Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) have recommended to parents that, during the confinement at home due to the coronavirus health crisis, they should not organize all the activities and tasks that their children should do, but rather encourage their autonomy and self-regulation of time.
During these days of confinement, we must leave a space for children to play freely, to create, imagine, move, jump or run, even though they may disturb the neighbours, and, in short, to be masters of their own time and games.
Free play promotes such important mental skills as creativity, self-control, mental flexibility and autonomy, so the feeling that children are wasting their time, or that it is up to adults to stimulate them all the time, has to be put aside.
The researchers also recommend that, during the time of confinement required by the COVID-19 alert situation, it is necessary to limit children’s use of screens (video games, tablets or mobile phones), because it affects children’s capacity for attention and self-control, as well as their mood. Children who spend too much time watching TV or playing video games are generally more irritable, angry, sensitive and often crying.
It is important to maintain the routine of the day for children, establishing every day the same schedule of personal hygiene, change of clothes, meal times and most importantly, sleep patterns. We must incorporate the children into this planning, writing the schedule on a board or cardboard that is accessible to them and that they can consult easily.
In addition, we must avoid transmitting to the children of the house a sense of panic/anxiety in relation to the coronavirus. It is necessary to be informed, but it is important to avoid that the coronavirus is the only topic discussed in the family. Younger children in particular will have difficulty understanding information about the coronavirus because of their difficulty in grasping abstract concepts. We must limit our own use and consumption of information in order to have more mental space, more tranquillity and more emotional clarity to cope with these days in the company of children.
This confinement should serve to promote family cohesion: carry out activities together, talk, expose ideas, opinions, tell stories in groups or talk about family stories. It is a time to talk to our children, to look at photos from family albums, to remember traditions and to share experiences. Telling stories about when mothers and fathers were children often arouses the interest of children, who are not used to thinking that their fathers were children. Today, because we live so fast, we don’t have time to do what our grandparents and parents used to do: sit down and tell the stories of their youth, the beliefs they had, the myths they believed in, etc.
It is recommended that the children of the house read during this confinement, because reading strengthens the attention, working memory, self-regulation and creativity of children, and is an important source of development of language and intelligence. We must encourage and establish a reading routine at home, either by reading together or by leaving a time and space for it. We can even let the little ones sit down with their own book to read, even if they don’t know how to do it yet, observing the images and situations described by the books themselves.
Finally, care should be taken with food and exercise as much as possible during confinement. Since mobility will be drastically reduced, it is important to reduce consumption of high-calorie foods. In general always, but particularly in conditions of confinement at home, it is desirable to reduce and restrict excessive consumption of sugars, in addition to physical exercise routines, by considering games that involve movement.