Tips on how television can help educate your kids, for parents who have to keep working.
It feels as if a great many parents are simply flourishing during this lockdown with fairy gardens, bird song and mason jars, daily bongo drum dancing and essays written by three-year-old prodigies about how satisfying it is to be in the relentless proximity of their family.
And here you are and it’s 9.30am and you haven’t showered, yet you’ve somehow taken more work calls than you would on a normal in-office day and your kids are screaming and your husband is trying to fix the internet connection.
It’s OK. Breathe. A great many of us are trying to keep our jobs and keep our kids occupied, while essential workers have to leave their younger children with their older children or neighbours.
I have a solution for this time in which you have to do as much work, if not more, and care for your children.
Start by ignoring all the parents who are so stimulated by how beautiful their lives with their children are right now that they’re gushing all over every social media platform. Be happy for them. Or if you don’t want to be happy for them that’s fine too. You’re not a saint. But move on. So what if they judge you? You judge them! Everyone judges each other – we’re all adults, just move on.
Don’t cover yourself in guilt. Just treat it like work and get on with it. This is no time for a pity party, save that for your bottle of wine when they’re in bed. Should you take mental health advice from me? No.
Then, get your remote – it’s going to be your best friend through this. Here’s what to watch, and activities to go with the shows.
Lego Masters USA, 7.30pm Thursdays on Three and on ThreeNow
Our house stops for Lego Masters on a Thursday night. It’s so wholesome it’s like a basket of kittens in your lap and the kittens are mewling “hey friend, hey you’re going to be OK”. It’s everything you need at a time like this. Get your kids to watch Lego Masters then use the themes from each episode to create a masterpiece. You will judge. The child with the least impressive creation will be kicked out. As in the show, they have 15 hours. Make it count.
OK fine, nobody gets kicked out. The actual lesson? Get your kids to prepare a presentation for you about their creation. What inspired them, why they chose the colours or bricks that they did. Get them to share what worked and what didn’t for their build.
Blue Planet Revisited, TVNZ OnDemand
Hosted by Steve Backshall, beloved by mums everywhere, this two-episode Blue Planet spinoff explores the Great Barrier Reef then looks at how the Bahamas is a sanctuary for sharks. Get your kids to make a quiz together about sharks. They need to give you a five-minute wrap up of the lesson that covers the answers, then they quiz you.
Junior Bake Off, TVNZ OnDemand
The kids will love this because of the gentle humour and low stakes. Give the kids score cards and get them to write what they liked about every cake made. What values did the contestants need to get through the bake challenges? How does perseverance help? How do the bakers keep calm under pressure? What advice would you give them to help them through? Which piece of baking would you most want to eat?
How To Do Stuff Good, TVNZ OnDemand
Now the trick for this show is to ensure the kids know you’re not making all of this shit. Only some of it. So, the kids need to watch all of the episodes and then write down the thing they most want to make. Get them to think about what materials are available during lockdown. It’s a great chance for you to talk about how we all need to do our part – so do they really need to buy food colouring? Or should they just do Miles’ boring battery “tech hack” instead? If they don’t have the bits they need to do a craft, what could they use instead? They need to figure this out on their own and leave you alone because that’s an important part of doing stuff good.
What Now, TV2, 8.00am Sundays and TVNZ OnDemand
It’s the best show on TV and there are plenty of episodes online, all clocking in at a whopping two hours each. What Now is the perfect teacher. Last Sunday’s episode was typically excellent – clear, not scary information about Covid-19. There was no audience and the hosts explained why that was really well. The show gives great insight into the lives of kids all around New Zealand. ‘In my hood’ is a wonderful section that shows parts of New Zealand some kids may never have the chance to visit. ‘Hobbies’ profiles a different child each week – last week was a homeschooling surfer named Indica. I get my kids to watch it and then they can pick a bit that they want us to watch again together later. It’s educational enough that you don’t have to add activities to it.
Other TV ideas if you can access them
- Mister Maker – insufferable shapes singing but the kids love it
- The news – challenge is to see how long you can watch before you have a panic attack
- The Casketeers – get your kids used to death
- My World – a BBC news show for older children tackling big issues
- Jay’s Jungle – Jay Laga’aia is the balm you need in these difficult times
- Deadly 60 – Steve Backshall and his big snake
- Maia the Brave – homegrown inspiration for your little ones.
- The InBESTigators – the kids on the show are annoying but your kids won’t be able to stop watching.
- You Vs Wild – make Bear Grylls eat shit
Solidarity parents, solidarity. We can only fuck this up if we don’t follow the lockdown procedures. Your kids spending too much time watching TV is fine in the grand scheme of things. So don’t worry.
Subscribe to Emily Writes Weekly, a newsletter on Substack
Subscribe to Rec Room a weekly newsletter delivering The Spinoff’s latest videos, podcasts and other recommendations straight to your inbox.