Take your child for a virtual walk; a guest post by Daisy’s Dad.

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.

Routines reimagined

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.

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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.

 

Where am I? A fun activity for grandchildren during ‘lockdown’; Guest Blog by Daisy’s Grandpa

It’s been eight weeks since we last spent time with Daisy.  We’ve learned, like so many grandparents, to navigate our way around Zoom, FaceTime and other ways of keeping in touch by sight and sound.  We all know that none of these technologies are any substitute for that hug administered in a tangle of bendy limbs, biscuit crumbs and sweet smelling hair.

But enough about us, what about our grandchildren and their feelings of confusion and separation?  How can we help from a distance, and provide that grandparently service of distraction to our children and their partners?

We know, and are very grateful for the fact, that Daisy really enjoys her visits to our house.  So today I decided to set Daisy a kind of remote treasure hunt.  Using a set of her little play figures I took twelve photographs of them in different locations in our house and in our garden.  I then sent these to her Mummy and Daddy so that they can show them to Daisy and ask: ‘where am I?’  to see if she can explain where her little friends are standing.  I use the term ‘explain’ because at her age the name of the room might not come to mind, but she’s old enough to talk about where she thinks the location is.

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I think the most valuable aspect of this activity lies in the language development that it stimulates as children navigate around a familiar space and try to verbalise their thoughts.

I hope Daisy has fun doing this and that it provides a valuable respite to her parents who, like so many, are full time carers, teachers and playmates.

It’s a pleasant activity for a grandparent who has more time on his hands than usual and I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy the whole process.

Of the many ways that we can keep connected remotely and send little reminders to our grandchildren I like this one for it’s interactive nature.  Maybe Daisy’s parents will help her send us back a similar treasure hunt.

Meanwhile I am thinking of an audio version.

Granny Smith says –

An activity like ‘Where am I?’ gives our grandchildren an opportunity to explore their feelings and emotions.  Once Daisy has worked out where each little friend is located in our garden and house Mummy and Daddy can also chat to her about what she’d like to do next time she comes to stay here.  Perhaps if she’s feeling a bit melancholy this will give her an opportunity to talk to Mummy and Daddy about what she’s missing.

The Value Of Simple Board Games For Young Children

Now that we’re not all dashing about with appointments and work commitments we’re all finding we have more time to do things.  And although Daisy’s Mummy and Daddy have plenty to do each day with their various schedules, taking turns to participate in Daisy’s home learning gives them more time with Daisy each day than they had when she went to her childminder.

They have had time, after Daisy has concentrated on her focused activities, to work on Duplo constructions together and join in the imaginary play. More recently, inspired by a gift from Daisy’s other Granny, they introduced Daisy to playing simple board games together.

In a previous blog I wrote about helping our grandchildren to master numbers and counting out loud together.  And a while back I wrote about sharing and taking turns.  Playing a board game brings together simple maths and social skills; it is the perfect opportunity for a young child to use mathematical concepts, gain confidence using numbers and practice the valuable skill of taking turns.

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We observed a delighted Daisy unpack a Snakes and Ladders board from its box and watch as her Daddy set the game up.  He showed Daisy the die with its dots on each surface.  Dice are already familiar to Daisy as we have some large foam dice that she enjoys throwing down our stairs before we count the dots together.  Understanding how to use the shaker and pour out the small die resulted in a energetic start to the game!

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Counting the squares and moving her counter was an opportunity for Daisy to see numbers in action.  She was happy to watch Daddy have the shaker for his turn and there was a general excitement as the game progressed.  There was fun at the consequences of landing on a snake or a ladder and an awareness that the game finishes when one player arrives at the last square.

Concentration, chat, counting and taking turns all inspired by a classic board game.

Granny Smith Says

I’ve been thinking that we might be able to play a game of snakes and ladders together, through the wonders of Zoom.  But I’ve discovered that we don’t have a Snakes and Ladders set in our toy cupboard!

Managing Messy Play At Home

Messy Play is such an important part of the Early Years’ experience; in nurseries children will have plenty of opportunities for messy play using ice, cold pasta, jelly, sand, water, dough, compost…. they’re all enjoyably messy for young children!

When the weather is fine enough to be outside then you can also practise messy play at home with water, compost, jelly, mud and more: follow these links back to previous blogs for ideas.

Of course you may prefer not to encourage messy play indoors and maybe you have been limiting it to bathtime when you can just wipe up the puddles.  However you might like to give your children some uncooked pastry (a ‘dough’) to play with while you are baking.

When your biscuit recipe instructs you to roll the dough into a ball shape, of course you know how to do that and our under fives also need opportunities to develop these manipulating skills.

Messy play helps to develop muscles in the arms, hands and fingers, promoting hand and eye co-ordination and control.  Children like to experiment with dough and investigate all of it’s sensory experiences and it is useful for adults to sit with young children so that you can mould and model together (it’s quite therapeutic for adults too!).

