You’re on a zoom call and you have one child tugging on one leg crying and the other yelling at you for a snack. Your children are screaming at each other fighting over who had the firetruck first. Your children are crying because they can’t see grandma (we get that-we really want grandma right now too! )
It was just a week ago when those same children were in a child care centre that is designed to keep children stimulated all day, they were surrounded by peers and they had the undivided attention of the adults around them (lets be honest, it’s divided amongst so many children but that is our job!). Their worlds have just been rocked as much as yours has been.
So what can you do to get through this together? Here are a few of our tricks that we use daily:
- Predictable Routines: Try to find a routine in your day- we know that this can take some balancing on your behalf and your employers. Children thrive best ( like us all) when they know what the expectation of now is and what is coming next. We use visual schedules- checkout https://connectability.ca/visuals-engine/ to create your own.
- First/Then : With sometimes up to 24 children we can’t possibly get to everything right away! Also the reality of life is sometimes we NEED to do something before we can do something we WANT to do. If you need time, need your child to clean up etc use first/then. “FIRST I have a meeting THEN I will colour with you.” “FIRST you put your puzzle away, THEN you can have lego.” * Bonus- if sometime is time sensitive, use a visual timer. Most tablets/phones have visual timer apps, our timers are a clock with a red circle!
- A.C.T. : This is a game changer for us! So often we are spending energy telling children no but we forget to tell them what they can do. By responding using A.C.T., we are communicating limits but giving them two possible choices.
A- acknowledge the child’s wants, needs, emotions etc.
“I know you want the firetruck right now.” “I know you want me to play with you.”
C – communicate the limit.
“ But it is your brothers turn- kicking is not ok.” “But I am in a meeting, yelling at me is not ok.”
T – target the alternative behaviours.
“ You can wait your turn by playing with the blocks or by looking at a book.”
“ You can colour beside me or play with your cars while you wait.”
4.Transition Activities : There are times that you need children to be engaged so you can focus on your works/task. This is when we pull out the special activities:
* loose parts: toilet paper/paper towel rolls, boxes, bottles, bottle caps, cans, paper plates, coffee filters, popsicle sticks. Give them so glue, marker, paper, tape and you’ll be amazed what they can create.
* play dough : 3 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups salt, 3 cups water, 5 tbs oil, 6 tsp cream of tartar
* cotton balls and an old formula container- infants and toddlers love putting items in a container and dumping
* child safe bingo dobbers- a relatively easy way to let children “paint”
*painting with food eases your mind as an activity with infants and toddlers when everything goes to their mouth- plus makes amazing art! Try strained blueberries and white cream!
* water bottles or ziplock bags filled with water/oil or gel with random items make great sensory activities
5. Snack Bins: pre-covid we use to let children serve themselves snack- yes it was a designated time and supervised but you know your children. If/when possible, set up a snack bin in the morning that your child can have access to water and safe snacks, repeat for the afternoon.
6. Be with their Emotions: As we are all trying to make sense of the world right now, children are too and they have very little life experience to bring. All behaviours are a form of communication- help them by labelling what you are seeing-“you look sad.” “you’re showing me you are frustrated” , help them understand what they are feeling and what we can do about it. “You know when I am mad, I like to go for a walk, it helps calm my heart.”
Our last pro-tip is this : Take care of yourself! You are doing the best you can and you are enough. No one thrives in a pandemic. Everything can be repaired. While the whole world is up in the air, to your child- you are the whole world!