Homebased activities: Ideas for keeping your little (and big) ones busy
9 April 2020
Keeping little ones entertained, active and stimulated during isolation is extremely challenging but also crucial for everyone’s wellbeing! Here is a selection of activities that Norlanders Julia Gaskell, Head of Consultancy and Training, and Elspeth Pitman, Newly Qualified Nanny (NQN) Manager, have compiled from ideas contributed by staff, Norlanders and students. We’ll be sharing more activity ideas over the coming days and weeks, so keep an eye out!
Create a routine. Keep activities alive and fresh. Plan out your days and stick to a new routine by ensuring there are regular times for physical, creative, fun and calming activities throughout the day. Think about ways to give old toys a new lease of life, for example setting a 30-day Lego Challenge – use one of the many available planners online or create your own together. Check out Living Montessori Now for activity ideas and free resources.
“Stay active. Children have lots of energy and staying at home will reduce the opportunities for exercise that would have been part of their normal daily routine. Children under five need around three hours of physical activity every day. Think up fun activities you can do together and build this into your new daily routine. Do some exercise together every morning in the house or in the garden if you can.”
- The government’s Hungry Little Minds resource has plenty of ideas for activities for entertaining young children from newborn to five years old
- The NHS Change4Life campaign offers lots of fun ideas for keeping healthy, including 10-minute shake-up games to get your children moving
- Active for Life provides 49 fun and varied physical activities for children aged two to five years
Bubble painting. Add bubble solution (or washing up liquid and water) together with a large squirt of paint. Put a piece of paper over the top of a cup/ bowl/ pot with the mixture inside. Put a straw into the pot and blow, creating a bubble effect which will be apparent when you have finished blowing and the image you have created will be seen on the paper. This is a simple fun activity for children; ensure that they know how to blow before you try this!
Junk modelling. Collect together your unwanted ‘junk’ from around the house, such as buttons, cotton reels, thread, yarn and fabric scraps, plastic bottles, cartons and cardboard tubes, boxes, jar lids, tissue paper, foil and bubble wrap. Ensure that the junk is clean and safe. You’ll also need some child friendly PVA glue and sticky tape. You could paint your creations too if you wish. You could base this on a child’s favourite theme, e.g. transport, animals, Easter etc. They could then build on this theme and make some cookies or other craft to go with it. For older children, look up some facts about your theme online or link it to science and see if they can make an aspect of the junk modelling move. You’ll be amazed at what young imaginations can dream up!
Scented gloop. This is a very easy activity with household items. You simply mix 2 cups of cornflour to 1 cup of water. You will also need a spoon, a base, and various scented materials such as vanilla and peppermint extract. Put the gloop into a base – this could be a tray, plastic box or across a wipeable table. Put the cornflour in the centre of the base and pour the water (slowly!) into the cornflour, stirring gently. When you pour in the water, you will feel the mixture changing as you mix! To make this mixture scented, just add peppermint or vanilla extract. You can also add lemon juice, a sprinkle of cinnamon, different colours (using food extract or children’s paint) or glitter – to add an extra sparkle! Remember to keep reminding young children that gloop is not edible.
Make a flower bouquet. Create a pretty flower bouquet by placing two circular pieces of tissue paper in different colours on top of each other, then screwing them up into a rose or flower shape. Attach a pipe cleaner to the base (doubled over for strength if needed). You can put them in a vase or tie them like a bouquet as a special gift. A great alternative to real flowers, and they last forever! You may not necessarily have these exact items to hand, but there will be plenty of alternatives around the house, such as paper that you can colour in together and cut out to make flower petals – this is the time to get creative with what is available!
Box Fun. Do you have any old boxes in the garage or spare room? Could they be transformed into a space rocket, a racing car, a dolls house or even a fairy tale castle? Children love boxes and you will be amazed at what their imagination can come up with.
Recipe for simple-to-make salt dough. Making salt dough is a fun and easy activity for children and you are very likely to have the ingredients ready and waiting in your kitchen cupboards. Please remember to keep reminding young children that salt dough is not edible. All you need to do is mix together a cup of plain flour with half a cup of table salt and half a cup of water. Stir until it comes together into a clean ball. You can add food colouring dyes to create different coloured doughs. Use a floured surface to create any shapes you want with your dough, then pop your finished items onto a lined baking sheet and pop in the oven on its lowest setting for about 3 hours. Once your creations are cool, you can paint them.
Travel the world without leaving your house on an international adventure. Create a country theme to explore. Look up where the country is, what food they eat there and make the food if possible. If they use different utensils for eating and you have these in the house, then give it a go. Learn some of the language, for example, what is ‘hello’ in that country’s language. Do they have a national dress or animals that could be drawn, coloured or made out of a craft? You could choose a country that you had been planning to visit and recreate that visit at home.
Shadow drawing. Place some toy animals in the sunlight on that their shadow is cast onto some white paper. Then ask your children to trace around the shadow to produce the animal shape, which they can then colour in and decorate.
If you have access to a garden or a park, set a treasure hunt challenge. Make a list of treasures to find, then ask the children to go and find these objects and place them into their bucket, for example a brown leaf, a yellow flower, a stone, something that makes them smile, etc. You may need to remind them to stay away from other people. Once they have found everything on their list, they come back in a circle and show everyone what they have found. You can treasure hunt in different locations to see if you can find a variety of treasures. You can make the treasure hunt as simple or as detailed as appropriate to the ages of the children, and it’s a great way to develop language and observation skills. For example, you could set an alphabet challenge and ask them to find objects beginning with a particular letter. If you don’t have access to a garden, then create an indoor treasure hunt.
Create a wish jar. Every time each member of your family wishes they could do something, go somewhere, treat themselves, see someone they love, visit a new place, invite people to visit you, write it down on a post-it note and put it in a jar. When all this is over, this will be your bucket list and you can work your way through the jar and be more grateful than ever for the little and lovely things in life. Until then, you can all enjoy watching the jar filling up with magical things to look forward to.
Don’t forget some of the good old games, like hide and seek, squashed sardines, making dens, playing shops, and being pirates on a ship (the sofa).