With Covid-19 having pressed pause on most of our lives, parents suddenly find themselves with their kids at home … 24/7. That’s a lot of time! And those energetic young ones would like to do a lot more than sit around quietly while you work from home. Many parents struggle with having to occupy their little ones, while also not wanting them to waste their entire day glued to a screen. Here are some activities that you can do with your kids at home. They are simple, no-cost, and can give your kids a break from their devices!
1. Camp at home
This is inspired by Member of Parliament and doting daddy of three adorable girls, Louis Ng, who did not simply set up a tent in his living room for his three daughters; he also slept in it with them at night. Don’t have a tent? You can buy one from Decathlon, or help your little ones make their own using household furniture and materials (see #2 below).
2. Build a Fort/Castle… Anything!
Everyone needs their own personal space sometimes, even kids. One way to give them that? Let them build their own space! They can build any kind they want – with whatever you have at home, blankets, pillows, the couch, the bed, chairs, the table! Then let them decide the rules: who gets to go in, how it should be decorated, and so on. Need ideas? These fort building instructions from IKEA Russia come complete with lists of materials you need for each kind of fort! This is an awesome game that can go on for as long as your child’s imagination runs – they can play pretend and come up with stories revolving around their fort!
3. Grow some ‘Taugeh’
Remember growing your own mung bean plant when you were in kindergarten or in primary school? These would grow tall and then be thrown away after the thrill of seeing them grow was gone. Why not grow your mung beans into beansprouts that can be cooked and eaten instead? Follow this method, and you’ll be doing some recycling as well!
4. Letter Whack!
This is a simple game that can also be used to help little ones learn their alphabet! Get some cardstock/cardboard/or paper and write the alphabet letter/word you’d like them to learn or practice. Write out a few and lay them out on a soft surface, like the sofa or the bed. Then hand them a wooden ladle, a spoon – or even better, a fly swatter! – and have them whack the letter/sound/word that you call out (at your discretion. You can call them out at different speeds and change it up!)
5. Word Jump!
This uses the same letter cutouts as the game above. First, lay them out on the floor randomly. There are two variations for this. You can call out the letter/sound and have your child run/hop/jump to it (make sure the letter cards are firmly pasted on the floor to prevent slipping). Alternatively, get your children to jump from one to another, and call out the letter/sound they land on. If you have more than one child, it can be a race to see who gets to the letter/shouts out the letter/sound first. Whichever way you play the game, it can teach them to recognise letters/practice their phonics!
6. ABC Scavenger Hunt
You can use Scrabble letters, or magnetic letters. Get your child to pick a random letter. Alternatively, you can show them a picture/print-out of the alphabet and ask them to close their eyes and point to one/pick one! Then let them search around the room/house for an item that starts with that letter. It’s up to you to decide the rules (how many items they need to find, whether they have to find it within a fixed time (say, three minutes! Or 60 seconds!). Depending on how challenging you want to make it/or how old your kiddos are, you can even set prerequisites like: the item has to be two words or four letters or at least three syllables! Make it more engaging for the younger ones by participating in the search too, and encouraging them along the way!
7. Ninja Obstacle Course
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Wednesdays are for Warriors! #BabyNinjaWarrior Level 3 is here. This level tests the Ninjas a lot more technically especially on agility, arm and core strength, as the newest element – the Bench Slide makes its entrance. But Level 3 seems to have played to Ninja Enya’s strengths, as she made it look like a walk in the park! I guess we should really level up next week… #stayhomediaries #karatekid #homeobstaclecourse #fightcovid19 #SGUnited
Pull together some blankets, furniture – whatever you have really – and form an obstacle course at home! The style and length is completely up to you, but some ideas include blankets to crawl under, chairs to jump over/crawl under, declaring a certain part of the ground as “lava/quicksand” and having them jump from pillow to pillow. Get creative!
You can use a broom stick, a mop, a bamboo pole – whatever you have on hand that resembles a long stick, and ask two older children or adults to hold onto the ends. Alternatively, you could rest the pole on an elevated surface (A window sill, the top of a cupboard/dresser) while you hold the other end. Have your kids go under the stick without touching it – and without bending forward. The challenge is that they have to bend back – they can’t just duck under. If the stick touches them, they are out! After everyone has had a turn, the stick can be gradually lowered with each round, until no one can cross it. Play some upbeat music as everyone in the family does the Limbo rock!
9. Egg Races
If you have space in your living room, or balcony, or an open area, the kids can play this. Simply hard boil some eggs, place them on spoons, and let them have an egg race! Have fun telling your preschooler where they have to walk, run, jump, etc., while balancing the egg on the spoon. You can make up the instructions for what they have to do – this will challenge their balance and agility as well!
