Being homebound with kiddos during this time can be taxing even on the most patient parents! We are trying to homeschool, make sure they are getting exercise, eating right, social distancing, and calm their (and our!) anxiety...all while trying to keep them entertained. I work in Early Intervention and, with the climate, we are in right now, am providing virtual sessions to families to help them make the most out of this time together. The silver lining of what’s happening right now is that we are afforded the opportunity to really connect with our children and engage in meaningful play with them, but how? Through mindfulness and sensory play! By getting them up, moving, being present, using different parts of their bodies, and different senses you are encouraging a new avenue of learning for them. Here’s just a few activities I encourage my families to try to help children self-regulate, get the sensory input they need (especially if they are sensory seekers!), encourage communication and language, and calm anxiety!
1. Game Play: Using cooperative games such as Duck, Duck, Goose, Red Light/Green Light, Red Rover, or Freeze Dance are all games that help children work on self-regulation. Being able to self regulate your body helps with emotions, behaviors, thinking, and how to control your body in different situations. When we are homeschooling it’s important to remember why schools incorporate recesses: to get children out and moving their bodies so they can focus better when they come back to sit down and work.
2. Quiet Area: You may be on day 8 of watching your children make various forts around the house, or using a small pop up tent to play in. These are all great ways to give children a “Quiet Area”, somewhere there is low visual and auditory distraction. Crawling into a comfortable, enclosed area may be the sensory reboot your child needs to decompress. Children are wonderful at picking up others' energy and no doubt they are picking up a lot right now. Sometimes grabbing a book and snuggling with their favorite stuffed animal (or a parent) in their “Quiet Area” is just what they need to connect.
3. Have an artist in the house? Go on a nature walk and let them collect found items to create a collage. Dig up some old paint chip swatches, cut them up, and create a mosaic! Grab some paints (watercolors, tempera, etc), paper, and brushes and let them create pieces for their “Art Gallery” that they can hang up later and walk the family through.
4. Water Play is always a hit! You can put water in a water table (or tubs if you don’t have a table), add kitchen items (such as measuring cups, spoons, spaghetti strainer, etc) and let them splash and engage in imaginary play! You can also add soap and sponges and let them wash things outside such as their toys. Collecting items around the house and testing if they will sink or float is a great conversation builder with your children!
5. Take a deep breath....Right now, more than ever, we all need to stop and take a deep breath. Teaching your child this is giving them an invaluable tool to help them with anxiety for the rest of their lives. Try Balloon Breathing where you ask your child to imagine their bellies are a balloon that they are filling when take a deep breath. Do this about five times and ask them how their body is feeling. This a good transition tool when your child is going from an active activity (such as running, climbing, any physical games) to a calmer activity (such as reading or doing school work) to help slow down their heart rate and focus on their bodies.
Incorporating these activities throughout your daily routines is going to help your child learn new strategies to cope with the swirling of emotions and feelings they might be having right now. It also is giving them tools for their toolbox to incorporate for the rest of their lives! I wish you all health and happiness!