We knew that Daisy would enjoy having some different indoor messy play while she’s at home so this Easter holiday we decided to order some Playfoam for her.  Playfoam has a different texture to other types of dough; its light, colourful and easy to shape and manipulate, making it ideal for pre-school children.  It’s also non- toxic and comes in a range of bright colours as well as sparkle and glow-in-the-dark versions.

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Playfoam doesn’t stick to clothing, hair or carpets and it doesn’t dry out children can model and leave their works of art out on display to share with others: it’s the answer to messy play at home without any mess.

Making the most of the daily walk with your young children

Now that we’re all having to settle into a very different daily routine it means that we, like most grandparents, cannot spend time with our granddaughter.  So instead of describing activities that I’ve done with Daisy I’d like to share some of my ideas that Daisy’s parents are using at home with Daisy.  I hope these may inspire families at home where you might have limited resources.

Daisy’s parents regularly send us photographs of activities that they have done with Daisy; you can see them on the GrannySmithdiaryblog instagram page and on the GrannySmithdiary blog twitter page.

The Daily Walk

Part of Daisy’s family daily routine is to get out of the house for a walk, maintaining social distancing.  Daisy likes to take her scooter or her toy buggy with her on these walks and this gives her a sense of freedom and an opportunity to accelerate more than she can in their garden!

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On other days the family take a longer walk to the park and back.  With less traffic and aircraft noise in the background a walk to the park can become a listening walk; look back at my blog last year for more on listening walks.

Walks also provide an opportunity for children to become aware of their environment and their local area.  Make a game out of your planned walk around your immediate area.  Before setting out, decide on some features that you want your child(ren) to look for – this list can vary on different days, and will vary depending on where you live.

A few ideas –

count the trees on your walk/in your street

find a post box

look for street name signs

spot traffic signposts

count the red cars (you can decide on a different colour!)

look for houses with blue doors

find numbers on houses

look for a church

a bus stop

street lights

a garden with flowers

a gate

a park sign

and so on.

For slightly older children you could talk about the different buildings that you see on your walk.

On walks some children are happy just to count and observe while some children will enjoy making marks on paper as they ‘record’ what they have seen.  If you have your smartphone with you, your children might like to take photographs of some of the things they see.  Back home these marks, notes and photographs give you all an opportunity to talk about what you saw on your walk.

Then the next time you go out for a walk to can walk in a different direction or set off looking of different features.

Granny Smith says

For young children, knowing about their familiar local environment is part of early childhood education.  Our local environment changes through the seasons so whenever you go out for a walk together you’ll always find something to observe and talk about.

Helping Our Young Children With Social Distancing

The confirmation of the closure of schools and nurseries is obviously very unsettling news for parents everywhere.  It’s a fraught and challenging time for families as they work out how to cope with work and family life at home.

As adults we’re able to understand why we must make these adjustments and changes to our daily routines, but for our children, especially Daisy’s age, it is much harder to process.  Today they can go to nursery or school, play with their friends, run around in the playground, laugh and giggle through lunchtime.  Next week they cannot.

A couple of weekends ago (seems like longer!) we went for a walk in the woods with Daisy (primarily on a bear hunt, although wolves were acceptable quarry as well).  We ended up at playground where Daisy quickly befriended a couple of little girls and together they tried out all of the equipment, even laying side by side on the platform swing.  Sadly social distancing will mean that our children can’t get that close to their friends, they can’t go to their after school or weekend clubs and activities.  They won’t have school outings to look forward to and birthday parties will be very different for the next few months.  No more casual playtimes, our daily routines have changed.

Friendship is so important to us adults that many of us are already setting up virtual communication groups and networks to stay in touch with each other.  And I’ve been thinking about that and wondering how we help our young children to also sustain their friendships, at a distance.

Granny Smith

Maybe you can make similar arrangements with family and friends to fit in some regular time for your children, to help them stay in touch using visual communications (Sype, Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp).  A close relative’s little boy recently discovered emojis on his Dad’s smartphone and he’s learnt that we send them to people in messages.  So now I occasionally receive a vehicle emoji!  Can you find time to give your children the opportunity to see and ‘chat’ with a friend on your Smartphone or send them an emoji or two.  Use any visual communications to let young children see and chat with their cousins, close relatives and their grandparents who may be self-isolating.

As schools prepare to close, a friend of mine is helping her young daughter to set up a ‘pen-pal’ group among her class of five year olds.  It helps the children stay in touch and is also a great way for those children to practise writing skills without it feeling like ‘lessons’.  And as grandparents, living a distance away from family, we plan to send letters and small packages to Daisy, as well as eagerly anticipating the next time we can Facetime.

Granny Smith says

If you have any other suggestions for ways to help young children to sustain their friendships while we have to be socially distancing, please send me a message so that I can share those ideas.