Tired of the same old routine during SA’s 21-day lockdown due to the coronavirus? Spend some stress-free quality time with our top 16 at-home activities for kids.
Ideas for little ones (aged 6-12 months)
Create your own sensory bins
Sensory bins are ideal for babies – because they allow little ones to learn, explore and discover new objects using their senses, safely. Plus, they keep babies engaged and entertained for at least 20 minutes – bonus!
All you need is a large plastic container that you can fill with your sensory items of choice, plus a flat surface and a mat, towel or blanket for your child to sit on. It’s important to ensure your sensory bins don’t pose a safety or choking risk. If you use non-edible items, you’ll need to watch your child doesn’t put everything in her mouth!
Some great ideas for sensory bins for babies:
- Cooked, coloured spaghetti (or cooked rice)
- Shredded paper
- Different coloured wool
- A variety of textured fabric
- Kinetic sand with toys
- Flour and water
- Clean hair rollers in a variety of shapes and sizes
Explore the garden or house
If you don’t have a garden, you can do this activity around the house. The aim is to point out various colours, shapes, textures and objects around the house or the garden that’ll interest your child. Babies learn about language by listening to the way we speak and explain things to them.
In the garden these can be flowers, blades of grass, crunchy leaves, sand/mud, and insects such as ants or butterflies. If you’re inside, you can point out whatever you see in each room and describe their colour, shape and size.
You can collect some of these objects and sit on a picnic blanket with your child and let her touch and explore the object.
Fun with bubbles
Most children love bubbles. Blowing bubbles for your child is a safe, easy form of entertainment and doesn’t require too much space. If your baby is crawling and learning to walk, you could encourage her to chase and pop the bubbles herself. Another idea is to pop some bubble liquid in a shallow container and blow through a straw, so that you create a mini mountain of bubbles for your child to touch.
Splash in water
Water is a hit with children of all ages. If it’s cool outside, use a tub of warm water inside – just nd make sure to always supervise your child around water, no matter how shallow!
Some water activity ideas:
- Wash toys together
- Add some sand to the water using a cup or sieve and mix with a spoon
- Float some boats or other toys and push them along
- Use cups and plastic jugs to scoop and pour water.
For toddlers and older kids (12 months – 5 years)
Listen to audio books and use letters for a collage
If you’re looking for free audible stories for your kids, visit www.audible.com. As the creators of Audible explain, “Kids everywhere can stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across 6 different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning and just being kids.”
You can expect to find stories such as Winnie-The-Pooh, Beatrix Potter and Wheels On The Bus.
Once you’ve listened to the story together, pick a letter or two from the story, for example “W” for Winnie, and help your child look for the letter “W” from a magazine to cut out and stick on paper. You can also talk to your child about the story and ask her what her favourite part was.
Create a nature name
This fun activity is from the owner of Nature Heart, Julia Budden. Julia focuses on nature, creativity and wellbeing workshops for adults and children. She’s recently created a series of nature crafts you can do with your kids during lockdown, and one of the most popular activities in the series so far is the “Nature Name”. Simply put, it’s using elements in the garden to decorate your child’s name.
All you need is:
- A piece of cardboard or paper (that’s long and wide enough to fit your child’s name on)
- Some craft or Pritt glue stick
- A piece of chalk or crayon
- Kiddie scissors
- Items to stick from the garden such as leaves, flowers and grass.
Once you’ve set up your craft station, walk around your garden and help your child collect items from the garden for her name. Next, help your child write her name on the paper, trace over it with some glue and help her cut and stick the nature items over the letters of her name. You should have a beautiful nature name at the end.
Bake and ice biscuits
There’s no doubt that children of all ages love to bake and eat their creations, and there’s no better way to spend quality time with your children. You could also play children’s songs while you’re baking to have even more fun together. We love this simple biscuit recipe from www.allrecipes.co.uk that takes minutes to prep and bake. The dough resembles play dough – which is ideal for little hands to mould and shape.
- 225g butter, softened
- 110g castor sugar
- 275g plain flour
- A ground spice such as All Spice or cinnamon (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180°
- Cream the butter in a large bowl or in a food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Sift in the flour and spices or grated zest (if using) and bring the mixture together to form a dough.
- Using your hands, roll the dough into walnut-size balls and place them slightly apart on a baking tray. Flatten them slightly and bake in the oven for 13 – 15 minutes or until they are a light golden brown and slightly firm on top.
- Carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
- To ice them, simply follow an icing recipe and let your kids decorate the biscuits how they want.
Do a child-friendly online workout
While you might not be able to go for walks and ride bikes outside, there are some great online workouts geared for kids that range between 5 and 15 minutes in length. British fitness coach, Joe Wicks, also known as the “Body Coach” is well-known for his 250+ free online workouts on YouTube.
Just recently, he launched a series of free kiddies’ workouts called 5 Minute Move to help children stay active during the coronavirus pandemic. These workouts are short, fun and simple for kids to do and Joe is very motivating and engaging.
Scrapbooking is a great way to build your child’s creativity and imagination, says education expert, lecturer and teacher, Simone Tonkin. You can use a variety of items you might have lying around at home such as buttons, ribbon, stickers, magazine cut-outs and felt fabric to sit and create a picture with your child.
After your child has created her picture, ask her to tell you more about it.
Look through family photos and tell stories
Children never seem to get bored of looking at family photo albums and pictures. Sit with your child on a blanket in the garden or in a fort made of blankets and pillows inside and talk about her aunties, cousins and grandparents. You can also talk about your family history – and relay stories of when you were a child.
Be sure to make the stories short and descriptive to keep your child focused and entertained.
Paint rocks from the garden
Dedicate some time to painting with your little one. Besides pictures and paper plates, you can also get creative and let your child paint rocks from the garden or large tins (such as old formula tins) to plant herbs or indoor plants.
Not only are rocks fun to paint, they can also be used as door stops or to hold tablecloths down, says Simone.
Try this safe, DIY finger paint recipe from Ayesha Parak Makada’s Sticky Fingers Sensory Play Recipe Book:
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- Food colouring of choice
- Combine 1 cup of water with the cornstarch and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan (save the remaining water).
- Once there are no lumps remaining, add in the rest of the water.
- Stir over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. Don’t allow it to cook too much, it should have the consistency of aqueous cream.
- Divide into small jars and add in colouring of your choice.
This activity is messy but fun! Place some cardboard or paper on a plastic tablecloth outside and grab some finger or poster paint, as well as a paintbrush. Runny paint is best for this!
Let your child dip the paintbrush in the paint and stand over the cardboard. Then show her how to flick the paint on the paper to create her artwork. Let the painting dry before moving it.
Make macaroni necklaces
This fine motor activity is perfect for little hands and it will keep them entertained for at least 30 minutes.
What you need:
- 1 ½ cups of dry macaroni
- 4 containers for mixing 4 different colours of food colouring
- String or wool
- Divide the macaroni up into 4 different containers.
- Add a few drops of red food colouring into one of the bowls with macaroni in it and mix so that the macaroni is coated in that colour.
- Repeat the above for each colour.
- Dry the macaroni on newspaper.
- When the macaroni is dry, place onto a tray or in a container and mix the colours up.
Encourage your child to thread the macaroni onto a piece of string or wool following a repeating colour sequence, for example: red, green, blue, yellow, red, green, blue, yellow, etc.
Build a masterpiece
If you have a “free spirit” at home who loves to create her own masterpiece, let her design and build her own masterpiece, says Simone. This could be a little home for a snail, a robot or a car made from cereal boxes, or a doll house.
“This seemingly simple activity really helps to develop higher order thinking,” explains Simone. “Kids need to look around the house and think about what they want to create, then collect the materials and build it themselves. You can help them to design the object first on paper so that they can see what they want to create and how they’ll do it. Your child will be so proud of what she’s created – it’s a very rewarding activity.”
One of the simplest activities, yet the most enjoyable for little ones. All you need is a muffin pan, some water, plenty of sand and a spade and a spoon. Help your child mix the sand and water until it’s a thick, muddy consistency – like cake batter.
Then, help your child spoon the gooey mixture into the muffin pans and pretend to “bake” them. Once you’ve let these dry in the sun, turn them out of the pans and decorate them with sticks, flowers or whatever else you can find.
Chores for pocket money
While you’re all spending time at home, it’s a good idea to turn simple, everyday chores and activities into games and fun things for your kids to do. Let them help with chores such as raking leaves, cleaning windows, filling pets’ water bowls and tidying up toys in exchange for a reward or pocket money you can put in a visible jar.
Then, once your child has collected enough money (and the lockdown is over), visit a toy store and let your little one spend her hard-earned money.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .