Hong Kong has started its fifth wave more than a month ago and parents have been in survival mode all around. Home schooling is one issue but the biggest issue is kids being stuck at home. Playgrounds are closed and the government is urging parents to stay home with their kids. Some parents are signing up for zoom classes for their kids in hopes to occupy their time while the parents themselves are working from home.
We have been invited to do a Facebook Live session with HKMomtrepreneurs on Friday March 4th at 10 PM HKT to talk about the challenges parents are facing and share some tips and tricks to help them during this time. Below are some concepts to guide parents and to make it even easier we have created a list of things for parent-child play or for the kids to play by themselves. It’s a no frill and by all means, not a complete list but we hope this is a good start to give parents some ideas.
- KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE SILLY): Our first advice for parents is to keep things simple. Teach kids the basics of a game and then let the kid’s try to play and allow their own imagination to come alive. There is no need to continuously be involved during their play. Provide direction with a few instructions to promote free play to foster creativity and help build independence in a child to be able to learn and play by themselves.
- SCHEDULE: Kids learn through repetition and putting kids on a schedule (even when there’s no school) will make it easier for them to anticipate and know what’s happening next. For example, on weekdays they have their breakfast, morning playtime, snack time, more playtime, lunch, zoom class, snacks, zoom class, nap time, snacks, afternoon playtime, shower, dinner, family time, bedtime story and sleep. Yes, they do ask for a lot of snacks so we always try to have healthy snacks like fruits, dried nuts, and yogurts for the kids prepared. Also, make sure to keep kids hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day. If you can take them outdoors safely to get some fresh air and sun, then please add that into the schedule. We go for a stroll through the promenade or the park across the street, provided we avoid the crowd by going very early or during lunch time. When that is not possible, we play near windows or on balcony to catch as much sun as possible. They also just play pretend school when school is out. Usually, the school gives them worksheets and we work on that but otherwise, we have some activities book with maze or sticker activity books that they love to do and pretend to be in school. Makes sure to have stickers on hand to reward for job well done.
- SIMPLE WOODEN TOYS: All the experts have said it and it’s still the best advice we’ve received is to get simple wooden toys that spark their creativity. Toys like a kitchen set which can be a small stove top (only if there’s no room for a full kitchen) to teapots and teacups or little toy cars or blocks. Wooden toys are more environmentally friendly for the earth and for our little kids. We have these toys for years as they tend to last longer and kids still go back to them time and again but each time playing with them a little differently using their imaginations. So, invest in a couple of good ones instead of many toys. Oh, and don’t forget to recycle them if the kids outgrow the toys by donating them to a charity, pass to friends and families, or sell them as second-hand toys.
- MUSIC: Music is amazing for children, especially children under 6 years old as it helps to develop their brain and all kinds of other good benefits. (See our interview with Crisel Consunji on the full range of benefits for babies and young children development with music). While kids are playing, we put on instrumental music softly in the background or sometimes kid’s songs or Disney music.
There is a saying that it is better to teach a man to fish than to continue feeding him. This is why we are big advocates of independent play, letting kids be bored, and less structured classes. Join us in our Facebook Live by going to our Facebook or Instagram for details, or view the recording afterward to hear our discussion on the topic.
Here are some simple activities we do at home:
MINIMUM FUSS PLAY – These are easier “play” that we do at home.
Reading: It sounds simple and yet it’s often forgotten. Read a story to the kids or let them read to you if they can read. You can even let them create their own version of the story from the pictures. And if you want to mix it up, have them listen to audio books that’s available online like YouTube (no visual if possible), Spotify, etc. Want to add a little extra for the older kids? Give them paper and markers or crayons and let them draw what they are seeing in their mind. Please consider going to library or second hand book shops if you need to get more books.
Picture / Flash Card: Most kids have these cards at home either with Chinese or English words identifying the objects on them. These are great as the kids can play many different games with them from charades, to matching categories after you’ve lay them flat on the grounds, or even a game of “I Spy” where parents can ask the children to find the cards with one or two clues. For younger kids, ask them to spot animals, shapes, or colours to help their recognition skills. For older kids, try giving them a simple task like how many cards have this object in it or which cards are associated with what actions and see what they will choose. Slowly ease out of the game and ask them to challenge themselves as they are older.
Fort Building: Many kids like to build “forts” because it gives them a sense of security. Pillows and blankets, sofas, and chairs – all items we have at home that kids can just use their imagination and creativity to try to build the fort any way they like. We showed an example once to our youngest when she was about 2.5 years old and she’s been building them since and now even teaching her younger brother about structural support so that the blankets stay in place.
Blocks: Yes, another simple one but kids get bored of it because they feel like they are not being challenged. So, challenge them. Using any types of blocks they have, from magnetic types to Legos or wooden blocks, ask them to build you something like a car or a house or an animal. Better yet, let them pick something to learn to build themselves.
