From arts and crafts to dance classes, 20 free ways to entertain the kids at home during lockdown 3.0.
By Annie Hayes
With new lockdown measures in place, schools across the country have closed and many have switched to remote learning in the interim. For the nation’s parents, this means finding new ways to keep the children entertained during long winter days at home.
We’ve pulled together 20 creative (and free) ways to fire up your kid’s imagination – from arts and crafts to exercise activities – leaving you more time to work from home, catch up on life admin or simply take a breather. Follow our tips to keep kids of all ages busy during lockdown:
- Learn to draw
Draw With Rob is a draw-along video series by children’s author and illustrator Rob Biddulph. Every week he chooses a character, such as an alligator, dragon or alien – often from one of his books, though not always – and demonstrates how to draw it, step-by-step. Each video is around half an hour long, and all they need is a paper and pencil.
- Tackle an indoor adventure
Globe-trotting adventurer Bear Grylls – the UK’s youngest ever Chief Scout – teamed up with Scouts UK to launch The Great Indoors initiative, a collection of more than 100 activities that children can tackle indoors. It’s packed with creative ideas, from constructing a telescope to designing a football shirt or learning macramé.
- Practice yoga
Cosmic Kids shares interactive yoga adventures, mindfulness lessons and relaxation techniques for kids of all ages. No two episodes are the same – each has its own storyline, from Pokemon and Minecraft themes to farmyard and dinosaur backdrops. There are a huge range of classes to choose from, lasting from less than 10 minutes to an hour.
- Get moving
Personal trainer Joe Wicks – AKA The Body Coach – is bringing his hugely popular online PE lessons back for 2021. Designed especially for children, the live YouTube sessions will run 09:00 GMT every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Can’t get enough? The virtual sessions from last years’ lockdown are still on there, too.
- Tune into story time
Last year, Save The Children asked some of the world’s most famous faces to read a whole host of children’s books for our viewing pleasure. From Kate Winslet reading The Cat in the Hat to Eddie Redmayne’s rendition of Zog, there are 75 stories to choose from, all available on YouTube.
- Try a Lego challenge
The Lego challenge is a printable calendar containing themed tasks for every day of the month. Kids can let their imagination run wild with all manner of Lego creations, from hospitals and rollercoasters to an unbreakable safe in a bank. If they’ve already completed the 30-day challenge, there’s also a 31-day challenge with new prompts.
- Make origami animals
Keeping kids entertained doesn’t have to cost a bomb. A piece of paper is all they need to bring their favourite animals to life in origami form. There are a variety of designs to choose from on Origami Way, including fish, bats, butterflies and frogs. Bonus points if they colour them in afterwards.
- Visit Google Art and Culture
On Google Art and Culture, kids can orchestrate their very own animated blob opera, experience a space shuttle take-off made using 360° virtual reality (no headsets required), or take a virtual tour of museums and galleries, including the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in New York City.
- Cook up a storm
Make lunchtime fun with Jamie Oliver, who has dedicated part of his website to child-friendly recipes. Under your watchful eye, they can whip up speedy snacks from scratch, make their own fish fingers, flavour their own frozen yoghurt, and much more. You could even host your own family Bake Off, splitting into teams and tackling set challenges.
- Build a bird feeder
Head to the National Trust website for nature-inspired ideas, such as making a bird feeder from recycled materials. All you need is a plastic bottle, toilet roll or chipped cup. Once complete, hang it up somewhere close by, and make note of the birds that pay it a visit.
- Go on a scavenger hunt
Make a walk in nature more engaging by turning it into a scavenger hunt. Learning Resources has a free printable sheet with 50 objects for your child to tick off, including tree stumps, dandelions, berries and more. There’s no rush to complete the sheet in one outing, so try visiting different (local) areas each time you go out to cover them all. CLICK HERE
- Try creative writing
Again, all you need is a paper and a pen for this one. Spend some time brainstorming characters, settings, and plot ideas with your child. Once they’ve written their masterpiece, help them create an eBook on Book Creator. They can add images, pick the font, draw pictures, insert videos and even record their own voice.
- Watch wildlife remotely
The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California streams of a number of its tanks and enclosures, so your child can watch leopard sharks, sea otters and penguins in real-time (though not all in the same habitat, thankfully). Tune into a narrated feeding every weekday at 10.30am, 11am and 1.30pm Pacific Time.
Similarly, San Diego Zoo has live cameras showing the activity in its baboon, platypus, hippo, giraffe, and tiger enclosures – and more besides. If you don’t like the idea of watching captive animals and would rather see them roaming free, tune into the watering hole at Mpala Research Centre in the highlands of central Kenya.
- Try astronomy
Gazing up at the stars is fascinating, educational, and totally free. Chilly winter nights are ideal for observing the skies. Keep track of meteor showers, planet movements and moon phases through the Time and Date website, or download a stargazing app to identify the constellations. CLICK HERE
- Get crafty
Arts and crafts aren’t limited to painting and colouring. Build a solar-powered paper house, make a unicorn bath bomb from scratch, or DIY your own musical instruments on Left Brain Craft Brain, which seeks to inspire young engineers, one craft at a time. CLICK HERE
- Do a science experiment
You don’t need a science lab to experiment at home. Build an insect hotel, create a baking soda volcano, or turn a potato into a battery with the PrepScholar blog. Alternatively, you can mummify a hotdog, create a tornado in a bottle, or fashion a pair of working model lungs by following instructions from We Are Teachers.
- Create a scrapbook
Scrapbooking is a fun way to record memorable moments. To get started, all you need is a blank book, some colouring pens and pencils, glue sticks, and maybe some coloured card, felt or glitter. You could encourage them to take pictures to stick into their scrapbook, or pick some flowers to press into it.
- Learn to dance
Bring the party to your living room with Kidz Bop, a YouTube channel packed with dance-along videos and step-by-step tutorials. The dances are performed by kids, for kids – and often to chart hits, so they’re likely to know the words already.
- Art recycling project
From tin can wind chimes to papier-mâché plant pots, there’s a potential art collection tucked away in your recycling bin. Simply empty your bins and see what you can build with whatever’s inside.
- Set up an obstacle course
This works best if you’ve got a garden, but those without can improvise. You could have your child do 10 jumping jacks, throw beanbags into a laundry basket, crawl under a row of chairs, or follow a string tightrope on the ground. Alternatively, you could host your own Olympic Games.
- Have a go at gardening
You don’t need an outside space to foster an interest in gardening. Aspiring green-fingered kids can learn to regrow celery and corn in a dish, build a simple terrarium, or grow sunflower seeds from the kitchen, as guided by Gillian on YouTube channel Life Hacks For Kids.