Following on from my working from home advice, this is something that a lot of you have asked me to write, as parents are having a particularly stressful time in the midst of this strange and confusing time. It’s not easy to keep children entertained at the best of times so Mums and Dads have been sharing tips online for home learning ideas that will hopefully keep everyone happy. Honor in particular loves to be outside (the farm is her favourite) but whilst we’re staying inside, we’re having to find new ways of learning and having fun indoors. Read on for how to keep children entertained (and educated) at home.
I’ve found loads of links to websites that are useful for parents with children of all ages so have organised my tips by activity meaning you can quickly navigate to what you’re looking for. Before you start, plan your day with a timetable. A full day of ‘lessons’ isn’t feasible so plan time for play, reading, cooking, exercise, even household chores. It’ll be easier for you to combine the role of teacher and parent and you’d be amazed how many household activities can also be educational. Alongside a timetable (and try to make a big, colourful one that everybody can see), it’s a good idea to have a designated work area- that way you and your child can both physically ‘leave school’ at the end of the day. In asking the teachers I know for their advice, they all (without exception) said that no matter what, give yourself a break. These are unprecedented circumstances, most of us are not teachers, and so, do not worry about trying to make your kid an astrophysicist by the end of quarantine.
Arts & Crafts
Perhaps more for the toddlers than the older ones, there are hundreds of arts and crafts activities that can take up hours. Whilst you might normally reserve this kind of activity for a rainy day when you’re feeling particularly energetic, an at-home messy space is a good way of keeping little ones entertained. Paint, crayons, papier maché, cutting and sticking are all exciting activities for a child (and really good for their coordination) so cover a table with newspaper and let them go wild. Use different surfaces like cardboard (cereal boxes have never been so useful), tin foil or even the bath. Most kids’ paint is fully washable but maybe check this before you let them loose in the bathroom!
You don’t even need paint brushes so don’t panic if you have to improvise. Cotton wool, sponges, stamps, fingers, foods and anything interesting you might find in the house can all be used in lieu of conventional tools. Use a flower as a paintbrush; make colourful pom-poms out of cotton wool; practice tracing or build a play-dough house. Incorporate whatever you can and the worst you’ll get out of it is some interesting artwork for the fridge.
This website has some quick and simple at-home activities that you can look at by age. Good for inspiration!
Printable pages, colouring, worksheets…the list goes on. This is a site I’ve been coming back to time and time again when I need inspiration.
A teacher friend of mine suggested teaching maths through making a tuck shop: they get to spend £1 or $2 per day, and have to add up their snacks and work out the change. She also recommended making a treasure hunt, looking for clues and different numbers around the house, and then making a number line out of them.
Totally free maths website (that teachers themselves use) for primary age and above. I wish this had been around when I was young.
This is a nonprofit that makes education available to all children, for free. This is a really good one for secondary school age and there are areas for teachers, learners as well as parents.
For GCSE or A-Level (ages 15 or so and up). Lots of free revision content, and paid access to higher level material.
Computer Programming Skills
Which are taught to toddlers now! I’ll never forget seeing my little nephew learn the beginnings of coding, when he was about 5!
Their website says their games are for tomorrow’s programmers. So cool!
Includes a TED talk about coding and why it’s important to learn.
This has lessons on everything from the weather to animals, the body and space. I spent way too much time on this one!
So fun and colourful, with fun facts and quizzes and games. This one really makes science fun.
This website name is so clever. Videos that explain all sorts of weird and wonderful things- perfect for any curious minds.
From Star level for five year olds to Gold for ages 16 and up, Crest are science awards you can complete from home…and it’s managed by the British Science Foundation which is pretty cool.
Perfect for animal lovers, this is a great place to research what’s going on in the garden or around your house. Fascinating!
Forever a favourite activity (it’s still mine) there are so many online resources to help children with their reading.
Honor is really enjoying this one- Homer starts with a free trial and offers a personalised learning plan for your child.
This is a great one for toddlers and learning to read. Colourful and fun to navigate, there are several games and activities from practicing the alphabet to rhyming words and a talking library (which is helpful if you need to work too).
Nessy is one that’s used by a lot of teachers and there are sections for different ages. They look at reading, writing and typing so you can mix up the lessons. It’s designed for children with dyslexia but everyone can use it.
Storyline Online helps get stories to millions of children globally and is used in hospitals. The stories link to any video platform you use (so you can watch them on Youtube) and are read by famous faces (and voices). I love this one almost more than Honor does. Harry The Dirty Dog read by Betty White? Amazing.
Another good one for alphabet and letters practice. This is sorted by the US grade system and has loads of games for nursery all the way up to 11/12 years. There’s also Maths…I might practice my fractions.
Totally free and has all the classics, these are longer form books for all ages to listen to. 3 hours of Beatrix Potter is my personal favourite…obviously. Great for Honor’s nap time or for when Mackenzie and I need to work and she’s happy to sit and listen. We also sometimes have them in the background when we’re cooking.
Cooking is actually a great way of helping with maths and science. I’m not a chef but baking with Honor is quite fun (if a little messy!). The last couple of weeks we have made banana bread (who hasn’t?!), cupcakes, marmalade with tangerines that were about to go off, courgette spaghetti and meatballs.
This site has a fab selection of child-friendly recipes and lots of them are really healthy. If you’re new to the idea of cooking with children, this is a good place to start.
I love that with this site, you can search by food type as well as by dietary requirement…so clever. It’s a website that’s designed for kids to use so it’s colourful and interactive- we like the ‘Videos for Kiddos’ bit that comes with each recipe.
You can also find recipes wherever you normally look for food inspo, like BBC Good Food.
Quite tricky if you can’t easily get outside but ideally children will spend most of their day being up and about. Not only will they sleep better but having a noticeable difference between activities and ‘quiet time’ helps to break up the day.
(AKA Joe Wicks) is an absolute fitness genius and is streaming PE for the whole family at 9am GMT every day on his YouTube channel. Kids love it, parents love it; such a good way to start the day.
For children aged 4-8 this combines learning with movement and they’re currently offering a three week free trial for anyone who is homeschooling.
Offers free games and mindfulness exercises as well as suggestions for things you can do off-screen. There’s even a video about good hand washing!
REALLY good for getting little ones to stretch, breathe and learn the basics of yoga. I’m going to use it with Honor so it benefits both of us.
Incorporating sensory games with energy burning activities, this website has SO many ideas for keeping the youngest members of your family happy and healthy.
Off Screen Ideas
There are of course lots of things you can do at-home that don’t involve a screen. Apps and interactive sites with downloads or printables are helpful if Mum and Dad have to work but depending on your set-up, it’s nice to go back to the traditional games and rainy day activities.
Here’s a list of things I plan on doing with Honor over the next few days.
-Hide and seek
-Build a fort
-Give teddies and toys a bath
-Have an indoor picnic
-Make a car, spaceship or house out of cardboard boxes
-Create an indoor obstacle course
-Making music by banging wooden spoons on saucepans (might leave this one for Mackenzie!)
These are all in addition to spending some quality time together and being silly, which is what we do best. We’re also FaceTiming the grandparents so they feel included. If you can get outside with your children safely then do; even a short time spent in the fresh air can have an amazing effect on our moods and that applies to all of us!
Let me know how you’ve been keeping your children entertained (and educated) at home? Stay safe.