Since the government rolled out nationwide isolation measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic parents have found themselves much more involved with their children’s daily routine. Many of us now find ourselves juggling homeschooling with working from home, and even where this is not the case occupying young children’s attention throughout the day is a full-time job. Thankfully we’ve found Ami who, as a nanny, has been doing that job for over a decade and has agreed to share her experience with us.
I’ve been working with babies, toddlers and pre-school children for over 15 years, and one thing I’ve learnt is that you don’t need lots of toys to entertain them – you can create lots of fun and educational activities using things you already have in the house.
Below I’ve listed some of ideas and activities for you to try at home that make use of available materials and give you lots of time together – I hope you have fun trying them out.
During this period it’s important to teach your children how to wash their hands but this needn’t be a chore, and can be turned into a lot of fun playing with water and having a bubble party in the bathroom. This is an enjoyable way of encouraging correct hand washing and prompting conversations about ensuring their hands are completely clean while also developing fine motor skills.
If you’re feeling creative why not blow up some rubber gloves and encourage your little one to draw on them with washable pens? You can create engaging characters or pretty patterns… and then clean them off with soap and water and start again!
You can increase your child’s engagement at storytime by letting them choose a different book each week to read and giving them a sticker to praise them for their reading, listening and interacting.
You can also ask simple questions as you go through the stories and encourage games of hide and seek on the page by asking them to find different objects in the picture, as doing so will help them piece the story together.
Colours and shapes:
Some of the most fun activities you can do at home involve promoting interest in colours and shapes. What’s even better is that many of these activities also promote fine motor and manipulative skills, concentration and hand eye coordination.
For example, you can:
Take a standard egg box
Paint each inside section a different colour
Prepare coloured pasta using paint or food colouring
Once you’ve done so you can play a fun game sorting and matching the different shapes to the coloured sections.
Tip: You can also try making a post box from an old tissue box or container by cutting different shaped holes and allowing your child to fit different objects in each – such as playing cards or construction blocks.
Tip: Finally, a great activity for developing hand-eye co-ordination is standing a dry strand of spaghetti into a ball of playdough and threading cheerios on to it. This encourages counting, understanding of shape and space and co-ordination using fine manipulative skills.
Although currently government guidance limits us to one walk a day, fresh air is so important so why not send your child on a simple scavenger hunt around the garden or when you’re on your walk around the neighbourhood?
To do this simply make a list of items that are commonly found and encourage them to tick the items off on a list. You will need to draw or attach a photo of the items for younger children, although if there’s an older sibling who can read the list this activity could be tackled as a team!
Once you’ve gathered the items you can even use them to make a picture or natural paintbrushes once back indoors.
This activity develops fine and gross motor skill as well as knowledge and understanding of the natural world.
If you have a very active child who loves nothing better than a challenge and healthy competition then you could also try making an obstacle course.
This isn’t tricky as an obstacle course can be made up of anything you can place in sequence, for example:
A skipping rope made into a circle for them to jump into
Some stones for them to weave in and out of
Balls to throw into a bucket
A piece of wood or upturned wash basket to balance on
You could even add in a tricycle to get between each obstacle or time your child to show them how fast they are going and to see if they can do it quicker (or even really slowly).
This activity promotes gross motor skills.
Games and role-play:
Role-play is an important part of your child’s development and encourages your child to learn important lessons and life skills. Preschool children love to role-play in one way or another – gravitating especially toward something they are most interested in.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can encourage a role-playing environment at home which can be easily adapted to suit your child’s needs and interests:
Take a train ride – make train tickets and practice waiting at the ‘train station’ and getting on the train
Play ‘shops’ with items around your house and use a box instead of a basket. Make sure you don’t forget to pay at the till!
Set up a tea party using plates, bowls, cups and spoons from the kitchen. You can add dry foods such as rice, pasta, flour and lentils to represent the food or drink being served. This will encourage your child to extend and develop their imagination when taking on the role of hosting the tea party and serving their guests – whether that be you, siblings or even their teddies. Enjoy your tea and cake!
Dig out the old baby tub bath or a washing up bowl and wash some t-shirts, bibs or dolls clothes. You can then hang them on a “washing line” (which can be made very simply with a piece of string tied between two objects). Many children love the water aspect of this activity and the pegging of the clothes
Why not give a doll or a teddy a bath too? As well as all the benefits of role-play this activity also encourages the use of fine motor skill when pegging the washing to the washing line and might even be an excuse to give a well-loved but grubby toy a wash!
Children may not be going out as much at the moment – which means it’s especially important that they continue to practice road safety and learn what different road signs out in the environment mean. Here are a few suggestions to extend and revise their knowledge through play:
Look at different road signs and what they mean – including stop, go and traffic light colours. Encourage the learning of the colours as well as the meaning behind them. You could build this into a game of musical statues by encouraging your child to pretend to be a car and race around. When you hold up a red spot (drawn and coloured on a piece of paper) they must stop still, and when you hold up a green spot they can go again. This game also helps to develop listening and concentration skills
Practice crossing the road. Make a zebra crossing using masking tape on the floor and take it in turns to be the pedestrian and the car. Encourage handholding even if they are using a teddy as the person to hold hands with. Ensure they look left and right before crossing and are aware of what the “car” is doing – is it still waiting for you to cross? Remember to walk not run across the road!
Most children are fascinated by animals – whether it’s because of the noises they make, the way they feel, their colour, their tails or simply the way they walk. Why not create an animal-based game that’s similar to a game of musical statues?
Let your little one dance their heart out (maybe to animal-themed music) and, when the music stops, call out a demand (e.g. waddle like a duck or moo like a cow).
This activity promotes knowledge and understanding of the world, gross motor skills and keeps your little one nice and active… I can also guarantee they will also develop the giggles, which can be infectious!
Another fun activity which uses your trusty leftover egg boxes is creating a caterpillar by cutting out each section. You can encourage your child to paint each section a different colour and then attach them together with string or pipe cleaners. The wiggly little friend can become part of many games for days to come!
Finally, you can get your children involved with some simple cooking tasks such as making healthy flapjacks, which involve several very simple steps in their preparation. They can be involved in the weighing, pouring and squashing of the mixture and – best of all – licking the spoon!
You could also try making chocolate crispy cakes (Rice Krispies coated in melted chocolate) into little bird nests. You can add anything as decoration – such as mini eggs, raisins, sprinkles or chocolate chips. Have fun and get messy!
I hope you and your child enjoy trying out some of these activities together. As important as keeping your child stimulated can be, however, the most important thing to ensure is that they feel safe, secure and loved at a time like this – anything else is a bonus. For this reason, it helps to stick to a routine by keeping their sleeps and meals at regular times, so they feel reassured and comfortable. You can also promote a sense of love and support by arranging for them to see and speak to relatives using technology, although be careful it doesn’t upset or confuse younger children.
Stay safe and have fun creating a world of possibilities together!
Many children have lots of questions especially around coronavirus as it’s got many families out of sorts at the moment. Sometimes explaining such topics can be challenging which is why we’ve created a short video to help, watch and share it below: