25 ideas for entertaining the children at home

What with the lockdown and the summer holidays  we are all at home with our children a lot more than usual. You may be worn out from home teaching but they still need you!

Here are some tips for keeping sane and entertaining them. Choose those that match the ages and character of your children:

  • Make your own stickers. All young children love stickers. They can put them on their clothes, in their bedrooms, and on their books. It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. Instructions here
  • Create a treasure hunt. Try to keep it simple otherwise it ends up as far too much work for you! This can be indoors or outside, or both. There’s help at Realsimple   – for example: “Make one set of clues for every player, each clue leading to the next one and, finally, to the treasure.  Put the clues in numbered envelopes.
  • Make paper planes. You could have contests for longest flight from an upstairs window, craziest flight, and best looking plane. There’s ideas here.
  • Write letters to grandparents or relatives abroad.  Hopefully they’ll get a letter back, which may be a novelty to them.
  • Make a sundial. A bit of education for them here. How did people tell the time before phones, clocks and watches were invented?  You just need a compass (there’s probably one on your phone) to find where north is. Then put a stick in the ground in a sunny spot and bend it slightly towards north. Watch the shadow of the stick move round as the sun moves. Mark where the end of the shadow is at different times of the day, perhaps with a pebble with a number written on it. This does require sunshine !
  • Make a bird feeder using standard ingredients from the cupboard plus normal craft supplies. Instructions here
  • Create a routine, which they will like a lot, and include time for yourself (work, chores). For example, let them know that in the morning they can stay in their PJs, watch films and entertain themselves. Then in the afternoons you will play with them.
  • Go outdoors! Plant a bean, plant seeds from tomatoes or other vegetables you eat, herbs or anything else they want to try.
  • Go on a bug hunt in the garden. Perhaps collect bugs in a tub. Keep them for a day or two, observe them, and then let them go.
  • Use chalk (GiantChalk is good) to draw on paving slabs or your drive. Then on a warm day they can wash it away with the hosepipe, or just let the rain wash it away.
  •  Build a den. Get a large sheet or blanket, move the furniture around, put some cushions inside and let them pretend it’s whatever they want. Dining chairs make good portable stands to drape a sheet over. A large box makes a good cave.
  • Make a lava lamp, and learn some science along the way. Watching a lava lamp is fascinating, especially one you’ve made yourself. Instructions here.
  • Have a family movie night, with popcorn or other snacks.
  • Make a mini garden in a foil tray. Add rocks and twigs, some small plants or moss, and maybe plant some seeds. Using sand to make a beach is another option. Perhaps add lego mini figures, or other toy figures, and make up a story about them.
  • Baking.  Here are some easy recipes for kids and safer recipes that don’t involve the oven, only the fridge.  See also BBC Good Food’s  child-friendly cooking instructions for name place cookies.
  • After the baking, create a family recipe book with instructions and pictures. Perfect for those who love to help in the kitchen. There are ideas here.
  • Get them to write stories and books for other children.  If their writing isn’t yet up to it, the younger children can add colourful pictures to add to the story. This will really bring out their creative side. Perhaps swop the stories and books with friends.
  • Have a family picnic in the garden.
  • Crafts and junk modelling. Great for rainy days. Don’t recycle your old cereal boxes or loo rolls, keep them to create whatever they want. Use scrap paper and cut up old magazines and newspapers.
  • PlayHooray has printable activity sheets to download with games and craft projects arranged by age.
  • Do a “show” with dancing and singing for grandparents over a video link.
  • Get them to make a map of your house and garden, or of the local neighbourhood. Harder than it sounds. Start with a big sheet of paper with squares marked out on it, and ask them to imagine being a bird or in a plane looking down.
  • Make a family tree. They’ll learn about the family history and do some drawing at the same time. Bring it alive by getting family photo album out and showing them old photos of relatives. Tell them stories about what those people did, and what it was like to live back then (what, there were no mobile phones?  No internet?).
  • Create a racetrack. Get the toy cars out and make a track out of coloured tape stuck to the carpet (best to check the effect of the tape on a piece of carpet in the corner first!)
  • Go to the park or the library, if they are open.
  • Playing the old man. Something different from Babycentre, which allows you to put your feet up for a while. Pretend that you’re a very old man or woman who can’t move, is stuck on the settee, and who has an important story to tell. The thing is you can only remember the story by seeing the things that the children bring back. So you send them all over the house looking for objects so you can tell them the next part of the story. Once you’ve got going, you can get the children to have a go and take turns.

I’m a family photographer in Warwickshire.  I’m always telling people to get their family photos printed, so that they don’t get lost and last for the next generation to enjoy.