Resources for Parents

Looking after your Heart, Body and Mind during the Covid-19 Restrictions

Barnardos has quickly adapted to the current Covid-19 pandemic to continue to support children and their families, and we want to provide you and your children with the opportunity to check in with your Heart, Body and Mind regularly throughout this situation.  

There are lots of fun activities listed below to keep your children engaged, and activities that the family can do together.  It is important to remain positive and engage with our children every day in a positive way.  

It is also important that parents take care of themselves during this time. You will also see our Wellbeing for Parents section below, providing parents with tips on how to check in and be kind to themselves.  

Listen to Jenny explain this new holistic Heart, Body, Mind approach to our work in the video below.

We have also created a very useful PDF with guidance for parents on supporting their children’s return to early learning and care that you can download a full version here: Download PDF


Heart Activities

The heart activities focus on understanding and managing feelings. These activities will support your children to foster feelings of kindness for themselves and others. Together you can help your child to learn more words to describe their feelings and support the daily practice of recognising how things make us feel.

  • New! - Autumnal Leaf Mandala

    Together with your child, set your intentions for the coming months by creating a crafty autumnal Mandala, with each leaf having a different intention.

    A mandala is a Sanskrit term that means “circle”. It is a circular structure with a design that has a centre and moves outwards.

    Autumn is the season of change, we notice this in the leaves when they are changing colour.

    With this activity we hope you and your child will be encouraged to go on a walk together, do some arts and crafts, set some nice intentions or goals for the coming months, and have some fun!

    (Mark Meynell flickr)


    Materials needed:
    • Dried Leaves
    • Large sheet of paper or card
    • PVA Glue
    • Coloured markers/pencils

     

    Instructions:
    1. Autumn brings with it lots of vibrant colours – go on a hunt and collect some colourful leaves.
    2. Allow the leaves dry out for a few hours.
    3. With all your materials ready, ask your child to choose one piece of material or object that they would like to stick into the centre of the mandala.
      - Ask your child about how they are feeling today? In this moment?
      - Ask they how they hope to feel in the coming days, months…?
      - Invite your child to set an intention or a goal to talk to you about how they are feeling every day and that you will do the same.
    4. Begin by showing your child how to stick the leaves onto the card/paper (slowly creating a circle) and decorate using all their favourite colours.
    5. Ask your child to choose three of their favourite leaves. Ask them to set an intention/goal for the coming months, with each leaf representing one intention/goal. Some ideas;
      - I will be kind to my brother/sister
      - I will say one thing I like about myself every day
      - I will phone my grandparents every day to chat with them
    6. Parents should choose some leaves too and set some intentions for themselves e.g. I will name what I am grateful for each day. It can be helpful to write your intentions on or around your leaves.
    7. Stick your creation up somewhere you can see it so you are reminded of the wonderful intentions you have set for the coming months.
  • New! - Pumpkin feelings cards

    Each pumpkin represents a different feeling. Name the feelings as part of a game of Charades!

    Materials needed:
    • Scissors
    • Coloured pencils/markers
    Instructions:
    1. Cut out the pumpkin faces, each pumpkin demonstrates a different emotion.
    2. Colour and decorate them with some vibrant festive Halloween colours.
    3. Place all the pumpkin faces in a small bowl.
    4. Take turns with an adult, sibling or friends, picking one Pumpkin face out at a time.
    5. The person who is doing the charade should stay silent & use only their facial expressions and body language to demonstrate the emotion on the Pumpkins face.
    6. The first person to guess the emotion correctly then takes the next turn.
    7. Have fun!

    Download your pumkin faces here

  • Talking about Worries

    This is likely to be an anxious and worrying time for lots of children returning to pre-school and school.

    Talking to your children about their worries can be a really insightful and freeing experience for both the child and parent.

    For younger children sometimes looking for clues in their play can be useful as we know children express themselves through play.

