The ultimate guide to entertaining kids in lockdown: FEMAIL reveals 20 family activities

With the third lockdown in England announced last night, parents are once again facing the prospect of having to entertain their children at home for weeks.

While many will have school work to keep them occupied, it will not keep them busy for the whole day – and certainly not at weekends. 

Fortunately parenting experts, bloggers and creative mothers and fathers have taken to social media to share their top tips on how to keep little ones active, entertained and curious while at home during coronavirus self-isolation. 

The tips range from ones that can be done online, like exploring a museum through a virtual tour, to art projects like making your own winter wonderland.

There are also details for groups, social media accounts and public organisations that are offering parents vital resources for free during this difficult time.

1. Make a bird feeder 

Among a host of fun and handy resources on the National Trust website is a guide to making a bird feeder from recycled materials

Among a host of fun and handy resources on the National Trust website is a guide to making a bird feeder from recycled materials

Among a host of fun and handy resources on the National Trust website is a guide to making a bird feeder from recycled materials

Among a host of fun and handy resources on the National Trust website is a guide to making a bird feeder from recycled materials.

The easy three step guide from the team at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve allows nature-enthusiasts to make your own homemade bird feeder using a plastic bottle, toilet roll or chipped cup. 

While younger children may need assistance with the more complicated parts of the craft, it’ll offer plenty of fun for a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Be sure to put the feeder somewhere you and the family are able to enjoy it, and help the youngsters spot the wildlife drawn to the craft.

2. Create a winter-wonderland 

Anya, who runs the Instagram account @montessorifromtheheart, and accompanying blog , shows how to create a winter-wonderland using household materials like sugar or salt or baking soda

Anya, who runs the Instagram account @montessorifromtheheart, and accompanying blog , shows how to create a winter-wonderland using household materials like sugar or salt or baking soda

Anya, who runs the Instagram account @montessorifromtheheart, and accompanying blog , shows how to create a winter-wonderland using household materials like sugar or salt or baking soda

Anya, who runs the Instagram account @montessorifromtheheart, and accompanying blog, shows how to create a winter-wonderland using household materials like sugar or salt or baking soda.  

3. Try an online class – for free!

Lots of businesses running after-school and weekend clubs have been forced to move online as they deal with the coronavirus restrictions.

However many have been quick to adapt to the change and are offering online classes, with many being streamed for free.

The Facebook group Online Classes For Kids became a hub for virtual classes during the first lockdown, sharing links to free online classes and workshops, and is doing the same this time around.

Some classes are available for families to stream whenever they want – giving parents a much-needed immediate release for energetic children – but the majority of classes take place at regularly scheduled times.

This has the benefit of giving structure to your day or weekend, you can make sure children get dressed and ready for the class as they would normally, only they are staying indoors for the session.

Parenting expert and Norland nanny reveals tips for building a daily schedule 

Louenna Hood, Norland Nanny and Founder of parenting app ‘Nanny Louenna’, available for £4.99 from the App Store and Google Play

‘Don’t put pressure on yourself to teach your children all day. A primary school day is broken into lots of small chunks, and although you drop your children off at 9am and don’t pick them until 3pm, they’re not being drilled in the classroom for all that time, there’s lots of time for free play, break times, lunch times and sports.

‘During week when home-schooling, write out a simple plan for the day – use pictures if your little one can’t read yet – an example would be:

  • Breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • 15 mins reading
  • Play in the garden
  • Bake cupcakes
  • 15 minutes of maths
  • Lunch
  • Family walk
  • Half an hour quiet time
  • 20 mins workbook
  • Puzzle
  • Teatime
  • Kitchen disco
  • Bath
  • Bed

‘Print out a sheet for older children so they can tick off each ‘mission’ they complete throughout the day.

‘Remember that children are learning the whole time, helping your children bake is a maths lesson in itself, talking about when and why the puddles they’re jumping in will disappear is a science lesson. So if it all gets too much and no one is learning anything from the workbooks you’ve been given, put them away for another time.

‘Children are much better learners when it’s done in short sharp bursts. Half an hour is more than enough time to sit at a table learning. 

‘Tell them how brilliantly they’re doing and that everyone can now go and play for half an hour as a reward!’

‘Remember hungry children find it hard to concentrate, so prep some healthy snacks to have on the table to stop little ones reaching for the biscuit tin.

‘It’s good to distinguish weekends from weekdays so children have that sense of freedom from school work. 

‘I believe a break from work is good for all of us and brings a fresh focus the following week.

‘To stop children sitting in front of the tv all weekend, create a daily mission list for them, that they have the control of completing.’

‘The Nanny Louenna app has mission lists which parents can download and print out, and there are over 150 activity ideas!’

 

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4. Organise an indoor scavenger hunt  

The fun of a scavenger hunt doesn’t need to be dampened by the winter months.

Parents could choose a theme and make a list of interesting items to find within the house.

