Self-isolating? Schools closed? Are your children (or you) doing laps around the house and climbing the walls?
The changes to our daily lives over the next few weeks and months will be tough for us all, and being stuck indoors, without your usual activities, routine or social events can be enough to make anyone feel down. It’s important that we keep our minds and bodies active when we can, to keep our spirits up. Parents and educators all over the world are sharing their tips on getting through the COVID-19 quarantine without resorting to constant screen-time, and we thought we’d add our ideas to the mix.
With many of us facing the prospect of being stuck indoors for weeks or months, it may be difficult to enjoy time in nature, but there are still ways us big kids and little kids alike can keep our connection to the world outside:
How many species of bugs and crawling creatures can you find in the garden? They can be found all over the place – on leaves, tree trunks, in the soil, under rocks, and even right out in the open. This can be extended to link in with many different school subjects.
Watch the birds
How many different kinds can you see or hear? There are some great free apps and websites like the RSPB which can help you identify them and their calls. You can even do this from inside through a window.
Nighttime wildlife watching
Be sure to check on the comings and goings of nocturnal animals in the garden or in the street outside too. Sit out with a blanket at dusk or sit inside by an open window so you can use sight, hearing and smell to detect the comings and goings in the dark of night.
Build a den
Dens can be made out of pretty much anything. When I was a child and we couldn’t make a den in the woods, my friends and I would use boxes, chairs, blankets, bed-sheets and things from the garden to make ‘secret’ hideaways for ourselves. Children can entertain themselves for hours in dens, playing games, rearranging and decorating. If you don’t have a garden this can be done indoors. P.S. This is absolutely suitable for grown-ups too.
The floor is lava!
Create an obstacle course or trail around the house or garden with any objects you like. The goal is to make it from one end to the other without falling into the boiling lava (i.e. without touching the ground). Sofas, footstools, exercise mats, hoops, carpet tiles, or even chalk or tape can make stepping stones.
Make a fire
Learning a practical skill can be a real boost to children’s confidence – and adults’ too. Something about learning a survival skill, like fire lighting, can make people feel more capable of dealing with life’s challenges. Watching a fire is also very soothing and calming. Why not try cooking a simple dinner over the fire too? You can find tips on fire lighting on YouTube and many bush-craft websites.
*Make sure you only light a fire in an appropriate place (your garden, a fireplace), using appropriate fuel (no burning plastics) and be mindful of conditions (dry vegetation, lack of rain) that could cause a fire to get out of hand.
Grow some food
You’d be surprised what you can grow with some old yoghurt pots, jars or food tins and some seeds. Use some soil from the garden, or some compost (peat free!) and grow fresh salad, spinach and herbs to go with your tinned tomatoes. Some vegetable scraps can even be regrown – check out Food Revolution Network for tips on this.
Make a leaf crown, elder twig jewellery, natural mobile or wind chime, giant art attacks, mud sculptures, natural dyes, cave paintings, make your own charcoal, carve a spoon or a magic wand, and anything else you can think of.
Watch a nature webcam
Many national parks and nature reserves have webcams set up, so you can watch the clouds roll by over the Cairngorms, follow the progress of birds nesting and raising chicks, or spy on pine martens slinking through the pines without leaving home. You could even leave one of these on a screen in the background to bring a bit of the outside inside.
Try these ones from The Wildlife Trusts
Or listen to Birdsong Radio thanks to the RSPB
Give life some structure
Try creating a timetable or plan for yourself or the children to give daily life some structure and variety. Include times for free play and exercise, and make sure everyone gets some calm time to themselves too. You might also want to coordinate childcare duties with someone else in the household to make sure everyone gets some alone time, or time to catch up on work undisturbed. Try having time set aside each day for everyone to be able to talk freely about how they are feeling so nothing gets stored up for too long. Structure helps us all in times of uncertainty and anxiety.