    Here are some books about worries which you could read with your child, which should be available in your local library:

    1. "The Huge Bag of Worries" by Virginia Ironside
    2. "Bad Day" by Ruby Roth
    3. "Ruby’s worry" by Tom Percival

    Some questions to ask your child whilst reading together;
    • What are some of the things that can worry you?
    • What does worry feel like in your body?
    • What can I do to help you when you are feeling worried?


    Remember your response to your own worries, stress, and frustrations can go a long way toward teaching your children how to deal with everyday challenges

  • Draw your own feelings cards

    Feelings can be hard to talk about sometimes. Making talking about feelings a part of the family’s daily routine can be really helpful.

    Younger children will need the support of their parent to use this language every day, naming good feelings and more difficult feelings.

    As we look to returning to preschool and school, why not support your child to complete the Draw Your Own Feelings cards? This way, their feelings can be visually represented for them and you. This will spark a conversation about what they are feeling that day and why.

    Instructions:

    1. Print and cut out the blank faces and the feeling words
    2. In the blank faces, get your child to draw the expression/face of the feeling word.
    3. Help them to match the feeling face to the feeling word
  • Kind Wishes Meditation

    Here is a short guided meditation from Louise Shanagher.

    This is a nice time to reflect on the past few weeks with your children. It's good to make some time to think about themselves, their families and their school friends, whom they may not have had a chance to say a proper goodbye to this year.

    This guided meditation helps us make kind wishes for people in our lives.

    Recommended for ages 6+

    Listen

  • Feelings Sing Along - Hokey Pokey

    Fun for all the family! Sing along to this song with a twist! Using the different feelings, act out these feelings on your faces whilst you’re singing along.

    Recommended for all ages, for younger children, use this time as an opportunity to sing to the music which babies and toddlers will enjoy!

  • Feelings Book

    Help your child to create a feelings book. Support them to cut out pictures of different faces displaying different emotions and help them create a story based on the faces they choose.

    Remember to get your child to show what each feeling looks like on theirs and your face as you create your book together.

    Recommended for ages 6+

    Feelings Book

    Create a “feelings book”, cut out pictures from old newspapers and magazines of lots of people’s faces with different expressions and feelings on them. Practice the feelings faces/expressions as you find them.

    It is important that we can name our feelings and recognise these feelings on people’s faces.

    Remember ALL feelings are ok!

    Materials needed:

    • Paper
    • Old News Papers and/or magazines
    • Glue
    • Scissors
    • Markers
    • Stapler

     

    Instructions:

    1. Gather together some old newspapers or magazines that might be around your house.
    2. Have a look through them and pick out people’s faces, choosing a mixture of different expressions and feelings
    3. Cut out the faces and group them into feelings categories e.g. Happy/smiling/laughing or Sad/crying/frowning
    4. Take your paper and staple some pages together or punch a hole in the middle and use some string to hold them together
    5. Start to create your feelings story, make up a story based on the feelings faces you have cut out.
    6. Call or FaceTime some of your family and read them the story you have created.

Body Activities

The Body activities are divided into breathing activities - activities to provide children with an opportunity to focus on the body and connect with the present,  and muscle relaxations - activities to help children release tension from their bodies to increase their sense of calmness. (TIP: The best time to teach a breathing technique is when the child is calm.)

  • New! - Salt dough (Halloween edition)

    An activity for the whole family to do together. This activity can support children to regulate. Whether you would like your child to down regulate (reduce their energy) or up regulate (increase their energy) this activity can include both.

    Remember to always engage with your child and tap into the energy in their bodies by asking those questions such as - How does it feel? Where can you feel it in your body? Do you like it? Do you not like it?

    Recommended ages 5+

    Download the instructions

  • New! - Pumpkin carving

    This might seem like an obvious activity around Halloween, but don’t overlook the sensory aspect of pumpkin carving!

    Encourage your child to squish the pumpkin pulp between their hands. Recommended ages 5+

    Pumpkin Carving-sensory experience


    Carving pumpkins is a Halloween tradition in lots of households. This year, why not use this activity as an opportunity to bring an awareness to the sensory experience for you and your child?

