With homeschooling underway and the kids running riot throughout the house at all hours of the day, it’s easy to slip into the same routine of popping the TV on as a way to keep the kids entertained (and quiet) for a little longer.
Here to help parents from reaching their last tether is Daisy Upton, author of Five Minute Mum: Give Me Five, the brilliant guide to keeping the kids busy with minimal effort. We caught up with Daisy ahead of her latest book releases, Five Minute Mum: On The Go and Five Minute Mum: Time For School (available to pre-order now) to find out her three golden rules to keeping the kids entertained for longer. Plus, she shows us three great activities you can do at home that take less than five minutes to set-up.
Here are Daisy’s three golden rules and three simple activities to keep the kiddies entertained for longer. These tips are great regardless of lockdown too.
My golden rule is ALWAYS let the kids come to the game, never force it.
Daisy’s Top Tips
- Structure the day to help break it into manageable chunks with a mix of five minute games and other activities. You can choose a daily theme – could be animals, dinosaurs, space – and then plan fun, educational and relaxing activities around it.
- If you’re overwhelmed, take a few minutes to yourself, somewhere where you can see but not hear the kids.
- My golden rule is ALWAYS let the kids come to the game, never force it. If your kids come, great. If they don’t? Leave the activity out if you can. They might approach it later. They might not. It doesn’t matter. It’s only five minutes.
Letters and gross motor skills
“In my experience, simple is always best. If my kids and I can play a game with just a pen and paper, it makes my day. No big clean-up and five minutes of feeling like I am nailing parenting because my kids have the biggest grins on their faces. Whenever I hear ‘Can we play it again?’ it’s music to my ears! (Well not always, but, you know, if I’m in the mood for it!) And speaking of music . . .”
- 10 bits of paper
- A pen
- Something to play music on
TO SET UP:
- On each piece of paper, write some letters. It could be the letters of your child’s name or phonics sounds (see page 172 for more on phonics) or even words. I tend to mix it up, including a few letters my kids are confident with and a few that are new or that they get stuck on.
- Spread the letters out on the floor.
- Put the music on standby.
In my experience, simple is always best.
- Explain to your little ones that, when the music plays, they can dance or run around between the letters. Then, when the music stops, they have to jump on a letter and shout it out. You jump on a letter too, and shout it out.
- Remove the letters that get jumped on, then start the music again.
- Keep going until there is only one letter left to win, or until all the letters are gone.
*To extend play, children can wash up afterwards at the sink, using a bowl of soapy water and a cloth.
*For older ones: Write the name of each item of food on the plates, instead of drawing them. You could even get children to write down the orders themselves!
I always have several dice kicking around the house so I can grab one if I’m stuck for ideas.
GIANT SNAKES AND LADDERS
Speech & Numbers
“I love dice. There are so many games you can play with them, and counting the dots from one to six is such a great early skill. I always have several dice kicking around the house so I can grab one if I’m stuck for ideas. This game came to me miraculously, right when the kids were driving me freaking bonkers and I was fed up with muttering ‘FFS’ to myself.”
- A load of books or cushions (about 25)
- A length of string (or more if you want more ‘snakes’)
- Masking tape
- A dice
TO SET UP:
- Scatter the books or cushions across a room in a rough, wiggly line – these are your ‘board-game squares’.
- Between two of your squares, lay down a wiggly line of string – this is your ‘snake’. You can have one or a few ‘snakes’.
- Between another two squares, stick down some masking tape – this is your ‘ladder’. (It doesn’t have to actually look like a ladder! It can be just a line. But you can make rungs too, if you’re feeling fancy.) Again, you can have one or more ladders.
- Err . . . pretty self-explanatory, yes?! Just take it in turns to throw the dice and jump across the corresponding number of board squares. (You are the ‘counters’!)
- If you land on a snake, you go back to the square at the end of the snake.
- If you land on a ladder, you go forward to the square at the top of the ladder.
- The first player to reach the finishing line wins!
* Add a dice per player to include more letters.
* See how many words you can make out of the letters at the end of the game!
Numbers, letters, gross motor skills and speech
“This game came from my hen do. My lovely girls know me well, so the weekend was full of brilliant games, including ‘Prosecco pong’ which ended with my mum cheating and everyone crying with laughter. When I arrived home in a bedraggled state, I discovered a ping-pong ball in my handbag. Hey, I thought, the kids might like a go at this. (Minus the Prosecco, of course – but I was off it for quite a while, anyway!)”
- Some paper or plastic cups
- A pen and some paper
- A ping-pong ball or bouncy ball
TO SET UP:
- Pop the cups on the floor. They can be dotted about randomly, in a line or in a triangle.
- Write something you’d like your little one to practise on a piece of paper, then cut it out and put it in a cup. For example, if they’re learning particular letters or numbers, write them down. Do this for all the cups.
- Put the ball nearby.
- Explain to your little one that the idea is to bounce the ball and try to get it to land in one of the cups. (Take turns if you’re playing with more than one child.)
- When a player gets the ball into a cup, they can take out the bit of paper and see what it is. Help them to read it out loud, then remove that cup.
- Keep playing until all the cups are gone.
* Always use a combination of letters that your child is familiar with (such as the
letters in their name) and some new letters.
*This obviously works just as well with numbers!
Daisy’s book Five Minute Mum: Give Me Five is available now: www.penguin.co.uk and Five Minute Mum: Time For School and Five Minute Mum: On The Go are available to pre-order now. Follow Daisy on Instagram @fiveminutemum and visit her blog for more advice games: www.fiveminutemum.com