Back to school after lockdown

Preparing for back to school after lockdown

Around this time of year, every year, us parents start planning for back to school.

It’s pretty much the same every August – working out what items of uniform the children have grown out of, getting feet measured for new school shoes, booking spaces in after-school clubs and breakfast club and so on.

This year though, everything is a bit different.  A lot still feels very uncertain.

All this change and uncertainty can be hard to deal with and can leave both us parents and our children feeling quite anxious about the new school year.

So here are some suggestions for things you can do to help you and your children prepare for going back to school after these long months at home during lockdown.

 

Some of this advice is for helping children prepare for going back to school after lockdown, and some of it is aimed at getting us parents ready.

Seeing as the children are the ones who will actually be heading back to school, I’ll start with the advice for helping them.

 

Make time to talk and read together

It’s likely that your children will be feeling all sorts of mixed emotions about going back to school after such a long break.  So make sure you take time to talk through any and all feelings with them.

Reading books together can be a great way to spark conversations about how they might be feeling, so make reading with your children part of your evening routine if it’s not already.

If your child is feeling nervous and worried in general about going back to school, then ‘The Worrysaurus‘ is a great, gentle story to read together and get you talking about their feelings.

For children who are worried about how much things are changing then ‘The Koala who could‘ looks like a brilliant way to bring up the idea that change and doing new things can have really positive outcomes.

Young children who are nervous about how things will be at school when they go back might enjoy reading ‘When I start school‘, even if they’re not actually starting school for the very first time.  The book addresses different worries a child has about starting school, and is a great way to start a conversation with your child about the specific things they’re worried about with regards to heading back to school so you can then reassure them.

 

Start building good habits

There’s still a bit of time left to start getting into, or back into, good habits to prepare everyone for school starting again.

If your evening routine has relaxed during lockdown and the school holidays and bedtime has shifted later and later, then now is a good time to start trying to shift it back.

It’s also a good idea to keep practising thorough hand-washing routines and reminding your children about things like coughing and sneezing into their elbows and avoiding touching their faces as much as possible.

 

Walk them through the new normal

The school day will probably look quite different than it did last year, so take time to walk your children through the new routine.

If the school have sent any videos or photos showing how things will look then sit down and look at them together and talk about what is different from the way it was before.

Make sure your child knows where they’ll be going in the morning, and if you’ll be able to go to their classroom with them or if you’ll have to say goodbye at the gate.  Talk to them about the fact that you most likely won’t be able to hang around in the mornings, that you’ll have to give them a big hug goodbye and then leave.

Have a think about anything that will be different from before and make sure your child is confident about what they need to do and how things will work.

 

 

Working through these things with the children will help us parents prepare for them going back to school too, but there are also a few other things we need to think about.

 

Get everything organised ahead of time

Get as much information as you can from your child’s school and make sure you have everything they’ll need bought, labelled and ready before they head back to school.

You might need to buy extra sets of school uniform if, like our school, your children have been asked to wear a clean set of clothes each day.

If they need to have packed lunches for a while you’ll need to make sure you have lunch boxes, water bottles, and food containers and get them all clearly labelled too.

Make sure you’re clear on where you need to be to drop them off and pick them up, if this will be different from the normal routine.  And make sure you check what time drop offs and pick ups will be, because they’ll probably be staggered to avoid crowds at the gates.

 

Be open to all possibilities

At the moment schools here in the UK are planning to open to all children for the new school year.

The thing is there’s always a possibility that things can change.  If there are spikes in coronavirus cases then there’s a chance we could end up with the children back at home again for a while.

It’s an incredibly stressful time for everyone but staying open to, and putting things in place to prepare for, the possibility of more home school can help make things just that little bit easier.

Things like talking to employers about continuing to work from home, if that’s an option, are a good place to start.  You might also want to keep a work space for the children set up at home and make sure you have supplies of paper, printer ink, pencils and so on ready to go at any time.

 

Take care of your own mental health and wellbeing

This is such a stressful time for all of us, so as you and your children gear up for a new school year and a new routine, make sure you take time to look after your mental health and wellbeing.

