Excitement is hard to come by during Melbourne's sixth stint of home-schooling but cafes are creating bright moments for children and easing the grind for parents with lunchtime treats.
Levi in Murrumbeena, for example, is serving fancy hotdogs and milkshakes and pairing them with showbags, packed and ready for a cancelled Royal Melbourne Show.
"We are providing a distraction and giving people a five-minute holiday when they come in," says owner Harry Butler.
"We know that coming out to grab some lunch is the most exciting thing most families will do today. We aren't doctors but we are doing our bit in keeping our community going."
Izzy and Lenny Mann came for cheese kransky hotdogs with Coca Cola-braised onions, strawberry-and-cream milkshakes and eclairs sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.
"Just to go out makes my day," says Lenny, 8-years-old and in Year 3. "It is so exciting to do something different and eat some tasty things. Home-schooling is okay because my mum is right next to me and if I need any help I can ask her, but I do miss my friends and running around and seeing my teacher."
Izzy, 10, and in Year 5, enjoyed the outing too. "Home-schooling is annoying and it isn't the most fun but if you look forward to amazing food you have a better day," she says.
Tammy Brami owns Boosa cafe in Bentleigh East where she serves families walking by for milkshakes and muffins.
"It breaks up the day for kids and makes it special for them," she says. "They can't even go to the playground at the moment so it's literally one of the only things they can do."
Brami also delivers brunch boxes to home-schooling children in the neighbourhood.
"Most of those are people sending gifts to others," she says. "We hand-write every message and they are always things like, 'I hope this brightens your day.' There are a lot of single mums, particularly, that are really struggling."
Willow Wine Cafe in Kingsville makes tuckshop-style lunch boxes with a ham and cheese toastie, chips, an apple, a mini chocolate bar and juice box.
"We sell most of them on Friday because it's the end of week reward," says cafe owner Ellen Turner. "Everyone is looking for something special and we make our boxes as though they are ordering from the school canteen. Breaking up the routine really helps."
Older kids also appreciate something to punctuate the drudgery of a week learning at home.
"Anything that breaks the monotony of days that roll into one is a good thing," says Clare Thompson, who has two teenagers at home in Cremorne. "Our local pub, the Cherry Tree Hotel, is a beacon of light for us in this sixth lockdown.
"Leaving the house to pick up our parmigiana, sausage roll or chicken Caesar salad is something the kids really look forward to at a time when there's not much else to get excited about. We write Cherry Tree Day on the kitchen splashback, normally 'hump day' but sometimes we get desperate and it's Tuesday."
The pub is important for both its food and the precious sense of community. "We love the reception we get when we turn up to the window," says Thompson.
"Even on the darkest days, they have a smile on their faces – they are like family to us. We're so grateful to have them."