With lockdown looming once again, families across England will be spending more time together at home this month than usual.
Although schools are staying open, there are still plenty of hours to fill once they come home and at the weekend.
FEMAIL has pulled together 20 ideas on how to keep children entertained, from indoor crafting ideas to creative ways to get them outside.
The tips range from ones that can be done online, like exploring a museum through a virtual tour, to art projects like making a picture using autumn leaves.
There are also details for groups, social media accounts and public organisations that are offering parents vital resources for free during this difficult time.
GET CREATIVE INDOORS
1. Make your own puzzle
DIY puzzles: Cut up a picture (or use this one above) to make a jigsaw for your little ones
UK website Learning Resources is full of fun, easy activities to occupy children of all ages. One great idea is to create your own puzzle for your little one by cutting up an A4 size picture and asking them to put the pieces back together.
This could be done with a favourite TV or book character, or even a photo of the outside of your house.
To get you started, there is a free puzzle sheet that can be downloaded and printed here.
2. Create artwork using autumn leaves
Bursting with colour: Anya, who runs the Instagram account @montessorifromtheheart and accompanying blog, shows how just one or two autumn leaves collected from the garden, park or street outside can be used to create stunning artwork with your little ones
Anya, who runs the Instagram account @montessorifromtheheart and accompanying blog, shows how just one or two autumn leaves collected from the garden, park or street outside can be used to create stunning artwork with your little ones.
What you need:
How to do it:
Take a leaf and put it between two sheets of white paper
Use the crayons to colour over the leaf
The outline of the leaf will emerge, giving you a piece of autumnal artwork
4. Take a virtual trip to the museum
Explore from home: Many museums, art galleries and public spaces will be closing their doors, but that doesn’t mean their treasures are lost. Families can take virtual tours of museums and galleries, including the Natural History Museum in London (pictured)
Many museums, art galleries and public spaces will be closing their doors, but that doesn’t mean their treasures are lost.
Families can take virtual tours of museums and galleries, including the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in New York City, thanks to Google Art and Culture.
One of the highlights is Britain’s Natural History Museum, which offers virtual self-guided tour of the galleries, an interactive experience about Hope the blue whale and audio guides narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
The stunning visuals will keep your little ones entertained – and there are plenty of interesting facts to pick up along the way, too.
5. Learn how to draw
Drawing is a perfect indoor activity because all it needs is some paper and crayons, pens or pencils, which you’re likely to already have at home.
But if you’re looking for a little more inspiration, why not pick up an issue of The Phoenix Comic, an engaging weekly comic for girls and boys aged 7-14 that gets them away from screens and gets them reading, learning and being creative.
Every issue of the Phoenix is packed with brilliant stories, amazing artwork, puzzles, how-to-draw guides, and tutorials, like this easy step-by-step guide on how to draw different body shapes.
Step-by-step: Drawing is a perfect indoor activity because all it needs is some paper and crayons, pens or pencils, which you’re likely to already have at home. Above, a guide from The Phoenix Comic, an engaging comic for girls and boys aged 7-14
6. Try your hand at creative writing
Experts at PlanBee, an online resource centre run by former primary school teachers, said: ‘Engaging your child in creativity by planning and writing a story is a great way to embed some learning in a relaxed way. Ask children to pick a main character, a setting and a special object (such as a magic key, a treasure map, a broken lamp or a buried time capsule) and let their imaginations run riot!
‘Once they have finished their stories, there are lots of ways to present them to the world too. They could stick with the good old traditional pen and paper method, or try creating an eBook. Book Creator is a great free app for this.
7. Record a family music video
The Studio Creator set (£24.99) from Canal Toys allows children and teenagers to explore creating their own custom videos.
Everything you need to make your content look more professional is inside the box, including a an adjustable tripod to hold your smartphone; an LED ring light and a 24-page guidebook full of script ideas, essential checklists and hints and tips.
‘Children can create their own books, adding photos, images, drawing pictures, writing text, inserting videos or even recording their own voice! They can then publish their books once they’ve finished.
