Stoking your child’s imagination with fun and educational activities while at home can be a challenge at times, so we’ve put 50 great ideas together to help you get started.
In the kitchen
- Make cupcakes and set up a decorating station with pre-made frosting, sprinkles, choc drops and berries and let your children go to town for afternoon tea.
- Mix up your own play-dough (with this recipe, you just need flour, oil, water and food colouring).
- Make ‘fluffy’ slime Mix ¼ cup of white glue and ½ cup of shaving cream until the glue dissolves. Then add small amounts of contact lens solution to ‘activate’ the mixture and turn it into fluffy slime.
- Get cooking. Use cookie cutters to make interesting sandwich shapes for lunch or to cut out biscuit dough. Other easy recipes children love cooking include pancakes, popcorn or bliss balls – but the sky’s the limit if you’re supervising.
Fun with plants
- Plant an outdoor herb garden All you need are pots, a little earth and some seeds or herb plants from your local florist or Bunnings. Pop in a sunny spot and water!
- Create a mini terranium You’ll need small jars, earth, moss, gravel rocks, succulants and figurines / toys to place inside – and if you can get your hands on some activated carbon, mix it with the earth to stop the terranium getting smelly.
- Eggshell planter project Start saving your eggshells and the carton so your children can fill them with earth, plant a seed inside each one and place them on a windowsill to grow.
- Press flowers Have a wander through the garden and collect any flowers or interesting plants you can find (the less stem, the better). If you don’t have a flowerpress, place the flowers inside two pieces of blotting paper (not waxed paper, as it retains moisture) and between the pages of a large, heavy book. Pop something heavy on top and leave the flowers for a week before checking on them. They may need a bit longer. This ironing technique is also one to try!
Draw, paint, create
- Make a comic book This is a great one for kids obsessed with Captain Underpants! The Cat Kid Comic Club has heaps of downloadable templates for making comics and you can share your comics online.
- Google colouring-in pages Whether your little one loves Lightning McQueen, Elsa or Toy Story, you’ll find colouring in pages you can download free in Google images. Simply print out, grab the crayons and set your children up on the dining room table for a colouring in session.
- Take a drawing tutorial We recommend learning from the best – like children’s author Mo Willems, whose YouTube tutorials of Lunch Doodles will keep any budding illustrator happy for half an hour.
- Do a fingerprint painting You can press your fingerprint into paint and then onto the page to make a body or head, then draw on arms, legs, hair for a cute picture.
- Draw on the wall This is ideal if you have a big roll of butcher’s paper you can cover part of an empty wall with. A huge blank canvas to draw on can be super exciting!
Fun with boxes
- Create a cardboard box town Open up the box and sketch inside with a thick black texta. You might want to draw buildings, trees and a street inside the box – just add building blocks and toy cars! There are lots of ideas for activities using household items (for children aged 0-5) in Alice Zsembery’s fantastic book, Real Kids, Real Play.
- Make a puppet theatre And encourage your children to put on a theatre production using puppets or their teddies. Check out this cardboard box theatre for inspiration.
- Make a postbox. Cut a slit in a cardboard box, paint the box red and write ‘Postbox’ on it with black texta. Hey presto – you can have your own Australia Post outlet at home! Your child can write ‘letters’ and post them into the box. If you have a little satchel you could also let them collect the letters and pretend to play postman.
Read, listen and learn
- Put on Kinderling Radio and let your child choose a story to listen to – there are heaps of popular books recorded like ‘Where Is the Green Sheep’. Often, the person reading the book to you is the author or another well-known celebrity.
- Listen to audiobooks online There are heaps at Storynory, and Lit2Go – where you can often download reading passages at PDFs and print to use as read-along material.
- Listen to a podcast. Whether your little ones are into science, stories or downright silliness, you’ll find a podcast out there to suit. We love Noodle Loaf, What If World, But Why? And The Beanies Imagination Station.
- Visit educational websites. A couple that are perfect for school age children include Seussville, with lots of games and things to do, or Funbrain for maths problems and games.
- Cuddle up with a pile of your child’s favourite books and have a readathon.
Stay in touch
- Write letters to grandparents, neighbours and school friends, stick stamps on and post – everyone loves getting a letter in the mail and you might just get a few back!
- Make invisible ink using lemon juice and use it to write secret messages. Hint: you can warm it near a stove or heater for the messages to appear.
- Set up regular Facetime chats or playdates for your children to make it easy to connect with family members and friends.