I know it’s easier said than done at the moment, but try to find a bit of time where you can for a bit of self-care.  Head out for a little walk on your own.  Run a hot bath and shut yourself in the bathroom for half an hour.  Try practising mindfulness or meditation for a few minutes before bed each night.

If you can take care of your wellbeing then you’ll be in a stronger position to provide support for your children if they’re finding things hard too.

 

Hopefully these bits of advice will help you and your children feel more prepared for the new school year, whatever that might look like this year.

How are you feeling about the children going back to school?

key computer skills to teach your children

4 key computer skills to teach your children

We’ve always been quite relaxed about screen time with our children, and don’t have set restrictions in place on how long they can play on the computer or the iPad.

The way we see it, the skills they learn using the computer at home will be really useful for them as they get older, both at school and when they start working.

If you’d like to get your children going with computer skills but aren’t sure where to start then this post will hopefully be helpful.

These are the 4 key skills that I think are important to teach our children.

 

Keyboard and mouse skills

From quite a young age you can get children started with the basics of using a mouse and a keyboard with fun online games – just google ‘mouse control games’ to get started.

When your children get a bit older and are getting to grips with reading and writing then you can get them started with typing.

Nerys has been really keen to learn touch typing and we’ve found the dance mat typing lessons on BBC bitesize really great for that.  She’s having a lot of fun with it and slowly building her confidence in knowing where the different letters are on the keyboard.

 

Using the internet and email

So much of our lives are online these days that knowing how to use the internet is a key skill for children to learn.

Talk to your children about using the internet safely and think about setting up restrictions on the things they can see when they’re online.  This guide from Net Aware is useful if you’re not sure where to start with talking about staying safe online.

Once you feel happy that your children understand the safety issues you can start letting them loose on the internet.

Teach them how to use google to look things up that they’re interested in.

Show them how to open up websites by typing the address in.

Let them explore child-friendly websites by clicking on the different things that interest them.

Then as they get older you can help set them up with an email address and teach them how to use it.  You could start by sending each other an email once a week with a little list of your favourite things that you’ve done that week.

 

Coding

Coding is a relatively new skill, but it’s one that is so useful for children to learn.

You can get them started at a really young age with toys like the code-a-pillar which is suitable from age 3.   As they get a bit older then games like Osmo coding are a brilliant hands-on way to get to grips with coding.

When they’re old enough, and confident with their keyboard and mouse skills, they can learn more coding skills online.

Games like the hour of code from Disney are free and really great for children of various ages.  Rhys and Nerys have both completed this Moana-themed mini-course and really enjoyed it.

 

Creative skills

Along with the more technical skills, it’s also important to teach children creative computing skills.

As our children get older they’ll be asked to produce more and more of their schoolwork on the computer and that will include creating things like presentations that will require some graphic design skills.

We’ve been using Canva quite a bit at home, both for Rhys’ school work and to create our own fun designs for things like scavenger hunts.  I love it because there’s not too steep a learning curve but there is so much you can do and create.

You can do some great photo editing with Canva as well, from basic adjustments like boosting contrast to adding in filters, cropping and flipping images.  It’s a great place to start if you’re not ready to invest in something like Photoshop or Lightroom.

 

I know that lots of parents worry about how much screen time their children have, and don’t necessarily want to encourage them to be on the computer more, but they’ll be learning so much if you use that time in front of a screen to work on these 4 key skills.

How many of these things do you already do with your children?

Stop summer learning loss

How to keep children learning over the summer

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

 

I know that after months of trying to do school work at home with your children the sense of relief when the summer holidays arrived was most likely incredible.

And I don’t blame you if you never want to look at another workbook or try and coerce your child into practising their times tables ever again.

The thing is, for my family at least, the return to school in September will be a huge shock to the system if we abandon learning altogether over the summer.  So if you want to keep your children ticking over with their learning then here are some things you can try doing with them (and lots of them basically involve learning through play).

