Are you looking for things to do in lockdown? We’re now a year into the Covid crisis and our ideas bucket might be getting a little empty. Every day feels like the Groundhog and you can’t wait for schools to go back? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
This Spring feels very strange for those of us at home with children. We’ve had them at home with us the whole time since they broke up for Christmas! However, it’s important that we make weekends and “not at school” times feel different for our children. We’re not just talking about keeping the kids occupied, it’s much more important than that. The monotony of a year where opportunities for holidays, going out to the shops, seeing friends and family, meals out, parties and activities like soft-play, swimming pools or school discos have been severely limited means that every day begins to feel like the groundhog day.
Humans (and monkeys too, research from Rome has confirmed) like variety. You’ve heard the old adage “A change is as good as a rest”, the times when we are not doing school-dictated activity are a great opportunity to inject some variety for yourself as well as your children.
In the past I’ve talked often about the importance of allowing children to develop boredom, not to over-organise or over-structure their day-to-day lives, to allow their imaginations to flourish and increase the opportunities for free play. I’m going to suggest that at this point, our children have had plenty of opportunity for free-play and imagination this past twelve months. They’ve sadly had to occupy themselves apart from their peers, which makes free play and imagination so much harder. Right now, they probably need a bit of direction and support.
If you’re also trying to work from home, or are having to go out to work and juggle childcare (difficult to access at the moment) this can be particularly hard. However, I’d suggest that both you and your child need that emotional connection more than ever that you get from doing things together.
The ideas below for fun things to do in lockdown range from quick ideas you can use to inspire your children to go and do alone, to more complex activities that you will need to do together. There are indoor and outdoor activities and ideas targeting younger children as well as older. There is bound to be something to suit you.
Indoor things to do in lockdown
Are those big boxes of Lego or other building blocks gathering dust in the corner? Sometimes all the children need is a bit of inspiration. Whether you search for “Fun things to make with Lego” (producing results like this) or you set a “build the longest bridge” type challenge. To really get them engaged, even older kids will value having you sit and build with them as they get started. Once their imagination is in full flow, you can nip off to make a cup-of-tea and they won’t even notice you’ve gone. Unless of course, you’re having so much fun that you want to stay and play!
Hide and seek or sardines
Easy to play and a lot of fun, though better with more players so best for a large family. We all know how to play Hide and Seek. In Sardines, one person hides, then as each player finds them, they have to squeeze into the same hiding place.
A great (if messy) craft for all ages. A quick internet search will reveal tons of inspiring ideas and you can always make something that fits into whatever your child is interested in, from dinosaur eggs to frog pots, from spooky castles to fairy palaces. This easy and cheap craft requires patience as you wait for layers to dry before adding the next bit, but the results can be spectacular.
Salt dough crafts
Another craft that requires virtually nothing in the way of material (just flour, salt and water, and some paints to finish off). You can create decorations, wall plaques or even doll-house food!
Raid the recycle bin to create some amazing creations: from monster robots to castles, egg box crocodiles to space rockets and milk carton cities.
This is definitely a win-win activity. Not only do you keep a little person very busy, teach them measuring skills, food hygiene and the importance of cleaning up after themselves, but you also get a tasty treat to eat at the end of all the fun!
If your child loves to read, then they will always be looking for something to mark their place in their book. A bookmark making activity is both practical and fun. Whether you go down the origami route, drawing and laminating, or sewing using binca or felt, there will be a bookmark activity to suit you and your kids.
We can’t go to the cinema at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the experience. Choose a great movie you all want to watch, dim the lights, put up the volume and snuggle down with a bowl of popcorn each.
The Scouts have been inspiring children and guiding them through learning skills for life in hands-on activities for over a Century. Where better to turn for some great ideas for our children during lock-down. Scouts – The Great Indoors is a great collection of activities curated by The Scouts during the first lockdown. Even better – you might consider joining your local Scout Group (for boys and girls 6-18), many have been offering online Scouting throughout the pandemic as well as outdoor activities whenever restrictions allow.
“Let’s go Live” and other Science experiments
There are lots of Science experiments and activities to do at home floating around the internet. Some require a bit of preparation and equipment, others are a bit easier to manage. An example is here on Good Housekeeping, or here on ScienceFun.org. To get really inspired though, I would highly recommend “Let’s Go Live“, with Maddie and Greg on YouTube. They present a fun video introducing a scenario, the Science and a lot of fun each week.
Board Games and Card Games
Yes, it’s time to get the Board Games and Card games out. You’ll often need to do these with your children to begin with, while you teach them how to play and how to both win and lose gracefully!
You don’t have to go out and buy a whole load of fancy-dress costumes. A selection of hats, bags, scarves, and access to mum or dad’s wardrobe will provide a wealth of fun! A challenge to “see who can wear the strangest costume” is a great way to get things started.
