Having to stay at home is hard for everyone, especially children who would otherwise be at school. When they’re not doing their lessons or homework, they might get frustrated or restless. This is tough to contend with, especially when the alternative is often hours spent on smartphones, tablets or game consoles. But we’ve rounded up a few fun and educational activities you can do with your children at home, regardless of how old they are, or at what stage they are in their learning journey.
It’s important to remember that children of different ages have different needs and face different developmental challenges at each stage of their life. The physical, emotional, social and cognitive abilities they will need to develop will be different depending on their age, and that’s why we’ve split this article into the following age groups: younger learners (3 – 9), “tweens” (10 – 12) and teens (13 – 18). So, let’s have a look at how you can entertain – and educate – your kids at home.
Younger learners (3 – 9)
- Take your child outside and ask them to name shapes, objects, colours, and maybe even animals that they see outside. Ask them to count different things they see, like the number of cars parked on the street. This will help them build on their vocabulary and develop basic numeracy skills, as well as letting them get some fresh air!
- Children at these ages are very creative and tactile. Have them build little structures out of cardboard like a birdhouse/birdfeeder or a puppet theatre (and accompanying finger puppets) that they can use to stage shows. Let them paint and draw. These kinds of activities will help them with their spatial awareness and fine motor skills, as well as giving them a creative outlet.
- If you have a camera or a smartphone, let your child use it to photograph objects for each letter of the alphabet (an apple in a fruit bowl for “A”, a bed in a room for ”B”, etc). This will allow them to improve their literacy and develop much needed technological skills in this digital age.
Tweens (10 – 12)
- By this age, your child would have mastered both basic and fine motor skills – put these to use. Take them outside and play a game of catch or have them throw a tennis ball at targets. This is some good and much-needed exercise and helps them work on their hand-eye coordination.
- At this point in their learning journey, your child will be learning subjects a bit more nuanced than basic literacy and numeracy. Satiate their curiosity about the world around them by doing science experiments at home, like building a volcano using baking soda and vinegar, which teaches children about chemical reactions; or the “water cycle in a bag”, which teaches children about the natural water cycle.
- By this age, children will be more aware of their own particular skills and talents, so ask them to put together a drama or music routine or ask them to recreate a photo they like if they’re particularly artistic. Have them design a website if they’re more technologically inclined. This will give them a creative outlet, as well as allow them to work on the talents and abilities that are unique to them.
Teens (13 – 18)
Teenagers are arguably the most “difficult” of all the age groups and convincing them to take part in educational activities is probably going to be somewhat challenging. After all, they may be resentful that they have to be “stuck” with the family, unable to see their friends. And of course, they still have plenty of schoolwork to get through, even during a lockdown. Here’s a list of games you can (try) play with them – channel that rebellious energy into competitiveness!
- Pictionary – if you don’t have the board game, write down a bunch of things (objects, famous faces, colours, etc.) on small scraps of paper (folded, so other family members can’t see what’s written) and put them in a bowl. Have a family member take a piece and draw what’s written. Divide the family into teams, and have the other teams guess what’s drawn. The team that guesses correctly, wins! This will get your kids to practise their fine motor and critical thinking skills.
- Charades – like Pictionary, throw a bunch of cues in a bowl and have each family member take a turn drawing one and acting or miming it out. This is a great way to bond, entertain one another, and continue to practise those creative and critical thinking skills!
- 20 Questions – each member takes a turn thinking of a famous person, and other members ask questions (up to 20) to get clues as to the person’s identity. The first member to guess their name correctly wins!
Keeping your children entertained with productive activities can be a difficult task, but hopefully these tips will provide you with the inspiration and assistance you need. For more advice on how to navigate your new life with your children at home, read our article on how to cope with school closures!
by Jacqui Smit