Anna Dusseau | 30th March 2020
1.Play pirates! Turn the sofa or duvet into a pirate ship, dress up, pack for your voyage, use the globe to locate where you’re going in the world and finish with a treasure map or the secret diary of a stowaway!
2. Cloud spotting. Lie on your backs in the garden, on the balcony or an open space and look at the sky. What shapes do you see in the clouds? Get the paintbox out and turn this into artwork, or check out a geography book or documentary to learn more about cloud formation.
3. Story cubes. Either use the story cube dice, or else take turns giving each other a task to tell a short story with 3 ingredients and a location. For example: tell me a story involving a hippo, a chocolate bar and a pack of cards which takes place at the beach.
4. Background music. Whatever your children’s ages and academic level, sometimes a bit of calm music helps concentration and the flow of ideas. Try something relaxed and non-invasive like Classic FM, Scala Radio or BBC Radio 2.
5. Pasta maths. Get out the pasta or even use grains of rice, dried beans or buttons, to have a maths game with your little ones. Take turns asking maths questions and use the props to demonstrate how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.
6. Your turn to cook! Hand over responsibility for the family meal to your children and be sure to get them started with a recipe book, so that they can enjoy the process of looking through the options, reading the recipe, searching for the ingredients and putting it all together.
7. Study den. Let them build a den or nest behind the sofa or under the kitchen table using duvets, throws, cushions and scarves. Once the den is ready, you might find this is a great space for them to snuggle up with books or even a bit of writing.
8. Put on a play. As big or as small a task as you want it to be. This could use puppets, or you could make sock puppets and can tell a story that is known to your children, or be invented. Older ones might want to write a script, or create tickets and a poster to advertise the play.
9. Collage. Grab all the old magazines and newspapers and put together a collage, cutting out pictures and headings (or key words) that catch your attention. Explain the idea of a topic to your children. Do they want to group their ideas around a topic?
10. Still life art. A fruit bowl, flowers, or even teddies set up around a pretend picnic would serve as a good stimulus for still life art. Try different materials, such as paints and then another picture using crayons or felt tips.
11. Spring clean. Why not get them stuck into a big organisational task? Tip out all the toy boxes in the living room and let them spend as long as they like looking through everything and sorting the items into the correct places, as well as a box for the charity shop and, probably, a rubbish bag.
12. Language immersion. If you want your children to speak another language, now is a golden opportunity to kick start the process. Why not begin every morning with a short TV episode such as Peppa Pig or Dogtanian, available on YouTube in the language of your choice?
13. Dance performance. Choose one of your favourite songs and let them listen to it on repeat. Give them say 20 minutes to prepare a dance recital. They can make it extra special with costumes and props if they want to.
14. Pen and podcast. We do a lot of drawing or writing while listening to a podcast. From scientific shows such as Wow in the World, to ethical debates like Short and Curly, or even podcasts in another language such as Les Odysees which we listen to in French; the choices are endless!
15. Walk and talk. During your hour of exercise in an open space, why not squeeze a bit of learning in? From talking about nature, to discussing the news, listing favourite movies or quizzing each other on tricky Maths questions, walking can be the perfect time to get your brains buzzing too.
16. Flip book. Watch an old Disney such a Snow White or Fantasia and explain how these animations used many thousands of hand-drawn images. Use the corner of a notebook to create a flip book for a moving image. You could go on to look at stop time animation if they are interested.
17. Giant cardboard modelling. Don’t throw away those big cardboard boxes! You can spend a morning making a castle, pirate ship or space rocket. Go ahead and paint or decorate it if you are feeling creative. To develop the task, why not encourage the kids to plan it in advance on paper?
18. Home made marble run. There’s nothing you can’t do with some toilet roll tubes, empty cereal boxes, sticky tape and a few books (they make great tunnels and stairs). This is satisfying brain work and can take 5 minutes or most of the day, depending on how the kids take to the task!
19. Write a book. We make books out of folded paper, usually no more than 20 pages. Prolific writers might want a ringbound notebook. Help them with a title, page numbers and chapters, then just allow them to work on it when they want to. It might take several days or weeks to complete.
20. Exercise schedule. Trapped in the house all day, what better time to give your kids the autonomy to arrange the family exercise schedule? This can be informal or written down on a timetable and can include looking up new ideas like yoga and martial arts on YouTube for inspiration.
