I thought now, amongst the chaos was a good of a time as any to get another blog post up.
Despite the rap we get, home educators aren’t actually used to being stuck in the house at all! We are usually out here, there and everywhere, but I guess I have developed a lot of activities to keep the kids busy at home over the years of having the kids at home.
Here’s a compilation of things we love doing, that you may find useful during a lockdown. We are currently making use of this list ourselves!
One thing I think is important to mention, is to try not to replicate a school environment at home… Recognise the value in activities that aren’t academic. Cooking together, baking together. Reading together. Singing together. Laughing together.
Why not try allowing your child to lead the learning? What is interesting them at the moment? How could you tie that in to various subjects? Maybe try some fun, messy, physical activity as a way of helping the learning stick in their head.
I hope you all find something of use!
PS – After a couple of requests for structured learning resources, I’ve popped a few right at the bottom of the post! 🖤
This is by far one of our most utilised resources as home edders! Whatever the topic, whatever the occasion, even if you just need a colouring page… they have it all! And, if you’re reading this during the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak, they have free access for people affected.
2. Cooking & Baking
There’s one thing better than cakes and biscuits baked by your nan, and that’s cakes and biscuits baked by your children. Messy, over iced, almost taking a tooth out on excess sprinkles… perfection!
I want to very specifically add cooking full meals to the list, because for a lot of people it seems like a completely overwhelming task to allow young children to help with a full meal, but honestly, allowing them to space to try, and to make mistakes is such a good learning opportunity, and is teaching important life skills…
Though please take it from me that if you struggle with letting go, mentally prepare yourself that that meal is for your child to prepare. If you start off thinking you’re going to do it, you’ll get worked up about mess and things a LOT faster.
3. Start a Garden
And I’m not saying ‘tackle your entire garden’ or ‘become totally self sufficient’… I’m saying, grab some dirt, grab some seeds, throw in a little water and watch the magic happen.
I haven’t found a child yet who didn’t find the cycle from seed, to plant, to flower, to fruit completely mind blowing.
Start simple. Sunflowers are always great as they grow fast! If you want fast growing edibles then radish, salad leaves and possibly peas/beans are a good bet.
4. Mindful Conversation
Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by the possibilities of what could be, and the worries of the world. Something we find useful as a family is coming back down to earth and to the here and now by using mindful conversation prompts. Trying to drive our focus from everything else to the place we are in right at that moment, and the feelings we are feeling right at the moment.
For older children, discussing emotions and feelings in depth can help, but sometimes for the little ones simple conversations such as ‘can you find something that feels soft?’ or ‘what sounds can you hear?’ can really help to focus their minds away from worries or boredom.
Resources we Love
Whatever you call it, the easy peasy, lemon squeezy, cornflour and water mixture can make for hours or sensory fun for both children and adults alike!
Why is this fun?
It looks like a liquid, but as you start to try and grab it or move it around, it turns to a solid… then as you stop moving it turns back to liquid! The mind blowing behaviour of oobleck is what will keep you squelching for hours, haha!
- 2 Cups Cornflour (Cornstarch if you’re in the US)
- 1 Cup of Water
- Food Colouring (optional)
Mix ingredients together and then have FUN! Although this appears messy, it cleans up so easily. Our children love to add easy clean toys into it, and it’s a great one to put on a tuff tray!
6. Family Board Games
Time to break out that stash of board games! Classics like Monopoly and Cluedo are great, but we also really love Orchard Toys games here too for our younger children, so they can feel included, and also learn at the same time.
We like to find other, less common games that teach the girls about nature and working together too, one of our favourite places to find these is a fantastic, treasure trove of a website called Conscious Craft. My goodness is that website full of natural goodness!
7. Exploding (very tamely), Foaming Volcano! (Or Pumpkin if it’s October haha!)
Another very easy, but always fun for the kids experiment!
Washing up liquid, vinegar and baking soda is what you need! Food colouring optional.
Here is a link to some instructions for the experiment, but we never actually used a set amount!
You can do the experiment in whatever contain is going to be the most fun for your child!
8. Make Clay Creations.
We love to take clay out with us on walks to find natural bits and bobs to decorate with, but we also LOVE to make clay creations at home too!
If you have enough variety in your garden, let the children pick bits to decorate their creations with from there. If you don’t, then done worry! Either let them shape them without, or use dry pasta, lentils, or anything else you can think of! You’d be amazed what you can make from nothing!
Here’s our Clay Creations post from a while back.
If you’ve never heard of or tried putting this AMAZING channel on YouTube for your kids then you’re missing a trick.
Don’t worry about this being too boring, with a huge selection of choice for all ages, and with so many themes (Harry Potter, Pokemon, Moana etc) these videos will really get your child into the story, so much they’ll be yoga’ing without knowing!
Another on the keeping active topic…
Joe Wicks released child friendly (shorter) versions of his very popular HIIT workouts, on YouTube. Again, FREE.
Our kids love a mental 5 minute blowout! A great one to get the blood pumping.
11. Outdoor Painting.
I know this is coming before indoor painting, simply because it’s GREAT thing to do to excite the children, simply because it’s novel. It’s new.