    Materials needed:
    • A pumpkin
    • Washing up liquid and water
    • A marker
    • Carving materials
    • A black bag
    • Basin (optional)

     

    Instructions:
    1. Start by encouraging your child to wash their pumpkin with warm water and washing up liquid. The water and soap will create some bubbles (which are always fun) and the motion of rubbing the pumpkin with the warm water should feel soothing.
      - Ask your child how it feels? Do they like it?
    2. You can towel dry the pumpkin and now it’s ready for designing.
    3. Let your child choose the design they would like for their pumpkin then get them to draw it with the marker (you might need to help with this).
    4. Once the face is drawn, lay the black bag on a flat surface, you are ready to begin carving.
    5. NOTE: Adults may need to do the carving if you do not have the appropriate pumpkin carving materials. Start with the head and cut around the stalk. Once carved ask your child to begin removing the pulp.
    6. Allow your child to take their time with this, encourage them to squish the pulp between their hands and fingers, even getting them to press the pulp down onto the blag bag and moving it around.
      - Ask your child how it feels? Do they like it or not?
      - Ask your child can they notice where they are feeling it in their body?
    7. Continue to carve the face/design of the pumpkin - with your child pushing through eyes, nose, and mouth and then lifting it out of the pumpkin.
    8. If your child enjoyed the sensory element of this activity and to extend it slightly, you could get a basin of warm water, put the pumpkin pulp into it and allow your child time to play around with it.
    9. Once all cleaned up you are ready to place some LED lights or candles into your pumpkin and display.
      - Ask your child about the activity?
      - What was their favourite part?
    10. Tip: for littler people, why not take the pulp and place it in a zip lock bag. Then you have a pumpkin sensory bag.

    Happy Halloween!

  • Sensory bag/kit

    When we engage our senses in a unique way we can tap into a part of our brain and bodies that makes us feel calmer.

    Why not create your very own Sensory Bag/Kit with your child and include different items that they enjoy which you know will make them feel calm and relaxed in moments when they might need it.

  • Breathing Cards

    We have practiced lots of breathing techniques here on the body section. We understand the importance of children taking time to slow their breathing and connect with the present.

    By now your child might have tried different types of breathing activities and might have found one or two that work for them. Continued encouragement from you will support their mastery of breathing calmly which has a huge benefit on their Heart, Body and Mind.

    Here are some Breathing Cards, from childhood101.com, with different breathing activities and instructions. These can be printed and cut out for use every day with your child.

  • Rainbow Rice

    Follow these simple instructions and get the Rainbow Rice Effect! This activity uses our sense of touch. Playing with different textures can help us feel calm.

    Recommended for age 3+ (Supervision required for younger children)

    Rainbow Rice


    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup of uncooked Rice (Per colour)
    • ½ teaspoon of water (Per colour)
    • 15-20 drops of Food Colouring of choice (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple)
    • Sandwich bags (Resealable bags)

     

    Instructions:

    1. Place 1 cup of rice into each bag
    2. Mix ½ tsp of water + 15-20 drops of food colouring per colour.
    3. Zip up the bag and shake shake shake until the colour has spread evenly (If you need to add more colouring and water do that now)
    4. Place the rice out onto a piece of parchment paper or tin foil and allow to dry
    5. Repeat with your other colours
    6. Once completely dry you can mix all the colours together in a storage container or lunch box
    7. Now enjoy the rainbow rice effect!! Rub your hands in between the rice, cup the rice and move your hands in and out.

     

    Benefits:

    • Improves fine motor skills
    • Get used to different textures
    • Explore different colours
  • Deep Breathe Like a Blowfish!

    Follow along to this short video and practice how to deep breathe like a blowfish. Taking a big deep breathe in and filling up your lungs, then breathing out slowly.

    We can become masters of deep breathing if we practice every day and this can help us relax and feel calm.

    Recommended for ages 5+

  • Belly Breathing

    Try this guided meditation by GoZen with your child to help them practice more belly breathing.

