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Coronavirus in UAE: How to keep your children happy, busy during Covid-19 break

Dubai - Ansari said she switches off her home Internet connection and plays board games.

By Saman Haziq

Published: Fri 20 Mar 2020, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 22 Mar 2020, 12:33 PM

The unexpected extended break for children may have left parents overwhelmed, but it is also an opportunity for them to bond. The UAE had suspended classes from March 8 to protect students from the Covid-19 spread.

Stay-at-home mother Seema Ansari, who has two boys aged five and eight years, said: "Although I am running after my kids all day, I am getting to know them better and also able to see their creativity."

Ansari said she switches off her home Internet connection and plays board games and other creative activities with her sons. "Simple things like drawing keep them engaged and happy. In fact, earlier when I would give them something to draw and leave them on their own, they would get bored in a few minutes. Now, I sit with them and draw for hours. I was happy to see that they gave their best shot and have come up with things I never knew they could do."

Schoolteacher Gauri Meghani, mother of a four-year-old, is using the extended holiday to bond with her little one. "I and my son, Miraan, plan our days in advance where he sets his own study time for two hours, then for painting, creating/ building blocks), another two hours he gives to nature (exploration time) along with developing photography skills and the rest mostly is his reading time. He likes me to read out books to him and I am getting to do that comfortably. I think it's a blessing to have this time with your child... It creates a wonderful bond," Meghani said.

Monalisa Bose, mother of a 10-year-old, said that in the beginning, it was a bit difficult to create a structure and routine of kids. "We decided on a routine, where my son Neil would do his homework in the mornings; in the afternoons he would do crafts with modeling clay, playing guitar to relax, try board games like chess and also reading. In an attempt to keep him physically active, I also take him to the beach in the morning between 7am and 9am, where he makes his own obstacle course and plays."

As an educator with 33 years of experience, Asha Alexander, principal of GEMS Kindergarten Starters, urged parents to stay calm and take this as an opportunity to connect with their children. "This could be something as simple as learning to fold their clothes and rearrange their cupboards, learning to make a sandwich or a cup of tea, iron a shirt, learning a new skill or developing a new hobby. However, this needs an investment of time. At our school, we are providing guidance to parents on how to engage their children effectively beyond the remote learning hours schedule. Young children and adults need something new to keep their minds occupied, especially if movements are restricted to their homes.

"Growing plants, keeping scrapbooks and encouraging to collect coins or stamps are some ways of keeping kids engaged. There are many do-it-yourself videos that can engage children to be creative and give them a sense of accomplishment. The most important thing is that parents must exercise patience while the child is learning a new skill. Working together to create something is satisfying and will help strengthen the parent-child bond," she added.

Echoing similar thoughts, Dr Vandana Gandhi, founder and CEO of British Orchard Nursery, said this is an ideal time to engage kids in recreational activities that they may not be able to pursue otherwise. "For nursery-going children, this is also a good time to build their language skills through enhanced reading and conversations. Parents should speak to them in full sentences and encourage them to ask questions in order to help them improve their vocabulary and continue the learning process. However, they do not need to entertain the child all day; they should be encouraged to explore and be naturally inquisitive. Parents should, however, stick to a routine that combines learning with other pursuits such as educational videos, art-related activities, craftwork and physical stimulation such as yoga and gym."

Talking about the psychological aspect of dealing with boredom as faced by many parents and children at home, Prateeksha Shetty, clinical psychologist at RAK Hospital, said boredom in itself is not a bad thing. "Numerous studies show that boredom in children can inspire creativity, problem-solving, imaginative play among other important skills. In today's world, where a child's life is structured from dawn to dusk, finding hours and hours with 'nothing to do' can be paradigm-shifting for many. Parents in this novel scenario will need to focus on 'constructive boredom'."

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