Many states are opening back up and there are widespread discussions about the possibility of children heading back to school in the coming months. Whether or not schools and nurseries open back up soon, there will undoubtedly be lots more time where kids will be at home more than usual.
As a parent or guardian, you might be feeling burnt out balancing work and parenting. So, we’ve put together some tips on how to keep kids of all ages entertained at home. After all: happy kids, happy adults!
How to Entertain Young Children
Young children thrive when they play together, but playdates should be avoided or at least minimized wherever possible to prevent the spread of infection.
Unicef has published a great list of ways to keep young children engaged with the world around them at any age.
- Peek-a-boo - this classic game is a simple way to keep babies entertained. They’ll love watching you appear and disappear and as they get older they’ll start repeating your actions.
- See and say - keep expanding your baby’s language skills with this fun game of naming and describing things around your home. For example, “see that dog? That dog is big.”
- Family band - music is great for sensory development and motor skills. And it’s fun! Buttons inside an empty bottle makes a great shaker, and an upturned pan works well as a drum.
- The body game - help your baby learn by pointing to their body parts and naming them. You can also do it with your own body parts: “where are mommy’s eyes?”
- Box car - take an empty box, pad it with blankets, and place your toddler safely inside. Then, you can pull the box around or move it side-to-side for a fun car effect. Don’t forget the “vroom vroom” sound effects!
- Kitchen drummer - turn over a selection of pots, pans, and shatter-proof bowls and grab some wooden spoons for drumsticks, and there you have it: a drum kit that’s great for developing motor skills.
- Free draw - all you need is some paper and a pack of crayons and your child can unleash their creative side. Make this play educational by talking to your toddler about the colors they’ve used.
- Ball pass - take a soft ball, sit on the ground with your little one, and roll the ball back and forth. This game is a great confidence booster and will teach your child that you will respond to their actions.
- Dress up - if you don’t have proper dress-up costumes to hand, improvise! Take your own clothes and any fabrics you have at home (like tablecloths) and encourage your kid to create an outfit for themselves.
- Catch - if your child has a lot of energy, a fun game of catch will help get it all out. Chase your little one around the living space, or let them chase you until you’re both ready for a nap.
- Name the noise - for this fun and silly game, make an animal noise, and ask your child to guess what animal you’re pretending to be. You can also use this as an opportunity to teach them more about animals.
- Toddler challenge - as toddlers develop more coordination they love to be challenged. Ask them to touch their hands to their toes or clap three times. They’ll love showing you what they can do!
- Obstacle race - if you have space, use pillows, toys, and furniture to create a safe and soft obstacle course. Demonstrate how to move through it then time your child and get them to try and beat their own record.
- Wash away - water play is super fun outside and there are ways of bringing that fun into the house. Fill up a bucket with water and encourage them to wash toys that can safely get wet.
- Make-believe - kids love to create their own worlds. Have them create a make-believe scenario then play along, asking questions, and following their instructions.
- Build-a-snack - grab lots of healthy ingredients and ask your little one to help you make a snack for the whole family. Encourage them to create their own combinations and to present them on a plate however they like.
How to Entertain Older Children
Older children can present more of a challenge when it comes to keeping them entertained. They’ll feel cut off from their friends and there’ll be a serious sense of missing out. There’s also the added challenge of making them feel safe and taken care of while still giving them the independence that they’re used to.
Here are a few ideas to keep older children happy and entertained.
Stick to a Routine
Older children will be feeling the impact of the huge transition they’re experiencing, but a sense of stability can help them feel less worried about the situation. Kids need a routine so keep to usual meal times and bedtimes whenever possible. They may not thank you for it, but keeping a reasonable wake-up time will help them sleep better and feel better.
Learn Something New
Has your child expressed an interest in learning something new? Now’s the perfect time to explore that intrigue. Do they want to learn a language? Free apps like DuoLingo or Drops are perfect for that. Are your kids interested in a vocation like coding, illustration, or business? Look for online tutorials and courses. Maybe they would like to become better bakers or cooks: can someone in your household teach them?
Let your child have a say in their daily activities to give them a sense of independence. Ask them what they want to do with their day, or if they want to help make the meal plan for the week. Factoring in physical exercise is also important for growing kids and teenagers. Why not ask them if they would like to lead the family’s work out regime. They may enjoy the challenge!
Monitor Screen Time
Social distancing is a great opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of pitching in and helping the family. One way of doing this is to encourage your older children to earn the privilege of screen time. Tell them that doing the dishes earns them 30 minutes of Minecraft, or that they can video call their friends as soon as they’ve tidied their room.
One thing to note no matter how old your children are is to do your best to protect your own mental health. Your kids will drive you nuts some days, and sometimes it’ll feel tough, but your children will pick up on that energy. Lean on your partner, family, or other parents when you’re out of ideas or simply need to vent.
And, most importantly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get parenting ‘right’. Take it from us: you’re doing a great job!