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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
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.
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)
Each pumpkin represents a different feeling. Name the feelings as part of a game of Charades!
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:
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
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.
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+
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!
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+
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!
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.)
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
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+
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?
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.
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.
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)
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+
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
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
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!
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+
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+
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.
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+
Ask your child:
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.
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.
This activity can support children (and adults) when there are feelings of overwhelm. It can also be a useful mindfulness breathing tool.
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.
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+
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+
Photo: Stones painted by 3 year old, 8 year old and their Mum.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Read the list together as a family and tick off the ones you would like to try!
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+
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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-presentationVirtual Workshops