21. Free baking. An immersive task and great fun for the kids. Allow them to choose a baking recipe to follow and – other than making sue they don’t burn themselves on the oven – give them total freedom to do it on their own. Of course they’ll make mistakes, but they will love it and learn loads!
22. Sink or float? Run a bath of cold water and collect at least 10 different items from around the house. Do the kids think they will sink or float in the water? You could discuss your ideas and create a table to record your results. Key words: hypothesis, density, porous.
23. Make a music video. Time to sit down with a laptop and show them a load of fun and age-appropriate music videos, then discuss what song they will lip sync to and how the video should be filmed. Think: costumes, locations, turn taking, who will film it on their phone etc.
24. DIY. If you have a wall that needs painting, or a table that requires sanding down, now is the time to get the kids involved in physical activities around the house. Put on some music or an audiobook and enjoy the time together.
25. Fashion show! We are doing this tomorrow actually, as my kids have outgrown a lot of their old clothes. We thought, as we decide which ones are going to charity and which ones the lucky, lucky third child is going to inherit, we could put some music on and turn it into a fashion show. Genius?
26. Musical education. Make every day of the week dedicated to a different type of music, for example: Monday Rock, Tuesday Pop, Wednesday House, Thursday Country, Friday Classical, Saturday Disco, Sunday Reggae etc. Be sure to immerse yourself in the genre each day.
27. Interview a relative. Now that you’re not allowed to actually go visit grandma, why not talk about what life might have been like 50 years ago and come up with a list of questions to ask in a phone or Skype interview. Bet you grandma will love it.
28. Model house. Do you have creative kids? Keen to develop their maths brains and turn them into mini architects? Okay, so get your older ones taking the dimensions of the house (this can be as detailed or basic as they want) and creating a cardboard scale model. Wowza!
29. Bug hunt. How many different kinds of bugs can you find in your back garden or the space outside your house? Make a note of all the different creatures you see, with photographs or drawings to accompany your notes.
30. Musical recital. What’s your favourite song right now? Can they learn the lyrics and sing it? Would it sound better if you add musical instruments? If you don’t have loads at home, upturned saucepans and tupperware can work as drums.
31. Binge reading. If your kid is a bookworm and able to read independently, now is the time to let them just disappear in a book for hours on end. Be sure to buy the entire series of Potter, or Lemony Snickett, normally available at a reasonable price second hand.
32. Bike ride. Perfect if you have outside space and can maintain social distance. Even better, plan a bike ride with an agenda or topic to pursue (e.g. signs of springtime) and collect items along the way to bring home for a collage.
33. Make your own kite. There are some great tutorials out there for this and you don’t need much in the way of craft items. You could even find light sticks or twigs from your recent bike ride to use as the central structure!
34. Family dance routine. Oh, this is our favourite! You could look up something fun on YouTube to learn (like ‘how to Dougie’ or a barn dance) or have a go at your favourite dance sequence from a movie. Just be careful with the lift from Dirty Dancing!
35. Make your own board game. This one needs planning and is great for uniting older and younger siblings, as the big ones inevitably take the lead but you can get everyone involved by delegating tasks like making the dice, writing the rule book, colouring the board etc.
36. The mindful menial. In our house, we do the washing up by hand rather than use the dishwasher and this is just one example of how we get everyone involved in helping out around the house. It’s a great excuse to listen to music or a podcast, discuss and feel united as a family.
37. Write a joke book. Another bonding activity that unites older and younger siblings. Keep it clean, people! You might have a tiny scribe. Go crazy and design a front cover, blurb and so forth. This could take an entire morning and is superb for concentration and organisation.
38. Ambitious puzzling. Everyone loves a good puzzle, but now that we are all locked in for at least 12 weeks, it’s time to dust off the 1000 piece train puzzle that never gets touched and have a go at it. Think teamwork. This might take several days or weeks.
39. Photography competition. A good way to introduce this is to look at photography categories and ideas online, then discuss as a family the rules and – possibly – category for the photography competition. Let me know if you come up with a catchy idea!
40. Zoom session. If your kids love rhyme time or assembly at school, why not get together with a small group of friends and plan a Zoom session where your children can all say hi, sing along together and touch base with the world outside?
41. Free writing. This is a hit in our house and always good for a laugh or some real imaginative flow. Just tell them they have 5 minutes, for example, and the only rule is they must keep writing and not stop. Give regular indications of remaining time (‘3 minutes left’) to keep the pace and energy up.
