Surviving lockdown with kids is hard enough, let alone without adding a confined space and no garden or toys into the equation.
And yet that’s where I find myself.
Sure your set up might be a bit more homely, but if you’re also short on space and ideas for entertaining kids during Covid I hope this post will help.
My family is stuck in New Zealand on a Level 4 Lockdown (the toughest measures they have). We’re in a small apartment on the fifth floor of a hotel, with no balcony. We have one window that opens and we have to stand on a chair to see out of it. Oh and we pretty much have no toys, materials or games to entertain our 2 and 4 year old because we got stuck here at the end of our holiday. It’s tough to say the least.
Recommended Reading: How we got stuck in the New Zealand Lockdown
But through the help of friends, family and Instagram we’re managing to get by. I thought I’d share what we’re doing (cos yes, at the time of writing we’re still stuck) in case you’re looking for creative ways to entertain children during the Coronavirus pandemic. Or you know, you’re nosey like me!
34 Easy Activities for Young Kids in Lockdown
I use three types of activities; energetic, disguised learning and R&R. I aim to wear them out with the energetic ones and these are the type I use the most, because let’s face it, under 5s seem to have so much excitable energy.
Disguised learning activities help nurture their emerging skills like reading, writing, mark-making etc. And R&R is used when I want to wind them down or give them (more like me!) a breather.
12 Easy Energetic Activities
This one is actually a 241 as it helps my 4yr old with his reading. How fast he races about finding them depends on what I tell him the prize is!
I write a simple word on mini post-it notes or scraps of paper. I number them all and draw a simple doodle to match the word. The words describe things in the apartment, e.g., hat, sofa, plate etc.
I leave the first one out and then hide the rest based on the previous clue. My 2 yr old uses the doodle to guess where it is and the 4 yr old uses that and the word.
We’ve played this most days during lockdown, with prizes ranging from a little chocolate to the chance to pick the next game or to choose their snack. We can usually make this last for around half hour.
Hot and Cold
We’ve also played this easy game most days and sometimes incorporated it into the treasure hunt.
Simply hide something and then use the temperature to indicate if they’re closer to finding it. We usually end up weaving a pirate theme into it as they seem to love that.
Again, this seems to keep them happy for around 30 minutes.
You know the game from school, where one stands at one end of the room and the others at the opposite end. The group shouts “What’s the time Mr Wolf?” and the ‘wolf’ yells “3’o clock” or whatever time they like. The group takes that number of steps forward and then once at the front the wolf yells “DINNERTIME” and you have to run for your life. Yeah, that one!
My two love it, getting well into the role of the wolf. Lasts about 30-45 minutes.
It’s show time all day, every day whether we’re at home or away. They’ve picked up so many ideas from the buskers we’ve seen on trips. The 4yr old has been impersonating a magician we saw on the streets just before lockdown and I have to say he’s pretty good at getting the crowd hyped. “Are you ready? Are you sure you’re ready? C’mon you can cheer more than that…!”
My 2yr old is very much all about the princess ballet show. It’s a great activity if you’re keen to sit on the sofa with a cup of coffee. And you can milk it for more time by making tickets and turning it into a battle of the performers. It keeps mine happy for about an hour.
This is one of my favourites. We turn the lights off, the music up and unleash crazy dancing for a good half hour.
This is the king of energetic activities for my kids. They absolutely love it.
“10 forward rolls? Sure! What’s next?!”
“Hop on one leg to the door and then wiggle my bottom and do 5 star jumps? Sure, mummy!”
They’re happy to follow the instructions and leap about in every direction. They would do this all day, but we usually stop after an hour by which point they’re a sweaty mess.
Hide and Seek
The great thing with these ages is that you don’t have to try very hard. My two are happy if I just hide behind a door. Whenever I fancy a break I up my hiding space and buy myself a good chunk of time.
For really little ones you can ask them to count to 10 twice if 20 is too hard. And if you want to push older ones get them to count in another language. My two are happy with this game for about 30-60 minutes.
PE with Joe Wicks
It seems everyone is loving his free workout sessions on YouTube. The 30minute ones are too long and hard for my two – they just lose interest. However, they like his 5 minute videos that often feature a young child too.
