40+ Things To Do with your Children When You're Stuck At Home
It goes without saying that when you have no other option than to stay at home with your children – whether this is due to illness or injury, or a government recommendation to stay at home (!!!) – you’re going to worry about keeping them entertained.
Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely no shame in your children being looked after by technology, but even devices run out in the end and television channels eventually have to shut off, so it’s worth having some home activities set up – educational or otherwise – to keep the day moving and without everyone going stir-crazy!
Here are a few of our go-to activities when we have to stay at home:
I am not a home-educator and I am not a qualified teacher or nursery practitioner, therefore during periods of isolation it’s important that you recognise and remember that too if you’re in the same position as me. You can only do your best.
During the Coronavirus outbreak I took full advantage of the alone time being offered. We watched movies and snuggled on the sofa, T often had lollies at 10am after breakfast, and on some days we didn’t leave our pyjamas! As much as it’s important to continue their learning, I also want to make it a time that he remembers fondly.
On days where there was more routine, we did a variety of things to keep him busy (and somewhat educated). At the age of four we’re fortunate that everything is a learning experience – whether it’s via a tablet or a building block – so we used that to our advantage and tried to make most home activities both a fun and a educational experience.
Here are a few of our favourites:
- Board Games. We’re HUGE fans of family games nights, and Fridays are often when we play them the most. We’ve written a post about our favourites here, but we currently love Uno! and Dobble, as well as classics like Snakes & Ladders or Hungry Hippos.
- Imaginary & Fantasy Play. Even if you don’t have an IKEA play kitchen, there are tons of ways you have create an imaginative game at home. T loves playing cafe and schools, but you can also build an easy Post-Office by using old bank statements and letters.
- Learn a Language. From Makaton to BSL, French to Spanish, there are tons of resources to learn at least a few new phrases.
- The Floor is Lava! An absolute classic and one to suddenly get everyone moving (and laughing!).
- Party Games. Despite most parties being held in the village hall, there are tons of games you can play in your lounge. For older children, a game of charades is a great mood lifter. For younger children, pass the balloon or musical statues will get them giggling.
- Dance-Offs and Mini Discos. Whether it’s musical statues or a silent disco, make sure music plays a part when entertaining your children. Let them DJ or copy their dance moves for extra laughs.
- Lego. If you’re anything like me, Lego will play a huge part when you’re stuck at home. Whether it’s a specific kit or a bucket of the stuff, make it interesting by setting a timer to see what they can build – the funnier the better! Sticking letters and numbers to Duplo can also encourage spelling and maths.
- Yoga. It’s so important – especially if you have more than one child – to make sure there are moments of calm in the house. Channels like Cosmic Kids offer yoga classes and mindfulness lessons.
- Baking and Teaching Children to Cook a Meal. You either love or hate baking with your children – which is ok. It’s not for everyone. For us, we really enjoy it – especially the end result! For younger children, keep it simple (cookies and rice crispy cakes, or easy meals like Pizza) and for older children, encourage them to make a cup of tea or more intricate meals like Bread and Cakes.
- Build a Den. Even at the age of 32, I still love sitting inside a den. Whether it’s made of blankets or duvets, there’s something about being under a cover and in a “secret” room or clubhouse.
- Do a Jigsaw. Depending on their attention span, Jigsaws can kill a HUGE amount of time, especially the more intricate ones. Make it a family event or maybe even make your own by drawing funny shapes on a picture and cut them out.
- Household Chores. I may be being optimistic, but why not get them involved in a few chores? T already puts his dirty washing in the laundry basket, but why not get them to put a wash on or take the recycling out? If you need the persuasion of Prizes, why not get them to earn some TV or console time.
- Indoor Scavenger Hunts. This was a recent find, but a fantastic way to get some active minutes in your day. We did a rainbow themed one where each day T ran around the house collecting a colour a day, resulting in a rainbow by the end of the week (which he also had to build!). Other ideas include textures or food groups for older children.
- Where’s Wally? T has only recently been introduced to Where’s Wally but has quickly become a huge fan. These books are brilliant for creating new games such as ‘How Many People with Glasses Can You Find?’
- Host a Teddy Bear Picnic. Make it a huge event! Create invites the day before, put up posters, and get dressed up. For food, make sandwiches and cakes – and don’t forget the blankets.
- Build a Tuck Shop. Break a few quid and build a price list – with things like fruit and healthy snacks being the cheapest. During a period of isolation I gave T £1 a day to spend on sweets and snacks. This meant he knew the consequence of making the most out of money, and I got to sneak in some maths!
- Reading. Schedule in a time for reading – whether they’re reading to you or you make up a story for them. Why not make it an activity and get them to change parts of the story to make it more interesting or draw their favourite characters after.
- Activity Books. There are tons of online resources or shops that provide themed activity books. T has a number of wipe-away handwriting books, as well as sticker books, but over the past few months we’ve collected origami books and ones to make stick puppets!
Outdoor Activities (Includes the street or garden!)
- Scavenger Hunts. There are a number of great resources for printable lists, however there’s nothing stopping you creating a theme for the hunt. For example, Red things, items that are smooth, or stuff you’ll find in nature.
- Build an Obstable course. This can obviously be done inside too, but at least if you’re outside you’re less likely to break something. Obstacles can include jumping through hula hoops or jumping up and under pillows and cushions.
- Sensory & Messy Play. Older children and teens might not be so keen on this, but why not get them to help younger siblings. Painting nails, coloured pasta, or potato printing are great excuses to get messy.
- Hide & Seek. Even in the smallest of houses you can still play a game of ‘Hide & Seek’. My favourite location is in the bath, whereas T likes to hide behind a curtain.