42. Star gazing. Why not make the most of the fact that you don’t have to get up early and, on a clear night, see if you can spot some of the constellations in the night sky? It’s worth prepping them about constellations beforehand and, even if you’re in the middle of a city, it’s definitely an experience!
43. DIY weather station. Pinterest is all over this. All you need are some empty bottles and a few other bits to create something really unique which will mean there is now officially no need to be tuning into boring BBC weather forecasts, because your little helpers are on it!
44. Gaming genius. Sites like Buildbox and Sploder all provide the basic software to enable your kids to try coding their own game. Why not? This is much more relevant and useful than allowing them to spend hours just playing video games. Set aside a day for it and see what they can achieve.
45. Pot plants. Everyone is doing this at the moment, although it looks to be a chilly week. Order seeds or small shrubs for your pots and spice up your garden for spring, or even start growing herbs and other edibles to throw into a salad or sauce at some point.
46. You be the teacher. After covering a topic with your kids (could be a discussion, or from a magazine, or TV program) ask them how they could teach the information in a lesson. When they are ready, sit on the floor with your legs crossed and play the student.
47. Charades. A fun family game but also great for thinking skills and dramatic expression. Do it in a pair or teams if you have a larger family. If you don’t have a box of charades, you can invent them as you go along, or create a longer task by making your own box of charades.
48. Balloon tennis. Grab your rackets, find a bit of space and knock a balloon about for a bit of exercise. Can be just a bit of fun, or rules can be established and scores kept, with younger ones volunteering as ball boys/girls and some epic Wimbledon-style grunting!
49. Body painting. So messy but tonnes of fun! If you don’t mind a bit of craziness, spread out a load of newspaper and do full head-to-toe body painting with non-toxic paint. Limit it to tattoos or face paints only, if this seems a bit daunting.
50. Play dough modelling. Make an imaginary world from play dough and use your camera phone (even better if you have a Polaroid or printing option) to try out a short stop time animated story. Don’t be too ambitious! It’s really tricky. Then watch Wallace and Gromit.
51. Make an assault course. Inside or outside, depending on what you’ve got available. Duvets make great tunnels, wooden steps for hand washing can become jumping platforms and piles of cuddly toys are shark-infested waters to wade cautiously through.
52. Heads, bodies, legs. An old school classic, but if you haven’t played this with your kids before, they really do seem to love it and it passes a couple of minutes while you’re getting dinner on plates, if you’ve got some hangry customers! That’s every day in our house.
53. The word game. This can be done with any set of alphabet letters, from foam bath letters to fridge magnets, or your own homemade letters. Spread all the letters out on the table and take turns to form words. Can be competitive (longer words score higher) or just for fun.
54. Playfights. Don’t underestimate the value of this. Studies suggest that children who regularly playfight in a safe environment are calmer, happier and have better concentration than those who don’t. Do be careful, but a bit of play wrestling, throwing on the bed and pillow bashing are great fun.
55. Make a popup book. Not difficult at all (I’m sure you did this when you were a kid?) but hugely satisfying to take the time to create properly. For children who really get into it, the task can obviously develop into a longer story with more detailed illustrations and even moving popups.
56. Teddy bear zipline. A classic from ‘The 5 Minute Mum’. Can be done indoors or outdoors and best achieved when you don’t get involved at all for the first few minutes. Let them really think through what needs to happen to make this work.
57. Rewrite song lyrics. A great lesson in syllables and iambic meter. Mine love ‘Rockstar’ by Nickleback and we have rewritten the lyrics for Harry Potter, Star Wars, Pokemon and more. Fun but very engaging, this is a family activity to get brains warmed up over breakfast.
58. Papier mache. Oh gosh, if you read my post on the papier mache solar system which we made recently, then please take my advice and keep this simple, as it’s very labour intensive! All you need are some old newspapers and PVA glue. Maybe begin with a hot air balloon, or a mask.
59. Haiku poems. These are super short Japanese poems consisting of 3 lines only. Another perfect warm-up activity or task to summarise the learning which has taken place. Challenge the adults to produce one too, or write one Haiku a day and put together an anthology at the end of the week.
60. Keep a diary. What better time to begin a diary than during this time of enforced house arrest? Buy a nice notebook online, or just tie together scrap paper with a ribbon and decorate. This is private though, so don’t upset your child by reading it and marking their spelling. I’m sure you know that.
61. Make a documentary. Have a think about what topics and themes your life right now lends itself to. Could you do a day in the life of the cat, for instance? Or a nature documentary in the garden? Planning this is half the fun; consider locations for filming, interviews with experts and so forth.
