WITHOUT a plan, a week stuck at home for a family can be as tough as a week in the mountains. Whether you’re climbing Everest, or just trying to make it through to bedtime, without a plan you’ll soon come unstuck. That’s why it’s vital for families of all shapes and sizes to think ahead and plan how they’re going to ward off cabin fever as we near the end of our sixth week in lockdown.
Get it right, and your family could come out of this closer and stronger. And there’s a great tradition of this in the world of adventure.
Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew were famously ice-bound for many months on their ship, the Endurance, while on their Trans-Antarctic expedition in 1914.
They passed the time putting on variety shows, giving lectures, making things, taking photographs, writing and singing.
Expedition member Leonard Hussey’s banjo became as important as their food store.
But most importantly, they had a leader who knew how to keep them busy, focused and happy.
As a parent and Chief Scout, I know children have huge energy that needs channelling in a positive way.
Of course, rain’s never stopped our family – the more mud, the better – so we usually try to get outdoors as much as we can.
But if we all need to stay indoors for safety reasons, then this isn’t an option.
Instead, we need to think of how we can make the most of each day.
Because it’s no use relying solely on gadgets or social media – a few hours of this, and we’ll find ourselves climbing the walls.
There are five keys to well-being: staying active, connecting with people, learning new skills, giving to others and noticing things.
Focus on these and you’ll get through anything.
To help, Scouts has 700-plus free ready-made activities that you can do with your children straightaway, with minimum planning or fuss.
There are so many fun things for you to try together.
One of my favourites is the lolly stick catapult.
Not only is it brilliant fun to make, you and your family can challenge each other to see whose catapult can fire the furthest!
Make sure there’s a prize.
From science activities, like making your own hot air balloon to art and poetry projects, there really is something for everyone on there.
There’s also a fantastic range of space activities.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been so proud that hundreds of thousands of Scouts have taken part in a truly inspirational project: Hike to the Moon. Together they’ve hiked the 240,000 miles to the moon (all in their home and garden) and raised an incredible £300,000 for BBC Children In Need and Comic Relief along the way.
It’s such a brilliant example of what can be achieved (even in these lockdown conditions) when you set yourself a goal and tackle it with huge dedication and positivity.
You can still help us hike back to earth and donate here: justgiving.com/campaign/hike-to-the-moon
Whether you choose to dress as astronauts, build dens, make a home cinema or put on a play, remember to listen, be kind and have fun.
It’s a difficult time and family cabin members might feel more worried or sensitive than usual.
MAKE A PLAN: Work out your day in advance, varying your activities – mix high and low energy, and build in plenty of variety. Don’t feel like you need to fill every moment but if you’re planning some downtime for TV or social media, make a slot for it so it doesn’t dominate the day. You can use the Scouts’ activity planning tool if you want to get really organised and plan an afternoon, day, week, or even a month of activities: scouts.org.uk/the-great-indoors/
START THE DAY RIGHT: Eat a healthy breakfast together and talk through your plans for the day. This is your moment to create a bit of team spirit and get everyone’s ideas, preferably over a bowl of something with slow release carbohydrates and fruit.
Create your own survey at doopoll.co
BE THE MOST CHEERFUL PERSON IN THE ROOM (WITHOUT ANNOYING EVERYONE): Your attitude will set the tone for everyone else. If you’re positive and focused, then everyone else will follow suit. If you feel like having a moan, make it a private phone call to a friend who also needs to vent – and keep it out of earshot.
DON’T RELY ON TECHNOLOGY: Left to their own devices, literally, children will become insular and eventually, frustrated. It’s best to ration time on phones, iPads, and in front of the telly. Watching a film together can be a great way to relax, but bingeing on eight seasons of reality TV is going to make everyone feel lazy and grouchy. Books on the other hand inform, inspire and transport us to amazing worlds and adventures.
HAVE A QUIET HOUR: Find some time when everyone can get a book out. This’ll also give you some time out to recharge. If your energy’s good, then suggest taking turns to read a chapter to each other, then discuss it – like a mini book club. We do this when we’re stuck in a blizzard.
PICK A CHALLENGE: Get everyone to learn and pass on a skill. This could be something as ambitious as learning a new language or learning how to juggle. Maybe the whole family could take on a challenge together – your neighbours will be amazed if you all emerge speaking Italian!
MAKE A GIFT FOR EACH OTHER OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW: Not only will this give everyone a focus, it’s a nice opportunity to show kindness and thoughtfulness towards each other during these tough times. A little kindness goes a long way.
CONNECT WITH A FRIEND, NEIGHBOUR OR RELATIVE: Each day, try to make time to speak to someone (over the phone or Skype, for example) who’s alone or likely to feel isolated.
KEEP BUSY: sort out Share some of that positive spirit you’ve been developing during the time we’ve been in national lockdown.
STAY ACTIVE: Not being able to go for a walk or jog will be a real challenge for some – me included. Find a time when you can all do some exercise safely together. Just some yoga or gentle exercises will be enough – don’t overdo it, warm up first and find an approved routine (there are loads on YouTube).
TALK IT OVER: At the end of the day, get everyone together (with the telly off) and talk through how it all went. What went well? What didn’t you like? What are you going to do differently tomorrow? Think of your family as a team on an expedition – it’s kindness, support and optimism that’ll help you succeed in the end.
That’s what we do in Scouts, and it really is a winning formula.
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