Also, this is another activity where it’s fun to add in natural materials. We’ve used daffodils to paint with before! We’ve used grass. We’ve painted pictures then used grass as hair! Feathers are always treasured additions too.
12. Nature Journalling
Nature journalling is simply recording what you see happening in the natural world around you, throughout the year…
It’s a wonderful way to pay attention to the seasons, but is also another fantastic, mindful activity.
You can find prompts if you need them, my forever favourite is the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum, but simply finding things outside to sketch and record (weather, animals, leaves, plants, pond life etc) is as good as anything!
13. Let them get involved in household chores.
Spoil sport? Me? Not at all! Have you ever asked a young child whether they’d like to help wash pots? Or do you assume they will make a mess and don’t let them?
It’s not a judgement on my part, I’ve been there! But I also allow them to get involved now, and I see the value of it.
It’s both a valuable life skill, and gradually helpful to get them involved in the regular household chores. They only learn to do things neater, cleaner and to your standard if they’ve been allowed to try, and make mistakes without being told off.
And young children LOVE helping. Believe me! My 10 year old… not so much haha! But she still has to, because when you’re all at home for a lot of the day, there are chores that need doing.
14. Set up a Garden Treasure Hunt.
Create some sort of treasure hunt around your house and garden!
Before we moved we were nowhere near other houses around Halloween, so we used to create treat hunts around our caravan for the girls.
No matter how many times we set these up, they ALWAYS went down well.
As the kids get older, start adding clues too for extra fun!
15. ‘Build your Own’ Food Bars.
Decorate your own pancake bar… Build your own Taco bar… Decorate your own Hot Chocolate Bar…
The possibilities with this are endless, but I haven’t found a ‘build your own’ food choice yet that my kids didn’t think was the best thing ever!
If there’s one thing children love, it’s feeling like they are free to choose what they want. There’s not many things in modern life that are set up for children to have the freedom to make their own decisions! By offering up a table of goodies and saying ‘knock yourself out’ and standing back while they choose what they want, you’re giving them freedom to be and choose what they want.
Seems like it‘s too simple to mean anything because the freedom is food related? It’s not at all!
16. Candle Dipping.
This isn’t quite as simple as the other activities on the list, as you need a double boiler of some sort to melt the wax, and you’ll need beeswax or soya wax and wick… but it’s still a lovely activity to keep you busy!
There’s the lovely moment your children see their candles light and work, and you see the pride on their faces…
17. Let them get MESSY.
It’s hard sometimes, I get it. I can be obsessive myself, but this is one of the most important parts of childhood!
LET THEM GET MESSY.
Let them get out in the garden, turn the hose on (yes, even when it’s cold out! Or raining! Even better!), and get DRENCHED. Let them pull the dirt up, make a mud pie, and serve it up in your plant pots… let them smother themselves in paint…
They’ll stay occupied for so long. They’ll be amazed that they’re able to let loose, and their brains need to let loose!
And after it’s all ended, they’ll have a bath or they’ll have a shower… Their clothes will wash.
Reading to the girls is really important and meaningful to me. My passion for books was always something I wanted to share with my children, and I definitely do!
If it’s not something you do regularly, or at all, maybe start by just thinking of one book that you enjoyed as a child… If there isn’t one that you recall, perhaps have a search on google for book lists. I still search for book lists myself!
As you’re sharing a story with your children, let them ask questions… Let them look at the pictures. I also use my finger to point at the words as I’m reading, as this can help them to pick up reading. Most importantly, just allow them to be ‘in’ the story with you.
It can get tricky sometimes after the hundredth interruption, but I promise, they’re just being involved!
20. Wet Felting.
An activity more suited to your older children, wet felting is a nice mid ground between the simple gluing, and the more challenging needle felting…
It’s part simple, in the form of layering up the felt into the image you want, and then part challenging as you have to sew a piece of fabric over your image (relatively neatly) before giving it a good wash with soap!
You can find a link to a basic wet felt tutorial here…
21. Bug Investigating.
There is always a critter to be found, whatever time of year it is! And these helpful, little guys can keep little ones intrigued for a while, if you’re brave enough to let them!
Be mindful of your language when you’re teaching your children about insects. Insects are extremely helpful in our ecosystems, and teaching children to fear and kill them isn’t good for the Earth…
If you’re a little scared of them yourself, try to keep that held back a little, and, if you’re uncomfortable with insect handling, what about getting one (gently) onto a piece of paper or card so that your children can get a closer look?
‘What if I don’t know what these insects are? Or what they do?’ PERFECT! This is my favourite part of home ed! When we have to investigate something new TOGETHER!
22. Sidewalk Chalk.
Easy peasy, garden fun! Simply hose down the patio when you’re done.
22. Child Led Learning.
If you’re stuck in the house and it’s unplanned, you may struggle with trying to get your kids to do what you think is enough work… School work..
Try this instead… Wait for your child to mention a subject that interests them (yes, yes that includes Minecraft 🤣🤣), and try running with it…
Minecraft in itself can be educational, but also pulling other topics into Minecraft as things that could be built, is perfect! (More on screen time soon!)
