Words by Isabell Fisher, co-founder of Little Hands Learning
When it’s raining, it can be tempting to let the likes of Netflix or Disney+ do the babysitting. But playing and doing activities with your children not only supports their emotional and cognitive development but it is a really rewarding way to spend your time:
• It creates special memories that you and your children can both hold onto forever
• It makes your child feel special
• It provides shared experiences that you can talk and reminisce about
So here are a few screen-free activities for when the UK’s penchant for precipitation has the family stuck indoors.
Our own children love to bake and of course then eat the goodies they have made. Baking shortbread and scones is simple enough for inexperienced bakers to have a go at and they taste great!
Baking bread is also surprisingly simple, and you and your children can have lots of fun creating different animals out of the dough to then bake in the oven.
Children love to paint but it can fill many parents with dread. Instead of using poster paint, which can get messy quickly, try using watercolour paints. Instead of painting on paper, try coffee filters, a canvas or ice cubes.
Craft activities do not need to be overly complicated. Often keeping it simple is far better than creating something elaborate. Try making paper boats and planes and then seeing how far they will travel.
You can make tealight holders from old jam jars and gluing on pieces of tissue paper. These also make lovely presents for grandparents.
Salt dough is a modelling material that uses ingredients you will have in your kitchen cupboards, so it’s a wonderful alternative to air dry clay. To make salt dough, add 63g of flour, 70g of salt to a bowl and slowly combine 45ml of water into the dry ingredients. Stop adding water once the dough comes together. Use your hands to squidge and squish the dough until it is smooth. If it is too wet, add a little flour or if it is too dry add a little more water. With this dough you can create decorations, dinosaur fossils, and play food.
To add an extra sensory dimension to your salt dough you can add spices, such as cinnamon or even ground coffee. You only need to add a teaspoon of these to your mix.
Bake your salt dough creations in the oven on the lowest setting for 3-4 hours until hard to the touch. Once cool, they can be painted.
This is a wonderful activity to do with any pirate fan and it uses resources you will have at home. You just need some crayons, a piece of white card and a tea bag.
First design your map. Begin by drawing a large, rounded oblong onto the middle of your card. Add arrows to create the compass and draw features like a skull, mountains, palm trees and a pirate ship on the sea. Decide where your treasure will be buried on your island and add a X. Next pour some warm water into a bowl and add your tea bag. Let the tea bag infuse into the water. Place the card onto a towel or tea towel – this will soak up any excess water. Squeeze the excess water out of the tea bag and dab the tea bag all over the card. Dipping the tea bag back into the warm water when needed. Leave the card to dry and then use it to find your treasure.
Be wizards and/or witches
Brewing a magic potion is always a really popular activity to do with children and uses ingredients already in your kitchen cupboard. Raid your spice drawer and add water and some old jam jars and watch as your children create more and more interesting concoctions.
If you would like to make your magic potions more elaborate then add bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and distilled vinegar. Your children will absolutely love the reaction that these three ingredients will create to their potions.
Be board game designers
Designing your own board game is a fun way to learn about design, teamwork and hide any maths learning they may be struggling with at school. All you need is a piece of paper, some pens, some counters (which could be little toy figures) and some dice.
Begin by creating a simple grid on your piece of paper. Then, decide on the rules of your game. Will you get another turn if you roll a specific number? How many players can play at any one time? Will there be squares that will allow you to jump forwards or take you backwards? Should any snakes, ladders, trees, or slides be included on your game board? How will you decide who has won the game?
Together, create and decorate your board game. Play and enjoy!
There are lots of easy science experiments that can be tried at home with household items. Science experiments are a great way to get children to start to ask questions, make predictions and understand the world around them. Try making a lava lamp with water and food colouring and oil in a jar. Add an effervescent tablet and watch what happens!
Reading is a quick and mess-free activity that requires no prep at all. Sharing a book has enormous educational and emotional benefits for your children. By giving your children the time and your full attention whilst reading a book, it provides them with comfort and security, as well as building their self-esteem.
If you are feeling ambitious and the book is set in a cave or under a bridge, build a den and make some popcorn.
For these ideas and many more please visit https://www.littlehandslearning.co.uk/activities.
All of these activities are easy to set up and you will probably have most of what you need at home already. If you like the sound of these activities but are limited on time, there are wonderful children’s subscriptions out there that can send you everything you need directly to your home every month.