62. Pen pals. My kids have a couple of families who they exchange letters with. Why not get that rolling now, if you haven’t already? Sometimes I find it quicker and easier to screenshot the letter and send the image for the other parent to print out their end, although I know that’s rather impatient.
63. Charity project. Is there a charity that you would like to support as a family this year, or specifically during this crisis? Have a look online at what different charities do, discuss how you might like to help or raise money, and maybe shortlist options before making the final decision.
64. Audiobooks. A CD player and a couple of audiobooks are a great investment, trust me! If you can have this available in the kitchen or living room, you have a constant source of entertainment for bored kids which isn’t just more screen time. Also great for car journeys.
65. Book doctors. Who knew this would be such a hit? We have tonnes of books which the baby likes to destroy, but actually what we find, is that sitting down with a pile of books and some sellotape to repair damaged books is actually a great opportunity to do loads of reading. So get stuck in!
66. Globe trotting. If you have a globe, world map on the wall, or even in a book, this is a great chance to copy it out onto paper and mark the route you would take if you went on a trip around the world. Where would you go? What oceans would you cross? What would you need to pack to go there?
67. Film education. Everyone is watching a bit more TV right now because we’re not supposed to be leaving our houses! It’s tough. Why not use this to cover a bit of an education in film, though? There are so many to consider but retro hits with my little ones include Labyrinth and Time Bandits.
68. GCSE bitesize. There are hundreds of short video clips available via GCSE bitesize on a huge range of topics. A great way to kickstart interest in a topic for further study, or simply a more educational way to spend 20 minutes of screen time before lunch.
69. TED-ed. Another good source of information covering a broad range of topics, with succinct videos or keynote speakers if you’d rather just listen to the audio. We sometimes use this as a ‘way in’ to a topic, then discuss afterwards what we found out and what questions we still have.
70. Cooking mathematics. Quiz the kids, from basic questions such as: ‘I usually put one egg in but we’re going to double the recipe, so how many do I need?’ to more challenging calculations like: ‘This recipe has a 3g spoon of salt. There are 7 people eating, so how much salt is each person having?’
71. Text transformations. A typical creative writing task for late primary/early secondary stage. You could turn a newspaper headline into a poem, or ask them to transform a topic from the book they are reading into a leaflet or poster. There are a lot of variations here.
72. Sound cups. Two blunt-cut tin cans (or even paper cups) attached with a piece of string creates a cool homemade walkie talkie system and is a good introduction to talking about how sound waves travel and some other basic physics.
73. Shopping list. I do this all the time and the kids love it for some reason. When getting ready to do the weekly shop, put them in charge of writing the shopping list (you will find a lot of Haribo, I suspect..) or even ask older ones to prepare a meal plan for the week and list the ingredients needed.
74. Pictionary. Another classic family game. If you don’t have a Pictionary box, perhaps look it up online to see what the categories tend to be and then create your own Pictionary card set. Laminate with sellotape and they should last for most of the quarantine! You need paper too, of course.
75. Home library. Organise those bookshelves into alphabetical order, or by topic. This is a sure way to get them reading and focused on a quiet task for a good half hour. We have a ‘topic of the week’ shelf which the kids decide upon and selecting books for the topic shelf also works well.
76. Learn a new skill. From yoga to a musical instrument or a foreign language, make this a time that your kids expand their skill set and really commit to something which they wouldn’t usually have the time for. We are following a series of YouTube martial arts videos which is perfect for rainy days.
77. The story whisper. Tell a short story to the person sitting next to you and pass it round the room until it gets back to you, when the last person should say what they heard aloud. How has the story changed? Does it still make sense?
78. Giant floor art. Watching an episode of Art Ninja is good for ideas here. Whether working on a giant mosaic or blow-paint project with straws, if you don’t mind your kitchen being upturned for a few days, this is a great long task which is satisfying for the whole family to help out with.
79. Vegetable dissection. So long as the food gets eaten at the end, this can be an engaging way to look at fruit and vegetable structure. Cut anything from apples to courgettes in half and discuss what you see. Can you draw and label the different parts of the fruit or vegetable?
80. Get crafty. Have a go at making a craft based on a country or culture you are studying. For example, Chinese pottery or if you are doing a topic on the ancient Egyptians, you could get the kids to plan a delicious pudding using figs, dates and honey.
