We're into the third year of the pandemic now and though life is getting back to normal there are still days we find ourselves at home – be it due to rainy weather or perhaps due to COVID-19 quarantine.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered together some of the best things you can do with the kids at home – from puzzles and crafts to audiobooks and photography.
Check out our list for some inspiration, and scroll to the end for some expert tips.
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Make your own ice cream
Home-made ice cream maker, £33.99, Amazon
This is such a fun idea! You can make your own fruit sorbets and ice creams at home in just 15-25 minutes with this cool little machine. There are plenty of recipes online or you could even go that extra mille and get a copy of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and dessert recipe book.
Introduce them to photography
Kidzoom duo camera, £39.99, Amazon
Literally hours of fun can be had at home if you invest in a toy camera. They can practice their portrait skills or even take some arty shots of the cat. This camera is a great first digital camera – it’s durable and easy to use and has rear and front cameras so they can take selfies. It also features movie recording and voice recording with five different voice effects.
Have some stress-free, safe screen time
Pebble Gear Mickey & Friends tablet, £94.53, Amazon
As long as you're factoring in other activities, a bit of screen time is fine - especially if it's doing something educational rather than just staring at YouTube videos.
Pebble Gear's Mickey and Friend's tablet is a great option for three to eight-year-olds - and it's one you can just leave them to enjoy while you get on with other things, completely safe in the knowledge they won't end up watching something inappropriate or accidentally buy something in-app while you're not keeping watch.
With it, kids get access to 500+ games, ebooks & learning apps, all free for the first 12 months and there's no way they can access anything unsuitable. It's also drop and splash-proof and has robust parental controls so you have complete control over which apps and features they can use and how long they can use the tablet for. Oh, and it has Disney content included! Perfect.
Introduce them to coding
ImagiLabs imagiCharm: coding accessory, £65, Amazon
Coding is the future. It's a valuable skill that the next generation need to get on board with - especially our girls, who are still underrepresented in the areas of tech and business. It's up to us to change that! The imagiCharm is a great interactive STEM toy that will introduce kids to coding in Python - one of the fastest-growing coding languages in the world. They learn using an app with interactive tutorials, how to program the imagiCharm - a device which features an 8x8 matrix of LED lights that can be visually customised to display tens of thousands of different designs - such as flowers, rising suns and animals - based on the coding they inputs into the app. Kids can share their designs with friends or with the wider imagiLabs community of aspiring coders. The possibilities are endless!
Get digging for gems
National Geographic Ultimate Gemstone Dig Kit, £36.95, Amazon
This cool kit will have the kids digging and exploring for hours! The extra-large dig brick has 20 gemstones hidden inside, which they excavate using the included dig tool and brush and then get a close-up view of each with the magnifying glass. The kit includes a learning guide which provides fascinating facts about each gemstone, and easy-to-follow instructions. Gemstones include two types of agate, three types of quartz, tiger's eye, snowflake obsidian, amethyst, aragonite, aventurine, hematite, desert rose, a geode piece, green fluorite, pyrite, red jasper, sodalite, turquenite, blue calcite, and labradorite.
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Play a board game
Colourbrain game, was £14.99, Bargain Max
If you have younger kids in the family, board games can be tricky. This one, however is easier for younger players as all the answers are colours! Each team gets 11 colour cards and together they have to figure out which ones to put down to answer each question. There are 300 questions that all the family can join in with – for example, can you name the four colours of the Teletubbies? The five colours of the Olympic rings or the colour of the lid of a Marmite jar?
A Little Wordy, £14.99, Amazon
Alternatively, if the kids are a little older (seven and above), get them involved with this new game. A Little Wordy can be played in teams or you can go head to head with two players and hold a tournament. To play, each person assembles a word from a set of tiles and keeps that secret word to themselves. Players then take turns trying to decipher their opponent’s secret word by paying for clues and hints using Berry Tokens. For every word guessed correctly, the player will earn Berry Tokens and the player with the most tokens wins. Think the person with the fanciest word always wins? Wrong! Using smaller, more common words may be better than using longer, more difficult words because the opponent may overthink things and blaze right past it.
Raise your own butterflies
Butterfly garden, £17.99, Amazon
This is one the adults will probably love as much as the kids! Insect Lore's Butterfly Garden comes with its own mesh habitat and caterpillars. The children can enjoy watching the metamorphosis process as the caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies, which they can then release outside. The whole cycle takes between three to five weeks to complete.
Turn your living room into an escape room
Trapped carnival escape room, £12.68, Amazon
Have you ever tried doing an escape room? They’re so much fun. Well, for the bargain price of £12 you can try your own at home with the Trapped kits, setting up your own puzzles and tasks for up to eight people before working together, or competing to beat the clock, crack the clues and escape. Their Carnival game is perfect for families with children aged eight and over. So what’s the story? It’s your lifelong dream to work alongside the fabled fortune-tellers and jaw-dropping illusionists of Muggins Carnival… Soon after you apply, The Ringmaster invites you to an interview you’ll never forget. Nothing’s what it seems as you perform the initiation tests: a series of baffling puzzles and mysteries. Race head-to-head with your family to see who’ll be crowned King or Queen of the carnival.