Racing: We have different toy cars and so the kids try racing two or more cars to see which reaches the end first. Put a bunch of items in a basket or box like multiple shapes and texture balls and have them guess which would go faster as they throw it down the hallway. This fosters an experimental mindset of cause and effect. As they get older, ask them to find different objects in the house to do this experiment.
Quiet Books: Exactly as the name implies, these are just books that have felt or fabric activities for the kids to play with and occupy their times. We actually went and made one ourselves which took a lot of time but it’s an enjoyment for those who are into DIY and arts and crafts. But you can buy one of your choice from some of our recommended local business at the end of this article.
A LITTLE PREPARATION GOES A LONG WAY – These “play” needs to be prepared in advance but then afterward can be reused and enjoyed again and again. Depending on the child’s age, they would need to be supervised on the side by a parent preferably with a nice cup of tea/coffee or a glass of wine.
Arts and Crafts Bag: Create a craft bag of materials like colour construction papers, scissor, crayons, markers, glue, pipe cleaners, stickers, toilet rolls, buttons etc.* We’ve even added in little scraps of fabric or pretty wrapping papers and washi tapes. We started out with one or two projects, simple things like making a greeting card or creating an art piece with the materials. Now the kids are confident to create whatever arts and crafts their imagination takes them. ** Just remember to refill the materials once a while or better yet, ask them what they like in their bag.
*Make sure you supervise younger children especially with scissors and small objects.
**Tips: get a picnic mat or cloth to line the table or floor where they are doing the arts and crafts for easier clean up.
Simple Sensory Play: Everyone thinks sensory play takes a lot of work but it does not have to be. It does not always have a theme or be Instagram worthy. We make sure to have bags of beans or rice at home, little small toys, scoopers and containers which can be just everyday items in the kitchen like smaller spoons and tin containers. *** Just throw the materials together in a pan or bucket and let them play and scoop to their heart’s content. On warm days, let them play with water and rocks and leaves. We even took the mat on the balcony to let them get some fresh air and sun on good weather days.
Another easy sensory play that is a favourite of ours is oobleck, which is a mixture of water and corn starch that is neither water or solid and kids love them! A little messier but can easily be cleaned with water. Add some food colouring in and throw some scoops, pots, rocks or stones to let them find it.
The key to sensory play is to have a nice waterproof bucket and a big play mat to contain any spillage.
*** Make sure you supervise small children and use appropriate materials for the children’s age such as small objects are not recommended for younger children that have a tendency to put things in their mouth.
Parents can also choose to have premade sets with theme that can be purchase and delivery home. See the list below of local small business that we support.
FAMILY AFFAIR – These should be enjoyed as a family bonding time especially on days stuck at home.
Dance party: Turn on the music and just dance with them and have fun! They will always remember that happy giggling feeling of pure joy just dancing with mom and dad.
Movie Night: Once or twice a week, we have movie night where we make popcorn, hot chocolate, bowls of mixed nuts and let the kids pick a movie and enjoy. Usually, one movie might take 2 nights to finish depending on the tiredness of the day and their nap that afternoon.
Baking or Cooking: We do simple things like bake cookies or make dumplings. Give them a butter knife and let them cut up simple things like apples or cheese or help mix ingredients.
Yoga/Exercise: Just like the dance party, let them exercise with you if possible. Some simple home stretches or our favourite downward facing dog and child’s pose that usually turns into kids climbing on and trying to get a horse ride.
Family Nap: We are not kidding, if we are lucky, we have a family nap on Sundays usually where the youngest goes down first and then we take a nap with the eldest. It is great for the kids and amazing for the parents. Make it a fun experience by laying out blankets in the living room instead of the bed sometimes, lower the shades, and just snuggle away.
These are just some suggestions and activities that work for us that we hope helps you and is by no means complete. Think back to your childhood and see what memories you have most of playing as a kid. You probably remember the ones that you did with your parents again and again and usually it’s the simple one. See which of your memories can you incorporate today and pass on to your kids. And please, share with us in the comments some activities that work for you as it takes a village to raise a child.
Just make sure you have enough storage memories on your phone as you won’t be able to stop taking pictures of their new creation or imaginative play but be sure to sit back and just absorb in the wonder of their creativity and childhood.
Resources – where to buy some of the supplies? We are in no way sponsored or get any kickbacks from any of these small local businesses. These are companies that we have purchased from and love their products.
- Play mats – can be purchase online through various websites or go to a local business like https://www.instagram.com/seekandseed/ or https://www.instagram.com/littlenaturewanderlust/.
- Rice and sensory play set – https://www.instagram.com/mylittlebusybeehk/ and for older kids: https://www.instagram.com/goplay.hk/ and https://www.instagram.com/the_petit_pelican/
- Quiet books: https://www.instagram.com/smartmamahk/, https://www.instagram.com/littlebeanstoychest/
- Second hand book shop: https://www.instagram.com/rebooked_hk/
Do you have a recommended local business? Put them in the comments!