In summary

  • Swinburne experts give their recommendations for this school holidays
  • Spending time outdoors is important for you and your kids
  • Take the opportunity to get creative

With so many Australian families in lockdown these school holidays, Swinburne experts have come together to recommend activities you can do at home.

Here are their top tips.

Short courses

If your children need more structure, the teams at the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) and PrimeSCI! have programs you can enrol them in.

Circus arts short courses

Over at NICA, experienced trainers and industry professionals are running online fitness and circus classes and have published recordings of the classes suitable for all ages, including juggling, object balancing and handstand tips and tricks for beginners. Make sure to watch the safety video before you begin. The free series includes videos on how to make your own rainbow pasta necklace and make your own juggling balls.

Online science workshops

The PrimeSCI! hands-on science program will run Monday 20 to Thursday 21 September 2021 and will be filled with interactive, hands-on home science for kids in Years 3–6. With assistance, younger scientists will be able to participate too. Join the stuck-at-home science presenters for ‘Going Bananas’, ‘Weather and Weathering’, ‘Around your Home with the Electromagnetic Spectrum’ and ‘Plastic Fantastic’. Find out more and register on the PrimeSCI! website.

Swinburne experts recommend outdoor play for both parents and their children.

A neighbourhood safari

Professor of Environmental Sustainability and Childhood Studies Karen Malone suggests a ‘neighbourhood safari’ for young kids during the school holidays.

Pack your safari-ready backpack and head off around the neighbourhood. The pace may seem slow but take your time to really notice using all your senses touching, smelling, feeling. Create chalk drawings of rivers and fish on the pavement to mark your path. Stop and have a game of hopscotch.

‘Remember to keep a record of where you are going on a map, adding lots of features: the trees, flowers or shrubs, take samples draw pictures. Take photographs – an instamatic camera is the best fun,’ says Professor Malone.

If you have a magnify glass or a pair of binoculars, bring them along. Look up to the sky, look down ground close to your feet to spot any neighbourhood wild animals – birds, insects, possums, teddy bears in windows, cats and dogs. Mark the animals on your map. Hide some natural hidden treasures in nooks and crannies and mark X on the map.

For more ideas on how to enjoy those hours in the outdoors, read Professor Malone’s The Conversation article on how to use a trip to the playground to help your children strengthen their memory.

Make a movie with the kids on your smartphone

During the locked down school holidays, many parents will be concerned about screen time. But devices aren’t just used for media consumption – they can also be used to teach kids storytelling by making a movie.

Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Dr Max Schleser is the author of Smartphone Filmmaking: Theory and Practice, to be released in November. He also founded the longest-running film festival in the southern hemisphere dedicated to mobile and smartphone filmmaking, MINA (Mobile Innovation Network and Association).

He says that being creative gives kids a positive outlook, even if they are ‘stuck’ at home or cannot see their friends. Filmmaking can be used to inspire children and you can share the video with your friends.

Phones, like the one in your pocket, have been used by Hollywood directors, such as Steven Soderberg for his film, Unsane, or Netflix series, High Flying Bird. You’ll be amazed at what you can create yourself with what you have at home.

‘Try to keep your stories short. One minute can be more than enough,’ Dr Schleser says.

‘Most kids know more stories than you might realise. Press record on a voice memo app and record your kid’s narration for about 45 secs. Then you can start to think what type of images and/or video sequences fit to this.’

‘You don’t need to spend money on video editing apps. There are fantastic quality, free apps available, such as VN Video Editor and Splice Video Editor.’

Take a break with the kids

Cognitive neuropsychologist and researcher Professor Susan Rossell explains that everyone needs a holiday, even if we’re still in lockdown.

‘Neuropsychology has shown that without restoration time, the neural connections in our brains that produce feelings of happiness and calmness become weaker. Our brains are hardwired to attend to and process the negative. Negativity bias is important to our survival and avoiding danger,’ she says.

She recommends outdoor physical activity for endorphins and vitamin D, relaxing hobbies (like reading, a bath or getting creative), meditation, or getting more sleep.

‘Don’t worry if you are more tired during the first few days of a holiday, that’s normal. You are in a catch-up sleep phase, cleaning out all those toxins.’

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