By Matthew Scott, Head of Young Learners, British Council Singapore

08 June 2020 - 17:15

As Singaporeans anticipate the gradual resumption of activities with the easing of circuit breaker measures, the fact remains that most will continue spending the bulk of our time at home, at least in the foreseeable future. For parents, the blurring lines between balancing work and managing their children’s stay-home schedules has resulted in rising stress levels.

Adding to the juggling act is the task curating wholesome, edu-training activities to fill up their kids’ time. This means activities simple enough for little ones to carry out on their own, but with enough complexity to keep them engaged. For the swamped and stressed mums and dads, this is yet one more thing to add to their rapidly growing checklist. Thankfully, there are a number of simple but effective strategies that parents can adopt to take the heat off and help their kids make the most of their time at home.

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Place the little ones in charge of their schedules

Rather than bearing the brunt of planning, try sharing the load by empowering the kids to take charge of their schedules. A good way to encourage kids to take control of their learning and play time is to establish clear routines through a template or chart. Tasks can be separated into categories such as ‘Must do’ and ‘Want to do’, and then divided into the different times of the day: morning, afternoon and evening. To support them, parents can encourage them to think of different topics such as art, play, or even simple housework! This way, kids will be able to balance a sense of responsibility with fun.

Harness around-the-house activities

Spending more time at home can be an opportunity for children to build a range of skills less accessible in school. For example, cooking is always appealing to young children, especially when they can enjoy the spoils of what they have created in the kitchen such as cakes or cookies. They can learn the practical skills from kneading pastry to measuring the right amount of ingredients.

Another idea is to make use of any old packaging that is destined for the recycling bin. For example, I have fond memories of fashioning a castle out of old cereal boxes and toilet rolls! For older children, the complexity of the tasks can be escalated to tasks like origami crafts, or even a friendly competition to see who can make the best paper aeroplane.

Managing a screen-time system

Screen time has become a fact of modern life, but its use by children should be managed. The key words are ‘routines’ and ‘rules’. These will work best when the child and parent can sit down together and agree on what are reasonable guidelines for the use of digital devices and, as they get older, social media. The sharing of the responsibility will help to empower the child and give them a shared sense of control. It is important to note, however, that the approach should not be overused such that children lose their ability to be intrinsically motivated, which can have damaging implications for their learning and intellectual growth as the get older.

Collectively, these strategies serve to give children a sense of control over their own time and activities. A child that is able to identify what they need and what they want to learn will be a more thoughtful learner as they grow older, and also become more self-reliant and intrinsically motivated. And the bonus is, if implemented successfully, parents just might find themselves with a little more time on their hands.

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