A to Z of easy activities to do at home with children
As a mum of a very energetic 2 year old who is currently off nursery I’m constantly thinking of lockdown activities that will keep her busy and let me crack on with things I need to do. I am quite lucky that I’m not needing to ‘home school’ her, but many of these lockdown activities can be adapted to have an educational focus without the children even realising that they are learning.
Animals – Although maybe not technically one of the lockdown activities, Olivia really enjoys it when we pretend to be animals, I’ll shout out an animal and we then have to walk like that animal and make the noise, we then take it in turns thinking of animals.
Baking – this is my go to activity if I need to occupy Olivia but also need to have a bit of a sugar hit myself. I’m by no means a baker and you’ll never see me on Great British Bake off so I love to use baking kits from Bakeful Play, these great sets come with everything you need – and Laura even includes tips on how to contain the mess.
Bubbles – again one of the most simple lockdown activities, either buy a few cheap bottles of bubbles when you do your food shop or make your own bubbles using washing up liquid. Bubbles tend to keep Olivia busy for quite a while (or until she manages to spill it all anyway).
Bird feeders – There are so many variations on how to make them from covering a toilet roll tube in peanut butter and seeds, to melting lard and mixing in seeds before forming it into a ball
Chalk – even before lockdown this would keep my nanny children busy for ages – and its so simple, get some chalk and simply get them to draw on a patio or stones – this is not only an easy lockdown activity but also enables children to help with their mark making.
Den – Olivia loves to build a den, most of the time she just sits under a blanket held up between our two sofas and to her this is great. She likes to take all her toys in with her and on the odd chance she makes a den that isn’t tiny I wriggle in with her and we’ll read stories – but most of the time she watches the iPad in there.
Dough – there are so many different types of dough you can either make or buy. Olivia loves playdough, but the next thing on our lockdown activities to do list is to make cloud dough, which is like play dough, but made with baby lotion. Or why not make some salt dough and make an ornament and give it to someone as a gift.
Dinosaur fossils – this is a recent activity I thought of, if you have any small toy dinosaurs (or any small animals) why not press them in to some playdough to make imprints and get your little one to pair the toy with the playdough.
Egg boxes – there are lots of possible lockdown activities. Simply use them to sort small objects or cut slits in the top and use them to post pasta, buttons or lollipop sticks into
Foam – Olivia loves playing with the bubbles that form when we add bubble bath into her bath, all you have to do is whisk up some washing up liquid or shower gel with some water (and food colour if you like) – you may want to do this with towels underneath or at hand.
Freeze it – why not freeze a few things in an ice cube tray – pom poms, buttons, small toys – you can give these to the children to smash open or even add them to some water to give an extra aspect to water play
Gloop – a mixture of cornflour and water is great for an easy science experiment. If nice weather why not take it outside and get your child to run or jump on it to demonstrate that when under pressure it turns to a solid compared to them holding it in their hand and it becoming liquid.
Glow sticks – these can be used in a variety of ways – add to a bath and you can have a little bath disco, or add inside some balloons
Hide and Seek – for some of these lockdown activities you don’t need any equipment. However, if you don’t have enough room why not play hide and seek with a toy, simply hide a small toy around the room for each other.
I I-Spy – another game that needs no equipment and can be adapted to your child’s level of ability, Olivia isn’t quite ready for letters yet so we use colours and shapes. J Junk modelling – this is great if you have a lot of interesting recycling. Give you child some boxes, milk bottles or plastic containers (all clean) and see what they come up with. L Lava lamp – again another for out lockdown activities to do list – fill a glass with water, oil and a few drops of food colouring and then drop in a soluble tablet (like an aspirin) the bubbles these make will react differently in the oil and the water creating a lava lamp.
Mess free painting – if you have babies or little ones who are still likely to put things in their mouth then mess free painting is a great idea – grab a zip lock bag, add a piece of paper and squeeze in some paint, make sure the zip lock is shut and add some tape if you want to make sure. Then either place on your babies high chair or on a flat surface and let them pat the bag or make marks with their fingers. Once done simply remove the piece of paper and you have a lovely mess free painting
Mud Kitchen – getting children out into the fresh air is great, and one thing that will keep Olivia outside for ages is her mud kitchen, if you don’t have a mud kitchen why not create your own.
Nail Salon – draw around your hands (or your child’s hands) making sure to add finger nails onto a piece of cardboard, cover it with sellotape and give your child a whiteboard pen. You child can ‘paint’ the nails as much as they like by simply wiping the hand clean.
Nature pictures – these can be made in various ways either get the children to collect bits they find on a walk/or from around your garden and take home to make a picture with or take a piece of cardboard covered in double sided tape and stick bits on as they go.
Obstacle course – this can be as extravagant or as simple as you like, simple put some cushions on the floor to use as stepping-stones or use your imagination and create tunnels and bridges.
Pasta – this is probably one of Olivia’s favourite lockdown activities. I bought a packet of really cheap penne pasta and gave her some pipe cleaners and wool; she sits for ages threading the pasta onto the pipe cleaners and makes bracelets by using the pasta to join the two ends. You could also expand this and colour some pasta and use it for sorting activities. I do suggest maybe keeping this pasta separate to your cooking pasta though.
Pass the parcel – Not only a party game but can be used as a learning game, wrap up pieces of a puzzle or even magnetic letters to practice phonics. You can include a small pack of sweets or a small toy at the end but that is entirely up to you.
Potions – give your child some empty bottles, a funnel, some coloured water, old flower heads – anything you may have lying around the house. I remember doing something similar with shower gel and shampoo when I was little but I don’t think my mum knew so only do this if you’re happy with it.
Post-it notes – Another great one for babies is to add some post-it notes to their high chair or low down on a door – practicing to pull them off will help their little hands and brains to develop.
Rock painting – while out on a walk or if exploring your garden why not find some rocks to paint – you could paint faces or write notes and put them somewhere for someone to find.
Shaving foam – a great way of practicing mark making is by getting children to draw in different ways. Simply squirt some shaving foam (or squirty cream if likely to put in their mouth) onto a baking tray and let them draw, you could encourage them to use their finger or give them paintbrushes, forks or other kitchen utensils to see what different shapes they make.
Story time – reading with your little one is a great way to encourage them to read when they’re older
Sand – a tray of sand with some scoops and funnels is a way of getting your little one to practice their maths without even realising e.g. which container will hold the most sand
Scavenger hunt – if you’re going on a walk why not think of some objects you might see along the way and get your little one to collect, draw or write it down when they see it.
Teddy Bears Picnic – doing a part of your usual routine differently is always going to make the day more exciting, so why not pack up your lunch and go for a picnic – I know this time of year isn’t great weather so why not just set up a picnic in your lounge.
Water beads – these are currently one of Olivia’s favourite lockdown activities. Such a simple set up, pop them in water and let them do their thing. We started off by just putting in a few scoops, cups and a whisk but you could add anything you like.
Water painting – this can be done in any weather, inside or out, but when I do this activity with my nanny children we usually do it outside and practice ‘painting’ our names on the patio. We also sometimes draw on the patio with chalk and then paint water over the top to clean it off. If you wanted to do this inside, you could always ‘paint’ onto and old bit of cardboard
Washi tape – like the post it note activity, sticking some washi tape to a high chair tray or onto a baking tray for your little one to peel off is a great for their fine motor skills
Washing toys – you can do this inside or outside Olivia always enjoys washing her toys, whether she’s outside washing her slide or inside giving her plastic toys a wash – all you need is a washing up bowl, some water and a sponge.