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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
As schools set to reopen in the coming weeks Barnardos has collated a collection of Tips for children, young people, and parents on how best to prepare for this transition.TipSheets
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.
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.
We know school is coming to an end very soon. Why not have your very own teddy bears picnic either together with your children’s friends and their parents in your local park or virtually in your own gardens?
Download our instructions on how to set up a Teddy Bears Picnic and a certificate for excellence in Teddy Care for your children.
Recommended for ages 0-7
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!
We all know how to play Simon Says! Why not try this new version, where we have to act out a feeling. The whole idea is that we take turns in listening to one another and it gets us thinking about feelings. Recommended age 5+ years
This is to help us practice naming different feelings and what we look like when we feel that way.
Play the game with your family who live in your house OR you can play this game on FaceTime/Zoom/etc to other members of your family or friends
Choose who will go first calling out the directions. They must replace the usual Simon says directions with feelings phrases. For example, say: “Simon says, look happy” or “Simon says, look angry”
After they have shown you what that feeling looks like on their face, ask them what makes them feel that way? For example, “What makes you feel excited?”
Here are some feelings examples;
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.)
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.
This summer why not build your very own Fairy Garden with your child. Getting out into the garden will give us that Vitamin D we need.
Creating a fairy garden will support your child’s self-esteem, make them feel calm feeling the dirt in their fingers, and it's fun!
Recommended ages 3+
School is coming to an end for this year - why not encourage your children to join in the Barnardos Virtual Sports day with some friends to mark the end of the school year!
Moving our bodies is a really good way to help us feel happy and calm. Get started by downloading our virtual sports day instructions and our participation certificate.
Recommended for ages 6+
If you haven’t already heard Barnardos had to change how we did our Big Toddle this year. Lots of families have signed up on Facebook for their sponsored walk and there is still time to do this.
We have seen lots of children walking, dressing up and doing arts and crafts. Why not try it out with your children and get them up, active and engaged in something really positive.
Recommended for ages 0-7.
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!
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.
Returning to school for some children might be a very exciting thought, seeing friends again, meeting their new teacher. For some children going back to school in August might make them feel worried as they are unsure what it will be like or look like.
Download and print this template, or recreate it on your own paper.
Allowing your child the space to draw this will give you the opportunity to see what’s happening in your child’s mind.
What might they be worried about or excited about? This knowledge will support you to have an open conversation and reassure them that you will be there to support them.
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.
There are so many benefits for children when they draw. Drawing helps with hand-eye coordination, develops fine motor skills, improves concentration, supports problem solving and builds confidence.
Support your child to draw their favourite animals and share their masterpieces with family and friends!
Recommended Age 5+
School is soon going to be closed and your children will be on their Summer Holidays! (No more home schooling!)
Making goals is really important, it requires us to think about what is important to us, what we are good at and what we would like to be better at. It is a really great feeling when we achieve our goals.
Recommended for ages 5+
Display the My Summer Goals worksheet in your home and get your child to tick off each one once they have achieved a goal.
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.
Reflecting on the past few months with your child is an important step in preparing them for the school year ahead.
It’s ok if you do not have all the answers yet, starting the conversation will allow your child to feel supported and safe.
Here is some conversation starters to Reflect and Prepare with your child.
When school returns there might be some added pressures that were not there before. 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!
Stay Well, Care and Share, Plan and Prepare - poster by Barnardos Project Worker Tara Smith.
During these difficult times it is important to remember we are all experiencing similarities and differences in our situations. Whatever stage you are at that is OK! We are all in this together!
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