Following the worldwide Coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic, the latest advice is to stop non-essential contact with others and to practice social isolation.

Easier said than done when you have small children!

So how can you keep the kids entertained at home during these difficult few weeks – or months – especially if the UK moves to enforced quarantine?

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic

The world is currently facing an outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19.

This pandemic is understandably a cause for concern, as it continues to spread throughout the UK, with the long-term effects on health and the economy still unknown.

The latest advice from government is that everyone should stop non-essential contact with others.

And it is highly likely that, following the examples of many other countries like Italy and Spain, the UK could see the arrival of enforced quarantine, where schools are closed and people are required to stay in their homes in all but exceptional circumstances, until further notice.

So how can parents or carers of young children keep them entertained when the novelty of staying in the house and making endless fairy cakes has well and truly worn off?

Castle Lane Day Nursery in Market Harborough has the following low cost, helpful suggestions!

1.      Paint the walls

Give the kids a load of old paint brushes along with a big bucket of warm water and send them outside into the garden to paint the exterior walls of the house. Or the paving slabs. Or the fences.

Unlike glitter and glue, water is significantly less irritating and will leave no permanent damage or mess.

You might also like to give them chalk to use outside. Don’t worry – it really does wash away with the next shower of rain.

2.      Fill the paddling pool with shaving foam and watch them slide

Shaving foam is a great sensory experience for kids who love to play with it for hours, hiding themselves and toys in it, throwing it around and generally covering each other in it.

A paddling pool is a great way to keep the whole experience contained (ish). And if the weather is fine and you’re lucky enough to have an outside space, then you may prefer to move the whole event outdoors. If not, stick them in the bath and you can just hose it all down when they’re done.

3.      Junk modelling

There are few things that kids love more than free access to cellotape (and less than £2 will buy you several small rolls from your local discount supplier).

Most pre-school and primary school children will also happily spend a couple of hours sticking together all the stuff that you might otherwise send to the recycling bin – so start putting that cardboard to one side and see what they come up with.

You’ll notice we didn’t mention toilet rolls…

4.      Create a theme

Variety is the key to keeping kids entertained and we love the idea of creating a theme for the day and then letting them use their imagination.

So you might want to set your activity space up as a farm last thing at night, using their toys and rearranging the furniture into ‘stables,’ with food and bedding for the animals etc. so that they come down the next day to a whole different experience.

Other ideas include setting up a shop; school; theatre; hospital or train.

Easter egg hunt

5.      Hide and Seek

Ah that good old fashioned game! But if you put the effort in when they’ve gone to sleep you can hide all manner of things in the house and garden that they will spend a good hour or two hunting down the following day.

An obvious one are the mini foil wrapped Easter Eggs, which are abundant in the shops right now.

And don’t make it easy! Tell them exactly how many there are to find and then let them loose.

A top tip: suggest they all pitch in together to find the hidden items and share their spoils together at the end. Saves a whole lot of fighting about who has found (and eaten) the most…

car cleaning

6.      Wash the car

Really?! Yep! When was the last time you washed the car at home on the drive?

Kids often love the idea of sharing what might seem to you to be mundane tasks with adults.

And what child wouldn’t love being given the hose pipe and free rein to rinse off all those soap suds?!

7.      Sink or Swim?

This is one for the little ones who like to explore. And it’s perfect for pre-schoolers who are constantly experimenting.

Simply gather together a whole load of objects that can withstand being dunked in water and then explore with your child which ones they think will sink or swim. And then get them to try out their theory for real.

8.      Paint the bath

If you have some tubes of washable paint then an hour before bath time, stick the kids in the bath together with the paint and let them paint the sides. And themselves. And each other. Then wash the whole lot off, get them to bed – and relax.

9.      Make a mud kitchen

Definitely one for outside unless you like clearing up mess! But gather together a couple of old pans (frying pans are a big favourite) and some kitchen utensils and set aside an area of the garden where the kids can ‘make dinner’ or ‘potions’ with mud, leaves and water (and of course, all your precious flowers, just as they come into bloom…).

10.  Explore your tool box

This is one for the older children but, under careful supervision, kids love to explore some of the items in your tool box such as a hand saw, hammer and screwdriver. Sounds dangerous? Most forest schools (ours included) see the use of these tools as important for hand-eye coordination and for helping children understand risk taking, safety and the importance of active listening.

11.  Indoor (or outdoor) hopscotch

This game has to be hundreds of years old and yet, once marked out, it just requires a pebble (or similar), some balance and a bit of patience when it comes to turn taking.

If you’ve got the space, you can create a hopscotch indoors with masking tape. Or chalk one up outside.

Beware thinking you’re still as good at this game as you were when you were seven. Chances are you (and your knee ligaments) have aged since then.

12.  Label a doll (or a parent)

If you have some blank sticky freezer labels or such like, write down the various parts of the body and get your children to stick them on the relevant parts of a doll or a parent.

You can make this exercise very simple for toddlers and as complicated as you like for older children (who can also practice their reading and writing).

With 206 bones in the adult body, there should be at least an hour’s worth of activity there!

13.  Make a cardboard laptop

This is a great exercise for getting kids to write out the whole alphabet neatly, plus copy out numbers 0-9!

Simply get them to count out the keys and then copy your laptop layout.

Cut up old magazines for the screen. And then let their imagination run free as they role play anyone who might use a computer during the course of their day…

den building

14.  Build a den to beat all dens

This is an especially great idea for rainy days if you can’t otherwise build something in the garden. Simply hand over all your blankets, skipping ropes, clothes airers and cushions and let the kids do the rest.

If you can cope with your sofa being temporarily dismantled, then a den in the lounge can keep kids occupied for a whole morning or afternoon. Especially if you supply snacks. And a DVD.

Alternatively, if you have the space, try putting up a small tent indoors (or outdoors!) and just letting them play. It’s amazing how much fun they can have in an environment they’ve created for themselves.

15.  Cardboard hands nail painting

Pair some life-size hands cut out from cardboard with your old nail varnish (or a child safe version) and let them set up a nail salon. This activity is a great for role play as well as developing fine motor skills.