Trying to think of ideas and games to constantly keep children entertained all day can be tiring - and expensive, especially if you have more than one! I have put together some of my favourite at home activities we do, that seem to work well.
It can be tricky if you have kids of differing ages like me. We are in week 15 for my house and I have nearly exhausted every idea I know...I am in the lucky position where my kids are no longer toddlers and don't need following about (although that doesn't mean they don't argue! I am still a daily referee). Every age comes with different issues though and I find that as the boys get older they are harder to engage with activities outdoors, whereas my daughter (age 9) is so easy to entertain.
Pinterest, Google, you name it, I've stalked it & tried it over the years in the search for peace & fun! Hope you like my ideas. Gemma
Quits possibly one of the most versatile and cheapest things for the garden. You can do a track for cars and go as elaborate as you like (think parking spaces & a motorway), a hopscotch board and even some creative pictures. Adults can join in too and show off their artistic talent!
Not a fan of a chalk patio or driveway? Chalkboard paint an old bit of wood, hang it on the fence and you have an area for your kids to play without spoiling the look of your nice clean patio!
The kids can water the chalk away or wait until it rains and start all over again to make some new designs.
Growing from seeds
Growing things from seeds is another relatively cheap activity. It takes time, so needs a little patience, but just needs seeds, light, air and water.
The fastest and easiest things to grow are probably cress and chives. This can be done even if you don't have a garden. You can use the shell of an egg and some cotton wool to grow cress. Click here for a link from the CBeebies show Mr Bloom's Nursery to get you started with a Cress Head. Kids love to make funny faces and trim their 'hair'. We have a limited number of free mini Cress Seed pouches available, if you would like one then please complete the subscribe form and click 'Seeds' on the home page!
You can even use an old yogurt pot, a small drinks bottle, anything from the plastic recycling cut up. Show us your pictures if you make anything cool this summer!
Kids love to get involved with planting and caring for their seeds, watching them grow is very satisfying. Watering the plants can be a good way to get them out in the garden on a nice day. Perhaps if you have space in a garden they might like to have their own little area where they could plant whatever they like? There are all kinds of things that they can plant, easy things like sunflowers, radishes, marigolds, tomatoes, pumpkins and carrots. They also get the fun of making little labels, watering, digging and caring for their own patch.
You can get seeds from most of the major supermarkets and places online like Ebay and Amazon. Sometimes grandparents will have lots in the shed and will happily let you have a selection to try.
If space is limited you could try a herb garden on your windowsill to start with. There is a great guide here from Gardeners.com on what to try.
Water play has always been a constant in our house. Right from the very beginning the kids love a bath and would always spend ages in there (normally surrounded by all kinds of bath toys, cups, empty bubble bottles that would clutter my bathroom up).
In young children, water play develops motor skills. Squirting, pouring, tipping etc, all helps build those skills like hand eye coordination and the gripping, pincer motion. Water play tables can be used in small spaces like balconies too.
As they grow up, water play also allows for practical discussions on floating and sinking. Thinking about what things weigh and are made from (these things all feed in to home science lessons you know!), it also helps to develop their vocabulary, think of all of the new words you can talk about together; drizzle, damp, sieve, flow, rippling, pouring!
In the good weather if they were bored I would give them a little bucket of water & a chunky paintbrush and let them 'paint' the fence/bath tiles/shower screen/patio. It all dries and they can spend ages 're-painting' and also practices their hand eye coordination (see how I get that in there). If you combine this with washing away the chalk pictures they make, well, you're on to a time winner! They are entertained for ages and clean up after themselves.
As my kids got older they moved away from the usual water play tables and decided my shallow kiddy pools were too boring. I ventured to the sprinkler, this is always fun, especially when it's set to freezing cold and they run through shrieking and water balloons for them to launch at each other. Very entertaining at a safe distance!
But then what do you do when they are all older like mine? A bigger paddling pool is the answer, if you are lucky enough to have the space, but even then how do you stop them from trying to drown each other after the novelty has worn off? Like any other space, you still have to entertain them or they will be bored. My biggest tip is scour the pound shops/supermarkets for cheap inflatables, because they don't last long! Don't spend a lot on floats because they are jumped on, wrestled with and will get punctured. Get a cheap inflatable ring to throw balls in, or rubber dive sticks that sink down to dive with (as modelled here by my daughter). They were a few pounds on Amazon and give hours of entertainment.
Above all, with any water play, remember supervision at all times is key. We will be doing a separate post on Summer safety soon.
There are plenty of benefits that you don't realise when your children play with bubbles, and they are quite cheap to get.
- Fine motor skills. Kids have the opportunity to practice pinching the skinny wand, coordinating two hands to hold the bottle and dip, holding the blower with a pencil-like grasp, opening and closing the bottle, and using hands in different ways to pop the bubbles (poke with index finger, “squeeze” to grab bubbles with the whole hand, use two hands to clap the bubbles).
- Visual tracking skills. Follow where the bubbles go. Some are fast and some are slow etc.
- Hand/eye coordination. It takes lots of practice to link up what the eyes and hands are doing to dip and blow with a wand.
- Sensory processing skills. Bubbles are wet, slimy and sticky. The physical act of blowing can be a very effective sensory-based way to help children “organise”, calm, and focus their bodies.
- Oral motor skills. Blowing bubbles is good exercise for little mouths, but it can be hard work! Bubble blowers (like the tube-shaped ones) are easier than bubble wands, and kids won’t inhale bubble solution if they decide to suck instead of blow out. Skinnier tube blowers are typically easier than chunky ones. Blowing at bubbles that have already been blown and are sitting on the end of the wand can also be easier than blowing through the wand.
- Social and communication skills. Kids can ask or sign for “more” and establish eye contact when doing so. And if playing in a group, they can practice taking turns and keeping personal space between their bodies so they don’t bump into or knock each other over.
- Gross motor skills. Blowing bubbles is an easy way to get kids to reach way up high, stand on their tip toes, squat down, jump, run, stomp etc.
- Following directions. You can give them directions on how to pop the bubbles with each turn (clap them, poke, squeeze, jump, etc).
- Identifying body parts. Pop with your finger, your elbow, your knee, or your nose!
- Speech skills. B and P sounds (those formed in the front of the mouth with the lips) are early speech sounds that are naturally used during bubble play. A few examples include “Bubbles!” “Bye-bye bubbles!” and “Pop!”
- Language and cognitive skills. You can teach toddlers and preschoolers how to understand and describe where the bubbles are and what they’re doing by pointing things out when they happen. “The bubbles are going up (or down)” “They’re going fast (or slow).” “There’s a bubble in front of (or behind) you.” “I see one next to you.” “There’s one above (or below) your head.” “It’s to your right (or left).” “That’s a really big (or little) bubble.” “Go pop the biggest (or smallest) bubble! Kids learn over 1500 different words a year! Did you ever think such a cheap and easy thing would be so useful?
A scavenger hunt is a good way to spend some time and explore your local area, venture further afield if you can, or even do one at home. It is a game spent collecting or spotting various miscellaneous objects, with an adventure feel.
We have created three BHPT scavenger hunts that you can download here. An indoor one, a walking community one and a outdoor green space one.
We hope you have lots of fun trying them. Click the link to download them and you can print off as many as you like to tick off when you see things, or save them to your phone and have it in your pocket when you go.