Making things in miniature
There are many great things about making things in miniature, but I’ll be honest, some of my favourites are that they don’t use up much material and the projects don’t take up a lot of space! An internet search for “mini crafts for kids” reveals some lovely ideas from mini books to tiny polymer clay animals. Model railway scenery or dollhouse or fairy garden accessories also fall firmly into this category.
I’m a big fan of playdough. Not only is it fun, encourages creativity and imagination along with literacy skills as the child tells you what they are making, but it also builds up those motor skills and hand-eye coordination which are so important as children begin to write. Here’s my recipe for home-made playdough: Mix 1 cup of plain flour, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup salt, 2tbsp veg oil, 2tbsp cream of tartare and food colouring in a saucepan over a medium heat. Keep stirring as it turns from liquid to a dryish doughy mix. This mix will keep well if covered.
This is an excellent STEM challenge for older challenge. There are a host of paper aeroplane instructions out there for lots of different aeroplane shapes. Challenge your child or children to experiment with plane types, paper weight and size to find the best paper aeroplane in the following categories – paper plane that flies furthest, flies fastest, and is most acrobatic.
Technically this could be an indoor or an outdoor activity, but I’ve put it here because people often overlook the potential for water play indoors. Kitchen’s can usually be mopped, or the bath is a great place to contain water. Whether this is a toddler just having a good splash and pouring water from one container to another, or an older child creating miniature boats, or finding a way to move water uphill, there’s something for everybody here.
Recycle box aquarium
This is one of the simplest ideas, and yet will not only occupy a rainy afternoon, but also creates something that can look great! Cut one side out of a cereal box. Paint the outside. Decorate the inside to look like an aquarium, then hang your fish from the top so they “swim”. Fantastic!
Children LOVE painting and there are lots of reasons why it’s a valuable activity for them to do. You can read a summary here at the Innovation Kids Lab. When my children were small I tended to get them to paint at an easel outdoors where possible, or in the kitchen with no clothes on! As they got older, we had two types of paint – poster paints required table covering, aprons, and cleaning up together. I also bought one of those tins of water colour tablets each for them (cheap and easy to get hold of). These are a lot less messy and meant that the children could paint whenever they wanted to. Now, aged 10 and 11, they have access to a whole range of paints and are confident to both use them, and clean up after themselves!
Microwave mug cakes and armpit fudge
We’ve already talked about baking, but these are super-easy, super-quick, minimal equipment baking wonders. Here are 34 different mug-cake recipes from Country Living Magazine. Armpit fudge is one that sounds disgusting, but the kids will adore squishing all the ingredients together in a zip-lock bag under their arm and then digging in for a sweet-treat. Full instructions here at www.mum-friendly.co.uk.
I know, right? This is a radical idea. My eleven year-old still seems surprised when I expect him to help out around the house, despite the fact that we’ve been doing it since he was a toddler. However, the importance of teaching children life skills, and the self-esteem they get from being useful can’t be overestimated. In addition, doing housework together is more fun!
Dance contest or Zumba
Some kids just love to move and there’s no reason why this can’t happen in lockdown. Dance mats and the software to run them are available for most games consoles, but you could also play videos of dance routines or Zumba to join in with, some are designed specifically to be child-friendly, or just put the music on loud and jump and dance around the room together like crazy.
Outdoor things to do in lockdown
Getting outdoors is more important than ever. When you are cooped up in the same four walls day after day, little niggles soon become big irritations. Getting some fresh air and exercise will make everybody feel better. However, current guidance restricting travel for exercise, even a trip to the Gruffalo Trail at the local nature reserve is advised against. Try some of these activities instead:
A way to make a walk more fun and increase observation skills. Take a list of things to spot on your daily walk around the block. This might include: somebody walking a dog, somebody with a push-chair, a red front door, a car from another country, somebody on a bike, snowdrops or crocuses. Tick them off together as you find them.
The current rules state that playparks remain open primarily for those children who do not have their own garden. You can take your child to a playpark for exercise, but you should not socialise with other people while there.
A bug hunt in the garden is a great way to get the children closer to nature in your own back garden and requires no equipment. At this time of year, the bugs are hiding away, so it’s quite challenging.
Get a pack of chalks and draw on the walls or paving slabs outside (it will all wash away in the rain). Younger children will just enjoy making marks with a different medium, while older children can really exercise their artistic talents – there are some lovely ideas here and here.
Build a nest
This activity really gets children thinking about how amazing birds are. Make a bird nest using only natural materials. Here are the instructions.
Feed the birds
This is the time of year when birds are most in need of a helping hand. The insects are still hidden away for the winter, seeds are becoming scarce and mating and nesting is underway using up a lot of birdie energy. Whether filling up bought bird feeders or making your own feeders from pipe-cleaners and Cheerios, from empty plastic bottlesor from toilet roll tubes.