    Breathing deeply helps us feel calm and relaxed.

    Ask your child what parts of their body move? Ask them how they feel after?

    Recommended 6+ years

  • Tissue Dance

    Dance like nobody is watching! Here’s an activity that’s sure to get our bodies moving, all you and your child need is a tissue and some music. Give it a try!

    Recommended for all ages (See adaptations below for younger children).

    This activity can be done on your own or as a game with other family members

    Materials needed:
    • A tissue
    • Music

     

    Instructions:
    1. Have everyone put a tissue on their head before you play any music.
    2. Then start the music and begin dancing, but don’t let the tissue hit the ground.
    3. If you are trying this activity on your own, see if you can dance to a whole song before the tissue falls.
    4. If you are playing as a family and the tissue starts to fall, you can put it back on your head. However, if you miss and the tissue lands on the floor, you are out!
    5. Last one with a tissue on their head wins!

     

    Adaptations for babies and toddlers

    The movement element of this activity is the most important part. Having music playing, dancing and encouraging children to move is the key. For young children, clapping hands to the beat or making different musical sounds is a sure way to get them moving.

    Remember, dance like nobody is watching!

  • Finger Breathing

    Encourage your child to follow along to this video, where Barnardos Project Worker Stephanie demonstrates how to do a simple mindful breathing exercise just using your hand.

    Finger breathing can slow our breathing down and make us feel calm. Ask your child how they feel after?

    Recommended ages 6+

  • Flower Breathing

    Encourage your child to follow along to this video, where Barnardos Project Worker Stephanie demonstrates how to do a simple mindful breathing exercise by smelling a flower.

    Ask your child how they feel after?

    Recommended ages 6+


Mind Activities

The Mind activities will support children to have an awareness of their own thoughts and learn how to increase positive thoughts. They will help the whole family be more present with eachother.

  • New! - Barnardos Pumpkin Hunt

    This year trick or treating will be a little different. As we can't go door-to-door, why not go on a hunt with your child in search of Barnardos pumpkins or real pumpkins in your local community?

    Don’t forget to wave to your neighbours as you go by. This will make them smile. It's important to keep a positive connection with our neighbours and our local communities.

    Recommended ages 2+

    Materials required:

     

    Instructions:
    1. Print off the Barnardos Pumpkin Template and encourage your child to get creative using all their favourite festive colours. Make it as vibrant as possible, like a vibrant orange.
      - Remember: Allow your child take the time to colour their pumpkin, mindful colouring can help children feel calm and relaxed.
    2. Together, stick your Barnardos Pumpkin on your porch door or front window for passer-by’s to see.
    3. On Halloween night or in the days leading up, together, go on a mission to hunt to find Barnardos Pumpkins out in or real carved Pumpkins around your local community.
    4. Ask your friends/class to take part as well – you can all share with each other how many you found on your hunt.
    5. Share pictures of your pumpkin hunt with us on social media! Tag us on Instagram or Twitter @barnardos_IRL - we'd love to see your creations!

    Ask your child:

    • How many pumpkins did they find?
    • What was their favourite pumpkin?
    Happy Hunting!

     

  • New! - Reflective Journal

    Use the Barnardos Reflective Journal Template as a family to reflect on how returning to school has gone and what you hope for the coming months.

    Reflecting on our experiences is really important. It helps us understand what is going on for our children. Planning within the family for the coming months can be really useful too, it allows children to know what they can expect which helps them feel safe.

    Recommended ages 6+

    Download the Reflective Journal Template.

  • New! - Glitter Jar (Mind Jar)

    It is normal for our minds to feel very fuzzy sometimes when we have lots of thoughts and feelings floating around. Here is a way to help your child settle their mind using a mindful breathing technique, the Glitter Jar.

    This activity supports children to understand that our minds can feel very busy at times which can feel very overwhelming but there are ways to help us calm our minds.

    Glitter Jar (Mind Jar)

    This activity can support children (and adults) when there are feelings of overwhelm. It can also be a useful mindfulness breathing tool.


