Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Toddler

Make the most of play time

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  • Category Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Toddler

Play is about so much more than simply passing the time or keeping the kids busy. For kids, it’s a crucial part of childhood development that helps them pick up important new skills while improving their gross and fine motor skills, showing them how to play well with others and, of course, giving them a chance to spend quality time with mum and dad, while building stronger ties as a family.

In fact, playing and engaging with parents is an important part of a child’s formative years, but with the stress of work, deadlines, meetings and other responsibilities, parents sometimes have a limited amount of time to spare for play.

With a little planning ahead and a dash of creativity, here’s how you can use the five, 10, 15, 20 and 30 minutes you might have spare, to spend with your little ones.

5 mins:

  • The Smarties in water experiment is a quick and easy activity to do when you’re low on time, and makes for a fascinating result for kids! All you need is a plate, some Smarties (or similar sweets) and some water. Arrange different colours of sweets next to one another in a circle on the plate, and slowly add warm water to the middle of the circle until the sweets are half submerged. Now, sit back and wait for the colour burst surprise!
  • Have a dance party! Five minutes isn’t much, but it’s just enough to get up and boogie together to one of your child’s favourite tunes.
  • Build the world’s tallest tower made out of LEGO® bricks and any other stackable items you can find – try to see who can make theirs the tallest before it tips over.

10 mins:

  • Make some ooey gooey slime! Homemade slime is quick and easy to make, not to mention safer for little ones to play with than most store-bought versions. For ‘edible’ slime, simply mix some corn flour and jelly powder with just enough water to create a viscous slime mixture that’s not too sticky.
  • Dig for treasure. for your little palaeontologist in the making, bury a few dinosaur toys and other mini treasures in a sandbox. Parents and kids can dig up their own exciting discoveries using a plastic spade or a brush to gently dust away the sand.
  • Clean up games might sound to your child like a cleverly disguised way of getting them to do chores, but you can make it fun by turning it into a race to see who can pack away toys or tidy up the living room the fastest. You can even make up a song as you go, and offer a few rewards like an extra bed-time story or slightly later bed-time.

15 mins:

  • Play with rainbow rice. This is a fun and educational sensory play idea – the kids will love running their fingers through the grains, and the multitude of colours have been found to stimulate brain development too. Simply fill a few empty ice cream containers about halfway with rice and add a few drops of food colouring in different colours to each container. Put the lids on and give them a good shake to spread the colour around, and leave to dry for a few hours on a tray – it’s best to make the rice a day ahead to make things more convenient at playtime. 
  • Minute-to-win-it games are tons of fun and a great way to get the kids to play competitively in a fun and healthy way. Prop a piece of cardboard up at an incline. Place a marble on the board and, using a spoon, see who can keep the marble from rolling off the board the longest. You can find more fun ideas and contests here

20 mins:

  • Decorate mum and dad using beaded necklaces, scarves, stickers and even a few items of make-up (if you don’t have to head into a video conference meeting straight afterwards, that is!)
  • Create an indoor obstacle course with anything you have lying around the house – a pile of couch cushions becomes a mountain to climb over, a few strips of tape could be a hop-in-hop-out ladder, tables and chairs can be climbed over or under, and a row of cardboard boxes becomes the coolest tunnel to crawl through. 
  • Build a fantasy creature out of LEGO® bricks (or LEGO® DUPLO® for younger children). Stacking, connecting and building things together as a family is a phenomenal way to bond, inspire creativity for parents and kids alike, and encourage children to use their imagination. #LetsBuildTogether is a LEGO initiative that offers loads of play inspiration and daily building challenges – visit or search the hashtag online for more ideas.

30 mins:

  • Go on a garden safari. Grab a few stuffed animals and place them around the garden. You can even make a set of binoculars out of toilet roll holders to spot as many creatures as possible. Encourage the kids to get creative and make up a few animals of their own, along with the sounds they think the animals would make.
  • Whip up a meal together and spend some time eating together afterwards too. Pick something quick and simple, like cheese and crackers with some fruit, or a yummy sandwich that’s easy enough for your little one to put together without taking too long. You can also turn it into competition to see who can make the most interesting-looking faces with fruit pieces, for example.
  • #DrawWithRobRob Biddulph is an illustrator and author who posts draw-along videos that are fun and easy enough for parents and kids to do together. You may even find yourself taking an extended lunch break to continue the fun!

Whether you have as little as five minutes or as much as half an hour to spare in your busy day, there’s always a way to spend time together and play as a family.

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