Have a story session
Toniebox starter set, £69.95, Amazon
You could easily curl up with a good book, but how about getting little ones involved with audiobooks? Tonies are audiobook players for kids with a cute twist – the story is contained in a figure which they slot into the box to hear stories and songs. It’s totally wireless and screen-free and there are over 60 different Tonies to choose from including The Gruffalo, Stick Man, The Snowman, The Little Prince, Little Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan, as well as children’s fave Disney adventures such as Frozen, The Lion King and Toy Story.
See the world through the eyes of a shark
See the world through other’s eyes set, was £17.99 now £14.99, Amazon
If they love nature and animals, this is a really quirky set that will keep them entertained for ages. They put on the fun glasses add in the different lenses and see the world as lots of different species do - see like a fly, a dog, a shark, a baby or a dragonfly.
Toucanbox craft box, £8.95, Toucanbox
Get kids away from screens and doing something that will help them develop key skills – get them crafting! If you have children aged three to eight, a Toucanbox subscription is a great idea – it comes with everything you need: a magazine, craft materials and instructions. It’s inspired by Montessori learning and champions STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. You can also personalise it with their name and age – they’re sure to love getting this in the post!
Explore the globe with a world map puzzle
World map puzzle, £39.99, John Lewis
We might not be able to visit far-flung destinations right now, but you can still explore the world with this 92-piece puzzle. It also demonstrates where you can find different species of wildlife too, so it’s another good one for wildlife fans.
Rock painting kit, £18.99, Amazon
This is such a cute idea - paint the rocks using the kit and (providing you're not on coronavirus quarantine) leave them around your community for others to find - spreading a little positivity and joy.
Build a garden fort
Garden fort kit, from £9, Wowcher
If you do have some outside space at home – or even a big living room – then this fort-building kit is amazing. It’s easy to use for ages five and up – just insert the sticks into the ball connectors to build the frame of your den, then cover it with the tent. It’s currently on offer at Wowcer for up to 75% off so hurry and snap up a bargain.
Have a table tennis tournament
Indoor table tennis set, £14,99, Decathalon
This handy set lets you turn your kitchen table into a table tennis court in under 10 seconds. The 10cm net is an ideal height for family tournaments and with two balls and two bats you’re all set to play.
Get them baking
Little Cooks baking kit, from £12, Little Cooks
Kids are never too young to get involved with baking. Of course, there are hundreds of recipes out there but if you want something that’s more geared towards little ones, then a Little Cooks box is a fantastic idea. Every kit includes all the dry organic ingredients you need to make a healthy bake as well as fun extra activities. There are collectible recipe cards and stickers so they can track their baking progress in their record book.
Learn more about pets
If you have a pet-mad little one at home then you need to check out the educational digital platform from pet supply retailer Pets at Home. The free online platform offers pet care videos, storytime, games, puzzles, crafts and more.
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Expert tips for keeping the kids entertained at home
So what do the experts say? It can feel like a never-ending challenge to keep the kids entertained, but Dr. Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and founder of The Good Play Guide is here with some good news: it’s not your job to be your kids’ entertainer 24/7.
"In fact, it’s not actually good for the kids - they need time to themselves to develop their decision-making, self-awareness and initiative," says Dr Gummer. "Giving children a range of toys to choose from and leaving them to it (rather than organising play activities and scheduling their day), will not only give you a chance to regroup and get some things ticked off your to do list, but will also give your children an opportunity to develop important skills.
"Always remember to praise children’s efforts when they are playing independently, and focus on their concentration efforts rather than the end results. Doing this you’ll soon have independent kids who are comfortable in their own company and know what they like doing in their free time - a real strength for positive mental health in later life."
She adds: "Toys that can be played with both alone or with siblings or friends are more flexible." Here are Amanda's top pics...
- Construction toys e.g. Geomag’s recycled magnetic cubes - Made with 100% recycled plastic, these covered blocks will keep little ones entertained thanks to the power of magnetism. RRP £11.99
- Imaginative playthings - Pillowfight warriors range of soft swords and shields - Lets kids bring out their inner warrior and challenge each other to a pillow fight! RRP £11.99
- Colour matching and hand-eye co-ordination Hide and Squeak playset is ideal for encouraging colour matching and lots of imaginative play. RRP £16.99
- Puzzles e.g. Wonderful wildlife puzzle - Sometimes nothing can beat a classic puzzle and this 100 piece jigsaw will keep little ones busy whilst they learn about the natural world. Created from 100% recycled puzzle board and FSC paper. RRP £6.99
- Books - not just for bedtime! Helping your kids to enjoy a book is one of the best gifts you can give them. Providing interactive books from an early age can set them up with really good habits as they start school. e.g. The Little Big Feelings series of books helps children manage and talk about their emotions RRP. £6.99
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