How do you keep them busy at school all day?

Schedule or no schedule? There have posts all over social media sharing examples of schedules and also lots of posts giving reasons about why you shouldn’t worry about using one. You (or your child) might feel happier having a routine in place but equally you might feel pressured by the structure. No two schools, classes, teachers or children are the same, and so during lockdown you have to find what works for you.

I have been loosely following the timetable that I use with my Reception class. I need the familiarity of my routine and I also need to break the day up so that it doesn't feel too long, which made me think that my daughter needs this too. She has demonstrated the need for familiarity by refusing to take part in Joe Wicks' PE lessons at the start of the week because she only does PE on a Friday and asking to still have forest school on Wednesdays.

We have been getting dressed and ready for the day before we go downstairs to try to keep some normality and routine. Then at the weekend, we can come downstairs in pyjamas to make it feel different to the week and stop the days all merging into one.

We use the wraparound provision at school so Sophie and Benji are used to having breakfast at school and nursery. They have been going downstairs with Craig for breakfast club which gives me some time to do some work or some household jobs. When they have finished eating they can choose what to do until 'school starts'. They have been choosing to watch TV.

At 9 o'clock it's time to go to Twinkly Rainbows School (Sophie named our school). We switch the TV off and meet on the rug! It doesn't matter what time you start or even if it's exactly the same time each day but having an event to signal the start of the day has worked for us.

I wanted to start each day with an activity for example PE with the Body Coach but Sophie refuses to do PE unless it's Friday (Andy’s Wild Workouts on CBeebies and Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube are good alternatives for younger children). We tried singing nursery rhymes which worked really well especially as I have a 2 year too.

This doesn't need to be any longer than 10-15 minutes. If you are looking for phonics ideas, I am adding activities to the sounds section of my website as we do them. We have done er and ur so far.

If I set something up, I have been setting up a second set for Benji, who is 2, because he wants to join in. He usually lasts 2 minutes then wonders off to play so I leave something like his train set out on the rug.

This forms the biggest chunk of our morning in my Reception class. This time is child, which means the children free flow around the setting and choose what they would like to play. There are different zones in the classroom including the outdoor area.

I have tried to set up some zones in my house. This is not because I want to create a classroom but because if children can access a range of toys they are more likely to play independently for longer, which is exactly what we need if we are trying to juggle teaching our children and working from home at the same time. I have put a selection of toys out and the rest in a cupboard so that at the end of the week I can put some of the toys away and replace them with new ones to stop them from getting bored.

During this activity time I have been joining in, playing with them and reading books while Craig works from home. However, if they are playing independently or happily together I have stepped back and let them get on (while I secretly eat biscuits in the kitchen). The sunny weather has helped because we have spent a lot of time in the garden.

I haven't used many of the free links and online activities yet or tried the ideas that are all over social media, because at the moment they are happy just playing with their toys. Instead, I have been pinning and saving lots of ideas on Pinterest to have up my sleeve ready for when we need them! I’ve also got my Five Minute Mum book ready for when I need some inspiration.

Children tend to flit from one activity to another (their attention span is their age plus 2 minutes) and leave a path of destruction behind them. So I have been ignoring the mess during the morning (it's not like we are expecting visitors!) and having been tidying up just before lunch.

At school, we have a snack table that the children can access at any point during activity time. I have tried to do this at home but my son spends all day asking for more! I am going to try to offer snacks at the same time each day and see if that helps.

I have set a daily reminder on our Echo so that Alexa asks them to tidy up for lunch, not me! I have been playing the Mission Impossible music as we tidy. I have included 'tidy up time' because they are used to doing it at school and I don't want to have mess everywhere once they have gone to bed! So far I would say I’m doing most of the tidying though!

I have been trying to make sure the table is cleared during tidy up time (we have been using it for crafts) and that we all sit and eat together to eat. At the weekend, we will eat lunch on the sofa whilst watching TV so that it feels different to the week.

Craig has been taking them outside after lunch for a play so I can log on to my school's learning journey and respond to the children in my class.

I have tried to teach maths through play rather than doing a sit down session and worksheet. Some days after our lunch time we have come back inside to play a board game or an app on the tablet and other days we have carried on playing in the garden and tried to add maths into our play e.g. by counting stones or measured sticks.

This is the same as the morning session. I have craft stuff out in the morning but not paint. Every day so far, they have asked for paint so this session tends usually ends up with the paints out. Sophie (5) loves it and would sit there all day whereas Benji (2) flits between painting and playing with his toys.

I have put some books downstairs and I been reading stories to them during the day aswell as at bedtime. Sophie has done some reading within our phonics session, but I’m also going to aim to get her to read a couple of pages of her school books a few times a week. When we run out I will use the free Oxford Owl ebook library.

I have set a daily reminder so that Alexa says it’s tidy up time at 3pm. If they are in middle of playing and want to carry on, we have left that activity out and tidied up the rest. This has been the most important part of the routine for me because it allows our house to be a home too. It’s nice to sit down at night without being surrounded by toys and I find they choose activities and play better if they come down and their toys are tidy.

After we have tidied, we have read a story together. Then the TV usually goes on and we all crash!

We have been putting stickers on a calendar if they do something really good. If they get at least one star every day, we are having special time on a Friday afternoon. They chose to have a movie and some snacks this week.

I stuck quite rigidly to this at the start of the week. By Wednesday I felt the pressure to make sure we included everything. On Thursday and Friday, we relaxed into a more fluid routine and adapted it when we needed to. When it was sunny we went outside more, when we were exhausted we put the tablets on. No one knows how long lockdown will be, but it’s going to be for a while. I’m going to try to keep a routine going but remind myself not to be afraid to adapt it as we go as we find out what works for us.

How have you got on so far? Have you used a routine or schedule?


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