Lock-down with a toddler

A number of my mum-friends have been asking what Florence and I have been up to to keep ourselves busy while on lock-down and likewise I have been quizzing them for ideas. I wanted to share some of our activities here; many of these are taken from other mums and Google but hopefully they will offer some inspiration if you are isolating at home with a toddler too.

A few words of warning and caveats: some days any given activity can provide up to 40 minutes of entertainment, other days it is discarded after 2; we have a little outdoor space which helps with a few of the suggested activities; my daughter is 20 months but I’m sure some of the activities can be adjusted for slightly older or younger kids, use your judgement; we have had our fair share of tantrums over the past few weeks so please remember moments before or after any of these pictures were taken Florence could have been having a screaming fit – the domestic bliss illustrated is only a fraction of reality!

Make a den – I used to love making dens as a kid and actually it is still pretty fun even as an adult! If you live in tiny flat, as we do, it makes it feel like you have another room in the house! Another alternative is to put up a tent in the garden if you have some outdoor space.

Plant seeds and water the plants – we ordered a flower seed kit from Amazon and it provided much fun to re-hydrate and make a muddy mix of the soil pellets, plant the seeds and keep an eye on them as they grow. We also re-potted some of the faster-growing seeds, which was a messy but fun activity. Florence is also helping me to water the plants everyday – a laborious process of carrying plants to a chair, spraying them with water and returning them to the windowsill but a good morning activity on slow days.

Rice sandpit – stay with me on this because it has provided a lot of entertainment here. Fill a big Tupperware with rice (I used some old pudding rice because normal rice is at a premium here), add a plastic fork, some small toys, a little cup, anything really, and then let them loose. Florence has spent ages playing with this although it requires a lot of scooping/hoovering up afterwards.

Star hunting – I cut some stars out of an old Oatly carton (which was silver on the inside) and a couple of mornings a week I will blue-tack them around the house for her to find. It is a good activity to get her moving around the house and also good for counting.

Water painting – my neighbour lent me some paint brushes and we use water to ‘paint’ the fence and patio in the back garden. Fun and minimal mess. We also have an Aqua Doodle sheet which changes colour when it gets wet to continue water painting indoors.

Hot and cold – this is where you hide something in a room and then say ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ depending on if your child is getting closer or further away from the item. F is average at this (I have to give some pointing hints) but she loves it and will request it. Also, persuading her to leave the room when the hiding of the item is taking place is difficult and she often runs in while still counting to ten!

Baking/cooking – a classic activity. Luckily we had some old baking supplies in the house so we’ve rationed these to allow us a couple of baking sessions. We’ve made brownies and flapjacks so far and I have designs on ‘pizza’ making with tortillas, tomato puree and chopped vegetables.

Florence also loved the washing up afterwards, which became water play. I’ve repeated this as an activity in itself, filling the sink with bubbly water and non-breakable cutlery and plates, I even used washing a ‘Sophie the Giraffe’ as a means of getting her to wash her hands when she refused the other day.

Making a ‘family tree’ – inspired by ‘Stick Man’ we went leaf hunting, washed and dried the leaves and then stuck them on a tree outline I’d drawn and attached to the door. This was a good ‘multiple part’ activity and as such filled a good amount of time!

Bug/nature hunting – a newly discovered favourite activity. We poke around in the flowerbeds for bugs, lift stones and search for spiders webs. We have also been noticing more nature – listening for birds, looking out for butterflies, squirrels and daisies – which is so rewarding for both of us. All good fun when the sun is shining.

Posting coins – I was clutching at straws one day and grabbed a handful of change and a money box. This has now become a game. Florence has become so much more dexterous in the past few weeks as when we started this she really struggled to post the coins whereas now she can do it easily. I am also trying to explain the value of the various coins to her (ambitious?!) and we have attempted to play shopping, although not totally successfully yet.

Tea parties – Florence had a tea set for Christmas and it is now getting more use than ever as all of the teddies need their tea. In the absence of other children we are using the toys as ‘friends’ and making sure that we share with them and give them lots of tea and cake!

Tick Tock Music – I’ve tried a few online classes but to be honest very few keep Florence engaged and I like to minimise screen time. One that we still love (we used to go to the actual class pre-Covid-19) is Tick Tock music. Lizzy is recording the classes and then posting them on YouTube here. There is one class a week so like with the real class it remains a special and novel activity.

Fancy dress – this was an accidental activity discovery when I tried to sort out my clothes drawers in the presence of a toddler. My clothes never got sorted but Florence enjoyed trying lots of them on! She also loves trying on the miscellaneous hats we have in the house and will spend an age time putting her hats and headbands on the teddies.

Helping with household jobs – according to the information I received from nursery this is to be encouraged rather than frowned upon as a form as child labour. Florence is a dab hand with the dust buster and the term ‘easy care’ has now entered her vocabulary from helping me to put the washing on so many times. She is also getting better at hanging out socks and dusting!

Masking-tape shapes – I mask out various shapes on the floor and then Florence has to go to the correct shape – e.g. run to the square, put teddy in the rectangle etc.

Colouring – I panic-ordered a big roll of drawing paper when lock-down began and it’s already had lots of use. Whether it’s for drawing animals, shapes, rockets, or jut drawing around our hands and feet, it is proving most popular. Saying that, colouring books also remains a good source of entertainment. I had my own ‘mindful’ colouring book which has been commandeered and is now a favourite.

Salt dough – a great tip from my friend Sarah – mix plain flour (125g), salt (70g) and water (110 ml) in a bowl, add more flour is required to make it less sticky. Roll out on a floured surface, cut into shapes, place on a greased sheet/grease-proof paper/a silicon sheet and bake for 2-3 hours (until hard) in a warm oven (120 degrees C). Allow to cool and then paint/decorate. We’ve made men and stars which we coloured with pens.

The big box – literally just that and it has provided much entertainment for colouring, as a train, as a boat and as a house for teddies.

Kinetic sand and play dough – a little bit of a cheat maybe as it’s not totally ‘creating out own fun’ but these are good activity toys nonetheless. We alternate between these on different days as I feel like they fulfil a similar role but we really enjoy playing with both and they have a good 20 minutes of ‘fun’ in them!

Crafts – so far we have made a theatre, a rocket, a windmill, a robot, a totem pole, a treasure box and boat from various recycling items. We have also made a leaf decoration, painted eggs and made egg box monsters, all with varying degrees of success. I’ve got some pasta ready for pasta jewellery and some paint on order for more projects!

Family disco/musical statues– a good pick-me-up in the afternoon, I’m imposing 90s pop on our household and we all bop about in the living room, often while banging instruments and generally making a din. The ‘statue’ part of musical statues isn’t quite as perfect as it might be (i.e. my husband and I freeze while F bops on), but it’s a fun family activity.

Some of my other favourite activity toys (i.e. things that offer upward of 7 minutes entertainment) are: the train set, puzzles (a new discovery for Florence and something that she is gradually improving at), football (good for getting some exercise and improving coordination) and stickle bricks. And finally an absolute favourite thing for Florence is books.

I hope that provides you with some inspiration and do please share any more ideas you have.

Stay home, stay safe.

I’m not tired!

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