Whether it’s accessing free educational resources or coming up with creative playtime activities, Andrew Doherty shares tips for agents working from home alongside their children
With schools now closed across the UK and Ireland, many travel agents will be finding themselves working from home alongside their children.
While most schools will be preparing learning packs and online classes covering subjects for all key stages, looking after your child’s wellbeing and keeping them occupied while completing your day-to-day tasks is no easy feat.
Tony Cassidy, professor of child and family health psychology at Ulster University, says parents should ultimately strive to create some semblance of normality.
“It is almost impossible to [remove] children from the current situation. Younger children are more easily distracted but even they will pick up on some things. Older children will be more aware and want to talk about it,” he says.
“Children are very good at accepting the reality. They will pick up on parents’ anxiety so try to keep as calm around them as possible. Try to see the situation less as a threat and more as an opportunity to spend quality time with children and do things you haven’t been able to do because of a busy work schedule.”
From dedicating time to learning to coming up with creative activities to help stave off boredom, we’ve created a guide that should help make life easier for both agents and their children during the current coronavirus lockdown.
Create a schedule and place it in the house where everyone can see. This means children know what’s expected of them that day. Professor Calam, professor of child and family psychology at the University of Manchester, says children are happiest when they are busy and occupied.
“Break the day up into parts and try to make it predictable what will happen when. Children will find it easier to co-operate if they know that they will have some enjoyable time with your undivided attention built into the day,” she says.
Get up in the morning when you normally would, using the time it would normally take to drop the children to school to have a family breakfast. Factor in time for the kids to do independent academic work provided for them by the school, which frees up time to complete your own work tasks.
Make sure you also make time for exercising, whether that’s going for a walk or letting the children play in the garden, if you have one.
Playing is a great way of reducing stress and building relationships through shared activities. Arts and crafts such as finger painting, drawing and decorating eggs are a good place to start. You could even try your hand at making playdough – childcare agency Parental Choice has a great step-by-step guide on its website.
“Praise your child when they are doing something good that you want to see,” adds Calam. “This is a great opportunity to encourage their development, as well as independent interests and new hobbies.”
Putting on a film in the afternoon is another hassle-free way of keeping the children occupied. You could even let them make an indoor den using cushions and sheets to watch the film in.
Baking is an activity that everyone could get involved with too. The BBC Good Food website has a great selection of simple treats to make including vanilla cupcakes, tea cakes and chocolate chip muffins.
Thankfully there is no shortage of free online resources – whether educational or for entertainment – that will help occupy children.
Virtual field trips offer a fantastic way for kids to explore the world from the comfort of the sofa. Google’s World Wonders Project comprises free virtual tours of the world’s best Unesco sites, ancient marvels and art galleries.
The website uses Street View technology, allowing users to navigate independently through panoramic street-level images. Highlights include the archaeological site of Pompeii and Australia’s Shark Bay. Kids can also read up on each location’s history, watch educational YouTube videos and explore 3D models.
ChatterPack’s online guide offers an extensive list of free online learning courses. For English literature materials, Chatterpack suggests The Traditional Teacher – a WordPress site featuring GCSE-level study guides, literature textbooks and homework booklets.
Meanwhile Sparks Maths virtual classroom, which ChatterPack also recommends, features more than 2,000 learning objectives for KS3 and GCSE pupils, while the Times Tables Games app is a great resource for younger kids learning multiplication.
For kids that love to be entertained with stories, download the audio book and podcast app Audible, which is currently offering hundreds of novels to stream for free during the coronavirus crisis. Options range from educational books to non-fiction titles for all ages, including Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre narrated by actress Thandie Newton and and children’s classic Winnie The Pooh. (stories.audible.com/start-listen)
You can reduce the strain of isolation by scheduling virtual playdates using Google Hangouts or FaceTime apps. If you have older children, you might also allow them some time to play online games with their friends. Letter writing could be a good opportunity for children to practice their writing skills, as well as connect with friends.
“Perhaps the most vital thing of all is to ensure the channels of communication are open,” says Cassidy. “This means talking to children, and even more importantly, listening to them.”