    Materials needed:

    • An empty jar or bottle with the label removed
    • Different coloured glitter
    • Water

    Instructions:

    1. Explain to your child that the different coloured glitters are like our different thoughts and feelings. Ask your child to think about the different thoughts and feelings they might have in a day.

    2. Fill the jar with water.

    3. Invite your child to put some of each coloured glitter into the jar and name the feeling or thought as the do this.

    4. Put the lid on tight and get your child to shake the jar. Ask your child what they notice? Explain to your child that at different times in our life our minds can feel very busy, like this jar with lots of different feelings and thoughts (glitter) floating around.

    5. Now ask your child to close their eyes, put their hands on their bellies and breathe in for 4 and out for 6, repeat this 5 times. (Alternatively they can do any breathing technique they prefer).

    6. Ask your child to look at their mind jar/bottle and notice what has happened? Explain to your child that when we take time to breathe slowly, our minds become calmer, our thoughts and feelings (glitter) are still there but we can see clearer now.

    7. Encourage this practice regularly with your child, using the jar as a visual at first and then the need to use the jar will become less and less as they will have mastered mindful breathing.

     

  • Affirmation Cards

    Starting this school year on the right foot might feel quite daunting. Positive self-talk can support your child to have a better attitude to their day.

    Here are some examples of affirmation cards your child could use and some blank ones for them to design their own affirmation cards

    Encourage your child to say these out loud to themselves every morning and bring one in their pocket or bag, then they can be reminded of their affirmations when they need them the most.

  • A (paper) chain of Calm

    We all need some help sometimes to calm our minds. When we are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed and have not learned ways to make ourselves feel calm we can get even more upset.

    Support your children to find their calm by creating a toolbox of ideas they can use when they start to feel those feelings of frustration or worry.

    Here is one tool to make with your child. This can be a reminder for them of all the tools they have to help them.

    Recommended for ages 6+

    Materials needed;

    • Coloured paper
    • Scissors
    • Sellotape or glue
    • A Marker/Pen/Pencil

    Instructions;

    • Cut your paper into strips
    • Write down on each strip ways that you have learned to feel calm
    • Fold one side of the strip to meet the other side, making a link
    • Link all your strip together to make a paperchain
    • Display your paperchain where you will see it often-reminding you of all the tools you have to find your calm.

    Some ideas of ways to feel calm;

    • Belly breathing
    • Bubble breathing
    • Taking three big deep breaths- slowly
    • Listening to music
    • Dancing to my favourite song
    • Walking around the garden
    • Naming 3 things you can see, hear, smell
    • Name how I am feeling
  • Inspiration Stones

    Positive Self Talk is really important to practice. This Inspiration Stones activity helps us to remember what makes us happy, what we are grateful for and reminds us to think and say positive things about ourselves each day.

    Follow our instructions below or download them and see how to decorate your own inspiration stones. Recommended for ages 3+

    Instructions:
    1. Collect stones of different shapes and sizes. It can be helpful to find stones with at least one smooth surface.
    2. If the stones are dirty, rinse them off under running water and let dry.
    3. You can decorate directly on the stone, or you can paint a base layer of white or other light coloured paint. Allow the base coat to dry.
    4. Decorate your stones with words or sayings to remind you of things that bring you happiness and gratitude, or that might remind you to relax, or even positive affirmations about yourself. You can use pens, markers, glitter or paint to decorate your stones. Acrylic paint works great but poster paint works well too.
    5. Let your stones dry.
    6. If you wish, you can protect your stones and make them last longer by putting a final clear coat on – you can do this using clear nail varnish or even by brushing your finished stones with PVA glue. This is really important to do if you are going to place your stones outside.
    7. Place your stones in places around your home or garden where you will see them and feel happy, grateful, calm or good about yourself!

    Photo: Stones painted by 3 year old, 8 year old and their Mum.