Practical tip: When challenging children to write a story, use the ‘Somebody Wanted But Then So’ model for their basic plan which they can then flesh out.
For example, SOMEBODY (a space ranger) WANTED (to save the world from an evil alien lord) BUT (their space ship broke down) SO (they hitched a ride with a friendly alien) THEN (they made it just in time to destroy the evil alien lord).
8. Watch a documentary – for free
Dr Amanda Gummer, the founder of the Good Play Guide and expert in child psychology, previously told FEMAIL: ‘Documentaries such as the Blue Planet or Stargazing are great family viewing that can spark conversations and even family projects.’
Fortunately many of these are available on streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, which is free as long as the household has a TV licence.
To continue the family time, ask your children questions after the film has finished to help explore any issues.
9. Dive under the sea with an aquarium cam
Under the sea: Holidays overseas might be out of the question at the moment but the wonders of the deep are still just a click away thanks to live and recorded video streams. One of our favourites is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in California, with its vibrant jellyfish (pictured)
Holidays overseas might be out of the question at the moment but the wonders of the deep are still just a click away thanks to live and recorded video streams offered by aquariums around the world.
One of our favourites is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in California, which offers streams of a number of its tanks and enclosures, featuring sharks, jellyfish and turtles.
10. Make your own Christmas decorations
From snowflakes cut from A4 to paper chains, now is the perfect time of year to get your little ones involved in making Christmas decorations.
These can be put in the window, on the tree, or can be strung up around the house.
11. Dust off your board games
Board games are a great way to bring the whole family together, no matter how old your children are.
If you have toddlers, why not try something like the Bear’s Dominoes (£23.50), which ,encourage kid’s creativity and develop their concentration, imagination and hand-eye coordination.
With slightly older children you can enjoy classics like Cluedo, Monopoly and Scrabble, or newer family favourites like Linkee.
For something a bit different, try Trapped (£12.99), which turns any room in your home into an escape room and allows you to compete virtually with other households – perfect for families who are far apart.
FOR PAPER SNOWFLAKES
What you need:
- Paper (make sure it is square). You can trim a piece of regular A4 paper so that it is square.
- Scissors (to be used by you if your children are too small)
What to do:
- Fold your square in half diagonally.
- Fold your triangle in half – again diagonally.
- Fold paper in thirds … one side to the front, the other to the back.
- Trim the extra piece of paper off the end of your small triangle.
- Around the outside of your triangle, cut some fun designs
- Unfold your paper to reveal your winter masterpiece
12. Try an online class – for free!
Lots of businesses running after-school and weekend clubs have been forced to move online as they deal with the coronavirus restrictions.
However many have been quick to adapt to the change and are offering online classes, with many being streamed for free.
The Facebook group Online Classes For Kids became a hub for virtual classes during the first lockdown, sharing links to free online classes and workshops, and is doing the same this time around.
Some classes are available for families to stream whenever they want – giving parents a much-needed immediate release for energetic children – but the majority of classes take place at regularly scheduled times.
This has the benefit of giving structure to your day or weekend, you can make sure children get dressed and ready for the class as they would normally, only they are staying indoors for the session.
13. Have a family bake off
On your marks, get set, bake! Families can bond in the kitchen while baking. Stock image
Cooking and baking with children is a great way to introduce them to different foods and get them involved in the kitchen.
To add to the fun, why not suggest a family bake off, with parents and children dividing into teams. You could even do kids vs adults if your little ones are old enough!
Try choosing a recipe all together and then diving off to make the cookies. The challenge will add an element of friendly competition to the day.
If your kids are still too young to cook on their own then bake alongside them, asking them to do simple tasks like pouring flour or helping to use the scales.
14. Check in on animals at the zoo (without leaving home)
You’re going to the zoo! World renowned San Diego Zoo is thousands of miles away for many British families, but you are still able to ‘visit’ thanks to a number of animals cameras set up across the sprawling site. Pictured, the entrance to the California zoo
World renowned San Diego Zoo is thousands of miles away for many British families, but you are still able to ‘visit’ thanks to a number of animals cameras set up across the sprawling site.
