Surviving self-isolation: 34 things to do with your (young) kids

Hey, friend.

Chances are, if you’ve landed here, you’re a parent facing the news that our lives are going to change for the next few weeks/months in light of Coronavirus. You might be feeling anxious, thankful, resolute…or probably a mix of emotions.

Whether we stay at home with our kids every day or have just heard our full-time jobs must now take place in our linen cupboards (do towels make good Zoom backgrounds?) most of us are wondering what on earth this is all going to look like.

I have put together a list of some things I plan on doing with my 2 year old. I hope some of my ideas are useful to you, and that they inspire some of your own, too.

Get outside

We are being advised to avoid parks, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is off-limits! My one hard-fast rule during my maternity leave was to get outside at least once (the earlier the better) in the day. It does wonders for everyone. I’m implementing it during this time, too! Our best outside adventures happen when we have plenty of time on our hands, and we aren’t worried about getting dirty/wet. This all-in-one coat is thrown into the washing machine at least one a week!

Go on a treasure hunt

Turn an outside walk into an investigative mission. Here’s a cute wee printable which would be appropriate for toddlers.

Use your senses

Yesterday, we were out at the beach and talked about the sound of the waves, how slippy the seaweed feels, pointed out all of the colours in the rainbow above us. It would be remiss of me not to add that Baby B also tasted the sand – another sense employed! 😉

Collect sea glass

Collect sea glass and bring it home for some crafting. We are halfway through a ‘sea glass’ mosaic using an old frame from a broken mirror!

Embrace the rain

Stick on some wellies and find some puddles to splash in. Bonus points for you if you get involved, too. And best if followed by hot chocolate (see below).

Fly a kite

Climb a ‘mountain’

Find a hill and let your little one stretch their legs – stay close behind them, just in case! This is great for exercising balance and walking on uneven territory.

Ride bikes/scooters

Pick flowers

Notice the colours, the textures, the shapes of the petals. Talk about the bees who gather their pollen. Then, if it’s safe to do so, why not drop them off with a neighbour?

Blow bubbles

Go to the beach

This is by far our favourite. Look for shells, try to catch some fish, throw stones into rockpools, let sand fall through your fingers.

Staying inside

I’m a big believer in minimal kit being just as good as all the toys in the world. What you have in your home is enough (and sure, you can’t really pop to the shops now for more stuff anyway!) Kids don’t need to be thrown entertainment at every moment of the day: they need gentle, recognisable rhythms and access to their environment so that they can learn.

Read books

I am going to increase the frequency of the rotation in Baby B’s little ‘library’. He also has full access to all of the bookshelves around the house. I read to him a lot, and he has also started to read to himself for a couple of minutes at a time.

Make up stories and songs

Have you noticed how poor Elvis Cridlington plays second-fiddle to Fireman Sam so much that he isn’t included in the show’s theme song?! Well, fret no more: I have written him his very own song and have sung it, I kid you not, at least 200 times. Your turn.

Sing and have a dance party

Crank up the music and have a boogie. It’s great for your little one to be ‘in their body’, and it’s also great for them to see their caregivers being silly. Let loose.

Water play

This is a firm favourite in our house! Whether it’s helping with dishes, pouring water from one receptacle to another, or having a bath together (extra points for bath bombs), water is great.

Living-room picnic

I am planning on re-creating the tea party Sophie and her mum have in The Tiger Who Comes To Tea. Why not do that – or have lunch/dinner out of a basket on a blanket in the middle of your living room?

Dress up

I keep a box full of random bits and bobs like sunglasses, hats, key rings etc. Baby B loves to grab them when he is enacting whichever character he’s obsessed with that day!

Build a fort

Facetime relatives

It’s important to stay connected as you self-isolate, and relatives are missing you as much as you miss them. We are so lucky to have the tech we have available to us – let your little one get in on the action!

Home cinema

Let’s face it – TV/movies will feature in most of our homes during this time. We didn’t do screen time until Baby B turned 2, and I have to say, I’m glad Coronavirus has fallen this year as opposed to last for that reason! We are excited about Frozen II, and I’m hoping to introduce Baby B to such classics as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Sound of Music, and Aladdin. We’ve also been enjoying Our Planet on Netflix recently!