For example, children might enjoy a colour theme which sees them on an expedition to find items of a specific colour around the home.

You could try different colours for each child, or multiple colours. 

Alternatively, try a maths hunt, where children need to find examples of maths and measurements such as a number written in words, a unit of measurement, a coin, an object larger than 10cm, and so on. 

The fun of a scavenger hunt doesn't need to be dampened by the winter months, so why not organise an afternoon of indoors play?

The fun of a scavenger hunt doesn't need to be dampened by the winter months, so why not organise an afternoon of indoors play?

The fun of a scavenger hunt doesn’t need to be dampened by the winter months, so why not organise an afternoon of indoors play?

5. Watch a documentary – for free

Dr Amanda Gummer, the founder of the Good Play Guide and expert in child psychology, previously told FEMAIL: ‘Documentaries such as the Blue Planet or Stargazing are great family viewing that can spark conversations and even family projects.’

6. Try a P.E class with Joe Wicks (again!)

In the first lockdown, Joe Wicks launched his daily P.E. lessons online to roaring success.

He has now announced plans to  recommence his PE With Joe YouTube series from Monday January 11. 

The fitness star, 34, who launched the initiative when the UK was plunged into its first lockdown in March 2020, made the announcement on Twitter, as a third lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

‘PE with Joe is back Monday 11th January at 9AM (UK time). Please Retweet and let as many parents and schools as possible know. The sessions will be live Mon, Wed & Fri’s at 9AM on YouTube,’ he posted.

For more information on Joe Wicks’ daily PE lessons visit his Instagram account.

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Fortunately many of these are available on streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, which is free as long as the household has a TV licence.

To continue the family time, ask your children questions after the film has finished to help explore any issues. 

7. Enjoy a (free!) daily activity sheet 

From word searches to mazes, Orchard Toys daily activity sheets proved to be a hit during the first two Covid-19 lockdowns for younger children.

The brand announced plans to resume the daily newsletter last night, with the sheets for preschoolers and school children delivered directly to your inbox every evening.

Parents have praised the sheets as ‘a gift from heaven’ for entertaining youngsters bored at home.  

8. Paper airplane competition

While we may not be able to travel the world at the moment, there’s no reason why the family can’t have fun imagining the adventures you’ll have.

And what better way to enjoy the thought of a holiday than crafting paper airplanes.

Making paper airplanes is a fun, cheap way to not only keep children occupied, but work on basic concepts such as folding and geometry, all the way through to more complicated ones like aerodynamics. 

And if the little-ones are really excited by the planes, why not suggest a competition to see whose airplane can fly the furthest? 

There are plenty of guides online, but this site has several on how to make a paper aeroplane in six easy steps. 

For a fun, cheap and easy way to entertain children of all ages, why not host a paper airplanes competition

For a fun, cheap and easy way to entertain children of all ages, why not host a paper airplanes competition

For a fun, cheap and easy way to entertain children of all ages, why not host a paper airplanes competition

10. Spot wildlife in the garden or park 

The National Trust website is full of good ideas on how to entertain children outside during winter.

One of our favourite activity pages is the How to spot wildlife page, which shares Spotter Sheets for young children and allows them to tick off the wildlife as they see it. 

With sheets available for little ones to enjoy the nature in the garden, on the coast or in the park, there’s plenty to keep kids entertained on a longer wintery walk.    

11. Make a window scene 

With Christmas decorations coming down, and twinkly lights being bought in from outside, you could put artwork in your window to brighten up your street

With Christmas decorations coming down, and twinkly lights being bought in from outside, you could put artwork in your window to brighten up your street

With Christmas decorations coming down, and twinkly lights being bought in from outside, you could put artwork in your window to brighten up your street

With Christmas decorations coming down, and twinkly lights being bought in from outside, you could put artwork in your window to brighten up your street.

Treat it as an activity morning, where you can brainstorm ideas for what to paint or craft for the window, before getting started.

Maybe you could draw your favourite cartoon characters, a nature scene or even family members you’re missing! 

12. Dive under the sea with an aquarium cam

Holidays overseas might be out of the question at the moment but the wonders of the deep are still just a click away thanks to live and recorded video streams offered by aquariums around the world.

One of our favourites is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in California, which offers streams of a number of its tanks and enclosures, featuring sharks, jellyfish and turtles. 

13. Have your own Junior Bake Off

Parents could draw inspiration from the Great Junior Bake Off, which returns to screens on Monday, and introduce children to different foods and get them involved in the kitchen

Parents could draw inspiration from the Great Junior Bake Off, which returns to screens on Monday, and introduce children to different foods and get them involved in the kitchen

Parents could draw inspiration from the Great Junior Bake Off, which returns to screens on Monday, and introduce children to different foods and get them involved in the kitchen

Cooking and baking with children is a great way to introduce them to different foods and get them involved in the kitchen.

