With coronavirus on a global rampage, people are increasingly turning to self-isolation and social distancing to reduce their chances of catching COVID-19 or passing it on, if they have it already. Naturally, bookish Twitter and bookstagram have smugly declared that they are prepared if such an eventuality becomes enforced, posting pictures of their book piles and ordering more books. After all, who could be more prepared for a prolonged period of self-isolation than bookworms?
As much as I’d love to dream of a week or two spent at home endlessly reading getting through my TBR pile and fool social media into this dream, the reality is that self-isolation is not going to be the stuff of my dreams as I have children who don’t fully understand the implications of coronavirus and get cabin fever after 2 days. I’m not alone in this predicament – with schools closing in the UK for possibly 6 months, self-isolation is going to be incredibly difficult for parents of children who don’t have the developed patience of adults to sit at home and ride out this pandemic. While YouTube is an endless source of useful activities and entertainment for children, I thought I’d share my own list of activities I like to do with my kids that don’t involve watching a screen.
1. Reading (of course!)
Obviously the first port of call for booksta parents, reading and sharing our love of reading is among the first activities we want to start with, most probably because we own so many books and have been buying them for our children when they were only 5 weeks in the womb. Pull them all out and let them peruse the pages. Read while they read. Or so we hope. We know we’ll only get as far as the first sentence in our own book before we have to read to them.
If you’re looking to provide your child with support for learning to read, Reading Eggs have an offer on for 30 days’ free access to the Reading Eggs programme. Click here for more information.
Small Lego sets gifted to us by friends and family have been building up over the last few years in some corner of my home because I loathe them with a passion. Their time has finally arrived. I find Lego generally quite expensive (especially if they’re branded with Harry Potter) but there are some available for under £10 in supermarkets, so it might be worth getting a few, just in case we enter a possible lockdown. They’ll provide hours of productive fun. I take no responsibility for the control freak this may bring out in you.
3. Board games/card games
Classic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble have become ridiculously expensive but the basics like Snakes and Ladders and Ludo can still be bought very cheaply. In fact, this set of 40 board games by Chad Valley is selling for as little as £8 in Argos which is an amazing bargain! Equally card games are good fun too including Top Trumps- my personal favourite is Harry Potter Top Trumps. Let’s keep the card games child-friendly. No poker or blackjack before the kids’ bedtime.
Big or small, puzzles are enough to keep you and the kids busy for ages. If they’re old enough, you might be in the fortunate position to indulge in a few pages of reading while they put a 100-piece picture together. It goes without saying that puzzles are great for the mind and an excellent bonding activity.
5. Dot-to-dot/maze/wordsearch activity worksheets
With an inquisitive 7 year old, activity worksheets have been a lifesaver for me. He doesn’t enjoy colouring in as much as he enjoys wordsearches, dot-to-dot and maze sheets. I’ve found a few through a simple Google search and print off as many as I can to last him at least an hour. The great thing is that there are free printables available for every age so it’s possible for my 4-year-old to join in with these worksheets, even for myself.
Another bane of mine is playdough because the damn thing sticks EVERYWHERE, but throw in a rolling pin and some cookie cutters and the creations that emerge will leave Michelangelo paling in comparison!
With self-isolation, there will be plenty of time for cooking. Why not rustle up dinner with the kids? They’ll learn how to chop veggies for soups and love adding pizza toppings. My 4-year-old has a very sensory approach to food – he smells fruit and veg and likes to have a good look at it as if he’s a Michelin-star chef. Cooking is a great way to spend time together as a family, not to mention how much everyone learns about the process of food going from raw ingredients to cooked meals. Additionally, baking cakes and cookies is therapeutic with some pretty yummy results. Kids generally love the decorating part but getting them to add and mix in things makes them feel involved.
There are plenty of crafts and colouring ideas on Pinterest for you to peruse. I prefer to print colouring sheets so my kids can choose the ones they want with their favourite characters or of their favourite aircraft. I’ve even printed off a detailed Harry Potter one that my eldest enjoyed colouring in.
9. Twinkl sheets
Often viewed as a hub of learning aimed to support teachers with lesson planning, Twinkl is a brilliant resource of educational activities for children that are surprisingly enjoyable. My kids thoroughly enjoy Twinkl sheets. I try to keep the paper usage to a minimum by printing double-sided with several pages on each side, if I can. Like Reading Eggs, Twinkl is offering one month’s access to its Ultimate membership where you can access all activities and resources free of charge. Go to www.twinkl.co.uk/offer and enter the code PARENTSTWINKLHELPS.
10. Outdoor activities
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or outdoor space, there’s no shortage of activities and fun to be had out there! My kids love blowing bubbles, and as the weather warms up, it’ll get easier to spend time outdoors and kick a ball around so the kids aren’t solely confined indoors. I wouldn’t advise going on climbing frames or slides at the park in case of germ transfer, but going for long walks or a quick jog around the area is a nice way to pass the time outdoors. Additionally, the National Trust has announced that many of their parks and gardens will be open for free (cafes and houses will be shut, unfortunately) during this time so getting fresh air will be a little bit easier and beneficial for everyone. We plan to get stuck in with some gardening too and a bit of bike riding while we can.
As it looks to be a tricky few months, now more than ever is the time to ensure our children are feeling positive, productive and engaged. For me, these activities are the ones that bring out the best in my kids and help them to realise that they don’t always need a screen to have fun.