Life in lockdown: How to keep children in touch with their friends

With schools closed for the foreseeable future, it’s a challenging time for children – especially when they can’t pop round to their friends’ houses for a playdate or a sleepover.

There are clever ways that you can keep children of all ages in touch with their friends during the pandemic. Here are a few ways to help them do just that.

1. Make the most of online games

Lots of today’s popular games, such as Fortnite, Fifa and Minecraft, have a multiplayer element that allows kids to link up with friends and escape into fantasy worlds, either working together or competing against one another.

A visitor playing a game of Minecraft
Minecraft allows children to link up with friends and escape into fantasy worlds (Yui Mok/PA)

If you’re a clued-up parent, you will have heard about Among Us – a free, social deduction game that’s hugely popular right now. The smartphone game takes place in outer space, and players must figure out who the secret impostor is in the group while completing a series of group tasks.

Make sure you are happy with the content of the games your child is playing and that they are using them safely. The NSPCC website offers some good advice for parents.

2. Host digital study sessions

Homework is boring at the best of times, but it’s a real chore if you’re doing it alone.

As parents, you could take it in turns to each host a digital study session where you recap the week’s lessons with a fun and interactive element. You could devise a group quiz, or challenge kids to write and perform a rap about a subject they’ve learned about in school that week.

Coronavirus – Mon Jan 4, 2021
A schoolgirl studies at home following the switch to online learning (Martin Rickett/PA)

3. Watch a film together

If your kids are missing regular trips to the cinema with their friends, lots of streaming services now have synchronised video playback so they can watch TV at the same time.

Check out Netflix’s Teleparty browser extension which allows kids to watch films together on the streaming service, as well as Disney Plus, HBO and Hulu. There’s also a chat feature so they can discuss the plot in real time.

4. Start a virtual book club

Books can be a massive source of comfort to little people during uncertain times. So too can be the joy of discussing a great read with your friends.

A monthly Zoom book club is really easy and simple to set up. Just make sure you’re choosing happy, uplifting books that will help boost kids’ spirits.

5. Set a painting competition

Bring an interactive element to crafting time by setting children group artwork tasks over WhatsApp.

You could ask them to artistically interpret a theme or word on paper, or send around an image for them to draw and paint. Everyone can then share photographs of their masterpieces to the WhatsApp group afterwards.

6. Play online charades

This classic game is an ideal Zoom get-together. Each child needs to act out a word or phrase without uttering a sound, and their teammates have to guess what it is.

Kids can pick from topics including movies, people, books, TV shows and songs. To earn points, team members must guess the word or phrase before the time you’ve set runs out.

7. Send old-fashioned letters

With schooling now taking place over Zoom, kids might appreciate a break from their screens with a letter writing task.

Get them to pen some notes to their friends, which you can drop into the postbox on your daily walk. They could try writing their letters in code or decorating them using coloured pens, washi tape and biodegradable glitter.

Working from home while children are homeschooling can be tough all round. We asked our staff how they’re managing this – keeping surprise ideas in reserve is their first tip. Read on for the rest.

— Barnardo’s (@barnardos) January 11, 2021

8. Have a virtual singalong

Standard Zoom chats can be a bit draining for young people, so if you have younger kids, why not switch up the format and arrange an online singing session?

Print off the lyrics to their favourite songs ahead of the call. Children can then take it in turns to perform their own solo verses, with everyone joining in at the chorus. (Or if they feel shy, everyone can sing together – the aim is just to have fun.)

You could even challenge little ones to dress up as their favourite pop stars for the occasion.

9. Organise sporting challenges

A sports day might be off the cards right now, but there’s no reason why kids can’t virtually compete to be crowned the ultimate athlete in their friendship circle.

You could set up challenges such as a traditional 5K run, or you could make things more exciting by throwing in some retro games like a sack race, welly throwing or an egg and spoon race.

Parents can be on hand to film and time their efforts. Share the results, see who has won each round, and you might even want to crown the overall winner in a virtual medal ceremony.

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