Here are 14 things for younger children (ages three to seven) to beat at-home boredom, plus activities that may keep them occupied for a little while on their own – well, long enough for you to check e-mails and place online shopping orders!
President Cyril Ramaphosa has been praised for his prudent announcements of the lockdown of our country as a result of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. For many parents that strikes fear into their hearts, especially those with younger kids who struggle to entertain themselves for longer periods of time.
Here are some ideas to keep inquisitive minds and busy bodies busy. In any one day, try to factor in chore time (making beds, washing up, picking up clothes), gross motor skills, fine motor skills, fresh air time and movement, plus all-important creative and quiet time.
1. Get building with little & big boxes
A bunch of boxes (from cereal and empty medicine boxes all the way up to larger boxes) and a roll of white painter’s tape and some sturdier packing tape can keep kids aged five to seven occupied for a good hour or so. Add some permanent markers or paint so they can decorate their creations and they’ll have a ball. Ideas of things they can make – robots, houses for dolls, cities (the boxes are buildings) and a den (bigger appliance boxes are amazing for this).
Great for: imaginative play, fine motor skills, teamwork.
2. Make & fly a kite
• 2 wooden dowels or sticks, about 90cm and 120cm long. The longer dowel is the spine of the kite and the shorter dowel is the crosspiece
• Plastic sheeting or recycled garbage bags
• Strong tape, such as packing tape or electrical tape
• Fishing line
Watch this ‘How To’ on making a simple kite
3. Make potions
Pick some leaves and a few flowers. Give kids a plastic container, a wooden spoon, some water and licence to dig in the dirt. Now let them loose on making their magic potions in the garden. Don’t forget a sunhat and sunscreen!
Great for: imaginative play, getting dirty (vitamin dirt is a thing!).
4. Pin the part on the person
This one takes a bit of input from you, the adult(s), but the learning and fun are ample reward. Lie your child down on a large piece of paper and trace their outline, then pin it on the wall. Now, hop on over to the Internet and print out images of body parts like eyes, ears, fingernails, knees, mouth, heart, lungs, tongue, nose … all the parts you can think of. Cut these parts out and start the fun. Younger kids will get a thrill out of naming and placing parts, while older kids will be so happy they can beat the clock and place all the body parts on the person within a set time.
Great for: learning about the body and organs and body-part functions.
5. Try some hammer time
Kids aged five years and older will love being handed a real (make sure it’s a lightweight one) hammer and nails. All you need now is a wooden plank (make sure it’s smooth to prevent splinters) and the ability to let go. They may well bash a finger or two but they’ll have a blast. Teach them how to guide the nail in with a tap or two while holding with their finger and then how to knock in a nail without using a finger as a guide.
Great for: hand-eye coordination, fine motor control.
6. Learn some pick-up tricks
You’ll need: plastic clothes pegs, small fluffy pompoms or crumpled pieces of tissue paper, large beads, plastic milk-bottle tops and a container.
Scatter pompoms or tissue-paper balls on a tray and get your kids to pick them up, sort them and pop them into a container. Make it a race if you like.
Great for: fine motor control, sorting like with like.
— Kitchener Primary (@KitchenerPS) May 22, 2018
7. Match the shape
You’ll need: a large piece of cardboard, coloured cards, markers, Prestik.
Cut various shapes (heart, triangle, star, square, rectangle, circle) out of different-coloured card, then draw corresponding shapes on the large piece of cardboard. Now stick a blob of Prestik in the centre of each shape (on the large card) and let the fun begin – hand out your cut-out shapes and get your kids to match with what’s on the large card.
Great for: naming the shapes and colours, fine motor control.
8. Enjoy a scavenger hunt
A game that can be played indoors and out and tailored according to abilities, ages or themes. If your children are learning about colour, get them to find a selection of items in one colour, or give them a random selection of items to find like sticks, stones and flowers.
Great for: naming items and expanding vocabulary, getting fresh air.
9. Paint sticks and pebbles
Look in the garden for smooth sticks (without thick bark) and pebble-shaped stones. Now let your kids paint them in whatever patterns that take their fancy.
Great for: creative play, fine motor control.
10. Create a nature table
A nature table is a time-honoured tradition for children to get up close and personal with their outdoor surrounds. It’s also a great way to factor in time outside as part of their everyday life and to create art projects around the treasures. Look out for stones, shells, leaves, sticks – anything from the natural world that catches their eye. Continue the learning at home by googling what you’ve discovered, then make name cards for the items and create art projects around them. Leaves make great stencils, for example.
Great for: encouraging observation, expanding vocabulary, outdoor play.
11. Learn to knit
Get little hands busy by teaching them to knit! If you don’t have a crafty granny on hand to teach your little ones, teach them (and yourself if you need to) by following an online tutorial.
Great for: quiet-time activities, fine motor control.
12. Listen to audiobooks
When it’s been a long day and you have had enough, there are always audiobooks – and what a joy they are for kids who can’t read, those who are learning to read and those who are already readers! Audiobooks let children discover the joy of the written word while letting their imaginations develop. Sign up with monthly audiobook subscription service Audible and dive into a world of inspiring children’s literature. (Note: Audible has plenty of free books at the moment!)
Great for: quiet time – for Mom and kids!
13. Make your own science school
We already know that bicarbonate of soda is an amazing cleaning product, but it’s also such fun for doing science ‘experiments’ with young children. How to make ‘jumping beans’: place some dried beans in a glass, add a heaped spoon of bicarbonate of soda, pour over some water and a drop of food colouring and watch things fizz. Now add a tablespoon of white vinegar and watch the beans go wild!
Great for: understanding cause and effect.
We love this YouTube channel for amazing age-appropriate science experiments for kids.
14. Experiment with rainbow rice
You’ll need: a plastic container, white rice, white vinegar, gel food colouring, paper plates, rubber toys and plastic trinkets, Measure 2 cups of rice and place into container, add 2 tsp vinegar, then add food colouring. Place the container lid on and shake well, then spread on a paper plate to dry. Repeat the process until you have your rainbow colours. The coloured rice takes about an hour to dry. Encourage sensory play using funnels, small containers, spoons and little jugs – hide toys and trinkets in the rice for kids to dig out.
Great for: cause-and-effect play, sensory play.
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