Schools Closed Due to Coronavirus – What Now?
UK schools are now closed due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. Most children are now at home and there are limited opportunities for activities outside the home.
So what do you do with the kids now?
How do you educate your kids at home?
And how do you get them away from the TV, phones or computer games?
You could spend more time doing hobbies, learn a new skill, get creative and arty, or just slow down and get in touch with nature.
It is spring, so try to get outside when the weather is suitable (avoiding other people as much as possible). Do a nature walk if you have a suitable space nearby, or do a mini nature hunt or wildlife study in your garden.
We have some useful nature info and links below.
Grow some plants from seed. You could grow some food which everyone can enjoy, then do some cooking.
This article is mainly aimed at younger children – under 10.
We home educate our 6 year old, which has given us some experience in dealing with these issues.
- Where do you start with home educating your child?
- Dealing with bored and demanding children
- Starting to home educate your child while the schools are closed
- Schooling – Unschooling
- Educational ideas and resources for children
- Make everyday activities into educational activities
- Get into nature
- Grow fruit and veg and flowers
- Do some cooking
- Other activities which your kids could get involved with
Where do you start with home educating your child?
Some schools will be providing learning resources and online lessons, but there is a lot more you can do to make your home educating time more interesting and fun.
Obviously it would be good if they didn’t spend all day looking at screens, so you may need to set some limits there. (If that doesn’t work you could try hiding the phone and charger!)
If they already have an interest or hobby which they can do at home, encourage that, and offer them extra resources where possible. Or maybe they could learn a new skill, such as: music, drawing, cooking, gardening, sewing, photography . . .
It is possible to turn most activities into educational activities; for example, cooking a cake includes reading, maths (measuring and counting) and science. How does the cake rise?
You may even find that you have a natural chef (the next Jamie Oliver maybe!)
Just talk about everything you do – as you do it.
Dealing with bored and demanding children
A child who is used to being in a busy school environment every day (where there is always a lot going on, someone to talk to, and activities laid on for them) can sometimes struggle to cope with a slower pace and not having other children around all the time. They can also sometimes find it difficult to know how to entertain themselves and keep themselves occupied, and can be very demanding of their parents’ attention. (This may be less of a problem if you have 2 or more children.) It may take some time for them to adjust to the new pace and new routines.
This problem usually sorts itself out after a while, but it took our 6 year old more than 4 months after finishing at school before he could happily sit and do an activity on his own for more than 2 minutes (something which he was able to do a lot better before starting at school . . . ).
We now home educate, and he is now happy to, for example, sit with a Lego kit and work through the instructions largely on his own, with some minimal input from us if he needs some help. But it has taken a long time to get here.
Children do sometimes need to be allowed to get bored, so that they can learn to entertain themselves and find their own activities.
So if they are bored, demanding, emotional, and completely annoying, do try to give them some of your attention (ideally not by screaming at them!). Help them to build up their confidence and encourage them to do more on their own, or with limited help. Eventually they will get better at managing themselves – a valuable life skill that will also help them when they go back to school.
An early morning walk can have a calming effect – if you can get them out of the door! You could do some nature spotting along the way.
Starting to home educate your child while the schools are closed
You may have been given some learning activities by your school, but you may also want to consider other ways of learning as well.
Discuss with your child what you expect from them. (Do you want them to spend an hour doing reading or maths every morning?) Find out what ideas they have and what type of activities they would like to do.
- What they would like to do
- What you would like them to do
- Any house rules – and try to reach an agreement on these
- Try to agree some activities and projects which you can work on together. For example, growing plants, cooking, art projects, nature survey, construction toy projects, etc.
When you are educating your child at home, trying to mimic the way schools teach children may not always be the best solution. Try to think about other ways of learning and aim to find the right balance for you and your child.
Schools often have to teach 30 children at a time, all with different abilities. Much of the teaching process in schools is about hitting targets and having evidence of the activities and learning they have done (paperwork).
