spend not moving. Dancing to music can be an easy way for children to keep active. Joe Wicks, the online fitness influencer, is bringing back his 30 minute live classes every day at 9am on his YouTube channel, ‘PE with Joe’. Exercise can have benefits for both physical and mental health.

Continue learning

Some schools have begun preparing materials for children to continue their learning at home, while many education charities, such as The National Literacy Trust, are also offering free resources on their websites. Many teachers stress that parents and guardians should continue to practise essential English and maths skills such as times tables.

The BBC recently announced that, from Monday each weekday on CBBC – aimed at children aged between 7 and 16, they will deliver a three-hour block of primary school programming.

Programming will include Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily, as well as Our School, Celebrity Supply Teacher and Horrible Histories.

BBC Two will cater deliver content for secondary school students with programming to support the GCSE curriculum with two hours of content each weekday. The content will be built around shows produced for Bitesize Daily, the BBC’s summer term service, but will include classic drama adaptations of Shakespeare as well as science and history.

Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC, said: “Ensuring children across the UK have the opportunity to continue to follow the appropriate core parts of their nation’s school curriculum has been a key priority for the BBC throughout this past year. Education is absolutely vital – the BBC is here to play its part and I’m delighted that we have been able to bring this to audiences so swiftly.”

Here are three ways to learn and have fun:

Literacy

To help children who have fallen behind on their literacy, the National Literacy Trust have launched a Virtual School Library. The platform is a free resource which aims to give every primary school child in the UK access to a free e-book or audiobook, and an exclusive video and activities from a beloved children’s author or illustrator every week. Its first guest authors are Greg James and Chris Smith, who have shared a video and free audiobook from their Kid Normal series.

The National Literacy Trust have also launched a new website, Words for Life. The website brings together all of the charity’s existing digital support for parents in one place. This includes their popular Family Zone, which supported more than 400,000 families during lockdown, its Small talk website, developed with the Department for Education’s Hungry Little Minds campaign, which provides parents with activities to support the early language development of children aged between 0 and 5.

Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “We must do everything we can to support the literacy, learning and wellbeing of all children as they return to school after such a significant disruption to their education, particularly those who have been hit the hardest.

“Our Virtual School Library will ensure children who need it most have access to the magical world of stories all year round while our Words for Life website will provide parents with the activities they told us they need to help support their child’s literacy at home.

“Together, we can ensure that the impact of COVID-19 does not last a lifetime for any child.”

Science

Science presenter, Greg Foot, and Edutuber and presenter of CBeebies’ show ‘Maddie’s Do You Know?’, Maddie Moate are going live on YouTube with Let’s Go Live, a family science show to help with home-schooling during lockdown. They are aiming for three shows a week between Monday and Wednesday at 11am. They will be exploring topics including oceans, space and dinosaurs. You can also check out Maddie’s  YouTube channel for fun science and nature lessons aimed at children between 5 and 11.

Shelley Allen, Head of STEM at Burgess Hill Girls Junior School in Sussex, has created a series of videos showing fun science experiments that can be conducted at home during lockdown. The experiments require few materials that can be found in most households. They include making a homemade lava lamp, a skittles rainbow and a coca cola volcano eruption. The videos and written instructions can be found on the school website here.

Art and History

The Louvre’s Tales of the Museum is an interactive cartoon series that allows children and parents to click on items from the museum’s collection, and explore their history through animated storytelling. They depict the backstories of world famous works like the Venus de Milo, as well as major events in the museum’s history, such as the theft of the Mona Lisa.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Kids website offers several options, including an interactive map of the museum and a collection of videos allowing children to explore subjects like How to Dance in Armor and Can a Painting Tell More Than one Story?

An interactive tour visualises the British Museum’s collections on a timeline and allows you to travel through the centuries and explore highlights from the collection, including an Ancient Egyptian papyrus poem to a 21st-century ceramic vessel by Magdalene Odundo.

Activity sheets are also available for some IRL fun, allowing you to play symbol detective in the Egyptian sculpture gallery and teaching you how to roar like the lions in the museum’s Great Court.