With much of the world currently in lockdown, many of us who are not used to being full time at home parents are suddenly faced with the prospect of many weeks – maybe months – of having small people to entertain around the clock. Where parents are still working, there is A LOT to juggle. And if you’re in this situation, and you’re anything like me, this prospect was probably vaguely terrifying.
I wanted to share a few ideas of easy things you can do at home with your small children.
We’ve been getting much more creative than usual. From chalk drawings on the pavement outside our house, rainbows in the windows, to YouTube draw-along tutorials (more for slightly older kids but my 5yo has LOVED doing “Draw with Rob”), whatever your skill or otherwise there is fun to be had with getting crafty.
For slightly bigger projects why not try making a simple model to represent a favourite book? We used wrapping paper off-cuts as wallpaper and made a house for the lady from “A Squash and a Squeeze”!
Make your own adventure
You might be staring at the same four walls for the foreseeable future – so how can you bring in some of those experiences you might have had? How about going to the cinema? Choose a film together. If you’re feeling like making extra effort, draw out some little tickets your little one can sell to you! Close the curtains, grab the popcorn / snacks and turn the lights down low.
Or if you have a garden, you could have lunch outside – it’s still a picnic, even on your own lawn! And if you’re feeling super adventurous and have the kit, what about camping in your own garden? A friend of mine had a great lie-in recently when daddy and 4yo camped out!
Use what you’ve got
Of course we can’t go out and buy loads of new things to keep our darlings entertained, so we’re in a very “make-do” situation. But use your imagination and you’ll find lots of new ways to use old things. For example we’ve been using washed out tin cans as skittles (probably best not to leave unsupervised in case of sharp edges). And making models of whatever we have in the garden.
You could pop your child in the washing basket, get a YouTube video of a rollercoaster on the tv and wiggle them around in sync with the movements. And let’s face it, what toddler doesn’t love a good old fashioned box to play with?! We have a big one that’s been decorated differently on each side – a car, a boat, a crocodile, and a what-on-earth-is-that (I feel like I’ve left it too long to ask without hurting his feelings!).
Let’s be honest, sometimes the tv or tablet is a vital distraction to allow us time to get on with jobs around the house, or even to do our work. I think now more than ever we need to not beat ourselves up about it – but there are definitely ways to make it feel less like “the easy option” and more like a valuable learning tool. There are so many programmes and apps that are educational AND fun. My 2 year old wants to be able to do the same things as his big brother – so he’s started trying to play an app that the 5 year old has that teaches reading. I’m sure some of it must be seeping in, as well as providing the older one an opportunity to practice his teaching and nurturing skills!
Current favourites in our house include Numberblocks / Alphablocks, Ask the Storybots, Maddie’s Do You Know (Maddie Moate also has an “edutainment” channel on YouTube packed with fascinating stuff) and Treasure Champs.
What not to do?
My final tip is not to take too much heed to the amazing things you see on social media or get forwarded from your WhatsApp groups! Don’t put pressure on yourself to do huge, show-stopping, beautiful arts creations, or to bake wonderfully decorated fairy cakes, or to create the biggest rollercoaster EVER out of Duplo. Our smalls don’t have huge attention spans, and they don’t need all the bells and whistles. Your best bet is to find small, simple fun things that don’t cause you lots of extra hard work at a time when your personal reserves are limited. Stay safe, and take care of yourself.
You’ve got this covered!