14. Take a virtual trip to a museum

Explore from home: Many museums, art galleries and public spaces will be closing their doors, but that doesn't mean their treasures are lost. Families can take virtual tours of museums and galleries, including the Natural History Museum in London (pictured)

Explore from home: Many museums, art galleries and public spaces will be closing their doors, but that doesn't mean their treasures are lost. Families can take virtual tours of museums and galleries, including the Natural History Museum in London (pictured)

Explore from home: Many museums, art galleries and public spaces will be closing their doors, but that doesn’t mean their treasures are lost. Families can take virtual tours of museums and galleries, including the Natural History Museum in London (pictured)

Many museums, art galleries and public spaces will be closing their doors, but that doesn’t mean their treasures are lost.

Families can take virtual tours of museums and galleries, including the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in New York City, thanks to Google Art and Culture.

One of the highlights is Britain’s Natural History Museum, which offers virtual self-guided tour of the galleries, an interactive experience about Hope the blue whale and audio guides narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

The stunning visuals will keep your little ones entertained – and there are plenty of interesting facts to pick up along the way, too.

 

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With the Great Junior Bake Off returning to screens on Monday, why not suggest a family bake off with your household?

Parents and children could divide into teams for different challenges –  You could even do kids vs adults if your little ones are old enough!

Try choosing a recipe all together and then diving off to make the cookies. The challenge will add an element of friendly competition to the day.

If your kids are still too young to cook on their own then bake alongside them, asking them to do simple tasks like pouring flour or helping to use the scales.

15.  Create artwork using autumn leaves 

Gathering leaves can be such a fun and easy way to start off an afternoon of crafting.

Craft blogger Manisha, who runs @talesoftnt Instagram account and blog  shows how a few leaves can be used to create a simple wintery craft.

With a simple hedgehog drawing, children can stick down the leaves to create their own adorable spikey friend. 

16. Walk a little, every day

The weather is colder and the nights are longer but it is still important to try and get your little ones outside for a little bit every day.

A good way to do this is to incorporate it into your daily routine. If your house is super organised in the morning then maybe you can find time for a quick 20-minute stroll before home schooling begins. 

On rainy days wrap up in raincoats, grab an umbrella and dart out for a walk around the block or to the local park.

If you have welly boots – and can stand the mess – why not add to the fun with a puddle-jumping competition. 

17. Check in on animals at the zoo (without leaving home)

World renowned San Diego Zoo is thousands of miles away for many British families, but you are still able to ‘visit’ thanks to a number of animals cameras set up across the sprawling site.

Highlights include the koala cam, polar bear cam and tiger cam, which will offer children the chance to see some of their favourite animals.

There are also handy activities, crafts and colouring pages available for free on the zoo’s website, making it a one-stop shop for a day full of animal-themed activities.

You're going to the zoo! World renowned San Diego Zoo is thousands of miles away for many British families, but you are still able to 'visit' thanks to a number of animals cameras set up across the sprawling site. Pictured, the entrance to the California zoo

You're going to the zoo! World renowned San Diego Zoo is thousands of miles away for many British families, but you are still able to 'visit' thanks to a number of animals cameras set up across the sprawling site. Pictured, the entrance to the California zoo

You’re going to the zoo! World renowned San Diego Zoo is thousands of miles away for many British families, but you are still able to ‘visit’ thanks to a number of animals cameras set up across the sprawling site. Pictured, the entrance to the California zoo

18. Learn science with Operation Ouch 

Dr Chris, Dr Xand and Dr Ronx explore the ins and outs of the human body in a variety of eye-opening experiments on BBC’s Operation Ouch.

19. Look out for signs of spring 

Whether you are peering out the window or are fortunate enough to have a garden to explore, why not challenge your kids to look out for the first signs of spring they can spot outside. 

They could keep a chart of the flowers, birds and trees they can see and then use online resources to identify them. 

This is something you can come back to each day, allowing them to see just how mother nature works her magic. 

 

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But Dr Chris and Xand have announced they will be launching a new science lesson every day which will stream live on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook at 2.30pm.      

Revealing the news yesterday, they said the first topic will be bones, adding: ‘There is homework!’  

20. Tune into storytime 

Throughout the pandemic, celebrity authors from Sarah Ferguson to David Walliams have been taking to social media to share stories with youngsters. 

The Duchess of York has been delighting little-ones for months with her StoryTime With Fergie And Friends series, which sees her reading a different children’s book every day.

In recent months, she has been sharing arts and crafts ideas with her audience as well.

Meanwhile Save the Children’s Save With Stories campaign has led to a whole host of a-listers reading some of their favourite children’s books. 

Royals including Princess Anne and Meghan Markle took part in the campaign, as well as celebrities like Benedict Cumberbatch and Alexa Chung.  

The full back catalogue can be found on the charity’s YouTube channel. 

Link hienalouca.com

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