5 clever ways to keep kids busy (and parents sane) during lockdown

Two small kids finger painting

Healthy Food Guide nutritionist and mum of two Claire Turnbull shares five great ways to keep the kids entertained and educated (and parents sane) during coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

If, like me, you have kids at home at the moment, even with remote schooling activities, it is hard going keeping them entertained, out of the pantry all day and active – especially if you are trying to juggle your own work at the same time.

Here are five effective ways to keep kids busy and learning during lockdown

1 Aim for structure during the day and with food

You don’t have to live by the clock but having a routine during the day can be very helpful for both you and your kids. Start by getting up and going to bed at a similar time and divide the day up into chunks.

At the moment, I get my five-year-old to write down a rough plan for the day in the morning, for writing practice. The morning involves some exercise for me and my two boys and then we head outside for nature exploring time. The middle of the day is reading, writing and cooking time. The afternoon is time for something crafty or LEGO building and then an afternoon walk around the block.

A routine with eating helps too. When you are at home it can be easy to pick and nibble all day – especially if you are bored or trying to distract yourself. Stick to a meal pattern that works for you and avoid eating in between, unless you are genuinely hungry and need a nutritious snack. In which case, put the snack on a plate and eat it mindfully, rather than eating standing up or at your pantry door.

2 Create food adventures in lockdown

Every day I aim to teach my boys something new about one food: either where it comes from, how it grows or how best to eat or cook it. This way they are learning at the same time as eating.

Last week, we picked lemons from the garden and when I opened them up, we looked at the seeds inside and talked about what the seeds are for and how they grow into new trees. Off the back of that one activity, every time we have fruit now, we play ‘spot the seeds’. We have also started to look at all the different trees and plants outside and hunt for their seeds too. It’s been great fun watching my two boys discover how various seeds look.

After picking the lemons, we made a ‘lemon and honey’ drink which started a discussion about bees. Then I found this video of how to make a ‘bee café’ which was another few hours filled in!

3 Kids’ cooking during lockdown

This is a great time for your kids to learn about cooking and it doesn’t just have to be cookies and muffins! Getting your kids involved in peeling carrots for soups, such as this delicious alphabet soup, or grating cheese for my pizza omelette.
Whenever there is any measuring to be done in the kitchen – ¼ cup of this, 4 tbsp of that – I try to get my five-year-old involved. It is great everyday maths!

For more inspiration, we have lots of ideas in our ‘Kids in the kitchen’ section.

4 Fitness activity stations

Need to wear your kids out? Why not set up fitness stations on your drive, in your back garden or wherever you have a bit of space. I set up five activity stations on my driveway last week, we did each activity 20 times then swapped to the next ‘station’. With music playing at the same time, it kept us outside and active for a good hour!

My ‘stations’ were:
1. Star jumps
2. Kicking a football into a net/goal area
3. Jumping over a stick
4. Doing squats with a ball between our knees
5. Throwing tennis balls into a bucket.

Check out these photos and a video of us in action.

5 Looking for some more lockdown learning opportunities?

• Auckland Zoo now has webcams so you can see what the animals are up to in real time
Auckland museum also some great interactive activities and links to great videos that are well worth checking out
• Need to get out in nature? Check out these free nature activity sheets.

Best of luck!

First published: Apr 2020

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