Home-educated children often do better with a more child-centred style of learning, where the teaching activities are much more focused on their interests, and where maths, reading, writing, science and other learning is more integrated into everyday life.
You don’t need to teach for 6 hours a day – and schools aren’t actually teaching the children for all the time that the children are there. You could do planned learning for anything between 30 minutes and 3 hours a day, depending on the age of the child, their abilities and their current needs.
It is not necessary to have learning evidence if you are educating at home. However you may find it helpful to keep a notebook and write down brief details of the learning activities which you have done with your child, along with anything which your child has done really well at or things he or she has had problems with.
You can also make a list of any subjects which come up in conversation, which you may want to research or look at in more detail at a later date.
Schooling – Unschooling
The home-educating community talk a lot about unschooling. With unschooling, you don’t do formal lessons. You encourage the child to get involved in activities which they show an interest in. If they ask a question about something, you discuss the subject, grab a book, look it up on the Internet or watch a documentary, and generally explore the subject in any way and as much as they are happy with. It is believed that children learn much better when they are interested in a subject, and this style of learning works particularly well for younger children (under 7s).
In the UK, schools put a lot of emphasis on reading and writing at a very early stage. However, in many other countries formal teaching (and the learning of reading and writing) doesn’t begin until age 6 or 7 (instead of age 4 or 5 in the UK). Many parents and educational experts believe that the intense pressure of the UK school system causes damage to many young children. This is one factor in the increasing numbers of home educators in recent years.
Educational ideas and resources for children
There is a wealth of information and educational resources out there, including worksheets and activities to do. Some are free and some you have to pay for. However, if you are careful and selective it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
As a response to the current situation, many organisations are now providing free education resources especially for children who are now out of school. Some organisations will be working with schools to make their services available for free, so check with your school to find out if anything has been arranged (for example, your school may have been issued with specific logins, passwords and offer codes to enter when signing in to a site).
The BBC offers tons of educational resources with BBC Bitesize.
If you want to learn about music, wildlife, the planets (or advanced physics theory!) the BBC usually has plenty of educational programmes including documentaries available on iPlayer.
There are many more links and details on our educational resources for children page, where we have included some selected web sites and educational apps.
We also have a fun and games for children page with some links and ideas for combining fun, education and creativity.
Try to make sure that they have plenty of activities available to do, including supplies of art and craft materials, books, paper and pens, Lego or other construction toys, or whatever interests them. Spend time with them and help them to improve their skills.
Some educational ideas
You may not have all of these, but you probably have at least some of them in the house.
Make sure that they have some paper, pens and pencils available. For very young children, a magnetic sketch pad also comes in handy for ad hoc reading and writing practice.
Older children can probably read alone, but for younger children, read to them or read with them; explore subjects which they are interested in.
Watch documentaries or films together.
BBC iPlayer is a good source of high-quality documentaries.
For something educational and really fun (for adults, as well as children), try Hey Duggee (we especially like episodes “The Tadpole Badge”, “The Water Badge”, “The Tree Badge”, “The Fossil Badge” and “The Space Badge”). Currently on CBeebies at 7.20am on weekdays, or 7.30am on weekends. Also available on iPlayer.
Collect the basic materials for Art and Craft: paper, glue, tape, paint, stickers, cardboard boxes. Look for anything eye-catching or unusual in the packaging of things you buy (for example, chocolate boxes and Easter eggs often have interesting cardboard and plastic packages).
Cut out photos and illustrations from old magazines for additional resources (flowers, cars and animals are always popular).
You can find ideas for things to make on the Internet. YouTube and other video sites are ideal, as you can see how it’s done.
“Mister Maker’s Arty Party” on CBeebies is always full of good ideas, and of course you can watch this at any time on BBC iPlayer.
Whatever your child decides to make, encourage them to put their own spin on it: change the colours, add their own design elements, write their name on it. . .
. . . and don’t forget to take photos of your child making the project, and showing it off when complete. You can send these to your child’s friends to encourage them to do something too.
