Creative parenting in a crisis: Necessity is the mother of all invention

Who says it's all work and no play? (Image: Getty Images)
Who says it's all work and no play? (Image: Getty Images)

If this Covid-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that necessity is the mother of all invention.

From businesses adopting new ways of delivering their services, to educators re-imagining ways of teaching in a virtual classroom to entrepreneurs expanding their thinking, this time in lockdown has pushed people out of their comfort zones – and parents are no exception. 

Being confined to our homes without the freedom to visit parks and playgrounds, this crisis has put even more pressure on parents already feeling the strain of juggling a career with raising a family.

But forced to find new ways of coping with the demands of children and remote working, we have stepped up to the challenge and I dare say become even more engaged and present. 

Despite having some amazing technology at our fingertips, it seems many parents, myself included, have used this time to rediscover old-school ways of entertaining children and exploring new creative ideas for play. (There’s only so much Peppa Pig we can watch right?)

In short, parents are starting to think out the box, from fashioning binoculars out of used toilet rolls (here are some ideas!) and venturing on an imaginary safari, to science experiments using pantry staples. 

Exploring our imaginations

Of course, that’s not to say we aren’t eternally grateful for Netflix and its many kid-friendly shows, which are a great distraction when you’re working on a deadline or have a conference call, but being home based does afford us with more time to spend in our children’s company, which means more time exploring our imaginations – and theirs. 

Cape Town-based mom, Cathy Daly who works as Head of Marketing at Goodleaf, admits that while it’s incredibly tough working from home with two toddlers, it does allow her to maximise time with her children.

More flexibility to have fun

As exhausting as it is playing the role of wife, mom, cook, cleaner and career woman, she’s still grateful for this time and tries to put it to good use doing things with her kids she doesn’t normally do.

“As challenging as this time is, I do find I’m not rushing through my normal routines as much as I usually do. Mornings have taken on a slower pace without having to get my kids (and myself) dressed and ready for the day and our dinner and bathtime is now a lot more leisurely because there’s time to prepare,” she says.

This allows her more flexibility to have more fun.

“I’m not going to win any awards for the most creative mom, but I have been trying some new ideas and playing to my strengths – we love being in the kitchen (my husband is a chef) so we’ve been doing a lot of creative baking. Ombre jelly cups and animal-shaped chocolate muffins (seriously, all you need is the moulds and a packet of pre-mix) are a hit in our house. We’ve even attempted a few science experiments using just oil, water and food colouring.”

Occupational  therapist, Rachel Carey from Durban, who is no stranger to creative play with her children, has found that while her creative ideas haven’t changed too much, her parenting style has.

“I’m a lot more flexible,” she says.

“As an OT I am generally very process focused, but in lockdown, I’ve taken a more child-led approach with my kids. Sometimes they just aren’t interested in the activity I planned, so I’ve stopped planning. Instead I find just having a bag of ideas at the ready and then choosing one based on their mood that day works much better..”

A new normal

And on the days when nothing really appeals to her boys, she has a ‘creation station’ they can keep themselves busy at for hours.

“The creation station is just a box filled with everything you’d normally put in the recycling – think empty cereal boxes, toilet rolls, egg cartons  and even toothpicks. Anything goes,” Rachel says.

“I love this because it requires very little supervision and it teaches them so many different things. At the end of the day whatever activity they do, they are always learning something.” 

And so are we.

With lockdown not letting up anytime soon, we’re all learning to navigate this new normal and while it’s easy to get frustrated, it’s also important to look at the positive impact this time in quarantine is having on our family dynamic.

We are becoming more flexible, we are more hands-on and we are  more attuned to our children’s needs. 

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