There are hundreds of free Cosmic Yoga videos on YouTube. They’re all themed round popular stories and films, with great costumes and effects that really capture little ones’ attention.
At home my two will happily do this on their own for 20-30minutes, but here the 2 yr old runs off and the 4 yr old wants me to join in. At home we can show it on the TV, but here we watch from the iPad so perhaps it’s that.
I let them pull the sofa cushions and pads onto the floor and give them a blanket and let them make their own den. Sometimes I get involved and it turns into theme, like a pirate boat or something. And sometimes they want to pretend monsters are coming which means they stay in there even longer. Cue a coffee break for me!
Other times they drag their bedtime teddies in to make some sort of game up. They’ll happily make dens for an hour.
They love jumping up and down on the beds pretending to be monkeys. And the sound of their hysterical giggles is enough for me to turn a blind eye at the mess. This activity buys me 20-30minutes, usually stopping when I have to intervene because they’re getting too boisterous.
We use whatever containers we can find and a few clean, quarantined coins. They have to run two laps of the apartment and then try to throw the coins into the containers from the marked line. This only lasts 20 minutes because they usually get a bit frustrated at not getting in.
17 Disguised Learning Activities
Teach Your Monster to Read
I love this app, as does my 4 yr old. He easily spend 45minutes on it each day. We enjoy it together – for him, collecting rewards, smashing levels and seeing funny monsters, and for me, I get so excited watching him learn to spell words like ‘corner’ all on his own.
They’d play this one for hours and hours if I kept giving them ingredients, but during lockdown I’ve been pretty stingy with what I give up. So far we’ve used the free hot chocolate sachets in the hotel room, orange peel, water, sugar sachets, pineapple skin and gold foil from my chocolate. They’ve exhausted the different sized cups and bowls we have too.
They pretend they’re witches, scientists or just potion makers and have a great time. I’ve been letting them do this one on the kitchen floor or in the bathroom so I can wipe the mess up more easily. And yes, they always spill something.
Here in NZ it’s been fairly easy to get hold of flour during lockdown. We’ve used ours to make playdough. To make it you combine 8 tablespoons of plain flour, 2 tablespoons of salt, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 60ml of water.
They loved making snowmen and garlic dough balls (if only they were real!) and then doing a bit of mark making with coins. This kept them happy for an hour.
If you have more supplies than us you could add food colouring too.
Snakes and Ladders
I had a little magnetic version of this in my hand luggage, but you could easily make one. We don’t have a dice with us, so just use the free virtual dice on Google.
The game is too grown up for my 2 yr old, but my 4yr old loves it. It’s great for his counting skills and turn taking. This activity lasts 20-30minutes.
I sit on the floor (with a tea, of course) and ask them to find something beginning with each letter of the alphabet or a particular colour or shape. Admittedly they sometimes get distracted along the way, but for the most part it works for about 20minutes.
I give them some coins (ones that I’ve quarantined for a few days!) and let them play shops. They love the role play aspect and it gets them counting. This lasts about 20-30minutes out here where we don’t have many props.
My boy is animal mad so laps this one up. Using your phone type an animal into Google, scroll down and hit the 3D button. Follow the few prompts and then prepare to be amazed as a giant penguin, lion or whatever beast appears right in front of you.
We spend half hour doing this and talking about where they live, what they eat etc.
We’ve been taking advantage of watching all the extra videos of animals that the zoos are putting out during lockdown. They’ll happily do this for 20-30 minutes.
Do you see a theme emerging?! We take it in turns to act an animal out, sometimes with noises if we want to make it easier. This game gets silly very quickly, but passes a good half hour.
Family Coat of Arms or Name Sign
Draw a shield, split in 4 and get them to draw 4 things that represent them or their family. For younger ones or as additional activity, write their name in bubble writing and get them to decorate it. This lasted half hour for us and they were very proud of their creations.
I had a little kit in our hand luggage, but you could use pasta if you wanted to. It’s great for hand coordination and creating a bit of focus. This lasted 20-30minutes.
My two recorded a video of them saying a few lines of a story they made up. We then sent it their cousins who filmed the next few lines and then we went back and forth a few times. This lasted 5/10 minutes each time.
Another old school one, but it’s great if you don’t have any resources. My 4 year old loved this when he had to wait 20/30 minutes for his sign off appointment at the doctors.
