As well as being a sleep consultant, I am also a full-time nanny and have worked in childcare for 7 years. I’ve therefore been there during the storms, snow and multiple cases of chickenpox, so I know how hard it is to be stuck inside and have to try and keep children entertained all day!
So here are some ideas of how to keep your children entertained and reduce the “I’m boooooored” remarks to a minimum
One of the easiest ones for children to do but many adults struggle without feeling silly or not know what to draw! But this is one thing you can’t get wrong! So go ahead and draw whatever pops into your head, knowing you’ll either realise you’re a secret Picasso or can throw your drawing into the recycling bin straight away for it to be never seen again!
2- Do a science experiment
There are a multitude of random experiments you can do that are just a google search away! My personal favourite will always be gloop. Simply mix 2 cups of cornflour with 1 cup of water in a large bowl (food colouring optional) and you’re good to go!
3- Get your Zen on
Its hard for kids to concentrate for a long time so you may be sceptical about this one but there are some great online/YouTube classes that I’ve seen work excellently for children ranging between 2 years to 6 years old. My recommendation is ‘Cosmic Kids Yoga’.
4- Get messy with playdough
Everyone loves playdough and it’s great to add that you don’t have to have to fork out on the branded stuff. I’ve always made my own from scratch and it holds just as well and its way cheaper! I just mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt and 3 tbsp oil and add water until it reaches the right consistency. Optional changes are to replace the water with fruit squash or replace 1 cup of flour with cocoa powder. Although is non-toxic, do watch younger ones who are inclined to eat everything due to the high levels of salt.
5- Become mini Mary Berry’s
There’s nothing more fun than getting creative in the kitchen! Whether you use those ‘panic-bought but now slightly too brown bananas’ for a banana bread or those years-old tins of pineapple slices for a pineapple upside-down cake, the possibilities are endless!
6- Make paper aeroplanes
Use up all that scrap paper that weas destined for the recycling bin and build a fleet of aeroplanes first. Then you can launch them in the garden, from an upstairs window or just in the front room and see whose goes furthest.
7- Build a fort
This is another chance to get creative with whatever you have in your house. Whether it’s a giant cardboard box castle fort, or a super-comfy pillow and blanket one, there’s always fun to have for hours.
8- Write a story
Use your imagination and write a story together. A great idea is to create a chain story-each person writes a paragraph and then shows the final line only to the next writer. Once the last person has written their section, read the whole story aloud- it’s usually very funny!
9- Dance party
Let everyone pick their favourite couple of songs, blast them out and dance like mad! This can be great for older ones to do before/after dinner to tire them out before bedtime (although just make sure it’s not too close to bedtime)
10- Indoor assault course
I’m sure you all remember the ‘floor is lava’ game as kids? Well you can extend this into a whole indoor (and garden if you have one) assault course. Use masking tape on the floor to map the route they have to follow and allow them to jump over cushions, crawl under tables and climb onto sofas. You can make it timed to add a competitive option for older children
11- Dress-up theatre show
Dig out any dressing-up clothes or old clothes from your wardrobe and let them put on a funny show for you! This can be an improv style show or a rehearsed one (perhaps based on the funny chain story you wrote earlier!)
Get creative with paints! There’s an endless list of things to draw and paint and I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t enjoy it! You can put blobs of paint in between layers of cling film for younger ones to explore the textures (and save a hefty clean-up operation) or be brave and strip them down and let them do full-body painting!
13- Scavenger hunt
Come up with a list of weird and wacky items for your kids to find. They can hunt around the house and/or in the garden. Suggested items are: a stamp, a straw, a rubber band or a toothpick. If you have a garden or can get out for a self-isolated park visit, you can look for: a pine cone, a worm, a white rock or a feather.
14- Bird feeders
An easy way to work on fine-motor skills and help wildlife! Simply, get your children to thread Cheerios onto a pipe cleaner and then help them hang it on a tree! You may need to twist one of the edges round on itself so younger children don’t push the Cheerios all the way off!
Growing plants is great fun and it’s even more fun if they can watch their work get bigger and flower in front of their eyes. There are lots of plants that even a young child can grow without too much trouble, from small trees to herbs and vegetables. If you don’t have a garden, a window box or small pots are the answer and it won’t matter what time of year you plant them. Try growing basil, parsley and cress- then they can eat them once they’ve grown.
16- Board game
Getting out the old board games is one of the best things to do with kids and you can get the whole family involved. Encourage your child’s competitive streak or play in teams. You’ll be surprised how quickly they get into it. Just watch out for the arguments!
17- Family tree
How much do your kids know about their family? Do they know anything about your parents’ parents? Drawing family trees are fun and helps them learn about their own history. Delve deeper and you may unearth some really interesting stories than even you never knew.
18- Read a book!
This lockdown is a great opportunity to all turn into bookworms. It doesn’t matter how old your children are or what genre they’re into, there are so many great reasons to read. And parents, try and lead by example- your children won’t want to read if they see you on your phone so try and use this opportunity to get stuck into that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages.
19- Movie afternoon/evening
Nothing beats snuggling up on the sofa as a family, popcorn in hand, to watch a good movie! Lots of people are anxious at the moment and, as much as I could get into the science of increased serotonin levels after contact, I’ll just say that hugs are great and most people will feel happier and calmer after a good cuddle session!
20- Phone/ tablet time
This is a very hard time for all of us! No matter what your usual stance on screen time is, I hope we can all agree that this is not a normal situation to be in! Many of you are trying to balance working from home with suddenly having to entertain your children all day everyday and it is hard!
So let’s please take away the guilt from using screens for your children at the moment! There are lots of educational games they can still play on tablets nowadays, but there is also no shame in just sticking on Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol while you have that much-needed coffee and biscuit to get you through the day as well!
Let me know if you use any of these suggestions or send in photos if you so wish- I’d love to see them!
As usual, if you have any problems regarding your children’s sleep, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me. Although this lockdown is a strange time, it is a great opportunity to fix any sleep problems they may have now, ready for if/when you have to go back to work.