 

Take on a summer reading challenge

The last few years we’ve signed up for the summer reading challenge at our local library and it’s been a great way to encourage the children to keep reading over the holidays.

If your local library is still closed at the moment, like ours is, then you can still sign up for the summer reading challenge online.

Another idea that would be fun for avid readers is to set up a family book club.  Decide together which books you’ll read, then sit down together each week to chat about them.

 

Dig out the board games, card games and chess boards

These kinds of games are a great way to sneak some learning into the summer holidays.

Things like chess teach them how to think strategically, as well as boosting their memory, spatial awareness and problem solving skills.

If you want to work on their spelling and language skills then games like scrabble (or junior scrabble for younger children) and boggle will get them thinking while also having fun.

We’re big fans of Orchard games for games that are simple and fun to play while still being quite educational.  They cover all sorts of things from times tables to telling the time in a way that makes learning just feel like playing.

 

Keep a bit of structure

If having a bit of a routine works best for your family then you might want to pick up, or carry on with, some of the structure of doing home schooling.

There are loads of workbooks you can buy that cover all sorts of subjects for children of all ages, that they can work through at their own pace.

You could also look at using Twinkl resources to find worksheets to print off for them to do.

If you’re happy with them working on the computer then you could use the resources from BBC bitesize, there’s loads on there from when the schools were closed, covering various topics.

We’ve also been using The Maths Factor for a few months now to support the maths work the children were given from school to do at home.  Rhys and Nerys both really enjoy doing their daily sessions and I’m a huge fan of the way Carol Vorderman uses all sorts of tips and tricks to help them understand different maths problems.  I signed the children up for it when it was free during the school closures, but they were getting so much out of it I’ve paid for subscriptions for them now and can see us sticking with it for quite a while.

 

Make the most of screen time

If your children would happily spend hours on end in front of the computer or iPad then try using that to your advantage.

There are all sorts of things they can do on tablets or computers that are really fun but also educational.

A great place to start is with games that teach them the basics of coding.  Rhys was asked to do some Disney hour of code activities as part of his school work that we did at home last term, and it was so much fun Nerys ended up doing it too.

 

Get creative

One of the skills that I’m really aware that my children don’t practice much over the summer holidays is handwriting.

So any activity that gets them writing, while still having fun, is a win.

Writing postcards to send to friends and family is a great place to start.  Even if you don’t go away anywhere, you should be able to find postcards in your own town to send.  Or you could make your own.  The beauty of postcards is there’s only a small amount of space to fill with writing so it doesn’t feel overwhelming for the children.

Another idea is to make a scrapbook of the things you get up to over the summer, with the children writing down memories and stories by hand to stick in with photos and drawings.

 

Have fun in the kitchen

Baking is a great way to practice all sorts of skills.

Following the recipe helps with reading and comprehension skills.  Measuring out the ingredients involves maths skills.  And watching how the ingredients work together to create something delicious teaches them about science.

So let them pick out a recipe and take the lead in cooking up something yummy.  We use this 2-4-4-4 fairy cake recipe a lot, and have down since the children were really little because it’s so easy but makes really tasty cakes every time.

 

Have a foreign holiday at home

If your children are learning a foreign language at school then help them practice during the holidays by pretending you’re visiting another country for the day.

You can pop to the supermarket and get foods from the country to try, and then have conversations in the language they’re learning as you sit and eat.  You could also go on a virtual tour of the foreign country and look at their famous landmarks and see what they’re called in their native language.

To really immerse yourselves in the language you could try listening to a radio station from the foreign country or even watch a foreign-language film in the evening.

 

Give some STEM activities a go

There are so many fun things you can do that sneakily introduce children to the basics of science, technology, engineering and maths.

One thing we’ve had a lot of fun with is making flipbooks, which also happen to be a great way to introduce children to the idea of animation.  Once you’ve got the hang of flipbooks you can try making stop motion videos too.

I use the stop motion studio app on my phone to make these with my children and it’s really easy to do and so satisfying to watch the end result.

 

Things are definitely going to be strange when the children go back to school in September, and it’ll take us all a while to readjust to the routine of it all.

But hopefully these tips and ideas will help keep your children in the habit of learning, even if they don’t quite realise they’re doing it, over the summer break.

help your child practice brave thinking

How to help your child practice brave thinking

The children and I have been talking a lot about our thoughts lately.

Mostly about how powerful they are.

About how easy it is to create self-fulfilling prophecies.

We’ve talked about the fact that if, for example, you decide before you’ve even tried to do something that it will be too hard, then chances are you’ll be right and you’ll struggle to do it.  But if you try it with a positive attitude then you’ll be far more likely to persevere and succeed.

 

The problem is, it’s not always as easy as it sounds to just ‘think positively’.

Our brains are wired to see the worst case scenario, because this is what keeps us safe.  We’ve evolved to spot danger and potential problems so this is what we notice and focus on a lot of the time.

Which is great, in a way.

It’s amazing that we have this natural instinct to protect ourselves and avoid danger.

The problem is that this instinct is sometimes too strong.

Our brains keep us too safe.

They make us worry about everything, imagining how badly things could go, so that we stay still and safe, instead of taking action.

And each time we think a negative thought we make the neural pathways in our brains for those kinds of thoughts stronger, so they become our default way of thinking.  Our brains don’t just want to protect us, they also want to make things easier for us so they’ll take these shortcuts whenever they can.

We’ll see a choice or a new experience and our brains will jump straight to the negative consequences because that’s the path we’ve taken most in the past.

 

So how can we help our children to fight these natural instincts and wire their brains for brave, positive thinking instead of negative thinking?

 

The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s not as easy as just telling them to stop thinking negatively, or to just not think about the thing that’s bothering them at all.

If they’re worried about starting a new club at school, for example, telling them not to worry about it won’t help.

See our brains do this weird thing when we try not to think about something.  They sort of check in now and then, to make sure we’re not thinking about it.  Which means we think about it.

What we need to do instead is practice replacing any thoughts of worry or negativity with thoughts that are positive and brave.

The more we tell ourselves that we’re strong and capable and resilient, the more we’ll create and use the pathways in our brains for those kinds of thoughts.

Do it enough and those pathways will become the default for our brains.

 

For the child that’s worrying about the new club at school, sit with them and talk about what in particular it is that they’re concerned about.

If it’s that they won’t be able to do the new activity very well, remind them of all the times in the past they’ve worked hard to learn a new skill.  Encourage them to write down positive statements about themselves that relate to their worries.

This could be things like, “I work hard”, “I can learn to do hard things”, or “I keep on trying”.

A lot of this comes down to helping them switch to a growth mindset.

So you’re helping them replace thoughts of “I’ll never be able to do this”, with “I can learn to do this if I keep trying”.

Depending on how old your child is you can encourage them to write these kinds of positive things about themselves in a notebook everyday.

Or you can write a few key, positive mantras out and stick them up in their bedroom where they’ll see them everyday.

 

The key to this is repetition.

The more your child can think and say and write down these positive, brave thoughts about themselves and their ability to cope with whatever life has to throw at them, the more they’ll start to naturally think these thoughts.

And the more they think it, the more they’ll believe it.

Once they think they can handle something, and not only think it but know it in their mind to be true, then there’ll be no stopping them.

Help your anxious child uncertain times

How to help your anxious child in uncertain times

As a general rule I think it’s best to be open and honest with our children about life and the world around us.

The problem with this is that, during uncertain times like this, I have to admit that I don’t know all the answers.  That no one knows the answers.  I can’t tell my children when the parks and swimming pools will be open again.  I can’t reassure them that they’ll be back at school and hugging their friends by a set date.

For anxious children this level of uncertainty can be really hard to cope with.  It’s hard for all of us to deal with I think.

The main thing to remember, for me as a parent, is that we’ve never been in this situation before, so no one really knows how to handle it or what the best steps to take are.

We’re all just doing our best, trying to reassure our children as best we can while keeping them safe as best we can.

