Going for a walk with physically distanced family during coronavirus

Play Specialist Cat Sewell returns to CMR to provide some more brilliant suggestions for occupying children during coronavirus lockdown

Going for a walk with physically distanced family during coronavirus

Posted by: Charles Pakana
Posted: 11 September 2020
      CMR - 029 - Cat Sewell


Listen to the interview with Cat by pressing the play button (above)


Connection Matters Radio: For those of you who are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns with young active children, well, we’ve heard from you that one of the most popular sections on Connection Matters Radio is our weekly yard with play specialist, Cat Sewell. She joins us again this week to talk about, well, a number of different options available to you and, of course, your children. But before we get there, first of all, Cat, welcome back to the program.

Catherine (Cat) Sewell: Thank you so much Charles. Really nice to be back

CMR: Cat, we’re going to be talking, first of all, about sunflowers, seeds of life, and to take your phrase, painting the town yellow, and all in the name of charity and activity. I think I’d better throw this over to you now.

Cat: Yeah. It’s a lovely, lovely campaign by a local charity called Playground Ideas, which is actually based in Melbourne, and they support children and communities all around the world to build their own playgrounds, and to advocate for play, and do lots of stuff for kids. It’s a beautiful, beautiful charity. 

They’ve started this really lovely campaign to spread a bit of hope, especially for us in Melbourne and across Victoria, to spread a little hope and joy, and they’ve called it Sunflower September. So the idea is that you buy some sunflower seeds and you plant them somewhere where the neighbours can see them. And then, by Christmas, they’ve painted the whole town yellow because we can see all of these beautiful tall sunflowers. And in the meantime we can give some bees a nice bit of nectar, so there’s so many nice messages in that too.

What they’re doing is to say, if you can buy the sunflower seeds from the charity, then 100% of those profits go to donating a Nüdel Kart, which is a play equipment piece, to an Australian school in need. The website is www.nudelkart.com/sunflowerseptember. And I think it’s a really nice thing, especially for children, to think about a little bit of hope and joy, and how things change and we will get through this lockdown, and to spread a little bit of joy is a really lovely thing.

CMR : And we’ll be providing all the contact details for that particular charity on the blog post on the Connection Matters Radio website. Now, apart from painting the town yellow, I do love that. Oh, before we go there, you’ve mentioned that already in one particular suburb they’re well and truly on the way to painting their town area yellow come December. Now, which suburb’s that? We’ve got over, what, 500 or so already participating?

Cat: Yeah. So Brunswick, I think it got shared on the local Good Karma Network, just over Facebook group and lots of people have been involved. I think, yeah, over 500 families have now got seeds that are going in the ground across Brunswick, so it will be amazing to see that area come December or late November. I think it takes about three months for them to grow into full sunflowers. That will be a really visible, incredible display of sunshine.

CMR: Let’s see if we get some other towns taking up the challenge.

Cat: Yeah, definitely.

CMR: Now, let’s leave the sunflower seeds and the Nüdel Karts behind. What are we talking about today when it comes to playtime?

Cat: All right, so today we’re talking a little bit around that sense of joy and connection. I know that we’re all feeling it at the moment.

CMR: Oh, yes!

Cat: It’s going on!


A bit too much.

Cat: Yeah. And the fatigue is setting in, and for me personally, the little bit of spring is helping and this little bit of sunshine is helping. But today, I wanted to talk a little bit about connecting, and also to do that in a playful way. 

But I’d say the number one thing is for us to really think, as carers and as parents, that we really need to make sure that we’re taking some time to ourselves, if and wherever possible, so that we’re filling up our own energy buckets to be able to give enough to be good enough parents; so, take some time to yourself. 

There are lots of different ways that we can connect with others. But I would also encourage parents to use the time that your kids are able to connect to somebody as a way for you to have some self-care and some time away as well, so you can have lovely interactions with…

If you ring somebody or if you video call someone, you can have a lovely interaction as a whole family while you speak to your grandfather, or an auntie, or your cousins. But I think it’s also a really nice one for your children to be able to have that connection and for you to be able to step away at that time, so you can just get a breather as well.

CMR: Well, while the parents, Cat, are taking time off to be with themselves, the children in many cases still need to be occupied. And I believe you’ve got some great ideas on how to use Zoom, or whatever video conferencing systems they may have at home, to still occupy those children, even with other family members. What are some of the ideas that you’ve got around about that?

Cat: A really nice one, especially if you’ve got some sort of video connection, is to be able to actually play a game. So the child could play a game with a family member, a board game, a card game, and you just do it virtually. Or reading to each other: read to nanna, or nanna gets to read you a story, so they can have that connection, but it’s virtual.

CMR: It’s also a great way, I assume, for school children to remain in contact with each other in normal play times: after school hours and over the weekends, they’ve still got that interactivity with their peers.

Cat: Yeah. I think keeping up with friends, maintaining any of the relationships that you can via phone or video, or anything, is fantastic.

CMR: You also mentioned, when we were talking prior to this interview, about using video technology on family walks and I particularly like that one. Of course, as we mentioned last week, the spring weather is back and it’s so, so wonderful, and you’re talking about family walks. Talk a little bit about that one for us.

Cat: Yeah, so a nice one to think about is just to bring that family member or that friend along with you on the walk, on your telephone, for example. It can be just the phone, doesn’t even need to be video. And the child can be chatting away, telling them about what they’re seeing, showing them something if you’ve got a video, “Hey nanna, look at this stick that I found!” Or whatever it is.

That’s nice too because there’s something to talk about instead of just putting a phone to a child and going, “Oh, just talk,” and then they just say, “Hello,” and then they’ve got nothing else to say. You know?

CMR: Yes, yes.

Cat: So having something, if you’re going for a walk, those kinds of things: things to talk about and to keep them occupied.

CMR: I suppose also, you could combine that if you are using the video on your mobile phone or your tablet device, whatever, you can combine that with some of the things we spoke about last week, which was the scientist nature walk and the Rainbow Walk, and we’ve got references to all those interviews and our website. But I think that’d be a bit of fun.

Cat: Yeah, absolutely. Do that together. Do the Rainbow Walk with grandpa, absolutely.

CMR: The other thing was stories by email and mail. I particularly like this one because it lends to the creativity of children.

Cat: Yeah. This is so lovely and I did this with my kids’ grandmother in the first lockdown, so it is via email or via the post. The post is so exciting, to get something in the mail or to put something in the mail and gift it to somebody is lovely. 

The idea is that you make up a few sentences of your story and you send it off to the person via post or by email; and then, they continue on the story, send it back, and you go back and forward and you create a story together, so you make up a story.

And you have that lovely surprise that the story takes a totally different avenue than you thought it was going to go because it got someone else’s input. And you can do it with pictures too. So you could just draw some squiggles on a piece of paper, send it in the post to your friend, who then adds some bits to the picture and brings it back to you; so that that sort of joint effort and that creativity is really lovely to do.

CMR: Cat, thank you so much indeed again for sharing your insights and your fabulous suggestions. There are some that I will certainly be taking up. 

We’re going to have a break for a couple of weeks because you’ve got your own things that are occupying you and school holidays coming. We will come back with Cat. Don’t worry about that. In the meantime, Cat, take care and look after yourself.


Yes, and you too. And everyone listening, we got this; we will get through it. So, lovely to speak to you Charles.


Listen to the full interview with Cat by pressing the play button (below)


      CMR - 029 - Cat Sewell


For more information

Click here for the Sunflower September website

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