Create frozen suncatchers
Frozen suncatchers will get your little ones thinking about the weather, and also about the natural materials around them. Find the instructions here.
With a free version of the Geocaching app, this is basically a free global treasure hunt! Just create an account and you could soon be spicing up your walks by searching for and finding caches hidden on your route.
Knife crime is reaching horrific rates, with more than 35,000 knife offences recorded between March 2019 and March 2020. Rather than trying to keep our young people away from knives, we need to 1) give them confidence to tackle conflict in peaceful ways and 2) teach them that knives are useful tools to be handled safely, rather than weapons. Some great advice on types of knife, safety and inks to appropriate videos and books, can be found on the fabulous Get Out With the Kids.
As a Scout Leader, I love teaching children to light fires. First, you teach the theory and the safety – how to do the activity safely, when to light fires and when not to, adult supervision, where to light fires, extinguishing fires safely etc. For beginners, lighting a match and lighting a candle is challenge enough. Then progress on to learning about different types of kindling and fuel, and how to construct and build a fire. Just collecting wood is an activity in itself! As they get more experienced, you can look at lighting fires without using a match, trying out flint and steel, rubbing two sticks and the like.
A bike ride is a brilliant way to keep fit and explore the area where you live. Work out a safe cycle route, with as few roads as possible (or very quiet ones) and get out exploring on two wheels.
Place Kindness Rocks
Painting rocks is a lovely creative activity. You can either paint images, turn your rock into a whimsical creature, or decorate your rock with a kind and inspiring quote. On your next walk, place these inspiring rocks for others to find on their walks, and spread a little love and happiness.
There are so many reasons to garden with children that I could write a whole blog post about it (and I might!). From engaging senses, linking with nature, learning where food comes from, motor skills, vocabulary and more, spending time engaged in active work outdoors is really fulfilling and doing it together gives time to chat and spend time together.
Going for a walk, even somewhere familiar, suddenly becomes more interesting and exciting if you go out in the dark. The use of a torch is fun by itself, but try switching the torches off and see how your eyesight adjusts to the lower light levels and how your brain compensates by intensifying your other senses of smell and hearing. You might even be lucky enough to spot more interesting wildlife such as bats, owls, foxes, hedgehogs or badgers that you wouldn’t see in daylight.
Create a “percussion wall”
Hang various old pans, wooden spoons and pipes and tubes from a wall, fence or tree in your garden to make a space where noise-making is encouraged and celebrated.
Before sunset gets too late for the little ones, take the opportunity to spend some time looking at the stars. On a cloudless night, find the darkest place you can, away from street lights if possible – just a few miles out into the country makes all the difference, if restrictions allow. Take a deckchair or blanket so you can lie down, and snuggle down into a sleeping bag or more blankets and check out the stars. There are plenty of apps out there such as Star Chart or StarGazing that can tell you what you are looking at. If you have a telescope or binoculars, you can examine the moon and stars more closely. Keep warm with a hot chocolate.
How often do your children get involved with photography aside from daft selfies? Encourage them to broaden their photography horizons with a winter picture challenge. Any camera will do. Whether its getting up close to a dew-spangled spider-web, or taking photos of a hare in a snowy field, winter holds some fascinating scenes for those who take the trouble to frame a shot.
Outdoor noughts and crosses
So quick and easy to create, this can provide a quick activity for children to do together or with you at any time. Paint pebbles in two different ways (I love this bumble bee and ladybird idea from Red Ted Art). A 3 x 3 grid painted on a paving slab or log slice creates the playing zone.
Winter BBQ or cooking on an open fire
Following on from the firelighting activity earlier comes the liberating activity of cooking on fire. Reaching back through the mists of time to prepare food just the way your ancestors did (or just toasting marshmallows on sticks!), is a fun and creative activity and creates a whole new taste adventure. Look up “Backwoods cooking recipes” or “cooking on open fire” for some great suggestions.
Stick sword fight
So often in our risk-averse world we tell children to “put that stick down” or “watch out” and “be careful!”. Wouldn’t it be great to take the brakes off and allow them to stick fight – or better yet, join in with them too!
Local area exploration
Are your children often ferried in the car from activity to activity? This is particularly true for families in rural areas and you may have found that your “daily exercise” in lockdown has been the first time you’ve roamed your neighbourhood footpaths and byways. It’s always fun to take time to “see where this goes” or follow a coin-toss adventure (at every junction toss a coin – heads = right, tails = left) to see where you end up.
I hope that you’ve found some great ideas for things to do in lockdown with your children at this time of year, despite the weather and the covid restrictions. I’ll be writing in more detail about some of these activities in future posts, so do keep coming back for more. I’d also love you to comment your own ideas of activities you’ve been doing with the children this Spring.