Simple ideas to keep children under five entertained during lockdown

As we navigate our way through another lockdown, EIMEAR HUTCHINSON shares some ideas on what you can do with your younger children
Simple ideas to keep children under five entertained during lockdown

A Generic stock photo of a child painting. See PA Feature FAMILY Art Therapy. Picture credit should read: iStock/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FAMILY Art Therapy.

ANYONE got a dose of déjà vu like I have?! The first time we went into a hard-core lockdown back in March, it felt like there were ideas for things to do to pass the time for both adults and kids bursting out of every corner of the internet.

However, some of that initial enthusiasm seems to have gone now, even poor old Joe Wicks is down to three days a week rather than five, so I thought it might be useful for some to have a quick fire list of activities to draw upon especially for the younger ages.

My older two (aged 6 and 8) are, generally speaking, kept busy without much input from me, apart from home schooling, they are happy to read, play with lego, one is teaching herself the piano and the other is kept busy finding tiny objects around the house to put under the new microscope Santa got her — isn’t he the clever man!

My younger girls, one in Montessori, the other just wild, were fine to potter around last time round, to play or just spend the day under my feet, but this time round I feel could benefit from some more structured activities than before. 

So here are some simple ideas to keep kids under the age of five entertained, some more suitable for younger ages and some suitable for the whole family.

Younger kids can have so much fun just splashing and playing in the bath. Picture: Stock
Younger kids can have so much fun just splashing and playing in the bath. Picture: Stock

SPLASH TIME...

Run a bath, it does not matter if it’s only 10am, my two would spend hours in it pouring water from one container to another, washing dolls hair and splashing.

BUBBLE BUBBLE...

Playing with bubbles is probably an activity best played outside but it’s one we all knock great fun out of. We have the giant bubbles which are tricky to get right so usually involve an adult to supervise and help but they are great fun.

Eimear even gets her two year old involved in snack, lunch and dinner prep.
Eimear even gets her two year old involved in snack, lunch and dinner prep.

BAKE OFF...

Get them involved in food prep, I bake simple fork biscuits or scones with my four year old, she is able to pour in the ingredients, mix, and roll the dough into shapes so it passes plenty of time.

I often get the two-year-old to get involved in snack, lunch and dinner prep, I chop veg and get her to put the peelings into a bowl to be thrown in the compost.

EXPERIMENT...

They aren’t too young for science — I love the ‘milk experiment’ where you pour a little bit of milk in a plate and put a few drops of food colouring into the milk. Put a little bit of washing up liquid on the tip of a cotton bud and place it in the middle of the dot of food colouring and be prepared to be amazed. A nice simple activity that you can leave them at for ages.

Make sure to get out for some exercise, within your 5km. Picture: Stock
Make sure to get out for some exercise, within your 5km. Picture: Stock

EXERCISE...

Take a ball and practise kicking it, throwing it to each other and running around. I find my older ladies are able for bikes and hurling outdoors but my two-year-old can feel a little lost and subsequently grumpy if I don’t have activities for her to do with me outside. Use a tennis ball one day and maybe a big foam ball the next.

MAKING ‘MUSIC’...

Get out the pots and pans and a wooden spoon and tell them to go for it, you may need a large glass of wine afterwards but mine jump at the chance to be loud.

FINE MOTOR SKILLS...

If you have any pipe cleaners, a simple activity to work on those fine motor skills is to get them to thread pieces of penne pasta onto it — if you want it to be a bit trickier, try it with macaroni.

REINVENT AN OLD GAME

Play hide and seek using something large like a teddy that is relatively easy to find so that they don’t get bored and give up too quickly.

A BUDDING PICASSO...

I love the idea of painting but when my four sit down to paint and one of them has a page slathered in paint quicker than I can blink, I end up with about 40 pages of wet artwork to hang and a lot of cleaning up to do after.

I don’t mind the mess (usually!) but a clever idea for smaller kids is to get a ziplock bag and put some blobs of paint inside in different areas, let the air out then seal the bag and let you toddler use their fingers to push the paint around inside the bag. 

A nice clean yet creative activity.

Even though I am fairly averse to routine at the best of times, there is no denying it suits everyone in this household. I wouldn’t say every hour of the day is accounted for but it’s nice to have one big activity planned to fill the morning time and another for the afternoon.

And don’t forget there are lots of nice educational programmes on TV too so don’t discount those as another way for them to learn, and give you a few minutes to grab a hot cup of coffee!

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