Staying at home with your family may sound like fun, and it should be fun, but the reality is trying to manage a household, work from home, and engage meaningfully with your children can be a difficult juggling act.

From 30 March, most school children will be learning from home under the supervision of their parents. It’s fair to say parents are wondering how on earth do will they do this?

Many families have children of mixed ages. In fact, it’s valuable for a child’s development to spend time with children of different ages. That’s why most early childhood education and care services strive to provide mixed age group times (aka family grouping). But how can parents meet the varied needs of all their children when time is limited, and distractions are many?

  • Modify a single activity. Let’s be honest, none of us want activities spread all over the house creating chaos, not to mention safety hazards – LEGO pieces and bare feet – need I say more? Provide open-ended activities multiple children can engage with and use creatively. For example, the possibilities of using playdough are endless and it can be contained in a single area, such as a table. You can make this time more meaningful by posing questions while they are playing, such as, “do you think we can make a bird?” Ask more questions that will encourage more interaction from the children, such as, “do you think this bird needs some friends?” Or “maybe we can make this bird a nest?” Such activities have no limit and who knows where your children will take you! For older children, you can extend the activity by encouraging them to research a bird they have incorporated into their play. This may include using books, supervised screen time on Google, or even observing birds you notice around the neighbourhood.
  • Teamwork. We’ve all heard teamwork makes the dream work. In current circumstances, teamwork will help build a sense of harmony while families are at home together. Look for opportunities for older and younger children to work together. Find jobs around the house such as separating toys no longer needed or wanted, cooking the family meal, sorting the washing into lights and darks (or folding it). Jobs like this, that children can easily do, may incorporate reading, mathematics, and/or science skills. These everyday tasks are not only opportunities to practice teamwork, but support literacy and numeracy learning for children of varied abilities.
  • Read stories to your children or ask older children to read to younger children. You can even ask younger children to tell stories to older children using toys, puppets or stuffed animals. Or older children may like to write and illustrate a story for their younger siblings. This may be an opportunity to video chat with grandparents, friends or other relatives to share books and stories too.

Check out our Playgroup at Home webpage for more home activity ideas. Many of these activities can easily be modified for mixed age groups. After all, inclusive play is what playgroups do best!

While it’s important to be kind to, and patient with, others during stressful times, we also need to remind ourselves we are doing the best we can. The term “good enough parents” means while parents do the best job they can with what they have, everyone makes mistakes and that’s okay.

More than ever, children need our love and attention during periods of stress and uncertainty to help build their resilience. But remember, your best is good enough. Hopefully our children will look back on this moment of history with fond memories of playing with their parents and siblings and learning new skills that will stay with them forever.

Blog by Ebony Almond, Playgroup Queensland Community Programs Team