Keeping kids entertained during the Easter or summer holidays can be a real challenge. You’re juggling household chores, your own work, arguments over how much TV is too much TV, and your intention to make sure there are fun-but-still-hopefully educational things for them to do in the house.
And under lockdown? Doing all that just got that little bit harder.
But there are plenty of ways to have fun with your kids and keep them entertained during lockdown, even if you don’t have a garden or that much space in the house. The first thing to bear in mind is they don’t have to be entertained all the time. Giving them some opportunities to get bored is important; it encourages them to think of ways to entertain themselves, jump-starts their imagination and crucially, gives you a breather.
If the thought of giving your kids the chance to get bored fills you with dread – and visions of the littlest one covered in shaving foam while the eldest tries their best to look innocent – then you can offer them some fun activities from our list. They’re all in the house and all available at low or no cost. Here, we’re looking at fun activities for the kitchen.
Learn how to cook
Children of all ages can get involved with learning to cook, and being stuck at home means they’ve got no excuse to rush off and do something else. Smaller children can help with simple tasks like washing or scrubbing veggies, or giving things a stir or mash under supervision. Older children have better fine motor skills so can get involved with lots of stages of the prep, including chopping or mixing.
A fun activity is to pull out and make a family recipe – perhaps one that’s been handed down through the generations or appears at every big family event. By making it together, you’re teaching your kids how to cook and strengthening bonds between them and family members they might not be able to see for a while.
You can grow vegetables with your children even if you don’t have a garden. Try sprouting seeds in a jam jar: get chickpeas, lentils or mung beans and pop them in a clean glass jar. Fill it with water, drain off the excess then put a piece of muslin cloth, fine cotton or even the foot from an old (clean!) pair of tights over the top and secure with a rubber band. Each day, rinse and drain the seeds. After a few days you should start to see little sprouts emerge. Once these have got a bit bigger, you can use them in salads or sandwiches for extra crunch.
If you can get hold of some cress seeds, these are fun to grow too. Put a bit of cotton wool in a half-eggshell, dampen it and sprinkle the cress seeds on top. Keep the cotton wool damp and the cress will shoot up in no time!
Herbs like basil and parsley plus chilis or even tomatoes can all be grown indoors. Plants are a great way to keep kids engaged for a long time and teach them patience. You can even make it into a bigger project by getting them to keep a plant diary, taking photos as the plant grows and, for older children, learning about photosynthesis.
It’s understandable why some parents are nervous about messy play; after all, it does create a lot of mess. But without the opportunity to hang out outdoors, right now kids need some space to imagine, build and make – which includes getting messy.
Before you start any messy play, you can protect your home by putting newspaper on the floor or table, using a washable tablecloth (or even bin bags) and making sure the kids have got aprons on. Keeping the washing up bowl full of warm soapy water is a good idea too.
A great messy play idea which uses things around the house is potato printing. Cut potatoes in half and invite your kids to draw a design on one half before cutting it out for them. Using poster paint or acrylics, dip the potato half into the paint and stamp it out on paper to make a pattern. You can experiment with different household objects to make other stamps – things like corks, sponges, brushes, the end of a pencil or the lip of a glass all make interesting shapes.
Or you can try bubble printing. In a bowl, mix together a dollop of washing up liquid and some paint or food colouring before adding enough water to make it a single cream consistency. With a straw, ask your child to blow – gently – into the bowl to create bubbles. Once the bubbles have reached the top of the bowl, place a piece of paper over the top to get a bubble ‘print’. The mixture can be reused, and different colours printed on top of each other. Once your child has a few different prints, they can use them as the background for collages, drawings or other projects; try cutting them out and using them as flowers to decorate your windows!
You don’t have to keep your kids entertained all the time – it’s important they learn to use their imagination and come up with games for themselves. But for those times when you want to do something together, and introduce them to a new hobby, try one of these fun lockdown activities