13 Activity Ideas for Kids in Lockdown (or on Holidays)
Here in Melbourne, it’s almost the end of September 2021, and we’ve been in and out of COVID-19 related lockdowns for what feels like a billion years. (It’s only been 18 months, but who’s counting?!)
In our house, we spent most of 2020 locked down with our two older boys, remote learning, working, playing. We were also expecting a third little boy who has since joined the mix. So as I write, I’m locked down with one in primary school, one in kinder and one baby, plus my husband working from home, on mat leave from my job and trying to run my business!
Over our lockdown journey, we’ve tried many different activities and things to keep our boys active, engaged and entertained. Some have worked well, others not so much. Sometimes it just depends on the day or time!
Here are just some of the things we’ve tried out that might be of interest to you and your children. Many of these are activities are also great boredom busters for school holidays or wet weekends. Keep reading to find out some of our favourites!
Obviously in lockdown, and particularly since I had our third, we’ve spent a lot more time inside our house than we normally would. Here are some of the fun indoor activities we’ve done.
Read books, anywhere, anytime. Make the time to snuggle in on the couch or bed to read together, but also look for other opportunities for an impromptu reading session. Folding laundry? Have your kids hold the book and turn the pages whilst you read and fold. Preparing dinner? Prop the book on the bench and read to them as you prep.
Also encourage them to engage in independent reading, even if they’re not old enough to actually read the words. Pop some favourite books in a tub or basket on the ground in an area of your house where you normally spend time, or invest in some forward facing shelves (I love our booksling from House of Bobbins for this). Put a couple of pillows or cushions with the books, even a blanket or some stuffed toys, and create their very own reading nook.
Fill a couple of large tubs with water and get creative with pieces for them to play with. Give them some toys and ask them to wash them. Give them bits and pieces collected from outside, like petals, gumnuts or leaves, and some utensils from your kitchen and let them make stews or potions. Use food colouring and expired food to create more concoctions.
The bath is another great place for water play, supervised of course. Create a small world in the bath using toys, food colouring and bits from nature. Or just add bubbles or bath crayons and let them play.
Create your own obstacle course in your house, using cushions, chairs, blankets, toys etc. or direction and movement stations using masking tape. Make sure the course goes over something, under something, around something and has a variety of elements. Have a defined start and finish point so you can time their progress and they can see any improvements.
Put some music on, crank it up and have a dance party or disco. If you have an old CD player and CDs, show your children how to use them and keep them somewhere they can access. Spotify or your music library on your phone are also really good sources of music. Don’t be afraid to mix up what they’re listening to, and include some of your favourites in the mix. If you’re looking for some fun songs they can sing and dance along with, check out the app GoNoodle, which has loads of kid appropriate songs with actions they can follow along to.
Painting and Colouring
There are so many ways to do painting and colouring.
There are lots of ways to get your kids painting or fingerpainting. Use washable paints and put down newspaper or an old sheet under your work area to protect your floor. Paint trays and a range of paint brushes are also good to have on hand. Set up the paper on an easel if you have one, on the table or even on the floor. Plain paper is great to encourage free creative expression, or grab some colouring pages from the internet or a colouring book. Allow your child lots of freedom to mix colours and paint their way. Placing a small pile of blank paper or colouring pages off to the side also encourages independence.
If you’re looking to mix it up a bit, take the painting outside. Simply set up your newspaper or old sheet in the driveway or verandah with all your painting bits. Have a few heavy rocks handy to weigh down your paper in case it gets windy. If you have large, floor to ceiling windows, think about letting your kids paint the glass on the outside. Or think about hanging an old sheet over the fence and doing a large, collaborative piece.
Have a variety of colouring in books or pages and a range of pencils, crayons and textas available for your kids. Store them on an open bookshelf, at a height your children can see them, to encourage them to access them on their own at any time. Small buckets or open baskets are good for storing pencils and crayons so they can be easily taken out and packed away by little hands. Be sure to have some plain paper available as well, scrapbooks or old notebooks you no longer need work well too.
Combine your drawing with water play by grabbing some bath crayons for your kids to use on the bath or shower tiles. You could even have a go at making your own bath paints.
Simple science experiments
There are a range of simple science experiments that are easy to do at home.
