Having Fun with Your Kids While Stuck at Home

(Published on 02/2020)

When our children are confined to home due to unexpected conditions, such as school closure due to epidemic or bad weather, parents or caregivers may find it challenging to keep them engaged for the whole day. By making use of simple household items, you can still have a great time with your children indoors. Let's try the tips below and enjoy!

Does staying at home all day mean depriving them of physical activities for your children? With some creativity and adequate safety measures, your children may still move about freely. To enhance their coordination, you may place cushions or pillows on floor to set up tunnels or obstacles for them to crawl over or through according to their motor abilities. Add a twist by incorporating additional commands such as “crawl twice then raise your hands”, “touch your head when you reach the sofa”, etc. You may also let them blow bubbles or make a contest for blowing and keeping the feathers in the air.

Children like to imitate others and are often born music lovers; playing games that appeal to these characteristics could help them to have more fun. For example, with your children's favourite music, take turn to copy the actions or dance moves of each other. Or you and your children can imitate animal movements, such as walking like an elephant, crawling like a snake, wigging like a duck, etc. Children aged 3 or above may try games that are more complex, like playing catch or basket-shooting with scrap paper balls, scavenger hunt, etc. You may refer to StartSmart@school.hk for more ideas for parent-child physical games.

Time for some quiet play after the vigorous activities. Apart from scribbling, colouring and creating with play dough, you may work with your children to create storybooks or cards for family or friends using old newspaper or magazines; for preschoolers, you may have a go with origami. Gardening can be great fun for your children too. Provide your children with appropriate tools and guide them to soil, water and even add fertilisers to enjoy planting together; record the growth of plants together as well by drawing or other means. Don't limit your children's creativity with walls! Play house and other pretend play such as camping indoors by setting up tents with bedsheets. You may exchange roles with your children to make it more fun.

There will be more time for story reading when staying home. Don't worry about repeating stories. When reading together, have more interactions to draw your children's attention and facilitate language development. You may also randomly pick up some pages from storybooks to jointly create a novel story with children, or to make puppets out of old socks for storytelling.

Let your children share household chores based on their abilities; this helps them develop self-care skills and sense of responsibility. For example, they can help set the table for meals, put bowls or cutleries away and clean the table after meals, sort washed clothes, fold small towels, water plants, etc. Another idea for involving the children in household activities is cooking together. Let them participate in preparing simple dishes, for instance, they could peel eggs or arrange fillings when making sandwiches or spread peanut butter on bread. They could also make bread, pancakes or salad with you. You may search the internet for recipes that are appropriate for cooking with kids, which may cultivate their interest in food and cooking as well.

When you are planning activities, take care to ensure these activities can fit into your children's daily schedule to help them maintain a routine. You may want to set approximate times for getting up, meals (including snacks), bathing, naps, etc., along with several activity sessions in the morning and afternoon. At the end of an activity, guide the children to clean up before starting the next activity, for example, “we'll crawl one last time before putting the cushions back, next we'll wash hands and have some snacks.” This helps instill sense of security as children can predict what would happen next. If children can follow the routines or help with chores, don't forget to show your appreciation; in this way, children can learn self-control and develop a sense of responsibility over time.

Bear in mind that typically children may not be able to follow through the arranged activities and schedules all the time; they may need some “free” time for themselves. You may plan the activities flexibly for your children and avoid over-scheduling. If you cannot think of any activities for your children, let their creative minds take the lead as long as it is safe. Moreover, don't forget to be compassionate to yourselves; accept that you have limitations and sometimes you really need a break. Let your children play independently for a while when they are safe, or seek help from other family members to briefly look after your children when needed. This may help you enjoy and even recharge your creativity when you are spending time with your children at home.