Building & construction
There are so many construction toys (Lego, K’nex, Meccano, etc.) about that most children will have something in their toybox.
Build something fun; use Lego bricks for maths lessons (e.g. show how multiplication works by looking at the rows, columns and total studs on a rectangular brick); use Meccano for geometry examples; practise design and engineering skills.
See our Fun and Games for Children page for some more Lego links and other ideas.
Use a tablet or computer
There are lots of educational apps and educational games available.
See our Educational Resources for Children page for some useful links and suggested educational apps.
Use a camera
Take photos of projects and creations and show them to family and friends.
Older children could build these into a poster or booklet, either on a computer or by sticking printouts onto a page, to create a diary of the things they have done.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths)
You can do basic science experiments (such as building a volcano or growing salt crystals) in the kitchen, or practise engineering with Lego Technic, Meccano, K’nex or other construction systems. (Schools and colleges often use these systems to build science experiments.)
See our Educational Resources for Children page for some STEM links and other useful educational links.
Make everyday activities into educational activities
As mentioned above, with a little bit of thought, it is possible to turn almost any activity into an educational activity.
Try to get children involved in as many everyday activities around the house as possible.
- Cooking (more details below).
- Gardening (more details below).
- DIY and other activities around the home.
It is also a good time to talk to them and discuss what is going on at the moment. Make sure that they understand about hand washing and social distancing and why they have to be more careful in the present circumstances.
Read our Coronavirus pages for more information.
Get into nature
It is spring, so maybe you could do some nature spotting, or go for a nature walk in a quiet location – or even in your back garden.
You could look at birds, bugs and bees, flowers or trees; discuss them and talk about how they grow.
Maybe you could do a biology study or an ecology study of the area.
- Get outside if possible (avoiding busy places and other people).
- Do a nature walk if you have a suitable space nearby.
- Do a mini nature hunt in your garden; spring is a great time to do a bird or bug survey.
Find them – discuss their habitat, what they eat and what eats them, and how they reproduce.
Study them – look them up – draw them – write about them – take photos or make a video.
- Build a bug hotel (ideally you need a strong structure with a waterproof top, fill it with a mix of hollow canes, dried sticks, dried leaves, dried grasses, pine cones, rolled up paper or cardboard, etc.)
See our Bug Hotel building project
We recently built our own bug hotel from items which we found in our garden and in a local woodland. Visit our bug hotel page for more details.
Grow fruit and veg and flowers
Grow some flowers, fruit or veg from seed; these could also supplement your diet later in the year. Here are a few suggestions.
- Peas are probably the easiest for children to sow and grow. You can pick pea shoots for salads then later in the season eat the peas.
- Tomatoes or mini cucumbers are great to grow if you have a greenhouse, and children love picking them.
- Potatoes are easy, either in deep soil in the garden, or in a large deep pot or bucket. Kids can dig them up later in the year.
Flowering plant growing
- Sunflowers are usually a hit with children, and really easy to grow (just keep them away from snails until they are big and tough enough to survive the snails – usually about a foot tall).
- Nasturtiums or marigolds are colourful and easy to grow.
You can actually eat nasturtium flowers and leaves, marigold petals, and seeds from the sunflowers.
This BBC page has some ideas for gardening with children.
Do some cooking
Do some cooking – make a cake, some bread or biscuits, or a sticky pudding.
- Incorporate maths and reading as you check recipes and weigh out ingredients.
- Learn about different foods and nutrition.
- Learn how to crack an egg and how to mix.
- You can discuss chemistry: how does the cake rise? How does baking powder work?
- A digital microwave makes a useful counting aid – for counting down from 60 to 0.
To get you started, try our Lavender Biscuits Recipe.
Other activities which your kids could get involved with
If you are doing some basic DIY, get the kids involved. Children love using grown-ups’ tools, although you’d need to be careful about which tools they are given and supervise them.
We recently knocked down a small section of wall in the house. Our 6 year old absolutely loved helping to remove the bricks with a large hammer!