But also, if they suddenly show a keen interest in dinosaurs, this is your moment! Pull out all of the stops! Books (World of Books is an AMAZING second hand books website), Twinkl resources, YouTube! You can teach science, evolution, extinction, maths, English… everything in between! All through a passion for dinosaurs!
And it works the same for the majority of interests. You can tie so much into one interest point.
23. Ice Painting.
Great for little littles. Put a tub of water in the freezer to make a block of ice… Tip it out and let your little ones go to town painting it! Another really simple activity.
24. Music & Dancing.
Get your favourite music blasting out and get dancing like a wild one with your small, wild things!
Your children will love these moments with you.
Also, as we are talking about music, try sticking on different genres of music to give them a wider, musical knowledge.
You don’t even have to make a thing about it, just simply have different pieces playing as background music.
25. Podcasts & Audiobooks
If you have a phone or a tablet, then you have access to tons of wonderful content in the form of podcasts (free) and audiobooks.
There are plenty of podcasts aimed at children!
26. Homemade Playdough.
There are a million different recipes for playdough, and I’m not here to give you a specific one, and the reason for this is that different children have different ‘skin friendly’ requirements.
One of my favourite textured doughs, is the one that is hair conditioner and flour, but again, this can flag up skin sensitivity issues for some, so I really do suggest finding one that will work for you.
It’s also far better to do your own research because you’ll know what ingredients you have handy, and in my experience if you type ‘playdough recipe no cream of tartar’ or whatever it is you’re without, then SOMETHING will come up, haha!
Once you have your base playdough recipe, you can colour it, you can add smells… You can print off playdough mats from Twinkl, you can get out your washable toys and include them in the fun, and you can include dried pasta, or garden finds!
27. Homemade Kinetic Sand.
Another great sensory play idea! If you have sand, cornflour and oil, you’re set!
28. Online Learning Games.
When I say ‘online learning’, I don’t want to induce panic.
I was just thinking to myself what our most useful resources are, and there were a few that popped into my head.
- Reading Eggs & Maths Seeds
This is a great website (with an app for tablets!) for ages 3-8 mainly. It uses game to teach reading and maths for the EYFS to around Year 3, but as I’m not mad keen on ‘your child needs to be doing THIS at THIS age’, let’s just say it’s great for primary kids!
- Teach Your Monster to Read
Another great website and app for helping little ones learn to read. This one is FREE.
- Doodle Maths & Doodle English
An app that focuses on giving your child just a few questions a day! VERY popular in Home Ed world!
29. Screen Time.
Yes, you read that right.
Screen time is not the devil folks.
In fact, screen time can be heaven sent when you need to recoup, and is also invaluable for access to learning materials.
Our children come off of their iPads asking to bake certain things, make certain things, or telling us random facts we never knew!
And no, our children don’t spend the majority of their iPad time searching facts, they absolutely, 100%, play Roblox and Minecraft, or Nola’s new favourite Gatcha Life?! No idea if that’s spelled correctly!
Children need down time too, and they have their time and they appreciate it. It’s also important to remember that the world we live in runs on technology, and it’s an extremely useful skill to acquire.
And when our children become screen monsters on certain days (which they really, really DO!), then the screen time gets cut down or completely removed for a while…
30. Water Play.
Chuck ’em in the bath, or grab pots and pans out of the cupboard and fill ’em with water for your kids to have fun with! Throw them out in the garden with the hose, no matter the weather!
There’s so much fun that can be had simply by letting your kids use water in their play.
Random documentaries on Sky, Netflix, YouTube, Prime etc are the lovely, little gift you never knew you needed.
Historical, Ecological, Scientific, Veterinary… the list is unending!
Try popping one on some time!
How is this an activity?
Believe me, when you spend all day every day with your children, you (and them) WILL lose it.
Someone will just push you that little bit too much, and you may snap. You may shout, you may cry. You may say something awful…
Please don’t be under the impression that we don’t ALL do this, because even with the most gentle approach to parenting, you’re a human being and you WILL get stretched.
What matters? That you, yes, YOU, apologise to your children when you overstepped.
Now I’m not saying you should apologise for boundary setting, or disciplinary stern-ness in your voice, I’m talking about when you yell, scream or say things you shouldn’t have said. We as adults have to show children that everyone should apologise when they’ve been mean… even us!
I took my kids aside a couple of days ago because I was being grouchy. I apologised, and explained that I was tired, and had a lot to do, and Scout needed me, so I shouldn’t have been so grouchy with them.
You WILL mess up. You will lose it. Just remember to suck it up and apologise. Apologise apologise apologise.
Resources for Structured Home Learning
I wanted to add in links to the products and sites we use for our more structured learning at home, though I don’t want anyone to feel that they HAVE to do this while Isolated, as it may end up adding more pressure to the situation.
- Twinkl (Again… Always. Covers ALL ages) – Has all of the curriculum links on the site!
- CGP Workbooks – GREAT for easy, straightforward, sit down and follow the curriculum stuff. The website has them all organised by year groups to make it easy to find what you need.
- Oaka Books – I’m quite new to these, but they are fantastic workbooks for dyslexic/visual learners!