Being stuck at home can make us feel lethargic, so do some yoga, jogging, skipping, pilates, push-ups, weight training, even a few extra climbs of the stairs. Get the children to come up with an exercise or dance routine then teach it to the family. They’ll tire themselves out and it’ll keep them occupied for a good hour or so. The garden is a great place to exercise too, even if you only have a small yard. If you can, do some exercise outside and make the most of the fresh spring air.
Why not take a leaf out of this Spanish personal trainer’s book and start a joint workout with your neighbours?
Write a song, play or movie
Music and theatre are great ways to explore feelings and anxieties. Children can be very creative at this and may express things through rhyme and music that they wouldn’t otherwise. Writings songs and scripts can also be really funny, and even if the lyrics and scenes express anxieties, the laughter that accompanies trying to find things to rhyme with COVID-19 may be the endorphin boost you all need! Don’t have any instruments? No problem! Go acapella (voices only) or search online for virtual instruments to play with the keypad or touchscreen. Use a stop motion app (just search your device’s app store – there are loads available) and lego, plasticine or small toys as characters. Use your imagination to explore deep blue oceans, mountainous landscapes, lush forests rich in wildlife.
Virtual tea breaks
With the majority of the Trees for Life team now working from home, we’re missing our 11am tea breaks together. So, we decided to do them online instead! Sticking to our routine gives us all a sense of normality, and when the finance manager gets out his guitar there’s never a straight face! Many online platforms support this, so why not suggest it to your manager or IT team?
Call your friends and family
We live in an age of incredibly useful technology. So much so that we often take it for granted. Most of us now own at least one device we can use to audio or video call our friends and relatives for free. People all over the world are in the same situation we are, so take this time to catch up with that friend you haven’t spoken to in months, or the family member you keep meaning to visit. Social isolation is already a big issue affecting elderly people in the UK, so call your elderly parents or grandparents who might well be stuck at home alone. Find out if they have everything they need – is there anything you could leave on their doorstep? Can you do the same for elderly or vulnerable neighbours? You could also take this opportunity to listen to their stories and fill in the gaps in your family history. Many older people will remember war time and the post-war age of rationing and community reliance. They might well have some very useful tips for getting through the next few months.
Don’t forget your children may well be missing their friends too, so see if you can arrange for them to have a video or phone catch-up. This will also double up as some quiet time for you!
Learn a new skill
One of my favourite tips that I have seen online recently is from Zoe Williams in the Guardian:
“Focus on five skills you want [children] to master by the end of quarantine – making pancakes, learning poker, knitting, touch-typing, learning Uma’s dance routine from Descendants 3 – and do a few minutes on it each a day.” She wrote this for children, but it could easily apply to all of us. Here are my 5: Brush up on wild food; learn to knit; practice knots for rock climbing; bake sourdough bread (a lovely friend gave me some starter, but all I have managed to produce is rock); learn to play the guitar that decorates the corner of my room.
Perhaps you have a skill you could teach to others?
Make sure everyone mucks in
So the house might be a little noisier, a little messier, and you might have to get creative with cooking what’s in the cupboards, but don’t let all this work fall to one person. In shared households, everyone should pull their weight, and even small children can help with tasks like tidying, drying, washing and sweeping the floor.
Read, read, read
If you’re anything like me, you have a pile of books somewhere at home that you’ve been meaning to read for years, but somehow just keep adding to instead. Now’s the time! Read to your children, read to your partner, get them to read to you. If you don’t have many books, consider finding some online. Many books are available free as PDF files, and others are available to buy as e-books individually and through subscription services.
Here is the Trees for Life staff’s recommended rewilding reading list:
- SCOTLAND: A Rewilding Journey
- Rewild Yourself: 23 Spellbinding Ways to Make Nature More Visible, by Simon Barnes
- Wilding, by Isabella Tree
- How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love With Nature, by Scott D. Sampson
- Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life, by George Monbiot
- The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
- Tamed, by Alice Roberts
- The Wild Places, by Robert Macfarlane
- How to Connect With Nature, by Tristan Gooley
- Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
These are just a few ideas, and there are many more. I’ve been inspired by the ideas in the following articles and blog posts. If you have any other ideas, why not share them in a comment on our Facebook page?
Sources of information and help