Up to March 29, schools are closed, parents have been asked to keep their children away from other children, and many parents will be battling to keep their children entertained. So if you’re rattling your brains to think of something to keep the kids occupied, here are some suggestions, two for every day they’re confined to home over the next 15 days:
1. Get painting: There’s nothing like art to keep kids occupied, especially on a rainy day. Set them up at the kitchen table with supplies and plenty of paper. When they get bored of paper, try rock painting, colouring books, get creative.
2. Dance: Put on some music and dance. Teach them old dances like the charleston or jive, teach them how to waltz. Or get them to make up a dance and teach you. Let them choreograph a dance and practice it to perform for you. Or pop on an aerobics class on your laptop and do it with them.
3. Get outdoors: You’re not confined to your house. If the weather is good, you can visit local parks and woods, just avoid contact with other children. Try to name trees and plants that you come across (thank God for google!), lift up rocks to see what insects and bugs are underneath. Bring paper and crayons and do bark rubs. You can also do this in your back garden.
4. Gardening: Speaking of gardens, plant some bulbs, let them have their own corner of the garden to prepare a vegetable patch, get started on window boxes and hanging baskets.
5. Bake: Every child loves baking. Make a cake. Bake some bread. Make cupcakes and icing and let them decorate their own.
6. Cards: Even very young children can play snap. For older children teach them the games you learned as a child. Teach them card games they can play on their own too, like patience and pairs.
7. Ball games: Get a couple of tennis balls and teach them games you remember from childhood or show them how to juggle.
8. Crafts: Make jewellery with macaroni, tie dye tee shirts, make some paper mache.
9. Jigsaws: Most people have a jigsaw puzzle or two lying around. Clear the kitchen table and let them at it.
10. Build a fortress: Create a hide-away in the garden. If it’s raining you can do this indoors with sheets over the furniture. Get torches, let them have a picnic in their little lair.
11. Obstacle course: Outdoors is best but you can do this indoors too. Create pathways and let them climb over or crawl under obstacles.
12. Cook: Get them involved in making dinner, everything from washing vegetables to rolling meatballs. Make a trifle. Set out toppings and let them make their own pizza, or you can do this with crackers for lunch. The joy of this is that they are much more likely to eat what they’ve made themselves too!
13. First aid: Younger children can learn simple emergency tasks like calling 999 and what to say to the operator. Older children can learn CPR. Make a hospital and let them practise putting splints and bandages on their toys.
14. Throw a birthday party: Tell them it’s their favourite teddy’s birthday and let them make birthday cards and paper decorations. Bake a birthday cake and make invitations to send to all their teddies / dolls, and have a birthday party.
15. Learn all about a country: Pick a country and research all about it. Find out what food children in that country would have for dinner and make it, draw the country’s flag, see what clothes they wear, what school is like, what games the children play.
16. Books: Cuddle up on the couch and read to them. Try to avoid making this about learning. Enjoying a good book shouldn’t feel like school.
17. Skipping/ elastics: Teach them old schoolyard rhymes to skip to, either with their own individual skipping rope or use a long one if you have enough people (or tie one end of a long rope to a pole or tree). You can do this with elastics too, using chair legs. Google has loads of ideas if you can’t remember any.
18. Housework: Empty cupboards and let them put everything back in neatly. Fill the sink with warm sudsy water and get them to wash their toys. Teach them how to sort laundry and use the washing machine. That way, when they eventually leave home they won’t bring all their washing home with them every weekend. (Ok they probably will!)
19. Skype: Arrange for them to skype or facetime their friends, or their cousins in other parts of the world.
20. Board games: Ludo, twister, monopoly and other favourites can provide hours of entertainment. Get some lego, or teach them how to play draughts or chess.
21. Play dough: There’s nothing as soft, squishy and satisfying as home-made play dough. All you need is one part salt, one part water, and two parts flour. Mix and knead it (or let the kids do it). If it’s too sticky, add more flour. If it’s too dry, add more water.
22. Halloween party: Make a day special by pretending it’s Halloween. Make decorations, dress up, play Halloween games.
23. Learn sign language: Use google to learn some common words in sign language and learn a few new ones every day.
24. Treasure hunt: Hide some sweets, toys or money around the house and garden and let them search for them.
25. Outdoor games: Frisbee, hula hoops, hurling, tennis, football, chasing - you’ll probably have to get in and play yourself but sure, it’s exercise!
26. Magic: Teach them some magic tricks and let them practice to perfection.
27. Play an instrument: Teach them to play a musical instrument. Most kids learn tin whistle or recorder in school and now is a good time to practise or learn new tunes. Or make a drum kit out of wooden spoons and saucepans (not for the faint hearted!)
28. Dinner party: Throw a fancy dinner party. Decorate the dinner table, have several small courses with different cutlery, let them use the adult’s wardrobes to dress up, and be posh for the evening.
29. Bubbles: Make some bubbles using washing up liquid and send them out to the garden!
30. Films: Last but not least, make some popcorn and put on a film they all enjoy.