Get making

I believe we are all creative in some way. You mightn’t have fond memories of art class as a child, but perhaps you are able to find solutions that others aren’t; maybe you are able to string words together that make people’s hearts soar, or maybe you can make a 3-course meal out of whatever you find lurking in the cupboard. All that to say – don’t let ‘art’ put you off! Tinies aren’t restricted by what is, later in life, labelled ‘good’ and ‘bad’. They just like to do stuff! Get into it with them.

Paint paint paint

Brushes, cut-out potatoes, the bottom of feet or hands, fun-shaped toys…the possibilities are endless! Today, we collected pine cones outside and dipped them in paint before pressing them on black paper!

Use what you have in the house

Make paper planes, collages with tin foil or bottle lids, cut up old fabric to make bunting, do some decoupage with pretty wrapping paper leftover from Christmas.

Pottery

We’re going to try this stuff out!

Getting busy in the kitchen

Baby B has always enjoyed being in the kitchen, and I’ve encouraged it since he was tiny…if your little one is really little but able to sit, pop them in a highchair and give them some ingredients to play with/squish/taste. Let them ‘mix’ things in a bowl when appropriate. There will come a time when they will insist on doing exactly what you’re doing! Baby B loves throwing ingredients into bowls (he is VERY generous with the cinnamon), mixing, doing the dishes and monitoring the oven for me. Try not to worry about the mess, or about things looking perfect. The treasure is in the doing. You can clean up later.

Hot chocolate

This has been a favourite all winter and it’s a great one for little hands to get involved in. Heat 1/2 mug of milk, add 1/2 cocoa powder and 1/2 tsp honey. Mix well and serve in a safe cup. A lovely treat to follow some outdoor fun.

Pancakes

Nutrition and fun in one. Mix one banana with one egg, add 2 tbsp oats and 2 tsp cinnamon. Cook in butter until both sides are golden. Serve with berries or peanut butter as breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Cookies

Shortbread/gingerbread/etc making is great fun – little hands love to roll out the dough and use shape cutters.

Other recipes

My banana bread is the best in the business: fact. Mel’s fifteens and Christmas crack (watch out for the nuts for under 5s) are amazing.

Jobs around the house

Baby B LOVES following me around the house, doing little jobs. We started this when he was really young and liked to watch me in his Baby Bjorn bouncer. At the minute, he is a big fan of making the bed, tidying books and watering the plants.

Gardening

We have a little bit of a garden around our house. This morning we went out and gathered leaves from winter. We’re also planning on repotting some plants (Baby B loves this!), planting some vegetables and scrubbing our outdoor tiles. If your little one is tiny, bring them outside with you on a mild day and let them experience the colours around them (I still remember Baby B’s wide eyes when I took him out for his first proper walk in his bassinet at 5 weeks!) and the feeling of the wind. As they get older, let them hold some soil or a leaf. When they’re a little older, get them a small watering can and let them work their way around. It doesn’t matter if a plant gets watered more than once – they’ll survive!

Everyday jobs

Doing dishes (you’ll need a change of clothes for both of you afterwards!), sorting toys, moving books, hanging washing, putting clothes away, sweeping the floor…involve your little one in these things. They’ll enjoy it and it’ll also mean you won’t have to do it all once they’re asleep – you’re going to need your rest, too, after all!

A note on looking after yourself

No one is pretending here: social distancing/isolating is going to be hard. And raising little ones is hard at the best of times. So it’s important to look after yourself. The things I do that make a difference to me are:

  1. Getting outside (it’s good for baby AND you)
  2. Change your clothes. Even if it’s from a top and leggings you wore in bed to a top and leggings for the day. Re-set.
  3. Carry a bottle of water at all times. Hydration is so key. Do it.
  4. Watch your face at night. Apply a nice cream or serum. End the day slowly, mindfully, in your senses.
  5. Connect with others. I know your options feel limited right now – perhaps grandparents are in isolation, playdates are cancelled, etc. Text your friends. You are not alone in this. And hey, can I let you in on a secret? None of us are as ‘with it’ as we seem. We’re all swimming in the same choppy waters. We’ll do it together.

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