Things to keep kids entertained at home
With more of us being asked to work from home, or stay at home with children, we asked our family support workers and Parentline team for fun ideas to keep the kids entertained.
Playing comes naturally to children – it’s been called "anything they decide to do when they are left to follow their own ideas or interests." Often parents will only be needed to get things started, or to help with new ideas to spark their imaginations.
Screen time and the internet get a bad press, but having a bit of downtime with a game, video or programme is a pretty normal part of most families' lives, especially if we’re stuck indoors for a while.
It is important though to agree some rules and stick to them. Try to make sure screentime doesn’t take over from healthier ways to play or start to be a constant 'babysitter'. For young children, it’s also important to keep an eye on what they’re watching, and to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for their age.
Lastly, try to take a moment to look after yourself. The house doesn’t need to be perfect. You could even ask the kids to help with laundry and tidying up – especially if you make it a game or a competition.
Ten ideas for keeping kids entertained at home
Create a castle, superhero headquarters or a pirate ship for little ones that prefer to walk the plank.
Or you can let the kids make dens from cushions, sheets, boxes – whatever you have to hand.
Children (and adults) love a treasure hunt. You could get creative by hiding the ‘treasure’ in the house or garden, creating clues or even a map where ‘X’ marks the spot.
Another idea is to hide an object in a room. Let the kids come back in and say ‘hot’, ‘warm’, ‘cold’, ‘freezing’ etc to tell them if they’re getting close to striking gold!
Kids + indoors = loads of excess energy to be burned.
Put that to good use by building an obstacle course or having an Olympic games. If it’s wet outside, bring it indoors. Get them to create prizes or medals with them first. (Be aware too much competition can end in tears, so give everyone a chance to win).
Introduce old classics like musical chairs, hula hoops, building playing card houses, flying paper planes or an egg and spoon race.
Set up camp in the back garden (or inside if the weather is rubbish). All the fun of camping without the hassle of travel, shared bathrooms or cooking on a stove! Help them 'pack' for their camping trip by picking out cosy blankets, books to read and games to play.
Once you’ve set the tent up, let children to do the rest – serve meals in the tent and let them read with a torch before bedtime.
Or bring the seaside inside. Put down a blanket, make some paper shells, seaweed and sea creatures and have a picnic.
Put their imaginations to good use by creating a story, poem or play together. It’s a fantastic way to harness their inventive minds.
Young children love dressing up and you don’t need to spend a fortune – go through your cupboards and wardrobe and you will be amazed how many gems are hidden there.
If the kids are busy rehearsing, you might be able to get on with other things (until it’s time for the performance!)
You can make play-dough at home with just:
- 8 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp oil
- 60ml warm water
- food colouring.
Mix the flour and salt, add the oil, water and colouring before kneading on a floured surface until your smooth dough is good to go. If you have a few colours, make some more batches.
If you’re feeling spooky, try making slime. There are lots of recipes online – some with borax and glue and some without. Adults will need to mix up the ingredients and supervise young children so they know not to eat it!
Form a band. Vote on your band name, write a song, design your costumes and get ready to rock.
You can use pots and pans with wooden spoons for drums, any instruments you have or anything that makes a good noise. Air guitars are optional…!
Structured play is play that has rules – like board games. These can really help children to learn about competing fairly or working as a team, and how to win (or lose) with good humour.
You can also pick up perfectly good jigsaws for all ages cheaply from charity shops.
Charades are fun to play in teams and can get more complicated as children get older. With young children, try impersonating and guessing animals. For older children, write down films, TV shows, books, songs etc on pieces of paper to be drawn out of a hat. Without speaking out loud, each player acts out their chosen title. You can hold up fingers to show number of words (or syllables) and use 'sounds like' for rhyming words.
Drawing and painting can while away the hours – you could even create an art gallery with all the creations.
Consequences is a fun game too. Each player starts off a picture – the head of a monster, robot etc – folds over their paper to hide it, then passes it to another player to draw the next section. Keep drawing, folding and passing on until it’s time to reveal the funny results of everyone’s efforts.
Mentos mayhem: take a 1.5l cola bottle, remove the lid and drop in a Mentos mint – then run! (Hint: do this outside or somewhere you can wipe down afterwards).
If you have things like honey, maple syrup, water with food colouring, olive oil and colourful washing up liquid, you can make a rainbow jar by carefully pouring in the liquids in order from most to least dense. There are other versions which just use coloured water with different amounts of dissolved sugar in them.
Baking is science (and a bit of magic too!). There’s yeast in bread, proteins in eggs and flour, baking powder creating bubbles of gas, and the cooking itself.
Children of all ages can enjoy weighing and measuring ingredients (and doing regular checks to make sure everything’s tasty!).
We're here for you
We are continuing to provide practical and emotional support to families throughout the stresses and challenges of coping with coronavirus. Remember we're here if you're feeling overwhelmed or need someone to talk to.
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