The ever popular volcano is so easy to do at home. You’ll need a jar or bottle, tall and on the narrower side works best, baking soda and vinegar. A large tray is also handy for containing the mess. Place your jar or bottle in the middle of your tray and add a spoonful of baking soda to the bottom. Tip in some vinegar and watch the volcano erupt!
Add food colour to the vinegar or glitter to the baking soda to add some flair to your volcano. Pour the vinegar into a disposable water bottle or small jug so that your kids can make the volcano erupt on their own. Once the eruption is over, add more vinegar for another eruption. If nothing happens, add another spoonful of baking soda.
Explore the magical dancing colours with this easy experiment. You’ll need a plate or tray with a rim, full cream milk, food colours, dishwashing liquid and cotton q-tips. A tea towel or placemat is handy for catching any spills. Place your plate or tray on a hard surface on top of the tea towel. Pour in milk until the entire surface is covered. Add drops of food colour around the milk in whatever pattern you like. Place some dishwashing liquid in a small bowl to the side and dip the end of a q-tip into the dishwashing liquid. Dip the same end into the milk and watch the food colour dance away! Repeat over and over to make colourful rainbows in your milk.
Playdough is a great sensory activity which many kids love. There are lots of great pre-made alternatives to purchase playdough, including Ready Scent Dough, Wilddough and Dough My Dear. Or if you’re feeling crafty, try making your own. Our favourite recipe uses 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup warm water, 1 tblsp oil (canola, vegetable or olive). Mix the flour and salt together, then slowly stir in the water and oil. Add any food colour you want. Once mixed, let it sit on the bench for 5-10 minutes. Knead it together for a few minutes. If it’s sticky, add a bit more flour, if it’s dry add a bit more water. Store it in a ziplock bag when it’s not in use, you’ll find it can last for ages if stored properly.
You can simply put the playdough out and let your kids get creative with it. You can also set up some play invitations using things you have on hand. Things to consider include:
- specific playdough tools if you have them, stampers, cutters or rollers
- any favourite toys - avoid ones with fabric or fur or that have batteries so you can just wash them off after play. Lego or duplo, small figures and matchbox cars work well
- bits and pieces from the garden, including twigs, leaves, gumnuts, flowers and petals
- cooking utensils including a rolling pin and cookie cutters
- craft bits including chenille stems, pompoms, ribbon and popsicle sticks
Fort building is a great indoor team activity. Use your dining room table, chairs, couches, blankets, pillows, whatever you have on hand, to create a secret, covered spot. Not only will they be using their creativity and problem solving skills, they’ll love taking over part of your house for their own retreat. Once the fort is complete, there are so many ways to play! Make it the secret hideout for a group of treasure hunting pirates. Or the cosy burrow of a family of rabbits. Maybe it’s a secret kids club where no adults are allowed! Fort’s are also great places for indoor picnic lunches or to curl up and read a book together.
If the weather is on your side, try some of these fun outdoor activities to get your daily dose of Vitamin D.
Chalk drawings are a great outdoor activity if it’s not raining (or you can do it undercover on wet days if you have anywhere suitable). Jumbo sidewalk chalk works best, or chalk bombs are lots of fun. Let the creativity flow and see what they come up with, and don’t be afraid to get down on the sidewalk and get involved!
When you’re out and about, either on a walk, a visit to the park or just hanging in your own garden, start up a nature collection. Collect all sorts of different bits from the garden, leaves, sticks, petals, whatever you can find. Try to only collect things that are already on the ground though, rather than pulling parts off trees and bushes. Take a small bucket or tub with you to carry all your treasures. Once home, store them in boxes or tubs. If you build up a collection over time, you can use them in other play and craft activities.
If the weather is nice, or you have some undercover space, take your painting or colouring in outside! Spread an old sheet, some newspaper or old towels in the driveway or verandah with all your painting or colouring bits. Have a few heavy rocks handy to weigh down your paper in case it gets windy. If you have large, floor to ceiling windows, think about letting your kids paint the glass on the outside. Or think about hanging an old sheet over the fence and doing a large, collaborative piece.
Well there you go! 13 of our favourite activities we've tried over lockdown! There are a whole lot more which I couldn't fit in here, so I'm thinking there'll be a Part 2 to this blog. What about you? Is your favourite activity on this list, or did I leave it out? Let us know in the comments!