  • Story Time - A Very Hungry Caterpillar

    Listen to Barnardos Project Worker Aoife reading a very hungry caterpillar and follow along to the story.

    Watch what happens to the Caterpillar at the end of the story. Can your children guess what happens to him?

    Recommended for all ages.

  • Story Time - Cuddle

    Story time for the whole family! At a time when we can’t cuddle everyone we want to, listen here to one of our Project Workers Katherine reading us the Cuddle story and think about who you could cuddle in your imagination!

    Recommended for all ages.


Wellbeing for Parents

This section is for parents to focus on themselves. We know parents lead very busy lives and in particular during this current Covid-19 pandemic, parents might be very focused on the wellbeing of their children. This is a gentle reminder that it’s ok to mind yourself too, in fact, it’s important that you look after yourself so you can be completely present for your children.

  • New! - Survival Kit for Midterm

    This is the first midterm since the children have returned to school/ pre-school. Some parents will be welcoming the chance to spend time with their children and not have the early mornings and school runs to consider.

    Others might be feeling anxious about how they are going to entertain their children in the week they are not in school or over the coming months. Hopefully the activities on this resource page will support parents during this time.

    Remember parents always need to be thinking about their own self-care in order to engage with their children in a positive way.

    Here is a survival kit for mid-term for parents:

     

  • My own wellbeing plan for the day

    It’s important to take moments throughout your day to mind yourself.

    If you are a stay at home mum/dad, working from home or back in the office, create your own wellbeing plan for your day.

  • Family Rituals

    Rituals allow families to slow down and connect. We have all had time to slow down over the past few months. Let’s not forget the good feelings this brought.

    Despite life getting a little busier now, remember to make time to incorporate special moments into your family life.

    Try out some of these Family Rituals

    Read the list together as a family and tick off the ones you would like to try!

    • Have each family member share one kind thing that they did that day
    • Create your own family handshake
    • Choose a moment in the day where everyone sits, plays and laughs together
    • Go on a weekly nature walk
    • Create a rotating chore chart which changes ever Friday
    • Make storytime a feature of every evening, taking turns to read or tell a story
  • The Scared Gang Have to Stay at Home

    It might be getting harder for some parents to explain to their children why they have to stay at home.

    This book by Éadaoin Bhreathnach may be helpful for your children to understand everything a little better.

    Recommended for ages 5+

    Download the book

  • Baby Bonding

    Watch this short video of one of our Project Workers Ruth explaining Baby Bonding. You can practice it with your infant/toddler or child today.

    Follow allow with Ruth by downloading this Head, Heart and Hands Baby Bonding tip sheet.

  • Sesame Street

    You’re doing a great job! Listen to Elmo’s dad telling all parents how well they are doing and reminding them to take a moment for themselves to breathe.

  • I Can/Cannot Control

    There are some things we CAN control and there are some things we CANNOT.

    This image from The Counseling Teacher helps us to remember the things that are in our control and the things that are not, especially during this stressful time.

  • Growth Mindset

    Read through the 25 affirmations below from Big Life Journal.

    Read one to yourself every day or print it out and hang it on your fridge so every time you open the fridge you take a positive message too.

  • Just One Breath

    Give yourself a moment to focus on your breathing, helping you feel calmer and relaxed and more present in your body.

    Use the instructions and on the image below from Big Life Journal to help you.

    Instructions:

    1. When you wake up
    2. Take a moment
    3. Notice how your body feels: Are you tired/achy/refreshed
    4. Allow yourself to take a few deep breaths

Parent Supportline

Barnardos has launched a national telephone support service for parents in response to the challenges they are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This service will be staffed by Barnardos project workers who are trained professionals.

Barnardos Parent Supportline

Online safety

We normally deliver workshops about online safety in schools for children, teachers and parents and this is supported by Google.org. Due to the Coronavirus, we can’t have our face-to-face workshops in schools at present and instead we have a number of short videos about online safety for parents that we hope will help their children stay safe and happy online. You can watch these videos on their own, or you can watch them as a mini-presentation

Virtual Workshops