There are some things we can try along the way though, that might help our anxious children in these kinds of uncertain times.

 

Practice mindfulness together

Mindfulness is a great tool for people of all ages to help with anxiety.

It’s all about slowing down and paying close attention to the world around you and to how you’re feeling.

A great way to practice this with your child is to go on a mindful walk together.  This is actually something that Rhys was asked to do as part of his school work recently and it was such a lovely thing to do together.

When you go out on a walk, stop now and then and just be still and quiet.

Ask your child to pay attention to all their senses and notice the different things they can hear, smell and feel.   You can get them to sit and put their hands on the ground, or take their shoes and socks off and stand barefoot for a few minutes.

This is great for helping us feeling more grounded and connected with nature, which has a really calming affect on our bodies and minds.

 

Keep to a simple daily routine

All of our normal routines have been completely turned upside down since the schools closed and we all started working from home.

Some children will have adjusted to this really easily, but for anxious children it will be really unsettling.

So try and create, and keep to, a new simple daily routine for them to bring back a sense of predictability to their days.

This doesn’t mean have a packed schedule each day, but keep a few things that are consistent and predictable each day, like going for a walk after lunch and having a bath and then reading together at bedtime.

 

Do kind things together for other people

When we’re feeling anxious it can be really hard to stop the worrying thoughts running through our heads.

So try and help your anxious child break this cycle by taking the focus off themselves and their thoughts by doing something kind and helpful for someone else.

Get them to make a card and then write a thoughtful message inside to send to a friend of relative.

Let them paint another rainbow to stick in the window to make passers-by smile.

Help them record a video message to their grandparents about what they’ve been up to during this time apart.

When we do kind things for other people it makes both them and us feel good, and it’s a great way to feel like you have a bit of control in uncertain times.

 

Focus on the things you can do

When everything feels out of our control it can be really scary.  So really try to focus on the things your child can do and can control.

Things like choosing to do something kind or helpful for someone else is a great place to start.

You can also talk to them about how, in the current situation with coronavirus, they can help protect themselves and other people by washing their hands properly, coughing into their elbows and limiting their contact with other people for a while.

 

Acknowledge and normalise their feelings

It’s so important to reassure your child that whatever they’re feeling at the moment is completely fine, valid and normal.

Let them express to you how they’re feeling, and encourage them to sit with those emotions for a bit instead of brushing them aside.

They might be feeling scared, angry, sad, hopeful, helpless, happy, nervous, and all sorts of other emotions, possibly all in one day, and that is just fine.

 

Add in positives

Once you’ve acknowledged what your child is feeling you can help them again by ‘adding in’ a positive to go alongside it.

So if they’re feeling scared and anxious about the current situation you can encourage them to add courage or strength to that emotion.

If they’re sad about not seeing their friends, help them to also be happy and grateful that we have the technology now to be able to video chat with them.

It’s not about taking away from what they’re feeling, but adding in more positive, helpful emotions to guide them through.

 

 

When the whole world feels strange and everything feels uncertain, we’re all going to feel more anxious than usual.

But hopefully some of these ideas and strategies will help if your child, or you, are finding it all particularly hard.

Do you have any other tips for things that help you or your child when you’re feeling anxious?  I’d love to hear them in the comments if you do.

Encouraging curiosity in your child

Encouraging curiosity within your child

Children are naturally curious because they have a lot to learn about the world around them.

Curiosity is important at any age because, without it, we would cease to learn anything new. That’s why it’s important for parents to encourage the inquisitive side of their child, as explored below by a private school in Hampshire.

 

First of all, make sure that when your child is asking you questions, you don’t shut them down.

Obviously, when you are busy and your child is nagging, it can be easy to shrug them off but if you do, they will be reluctant to ask you again. Instead, try and answer their questions or tell them that you will do some research and come back to them later when you’re not as busy.

If you don’t know the answer, be honest, and help your child find the answer by looking it up online or in a book.