Highlights include the koala cam, polar bear cam and tiger cam, which will offer children the chance to see some of their favourite animals.
There are also handy activities, crafts and colouring pages available for free on the zoo’s website, making it a one-stop shop for a day full of animal-themed activities.
ACTIVITIES TO ENJOY OUTDOORS
15. Look up at the stars (no equipment needed)
Natural wonders: Going stargazing is an amazing winter activity – just remember to wrap up!
David Scotland from family-run camping retailer, Outdoor World Direct, said: ‘Astronomy is a fantastic winter activity you can do from your own garden.
‘The darker skies make for better astronomical viewing, at less unsociable hours of the night too. While a telescope and binoculars offer unrivalled views of the moon, planets and stars, there is still fun to be had with little to no equipment.
16. Head out on a nature scavenger hunt
Nature walks are anything but boring because there’s so much to do and see. Whether it’s finding a long piece of grass, an object shaped like a circle, or keeping your eyes peeled for spotting wildlife, website Learning Resources has a free printable sheet with 50 objects to spot or collect, and tick off your list.
Even if your child doesn’t find everything the first time around, keep it for your next nature walk. Download your free printable here and head out to the park, the woods or the beach.
Spot a squirrel: On a nature scavenger hunt
‘There are plenty of apps that use AR technology to help you identify constellations when stargazing too. If it’s a particularly cold night, why not get a sleeping bag to snuggle up in while observing the skies.’
17. Build a fairy house
Encourage imagination by building a ‘fairy house’ in the garden, park or even on the base of a tree on your street.
Gather materials from hedgerows, parks and flowerbeds to create a tiny home for imaginary creatures.
Get creative by adding touches like a carpet (moss) and a washbasin (an upturned shell).
18. Walk a little, every day
The weather is getting colder and the nights are getting longer but it is still important to try and get your little ones outside for a little bit every day.
A good way to do this is to incorporate it into your daily routine. If your house is super organised in the morning then maybe you can find time for a quick 20-minute stroll before the school run.
Otherwise it might be a case of picking up your kids on foot (when it isn’t raining) or dropping the school bags off and heading back out as soon as they come home.
On rainy days wrap up in raincoats, grab an umbrella and dart out for a walk around the block or to the local park.
If you have welly boots – and can stand the mess – why not add to the fun with a puddle-jumping competition.
19. Build a den
Make the most of sunny autumn days by building a den in the back garden.
Hands-on and crafty parents will be able to whip one up using spare odds-and-ends lying around the house.
For the less practical, there are fantastic den-making kits like the ones sold by the Den Kit Company.
If you don’t have a garden (or it’s just too cold or wet outside), bring the den-making inside and use sofa cushions, old sheets or empty delivery boxes to build a fort in the front room.
20. Have fun with sticks
Outdoor explorers! There are plenty of ways to enjoy sticks found in the park and garden
The National Trust website is full of good ideas on how to entertain children outside during winter. One of our favourite activity pages is ‘Have Fun With Sticks’, which suggests ways to enjoy sticks you find lying around in the park, garden or street.
Create a trail
Gather up a number of sticks – the more unusual the better – and use them to create arrows that lead your family through a park or along a favourite nature walk. Sticks that are a striking colour or are patterned will stand out best.
Make a wand
Any stick can be transformed into a witch or wizard’s wand with just a touch of imagination. If you have a little more time, why not paint the stick to finish the effect.
Build a home for wildlife
Lots of tiny creatures love to have a dry, safe place that they can hide away in, so why not use sticks to create an insect hotel? Collect twigs, grass and other dead material from the ground like leaves to make yours.
Try to build your hotel in a tucked away spot where it will be safe and won’t be trampled upon.
101 Things For Kids to Do Screen Free by Dawn Isaac is published by Kyle Books, £14.99, www.octopusbooks.co.uk