81. Make a mini world. using a shoe box or empty cereal box, ask your kids to make their own mini world. This could be based on a topic you are studying or imaginary. The inside of the box can be coloured or painted to form the background and objects can be found in toy boxes to set the scene.
82. Springtime wildflower project. Using paper or card, why not make a chart for identifying the different springtime flowers you see if you manage to get out for some fresh air? Bring one flower home with you (or photograph it) to do a painting later.
83. Toilet roll art. What can you do with an empty toilet roll tube? The answer is, so much! From rockets to octopuses, keeping hold of these mini tubes rather than putting them straight into the recycling gives you a constant source of inspiration for a 10 minute creative task.
84. Daisy chains. If you haven’t taught your children how to make proper daisy chains, now is the time as they are everywhere! Best done when freshly picked, this is not at all an easy task and is super for honing those fine motor skills, as well as boosting concentration and family bonding.
85. Make a bridge. Lolly sticks are perfect for this task, but you can be creative and use cardboard or small wooden sticks collected on a nature walk. It’s a superb education in engineering and teaches children about forces and angles in a natural, hands-on experience.
86. History interview. Whether studying a unit from history, or looking at a current political or environmental topic, choose someone to dress up as a famous figure and get ready to interview them, with a list of questions and a clipboard to record their answers.
87. Geometry games. You could use a box of Magformers, or simply cut out and flip shapes on paper. Either way, engaging children in geometric rotation and visualisation is great mental stimulation for all ages and can be accessed at basic and higher levels, depending on their ages.
88. Make a word search. Fun and simple, help them to draw out a 10 x 10 grid and initially list the words which will be hidden before filling up the rest of the grid with letters. This takes some tie and is a satisfying task which can be developed into a more challenging activity for older ones.
89. Top Trumps. Oh gosh, do you guys play this? We were introduced to Top Trumps by homeschooling friends and now we have at least 5 different sets for various topics and interests. Great for reading and number skills, as well as a fun warm-up or wind-down family game.
90. Teaching History 100. I like this website, which lists 100 historical artifacts found in museums with an image and brief thumbnail description. Great for browsing or igniting an interest to explore a topic further.
91. Sweet statistics. Interview your friends and family to find out what their favourite sweet treat or pudding is (or whatever you want) and help your kids to transform their results into a bar chart and/or pie diagram. Probably not for Key Stage 1, although it depends on your kids.
92. Hangman. The traditional guessing game which involves spelling skill, memory and some topical knowledge, depending on how you play the game. It’s always worth agreeing on a category to enable the players to really think it through and not just shout out random letters.
93. Diary in the life of.. Create a diary entry for a historical or literary character that you have studied or enjoyed. They might enjoy adding pictures, or developing this into a series of creative writing entries, if the topic or book is ongoing for several days or weeks.
94. Foreign language radio or podcasts. Whether you are just starting out, or speak a second language at home, the only way to really get your children speaking naturally is total immersion. Have the foreign radio playing during breakfast every day, or tune in to a podcast aimed at children.
95. Computer skills. Do your children know how to do a google search, or send an email? Do they understand what the search throws up and which sites are useful sources of information? Now is the time to show them how it’s done, then test their new skills with a task or research project.
96. Memory game. Time to test your kids’ memories and vocabulary! Gather 20 objects that can be found in the home and lay them all out on the table. Have a look together and then cover everything with a blanket or a sheet after one minute. How many can you remember (and maybe write down)?
97. Magazine competition. Check out your subscription magazines or online to see if there are any good competitions for kids to enter at the moment. I bet there are! Encourage them to enter a creative writing competition or submit their environmental art project to earn a Blue Peter badge.
98. Peer assessment. In the world of homeschooling, we are not about putting too many grades on kids’ work. However, if you want to, then a more effective way of providing feedback is to get your children to mark each others’ work rather than you doing everything. This way, everyone is learning.
99. TV times. Got a TV addict in the house who would rather chill in front of their favourite program than read a book? Don’t worry; it’s normal. Why not pick up a copy of the Radio Times each week and get him/her to check the TV schedule with a pen highlighting the TV shows they want to watch?
100. Dance topic. Link your study of history, geography or the environment to a physical activity by learning a form of dance from a particular culture or nation. Plenty of videos available on YouTube and lots of fun as well as exercise for everyone.
101. Peace Out Bedtime. There are plenty of meditation and mindfulness options for kids, but I love these guys https://bedtime.fm/peaceout and their guided relaxation for families. Mental health is more important than ever right now, so take time to unwind and find peace at the end of the day.
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