Digital exclusion is a reality for many families and some children are unable to connect with others online. We welcome the current focus on ensuring no children are left behind during these times of social isolation because of a lack of appropriate access to the internet at home. If you have accessed the free Home Learning resources on our website or our Facebook page – Support for Families Learning at Home (both created as a result of the Covid epidemic), then you’ll be aware of how we are doing our best to remain conscious of the number of families who do not have access to IT equipment at home. Our activities have been designed to work without the need for any special equipment and usually just use things you’d find easily at home, ensuring that they are as accessible as possible. They include fun challenges and ideas for art activities, stories, songs, with an ongoing focus on thoughtful dialogue and reflection.
However, many children are now finding video calls are becoming more prevalent in their lives. Until recently most children’s experience of video calling hadn’t gone much further than occasional video calls with family or friends who don’t live nearby. Now children might be keeping up with activities such as karate or Cubs via Zoom, or perhaps their school are hosting lessons or times to get pupils together. Making the most of these opportunities can be tricky, we hope some of these ideas may help.
‘By learning 6 life skills- focusing, quieting, seeing, reframing, caring and connecting- we become less reactive and more aware of what’s happening within and around us.’ (SKGreenland – Mindful Games)
Not all children will be able to connect online; for those who can access technology for a video call you may want to make it voluntary to turn on the video, not everyone wants to be seen. Some children may prefer choosing a virtual background. Establish ground rules: children can mute microphones and ‘put hand up’ to encourage speaking and listening; the ideas below can also be used as mindfulness/ connecting activities for people to play at home.
- Have small group get togethers (5 or less) as well as larger groups, so that quieter children can connect.
- Have a ‘tea break’ or picnic together; ask children to make their own lunch for the picnic and bring it along to talk about.
- Share a video of you with your family/ you with a pet/you doing something you enjoy doing/an object that means something to you if you don’t want to be in the photo.
- Play simple circle time games- what is your favourite colour today? What is your favourite breakfast this week? What book are you reading? If you could be an animal what would you be? Would you rather…? Yes/ No games (What am I?), Hot seat- interview a character.
- Play listening games eg everyone has a pencil and paper, the teacher starts describing what to draw, take it in turns to add instructions then share the results. You could have an agreed theme eg it will be a troll in the woods, or just see what happens!
- Have a theme for the call: bring a double spread of newspaper and some masking tape, allow one minute to eg- make a hat/ item of clothing/ a superhero outfit (what is your name/super power?); or dress in your favourite clothes/ bring your favourite book/ bring a joke/learn some basic vocab in another language/ memory games – eg teacher has a tray and removes an object
- Send something out in advance to do together, eg email a pattern for a pinwheel windmill to blow. You can find lots of ideas on https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-for-children-kids-activities/ . We like Mindful Games activity cards by Susan Kaiser Greenland and Annaka Harris who have suggestions such as making an appreciation chain to hang up (slips of paper with names of people/ things); Scattergories – send out a list of prompts in advance ( free lists on Pinterest) and a timer. Nominate someone to choose the letter; bingo (ask children to draw a grid eg 3×3 squares choose from a word list of eg 12 things to draw or write; gratitude dice discussions- send list/ dice template (you can find lots on these online – try Pinterest)
- Share a story with pictures on screen share read by a familiar adult or you could share one of the stories we have for reading aloud. If some of the children are comfortable with reading aloud, you could arrange for children to read sections of the story.
- Other games to play together eg indoor scavenger hunt challenge – find something blue – bring a ‘rainbow’ (endless ideas online – search for zoom call games for children); pattern scavenger- find something spotty etc.
- Games you might already play in the classroom which adapt well for online include Pictionary, I went to the shop…, Charades, Memory games.
Finally don’t forget to check what do your children want to talk about or do? Have a chat with the children involved and see if they have ideas on what they would like the calls to include.
Please let us know if you see any activities that work to connect children – by video call or any other means. We are gathering ideas.
Blog written by Kath Ingham, Teacher and Network Administrator at The Linking Network