The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown presents unprecedented challenges for children in the UK. Most of their comforting routines have been disrupted; many have disappeared completely. Familiar destinations such as schools, cafes and soft-play centres are off-limits and visits to beloved friends and relatives are forbidden. Even with some restrictions now lifted, travel is often limited and local.
One activity that can bring a little comfort and continuity to your child’s life is a virtual tour of some familiar – if currently forbidden – locations. To do this, you can use Google’s Street View option within its Google Maps service. Street View provides interactive panoramas from many streets around the world by using stitched images; users can navigate around these panoramas by double-clicking with their cursor on any available location or object they want to see.
Using Street View, Daisy and I located our house and ‘drove’ with the cursor around the corner to her childminder nearby. Then we visited her grandparents’ street and peered past their garden hedge toward the house. Finally, we visited the local retail parks where we go for coffee, lunch, shopping, and trampolining every weekend.
We struck gold when we navigated around the car park to the trampolining venue and, with a couple of mouse clicks, found ourselves inside the building, to Daisy’s delight. Some businesses have commissioned photographers to shoot interior panoramas of their premises, and we were lucky this was one of them! We couldn’t bounce on the trampolines, but we could navigate around the space and remind ourselves of a treasured ritual that we hope to return to when safe to do so.
Visit the virtual beach
In the days that followed, Daisy requested some more virtual walking, and asked if we could go to the beach. So, one morning, we walked the sands in Hawaii before visiting an Adélie penguin rookery in Antarctica and having a paddle in the Great Barrier Reef. These were fun destinations but in their own way, less exciting for her than seeing her grandparent’s house.
This activity also helped introduce a sense of scale to Daisy’s world; I’ve started to introduce her to maps and indulge her curiosity about where we live in relation to her friends and relatives. Her childminder lives half a mile away, her maternal grandmother lives 15 miles away, her paternal grandparents live more than 100 miles away. These are difficult ideas for a three-year-old to grapple with.
Daisy is still only three, so her concept of distance is limited. Last week, Daisy was in our back garden explaining the concept of the solar system to our (very patient) neighbour; without pausing, she pivoted in mid-sentence to explaining which side of the fence belonged to us, and which side belonged to the neighbour.
For Daisy, right now there is little meaningful difference between Neptune and next door. But that will change as her horizons slowly expand in the coming months.
Granny Smith says
If you’re new to Google Street View, you may want to check out this very simple two-minute tutorial.
There are many exciting and exotic locations to visit on Google Street View, besides those described in the post. You can find a useful list here.
Don’t forget that there are ways to make real-life walks more stimulating for your child.
Any of these virtual and real life activities are valuable and help young children to develop a sense of the world, their world and their communities.