It’s Child Month and all of Jamaica’s children are still largely stuck at home. Well, that sucks, doesn’t it? As a mother of 4, I have firsthand information on how ‘boring’ home life can be for growing children who are used to frolicking in the outdoors, playing with the friends, going on field trips and spending Saturdays at the beach. But even with the restrictions and limitations, there are still quite a few activities that can keep boredom at bay and keep kids engaged.
I take my daughters on mommy dates – a one-on-one time for enjoying something they like doing. Typically, I would take my teenager to the movies but with the cinemas closed we recently decided to eat out at 100s on Hope Road. Of course, given the COVID protocols we dined on the Terrace and we were sufficiently distanced from others. It was a blast – the food was exceptional, we enjoyed a comforting view of the beautiful mountains and got a chance to talk ‘teenager stuff’ without her younger siblings. A pedicure is the next stop for daughter number 2 and that promises to be another great time for bonding.
In these times we understand that kids already spend all day on a device and many parents who work from home face the same scenario – but how about creating a period where no devices are allowed? This time can be used for reading actual physical books such as comics, novels, magazines and of course the Jamaica Observer etc. This could be called the ‘Paper Hour’ and could be paired with pizza or something nice to make it a ‘thing.’
Have dinner together. It is easy to sort of allow everybody to eat when they are ready especially with work sometimes encroaching in family time but eating together has several benefits. According to a recent article titled, The Benefits of Eating Together For Children and Families, by HealthLink BC “People of all ages eat better when they share a meal with others. They tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods.” The article goes on to point out that, “Eating together gives young children the chance to learn more words and how to communicate better. Other benefits for kids and teens include: healthier eating into adulthood; healthier body weight; lower risk of disordered eating; less use of cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol; fewer behaviour problems and decreased early sexual activity; better self-esteem and less depression; better grades and higher scores on achievement tests at school.”
With so many compelling reasons to eat together, how can we make it more enjoyable or interesting? You could consider having dinner outside together under the moonlight. Use a retractable table if available and spread home cooked or catered food buffet style. Or simply place a few stools or plastic chairs under a tree and enjoy whatever you have available for dinner together. Of course, you can also simply use the dining table and just be present in the moment – ask questions, listen and perhaps share a joke.
Cooking can also be a special time for bonding with children and can give them a sense of achievement. Schedule a day and time to teach them something. Also, listen to some of their own ideas – if instead of stew chicken they want to make quesadillas, oblige them. Get the ingredients and try it together!
Reinvest in a card pack and board games like chess, checkers, snake and ladder. Playing cards with the kids while sharing childhood stories can be a great way to spend the evening. You could also play a game of boy, girl, animal, place, TV show etc. – All you need is paper, a pencil and maybe a few treats for prizes.
You could also pull out those old photo albums and old phone photos and tell the stories behind the pictures. Let the kids tell their own stories too about the photos on their devices.
Finally, you can always take a drive out and take photos of places you miss. Share stories together of why you miss those places and in so doing create a time of bonding with your kids.
What else can we do to make life a little more interesting for our kids during these times? Send your ideas via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!
Shelly-Ann Harris is author of God’s Woman, President & Founder of Family and Faith Magazine and a media, communication, change management professional.