10. Simon Says
One of the most popular games we used to love playing – and it’s easy to facilitate too! It can also encourage good listening skills and focus. You can start off by being ‘Simon’ – or choose one of the children to be ‘Simon’. Stand facing your kids and give actionable instructions, demonstrating as you go, such as “Simon says to touch your nose” (you touch your nose) or “Simon says to do a jumping jack” (you do a jumping jack)… you can get creative here! Get the little ones active: make them jump, roll, lie down, whatever you choose!
As you call out each order, the children must follow you as quickly as they can – as long as you have said, “Simon Says.” At your discretion, you can randomly switch to say an instruction WITHOUT first saying “Simon Says”. For instance, you could say “Kick with your right foot!” instead of “Simon says, kick with your right foot!” Whoever follows the action that you now do, is out. The last child standing wins.
11. Sing and act Nursery songs
Find a nursery song with actions, on YouTube some or pull some up from Google. You can sing the tune and control the pace. For instance, a popular one is ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!’ Get your kids to touch the body part that is stated as it is mentioned in the song. You can speed up the pace of the song, and your young ones will have to move faster and faster to keep up. It can get pretty funny as everyone tries to touch their knees and toes as fast as possible!
12. Make a musical instrument
This fun, artsy project will allow your kid’s creative juices to flow! All you need is an old, empty tissue box, some paint, paintbrushes and rubber bands! Let your kids paint and design their tissue box however they like. They can even stick stickers, attach cellophane paper, or other textured materials, glue buttons and more to decorate it! Once the paint/glue has dried, put the rubber bands over the box (usually four but you can put two, three or even five if you like!) so that they align over the tissue-hole. You can get real creative with this idea and make other instruments too. Another example is putting beans in old water bottles/recycled bottles to make shakers . Don’t forget to decorate them, then make some sweet music together!
13. Finger/hand painting
This is a simple one: get some acrylic paint, a palette, some water, and paper. Let your kids explore and express themselves on paper as they paint! You can show them how to use their thumbs/fingers to make shapes like the leaves of trees – and they can even use their whole hand! You can ask them to paint a specific object/item for you – such as a park/flowers or the living room or a sibling – or leave it up to them!
14. Write Letters to family and friends!
In this time of stress, you can teach your kids the importance of encouragement and positivity by getting them to help in writing letters to family and friends! Write notes of encouragement or thank you cards to appreciate grandparents, family friends, siblings – and get your little ones to design and decorate them! Let them draw, scribble and express their gratitude as well. Feel free to keep the notes to be handed out after the circuit breaker, or make a quick trip to post them (wearing a mask and practicing safe distancing, of course)!
15. Make popsicles
If you have popsicle moulds, use those. If not, ice cube trays or cups work just fine! You can use a cup with an ice cream stick (use paper clips to stretch a rubber band across the cup, then stick the ice cream stick in between to make it stand in a cup). You can then pour any fruit juice (bought or freshly-squeezed) into your mould, and add pieces of fruit. Place in the freezer overnight or until the juice solidifies and ta da! Homemade popsicles for the family to enjoy :)
16. Make ice cube boats
This creative idea is from AlphaMom, and needs a little more prep, but the results are adorable! You will need:
- a plastic cup
- bendable straws
- hole puncher
Bend and tape part of the bendable straw to the bottom of the plastic cup. Fill with water and freeze. Remove the ice cube (with the straw in the middle). Cut some coloured paper into whatever shape you would like your flag to be, and use the hole puncher to punch holes so that you can insert the straw through the paper! Let your ice cube boats sail in a bowl/pail of water as your kids come up with a storyline for where their boat is going and what mission they have to accomplish next!
17. Make Edible Playdough
This is perfect if your kids love to get messy with playdough! What you need:
- 1 cup of creamy peanut butter
- 2 cups of powdered sugar
- ½ a cup of honey
Use a stand mixer to mix it all. However, if you want the kids to get more involved, let them try to mix it together by hand! This makes plenty for two to three children to enjoy. Just give them some rollers, cutters, molds, etc. and let them go to town! This also tastes reallly good, so you might end up with a lot less dough than when you started!
Play on at home without screens!
While we all suddenly have an unprecedented amount of time at home on our hands, with it comes the opportunity to spend more time with our families! We can use it to grow our relationships and nurture our little ones; intentionally investing in them. Some of these activities present opportunities where you can capitalise on ‘teachable moments’. Point out to your kids the importance of kindness, of perseverance, of creativity!
While it is important to teach your child character and values, playing with them shouldn’t be a chore! Enjoy the time you spend with your kids, they are only little for so long and they grow up so fast. This precious, once-in-a-lifetime window in their lives is one where you can build meaningful memories. Hopefully, some of these activities will be helpful for you and your family in these difficult times, as we seek to make the best of this with our loved ones!