I just had a laugh-out-loud epiphany and thought it would be fun to share and hear your thoughts and opinions.
As a primary school teacher in a past life I’ve been asked (nay, begged) for tips and ideas for keeping young children entertained during the working lockdown week. Parents really need support for being full-time educators, professionals and keeping everyone sane.
I just realised that the advice I’m giving is equally as relevant to my own, inner-pre-schooler! Now class, hands up everyone who knows what I’m talking about..? I see some smiles, giggles and whispering plus some confused faces. Let me explain.
Know your inner child’s strengths and weaknesses
Think back to yourself as a pre-schooler or at primary school. What were your quirks, strengths and weaknesses? What parts of that are still in there somewhere? My assumption, if you are anything like me, is that he or she is still more actively present than we would like to admit. If this is the case, then the advice I’ve been giving could possibly help you too. My pre-schooler was restless, creative and easily bored. How about yours?
Regular breaks and movement
Sitting still on the dreaded ‘carpet’ at the teacher’s feet made me want to gnaw my own arm off with boredom and my daydreams would kick in as soon as I sat still in that cross-legged torture position.
In this new world of video conferences that can (horror of horrors) last all day, it is really important for me to keep my inner child entertained, moving and with regular breaks. Having 2 metal hips makes sitting still about as torturous as sitting cross-legged too. I have dog toys under the desk that I find my feet playing with, I ask permission to stand (I tried standing at a desk but standing still was almost worse), I ask for breaks and, if I really need to focus on the topic at hand, I focus all my attention on seeing something I haven’t noticed before on the screen in front of me and get curious about it. BANG-full presence!
Time to connect, chat and free play
Following on from regular movement and breaks, my inner child needs to run around, giggle and connect with others. A day without connection and laughter is a travesty! Walking the dog is a routine, as much for me as it is for him and meeting someone to walk and talk with is like pressing a reset button. Taking half an hour to go and play with him in the garden is energizing for us both and I can focus so much better afterwards. Just like the bell ringing at the end of playtime and coming back into class with rosy cheeks, windblown hair and blood flowing. My epiphany ideas generally strike whilst I’m out walking or playing with the dog.
Get organized in small and clever chunks of time
We used to have self-controlled work cards at primary school and the rule was that we had to do units of English, maths and science before being allowed to move on to ‘choice’ subjects (art, music, project work, reading, creative writing and so on). I would fly through the parts I didn’t like so much, with my attention so focused on the fun-stuff-gold at the end of the ‘have to’ rainbow that I barely noticed the dull stuff. My perception of primary school was hours of painting, music and writing adventure stories and actually not the dull stuff.
When I set my grown-up work card for a day or week, I put the thing I’d most like to avoid at the very top of my to do list and make a deal with myself to get that done before the first cool thing. I manage to trick myself almost every time! Luckily for me, the majority of my work as a coach and supervisor means being in full, relational presence with others. We explore with awe and wonder and always discover something new and interesting. The best choice-subject ever!
Keep things fun and creative
Awe, wonder and compassionate curiosity are the best ways of focusing. If there’s something challenging that I can’t just fly through I ask myself, ‘how can I make this fun and interesting?’ It might mean simultaneously giggling with someone on a video call, timing / racing myself, doing whatever the task demands on the whiteboard with lots of colours rather than typing and so on. What do you do?
Learn something new
If there’s something tough, boring or tedious, I decide to learn something new about whatever it is. As a child I would learn ‘fun facts’ that I found amusing or surprising, make up an acronym, draw a silly picture to remind myself etc.. This still works and been a fun source of entertainment for me this year (except for Excel. There are no fun facts about Excel!!).
Check-in with praise and reward often
I was a sucker for collecting more gold stars than my classmates back then and not so much has really changed! I need to give myself a regular pat on the back – and mean it!
Different ‘corners’ and move between activities
Remember the division of activity and time by moving between the different ‘corners’ at nursery or classrooms at school? While we don’t get the opportunity to move from office to meeting room to wherever, dividing the space I do have into different zones really helps me to transition from one thing and fully focus on the next. I have my art corner, my play corner, my exercise corner, my relaxation corner, my writing corner, my study corner and these physical moves help to move my focus. It’s even better when I set myself a timespan for being in each.
Manage fears and concerns
It is important for pre-schoolers to make sense of what is going on around them right now. Pretend everything is hunky dory when they can’t see their friends or go to play in the park doesn’t work. In my role, this means regular supervision. As a supervisor myself, the coaches that come to supervision are able to make sense of what is coming up for them and their clients and use this as a wonderful learning and development opportunity.
All of our inner children have their own particular fears in general and this last year has been particularly hard on them. How are you supporting your inner child’s fears? Coaching? Supervision? Open, reflective dialogue with a mentor?
I could go on, but my inner child can get so over excited that she can talk the hind-legs off of a donkey too!
As a grown up, I have to plan my ‘serious’ work carefully around my inner child if we are both going to get through each day with creative energy, fun and learning. As an adult in lockdown, it is also important for me to ask myself: What IS really priority? How long can my 100% focus times be? If 100% perfect outcomes are tricky right now, what results can I be satisfied with? How do I keep both my inner child and grown up self happy?
Apart from the points above, my advice to people working at home with small children includes:
Take it easy.
Be grateful for what you can do.
Plan fun, games and breaks with opportunities for learning into the day for you both.
Chat to someone.
Know your limits.
Plan for 80% of your day max.
And my number 1 tip:
A little fun, laughter and creativity go a very long way.
What does your pre-schooler need and how are you planning for those things in your lockdown day?