We’ve been letting the kids help to cook meals. It passes the time, keeps them out of mischief and usually leads to questions about where different ingredients come from and so on. This usually lasts 10-20 minutes depending on if they see anything they want to taste!
Sometimes I give them the items and they make a face or a shape, and other times I do it for them. It’s a little bit of creative novelty that makes the day a bit more fun. it passes 5 minutes.
We don’t have a load of paper or colours here in this temporary base, so we’ve been using bits of recycling and our few pens to make some craft bits, like this rocket.
The rocket then led to questions about space and we eeked it out more by making space tickets and posting them through the portholes.
Together we wrote a list of all the places we want to go to when lockdown is over. Some were simple things like the playground and others were more exciting, like Disneyland.
It’s a nice way to encourage imagination, talk about memories and to practice writing and spelling.
5 R&R Activities
We only have a shower in this apartment, so we borrowed a big bucket from reception. We fill it with some soapy bubbles, give them a few lids so they can fill and pour, and they’re well happy.
They’d stay in there for much longer, but after 45 minutes they reluctantly get out.
If you’re at home and have more to hand you can add little toys, use bath crayons, a bath bomb and make wacky hairstyles with the bubbles.
We have three books with us that we’ve been reading, as well as some audio books through the library. However, their favourite seems to be when one of us makes a story up from scratch.
Recommended Reading: The Best Books for Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers
I managed to buy some kid-friendly nail polish just before the lockdown. Both of my kids love having their nails done. Sure, they pick it off or smudge it, but who cares if it keeps them happy?!
They also like painting my nails. This lockdown activity keeps them happy for 10-15 minutes.
We’ve been playing hairdressers. They love brushing my hair and pretending to cut it. Again, this lasts around 10-15 minutes.
I know some say you shouldn’t let kids watch TV just before bed, but it seems to help mine to wind down. They chill out and get engrossed in a movie.
Sometimes we put the blankets and cushions on the floor to make a cinema. We always have snuggles while we watch something and it’s one of my favourite parts of the day. They’ll happily watch a whole movie if it’s a good one.
My Under 5s Routine During Covid-19
Parenting is a struggle at the best of times. It often feels like the hardest job in the world and one with no training. At least that’s what it feels like to me. During the lockdown I’ve loved seeing others sharing their routines. And so even if you don’t have kids, perhaps you’ll like seeing how we’ve survived being stuck for these past three weeks.
At home in the UK I usually have both my 2 and 4 year old on Monday and Wednesday. The rest of the working week they go to nursery and pre-school.
We have a loose routine in that what we do each week changes, but the times of activities and meals always stays the same. Here in New Zealand during lockdown we’ve stuck mostly to the same schedule. It looks like this:
6.30-7am: They’re up. Once in a blue moon they sleep til 7.10am and it’s amazing!
7-7.30am: Get washed and dressed. If we skip to the next stages before this part it’s a battle to get them ready.
8-9am: TV. I’d love to lie and say it’s something else, but I need coffee and a while to wake up.
9–10am: Energetic play (see above)
10.30-11.30am: Disguised learning (see above)
11.30-12: Kitchen disco
12-12.30pm: Lunch all together at the table
12.30-2.30pm: R&R (2yr old often naps)
2.30-4pm: Energetic play
4-5pm: Dinner all together at the table (They do their own thing whilst we prepare it)
5-6pm: TV or screens
6-6.30pm: Bath and pjs
6.30-7pm: Milk and story
7pm: Bed for kiddies – here in lockdown in NZ the kids have to share a bed so they have the same bedtime. At home my 4yr old normally gets an extra half hour.
So yeah, that’s how were surviving. How are you getting on? Any ideas to add?
Spoiler – we made it back.
Read More About Our Family Trip to New Zealand
- The Lowdown on our Epic Family Holiday to New Zealand
- The Cost of Our Trip to New Zealand
- Everything you Want to Know About Family Motorhome Hire in New Zealand
- Our North Island Itinerary
- Our South Island Itinerary
- Family Packing List for New Zealand in March
- Flying to New Zealand With Kids via Economy, Skycouch and Business Class
- Flying NZ-UK in Business Class With Kids
- How We Got Stuck in New Zealand
- Flying NZ-UK in the Coronavirus Pandemic