- Gardening. Just like getting them involved in household chores, gardening has the added bonus of fresh air. De-weeding or watering the plants is inclusive of all ages, and if you give them their own plant it gives them some responsibility.
- Treasure Hunts. I love a treasure hunt, mainly because they’re so easy to do. Why not hide pieces of equipment related to a task around the house to get them excited for the next activity.
- Body Painting. Why not go against all usual instructions and go wild with paint. When you’re done, why not wash all the paint off with water balloons.
- Seasonal Crafts. It’s not often I’m ahead of schedule, but if you’re stuck at home you might as well start thinking about up and coming events. How about painting Easter Eggs or making Christmas Decorations and Cards?
- “Rent” and Dog. When T was younger I often found myself bringing Oscar on walks and play dates. Children loved him and he’s brilliant with Children. If you have a garden, why not invite a friend round with their pet and play some games with them or maybe even given them a brush.
- Go on a Photography Walk. I don’t know about you, but T loves taking photos – especially of his mummies – so why not go on a walk and get your children to take some photos (maybe even incorporate this into your scavenger hunt?). A disposable camera might also give some extra mystery as they won’t know what they’ve taken until they’re developed!
- Water Balloon Fight. One for good weather, but a basic activity to get a lot of laughs. If there’s enough of you, split into teams. If not, design a target and offer prizes for the winner.
Apps & Things to Watch
- Reading Eggs (Disclosure: Previously worked with)
- Teach Your Monster to Read
- CBeebies Apps
- YouTube Kids
- Hopster (Disclosure: Previously worked with)
- Duo Lingo
- Other ideas include finding museums that offer online tours!
Arts & Crafts
- Playdoh. Like baking, you either love Playdoh or you hate it. I’m not a huge fan of the special kits, as they never keep them that busy, but if you give them a theme (and lots of tools) it’s been known to keep T busy for an afternoon.
- Kinetic Sand. I bloomin’ love this stuff and have often found it incredibly relaxing to play with. With special moulds, T loves incorporating his cars and trucks into his creations.
- Make slime. Probably one of the more adventurous activities, but incredibly fun. Plus, it kills loads of time. Whenever we’ve done it, we’ve followed these recipes.
- Colouring Sheets. I’ve lost count of the number of websites I have saved that offer free downloads of T’s favourite characters. They’re also brilliant for party bag fillers.
- Jelly Baffs (Baths). There are quite a few companies now that take the hard work of making Jelly Baths (and minus the stains!). This is a really fun activity and excites children as it’s a little bit different.
- Make Party Decorations. If you decide to hold a party for your toys you’ll need decorations! Bunting and window decorations are incredibly easy to make.
- Self Portraits. Does anyone ever remember doing this at school and ending up drawing something Pablo Picasso would display? No? Just me then. I love any kind of drawing and self portraits can go off in all kinds of directions. You can make them abstract using different colours and shapes, or simple really funny by making body parts really big or small!
- Make use of Boxes. We’re forever recycling boxes after deliveries, and last year we trumped all boxes with a delivery of a mattress. The box was huge and, in turn, became both a rocket and a den. We decorated it and over time it became a member of the family for several weeks. When you’re done, take some tools to it and create a little workshop.
- Build a memory board. During times of particularly difficult moments, for example; social isolation or a lack of income, it’s hard to see the good, but if you try and see some positive – even if it’s every few days – it certainly makes looking back a lot easier. Using an old jar or cork board is an easy way to store little notes or keepsakes about an event or milestone.
Hints & Tips
- Be Patient! Any time where movements have been restricted will generally cause upset, especially when a change of routine has occurred as well, but understand that you’re not alone in this and that you’re only human. If one or two home activities haven’t quite worked out the way you had planned then move onto the next one or reset moods with a bit of television or music.
- Ask for Help. We’re lucky in that, in comparison to 50 years ago, we have technology and information at our finger tips. This means that as well as having a vast amount of information (and updates!) available, we also have the opportunity to connect with people. If you find yourself isolated, get connected with local Facebook groups and find families with children of similar ages to chat to.
- Take some time for you. It’s always going to be hard during any time where you’re at home for long periods of time with children (regardless of age!), especially when they’re poorly or used to being outside, so it’s vitally important that you keep yourself to recharge. Whether it’s stepping outside and taking a few breaths or hiding in the pantry and eating a few penguin bars, you’re allowed to take a time out.
Pass it On…
When times are difficult, it’s important that when the storm passes that you give thanks to those who have helped you or supported the most vulnerable during difficult times.
- Donations to charities make a huge difference to those who will inevitably need to restock. If you stockpiled food during the Coronavirus Outbreak, why not donate any extra food to food banks, clothing to homeless charities will always be welcome, and cold hard cash (no matter how small) means that charities can decide what areas need the most attention.
- Support local businesses so that they can keep their business going. This can include buying gift vouchers if venues have had to close or paying for goods up front if appointments have had to be cancelled.
- If family members have offered childcare, make sure you return the favour by looking after their pets, house sitting, or doing small errands for them.
A Baby on Board have created a wonderful list of 101 things to do with your children at home. They also share some tips about looking after yourself and how you can give back.
Toby & Roo wrote their version of home-ed / isolation tips for when you’re stuck at home. There’s also a great list of apps and websites for tech time.
Pondering Parenthood is a HUB for activities to do with young children. Their Five Minute Tuff-Spot Activities is excellent for indoor and outdoor play.
Messy Blog is a brilliant resource for STEM activities and I LOVE this useful list of 25 Things to do in The Spring with Little to No Money!