- Colour-code the LEGO For something a little different, give your children a heap of Tupperware containers and ask them to separate their LEGO pieces into colours. It’s fun and it’ll give them a whole new way of looking at their LEGO collection and creating new things with it.
- Hold a LEGO-building contest. Set your children a task, such as making a castle or a spaceship and have prizes (like a cookie or bliss ball) at the end.
- Make a cubby Make a cubby or a fort with blankets, pillows and dining room chairs. You could have a picnic in the fort or pretend to be camping.
- Put on a play Suggest your children act out scenes from their favourite book or create a play from their imagination – while you play audience!
- Family band game Get all your instruments out (or create makeshift ones with cooking pots, wooden spoons and metal lids). Make music together!
- Have a teddy bears picnic. All you need is a blanket, some cushions, your favourite teddies and a tea-set – either with plastic food or some real snacks.
- Allocate fun jobs Sorting socks into pairs or putting things away for you can be fun for little ones and teach them a sense of responsibility.
- Do an indoor treasure hunt. Hide a range of things around the house, give your children buckets and let them go hunting!
- Do a toy tidy mission Chances are, your children will find toys they’d all but forgotten about AND you’ll end up with a clean room or playroom.
- Play a board game Be it Scrabble, Kids Trivial Pursuit or something random like Jungle Bingo, it’s a great way to kill time and have fun!
- Play dress-ups! Whether they use the dress-up box or raid your wardrobe, there are bound to be some Instagram-worthy photo opportunities!
- Give plastic toys a bath Use a bucket and an old toothbrush to scrub them – it can be a fun game for younger children while also being a great way to keep toys clean.
Art and craft
- Create a collage Stick on all kinds of bits and pieces you have lying around – feathers, paddlepop sticks, leaves, jumbles of wool or string, leftover corks, glitter.
- Make sock puppets It’s easy to turn all odd socks into fun puppets! You can stick on googly eyes if you have any in a craft box, or sew them on with a needle and thread. You can also stick on wool for hair.
- Have fun with pipe-cleaner craft Got a packet of pipe cleaners lurking about that you’re not sure what to do with? Turn them into pipe-cleaner flowers, wands, bracelets, four-leaf clovers and all kinds of animals.
- Make Easter tags Cut cardboard into large egg shapes and help your children decorate them using tissue paper or pieces of old wrapping paper. When the eggs are dry, you can use a holepunch to create a hole for a string so you can finish the tags ready for Easter presents.
- Paint a pet rock. You can also glue on googly eyes and wool for hair!
Science and senses
- Create a snow globe Using an old jam jar, glue a figurine onto the lid (it could be any tiny plastic toy like a snowman or a old Kinder Surprise toy). Once dry, fill the empty jar with glitter, some baby oil and water then screw the lid on (with the figurine inside the jar). Shake and enjoy!
- Make soap clouds. For a cool science experiment kids will love, pop a fresh, new bar of Ivory soap into the microwave and cook it on high for a couple of minutes. It’ll grow into big soap ‘clouds’ that you can pick up (also easily smashable, if your children love that!) Instructions here if you’re dubious about this one!
- Make marbled eggs. Hardboil a few eggs and leave them to cool slightly while you grate crayon shavings in different colours. Place the warm eggs onto a piece of paper and drop the crayon shavings over the eggs, watching as they melt into a ‘marbled’ effect. Gorgeous!
- Play with kinetic sand. It costs around $4 at Kmart and equals hours of fun.
- Create sensory bins. This could be a sensory garden with dirt, little pots and spoons, a bin with water and ice cubes, a bin with oats or rice and little toys hidden underneath, a bin with dried pasta or popcorn. Get creative!
- House party disco. Let your little ones choose the music and shake a tailfeather!
- Do family-friendly yoga. Jaime at CosmicKids Yoga on YouTube has all kinds of themed yoga sessions, from Frozen to The Gruffalo. She also does guided relaxation sessions. All you need is a SmartTV where you can access YouTube, or a laptop/tablet so your little ones can follow along.
- Put them in water. Whether it’s a backyard paddling pool or the bathtub, kids can spend ages playing in water and the mess is contained!
- Use electrical tape for play. You can use the tape to create roads on the floor for toy cars, or to make an indoor hopscotch. Works for wooden floors or carpet!
Want this list of 50 ideas to stick on the fridge? It’s all yours! Click here to grab your free printable pdf.