Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

11.13 14 Mar 2020


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With schools closed until the end of the month, parents across the country have been wondering about the best ways to keep their children occupied over the coming weeks.

Ciara Reilly, lecturer in education (ICT and digital education) at Marino Institute, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast this morning about tools, tips and tricks available to parents to ensure primary school pupils are kept happy and busy during the closure period.

You can find links to the recommended tools on Ciara's Padlet page.

Ciara told Susan: “I just want to preface everything I’m saying with the reminder that you’re not to beat yourself up over this - we’re not talking productivity levels here, we’re talking about introducing routine into the home.

“We’re not expecting anyone to be a home-schooler overnight - we’re trying to just say to people wouldn’t it be nice to introduce a couple of tricks or tools or resources to give that scaffolding of familiarity for children.”

She said variety is something she really recommends - to make use of any work-pack and advice from the school, but also to introduce new ideas and creative activities.

She explained: “People might have seen the website Twinkl… they’re offering free access to all of their premium services to parents for the duration of this school closure time. It’s probably the most popular website for primary school teachers to access education resources.

“All of the resources you’ll find on Twinkl are teacher-made, and there are over half a million resources there - more than enough to keep you entertained at home.

“You might want to do something with reading - you have apps like Epic Reading, or the website and app from Oxford Owl… they’re all offering full access to their reading materials and resources for the duration of this school closure period.

“You have websites and apps like GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids, who also have a YouTube channel, to offer brain breaks and activity breaks for children - to get them up and out from the work too, which is incredibly important.”

'Don't be incredibly strict'

Ciara explained that parents will probably get the most out of their children in the morning, and it’s important to vary the timetable and ‘not be incredibly strict’.

She observed: “Give as much responsibility as possible, set up tasks and activities, and do try to maybe work to some timetable.

“For example, there’s a technique that lots of teachers use in the classroom… where you work for 25 minute bursts, and then you stop for a break.

“You can use tools like ClassDojo, which is a behaviour management rewards app and website.”

Outside of the educational tools, Ciara also offered a few tips about how to mix up the day’s activities for children.

She told Susan: “Don’t be afraid to take that iPad from their hands… look to the encyclopedias sitting on your shelf… books, reading, and looking through photo albums… writing letters… make a project, take out the material from the ‘messy press’.

“You mightn’t be able to visit grandparents at the moment - perhaps ring them, interview them about the past, ask them about their lives.

“Cooking activities, baking, gardening, imaginative play, set a reading challenge for yourself… As I say, you’re trying your best. None of these apps and tools will replace the lap: your time with your child is key.”

Ciara said the time parents and children spend together could be one of the few positive things that might come out of the current situation - an opportunity to build a “a sense of togetherness and [have] one-on-one time with our children”.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images

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