Teaching primary school in the middle of a health crisis is a bizarre experience. Teachers may be juggling massive anxiety ourselves, trying to inform our students without scaring them, keeping our kids healthy, communicating with families, and actually continuing to teach through it all. Whether you are still at school, supporting your tamariki’s home learning while maintaining physical distancing, or caring for young ones at home yourself, maintaining social contact and a sense of routine is extremely important for the mental health of adults and children. It can be daunting to organise the day in a way that keeps kids stimulated, engaged, calm, and clean. So many of the things we do with children involve sharing germs. Here’s a short list I came up with of some alternative options I’m trying with my students.
Instead of group cooking —> Make soap sculptures!
I’m trying to avoid anything that involves people in close proximity to each other or to each other’s food. There are still plenty of creative projects that we can do that keep us clean while we’re at it.
With my class, we’ll be making soap sculptures inspired by the “snowball soap” at 2.30, which doesn’t even require heating, so is safe and simple for young kids. 👍
This is a great video to teach your kids why handwashing stops COVID-19, by Dr Michelle Dickinson, aka Nanogirl.
Here is a fun activity you can do with pepper and soap to demonstrate how powerful soap is. Even though my students are a bit older and already know the importance of soap in the handwashing process, they got such a kick out of doing this and wanted to try it again and again.
Instead of group gatherings –> write letters!
This is a great time to organise your class to write letters to members of a local rest home, who are likely to be feeling quite isolated at the moment. If this is not an option, why not match kids up as pen pals within the school or across schools in your district? They can include drawings, photos, poems, and/or made-up stories. Remember, physical distancing, not social distancing. Ideally, these would be handwritten (personal touch, and important writing practice for the kids) and then scanned and emailed or faxed, to avoid any possible viral transmission. They can also include videos of singing, short plays, and jokes.
Instead of water play –> Make soap paint!
I’ve been bemoaning the loss of water play, such an important sensory activity for a lot of kids. Of course sticking their hands in a shared trough of water, where viruses thrive, is a big no-no, but this paint idea from A Crafty Living fulfills the sensory need while giving the kids a wash at the same time. I would use food dye rather than actual paint to keep it healthy and eco-friendly, but know that if you do this, you will likely get some short-term staining on skin. Everything I’ve read suggests that though germs can live on the surface of bar soap, as long as you rinse the bar and then scrub, those germs will wash right down the drain.
Instead of handshakes and hugs —> Choreograph your own “hygienic hand-less handshakes!”
You know how much kids love to develop “secret handshakes?” Why not challenge them to choreograph their own way of saying hello that doesn’t involve touching? My students loved this activity and got very creative. My favourite was the group who made a wide circle facing away from each other, stretched their feet behind them, and tapped shoes in the middle of the circle. This activity gets kids collaborating, moving, and laughing, which strengthens the immune system! 💪 They didn’t want to stop but were happy to perform their ideas for the others. If you’re working from home, kids can video themselves and share with their classmates. This was also a writing activity, as the kids collaborated to write instructions for their touch-less greeting.
If you have kids at home, Sara Kidd has put together a list of easy baking projects to do with kids. You can also get her free ebook with heaps of kid-friendly step-by-step instructions, or view her recipes on YouTube.
What are your safe and fun small group activities? Please share below, a=nd I’ll add them to the list and credit you.