 

Another way to stimulate your child’s curiosity is to ensure they are experiencing new things on a regular basis.

This doesn’t mean you have to take them on a fancy holiday to a foreign country, it could be something simple like trying a new recipe or playing a new board game. Just try and mix up the routine from time to time so that your child has the opportunity to learn about things outside of their little bubble.

 

As a parent, you should always try and model the behaviour you’d like to see in your child.

So, if you want them to be curious, you should be curious too. For example, on a rainy day you could ask “do you know where the rain comes from?” or if you’re trying a new recipe you could say “I wonder how long this needs to go in the oven”. Show your child that it’s perfectly normal to ask questions, experience new things and learn about the world around us.

Let them see you embarking on a new hobby and encourage them to do the same.

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Things you learn when you become a parent

Things you find out when you become a parent

Becoming a parent is an exciting and scary time in your life, no matter what age you are when you find out you’re having a child, it can be quite overwhelming initially. However, this is often because becoming a parent is delving into the unknown and the unknown is what scares a lot of people. Even if you’re a grown adult who thinks they’ve got their life together, you still need to prepare yourself for life as a parent. 

Below we have listed some of the things you will find out when you become a parent, we hope that this list prepares you for what’s to come, both the good and the bad things included. Remember, no one is perfect so you’re going to have days when you don’t feel good enough.

It’s OK though, you can be strong for your new little one and be the best parent you can. Ultimately, no one is scoring points and they’re not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do when your baby arrives. For now, just prepare yourself for the future. 

 

 

Things aren’t always easy

 

Have you ever seen those TV shows that depict parenting as a breeze? Even just the adverts sometimes aren’t realistic at all. In reality, things aren’t always going to be easy. Even if you have a baby who is relatively calm and quiet most of the time, there will be times they cry and whine. Despite this, it’s the beauty of parenting. The sooner you get used to your new reality, the better. After all, when you’re a parent, you’re a parent forever so it might be time to get used to how things are.

Also, take advice from people who have been there before, things that aren’t easy will end soon, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re struggling with parenthood now, it’s not going to last forever. Keep this in mind, even during the more difficult days. 

 

 

Choosing clothes and accessories is difficult

 

Let’s be honest here, every parent wants their children to have the latest clothes and most beautiful accessories. Yet, this isn’t how it will work. There are hundreds of beautiful baby clothes out there and it’s difficult to choose something both you and the child love. Plus, when you enter any good pram shop, you will be overwhelmed with surprise at how great everything is. You will definitely want it all. This is especially true for new parents who have never experienced buying for their own baby before. You will want to buy the whole baby store as soon as you enter, but your bank balance simply won’t let you!

 

 

Your cooking skills don’t matter

 

Despite what people say, your cooking skills don’t have to be of a certain calibre, why? Babies and little ones will practically eat anything. You may spend your entire pregancy trying to read up on the best ways to boil or poach or cook an egg, but ultimately, if your child is going to eat it, they will eat it. The taste most likely doesn’t matter, if they’re hungry they will eat. However, it is key to remember that during the early stages of their life, you may find that your baby is very opposed to a certain food or drink, this may be because of an allergy, if this is the case, you may want to take them to the doctors/hospital to be assessed! 

 

 

Everyone will judge you

 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but some people will definitely display this opinion more than others. Whether you breast or bottle feed will be judged along with many other things.

It’s for this reason that you need to realise, what other people think and say doesn’t matter.

As long as you’re doing what you think is right by your child, then you will be fine. Simply do your own parenting style and just take every day as it comes because everyone has their own way of parenting and if you don’t do things the way they do, they will most likely judge you. 

 

 

It is possible to function on 4 hours sleep

 

This is something every parent is capable of! When you’re a new parent and only have a little baby, you will need to learn to function on as little sleep as possible. Those long 10 or 8 hours of sleep everyday will soon become a distant memory because your little one will most likely be awake for a lot of it.

However, despite the lack of sleep – you will still love them unconditionally and becoming a parent is just the start of your new life, it’s all very interesting and exciting!

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post