AFTER history teacher Claire Balkind decided to start a Facebook group Family Lockdown Tips & Ideas, she hoped it might attract a few friends and family members. A few weeks on, and its membership has swollen to more than one million from 120 countries. And the numbers just keep going up.
‘I started it the week before lockdown began, just in case schools closed and we all needed ideas,’ explains Claire (main picture), who lives in London with her TV producer husband and their two daughters. ‘I was amazed that in the first evening we had 500 members, but they were mostly friends and people they knew.
‘Then, while Boris did his TV address to announce lockdown, we got 100,000 new people. I’d go to make a cup of tea and another 20,000 would join. By the end of that week, we were at a million, and it keeps on growing.
‘It has been amazing, but a bit terrifying, and I’ve very much learnt on the job. At the same time as doing my own job, teaching history to pupils at the school I’ve been at for 13 years.’
As an experienced teacher, Claire had assumed she’d find being a mum fairly straightforward.
‘I am the first to admit, parenting is not easy,’ she laughs. ‘I have a two-year-old and a five-year-old, and it is a completely different skillset from teaching history to teenagers. The group has got me through home schooling, partly for the ideas, but mostly just for the support of other parents.
‘It can be a pretty lonely time as a parent, but knowing that there are so many others out there doing the same thing, showing our successes and our failures, has been fantastic.
‘We may be separated by geography and lockdowns, but this community allows us to be together.’
The group has now had more than 12 million posts and replies from parents, with ideas ranging from salt dough handprints and window rainbows to large-scale garden projects. Claire has collected some of her favourites for a new e-book, published by Bluebird, with the profits going to Barnardo’s children’s charity.
‘Barnardo’s need our help more than ever at the moment, especially because the current crisis means their usual fundraising options can’t go ahead. It’s a great thing to be able to help them with this e-book, and share some of the great ideas the group has collected during this time.’
■ Family Lockdown Tips & Ideas: 20 Easy And Fun Activities, e-book, £1.99, amazon.co.uk