Ideas to entertain the kids at home during the coronavirus lockdown…

As families across the country embrace lockdown, here are some ideas to do with kids, from toddlers to teens, to keep them engaged and happy. 

We already have instructions and guides on how to school from home, and how to keep them active, but keeping them entertained is a whole different challenge.

There are at least 12 waking hours in a day. Once you’ve balanced home learning plans with perhaps a TV programme or film in the early evening , you will need other activities that make time fly, while keeping the home peaceful and sane.

From crafts to online learning resources to at-home workouts, you’ll need a variety of tricks up your sleeve to ensure that you all stay occupied.

So we asked our team who are parents, some of their tips for ways to manage family life in the coming weeks....

Toddlers

Toddlers like feeling useful, so clear some cupboard space and fill it with your child’s plastic eating utensils, wooden spoons, pan and mixing bowl. Make sure it’s at child-level so they can access it at will, along with some pasta they can ‘cook’ with. Leave cloths, dustpan and brush within easy access so they can ‘help’ you clean and allow them to ‘wash’ clothes in a basin.

Let them loose with some pots and pans

This age group has a keen eye for the smallest things, take them in the garden and let them hunt out shells, bugs and other treasures. A bucket to put them in temporarily for inspection, or some water to wash the pretty stones aka treasure…

Messy Play

Take some paints outdoors, strip down to their underwear (they all love getting naked) and let them mess in the paint and stamp out hand prints and feet prints. You may even end up with some art for the fridge.

Ages four-six

This age group is still wonderfully curious and aside from the usual baking activities, “helping” with dinner – with plastic utensils, they love to chop and peel, stir and mash. This not only keeps them busy and by your side while cooking, but it also gave them a sense of achievement and the motivation to eat what they had prepared.

Now’s the perfect time for making dens and forts

Encourage everyone to relax the rules over the next few weeks and allow kids to spread out their playing space – setting up various worlds involving dinosaurs, soldiers, dolls, trucks, farm animals, whatever, can take hours and even if the actual game only lasts 30 minutes, they will spend forever setting the scene. Dens in the living room or bedroom are always fun and once set up can be a magical place to bring books and treats.

Drawing pictures, or printing outlined images off the internet for colouring in are always good for keeping busy, and when you need a solid hour to finish some work, there are some great educational programmes on Netflix and You Tube such as The Magic School Bus and Ask the Storybots.

Ages 7-9

Bill Nye the Science Guy and Octonauts are good shows for this age group but of course there’s only so much screen time they can and should have. I found that “nature/treasure hunts” were a big hit, and wrote lists of things to find in the garden, such as “2 long twigs, 4 daisies, 3 smooth stones” (Substitute words with drawings for the younger age group). This, armed with a “picnic” (some snacks) will keep them busy for ages.

The nature haul can be turned into an art project. Stones can be turned into ladybirds, twigs painted to make a display, flowers pressed and bugs photographed and returned to the wild.

Ages 10-12

Tweens are a tough bunch as they are kids who think they’re older. They enjoy the best of both worlds – so get them involved in projects such as preparing the evening meal (let them choose and follow recipes themselves), writing a diary or even writing a book and designing a cover. But also encourage them to use their imagination to put on a play or a show to be practiced and performed at the end of the day.

Get them involved in drawing projects, and they might see their creations shared online by a comic artist

Twitter is proving to be a wonderful source of support in these strange times with people offering all sorts of help - Neven Maguire has offered to send out recipes to those who get in touch at @macneanhouse and artist @WillSliney has suggested an art challenge where kids drawings are sent to him and he shares them online at the end of each day. 

Another cool idea for this age-group is cards – whether Top Trumps, football, Pokémon, YU-GI-OH or LOL – they provide hours of fun.  

One of our Mums, set up a Zoom meeting with a few friends on a set time and day with their friends, so they could have some of their own time and space away from the family.

Teenagers

Treat them with some respect, – so make sure to talk to your teens about what is going on as they will all be on social media and between them could believe we are facing the apocalypse. It will allow you to discover if they are anxious about what is going on, or maybe ask some questions.

Keep them entertained by planning out your next family holiday

Turn confinement into positivity with a plan – they could declutter and organise clothes or games into piles for charity or recycling. They could take photos in preparation to put on the selling sites.

Choose colours and paint their bedrooms, maybe re-arrange their rooms and declutter.

Encourage them to experiment with cooking the evening meal or teach you a thing or two about social media.

Set interesting projects for them – something educational, or creative. Let them make a home movie or record a song with lots of free online software. The author Sarah Webb is running just-for-fun writing workshops online via her Twitter account (@SarahWebb) .

They could even plan a holiday online for when all this is over – give them a budget and let them plan travel, accommodation, activities for when you’re there. Involve them, reassure them and don’t treat them like children.

Additional ideas to help to keep kids occupied

Make a plan. Talk with your kids about what your daily structure will be, when you will take breaks from tele-work or schoolwork to relax and connect with each other.

Use social media for good! Check in with neighbours, friends and loved ones. 

Use media for social connection: Social distancing can be isolating. If kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats or social media to stay in touch.

Use media together. This is a great opportunity to monitor what your older children are seeing online and follow what your children are learning. Even watching a family movie together can help everyone relax while you appreciate the storytelling and meaning that movies can bring.

Parents working from home may need to adjust expectations during this time. But it's also a chance to show kids a part of their world. Encouraging imaginative "work" play may be a way to apply "take your child to work day" without ever leaving home!

Podcasts and audiobooks are great ways to keep children's minds engaged while parents get things done.

Find offline activities that help family relax and communicate. Take walks outside, play board games, read together, have family dance parties. Know which activities spark your children's interest (kicking the ball around? baking?) and make time for them.

Limits are still important. As the timeline of social distancing is uncertain, try to stick to routines. Make sure technology use does not take the place of sleep, physical activity, reading, reflective downtime, or family connection.

Make a plan about how much time kids can play video games online with friends, and where their devices will charge at night. Challenge children to practice "tech self-control" and turn off the TV, tablet, or video game themselves - rather than parents reminding them.

Good luck. Stay safe and see you soon!

Love the team of Mum's & Dads at Baker Brothers