Column: How to entertain your kids during the lockdown

Now that the government has decided to extend the lockdown until April 19th and there is already talk of further extension, we must not delude ourselves. It’s going to be a long time before we get back to our normal lives.

While a large part keeps working day in and day out, there is also a large part at home. Who can be asked to work from home and for a large part of us this is accompanied by children. Because working from home may not seem so complicated. But place one or more children there and the situation immediately becomes a little more complicated. Because during that day there are a number of children walking around begging to be entertained. What are we going to do now, I’m bored, mommy look … Today I’m taking you through the whole children’s activities.

Today I’m putting every parent who is through their range of activities, those who are out of inspiration or totally don’t know how to get started. Thanks to my secondary education, my daily job in the disabled sector and my training as a creative therapist, I’ve been able to list my best tips for Blogzine.


1.   Structure and collect

In my daily job, I provide various activities for people with mental disabilities every day. My target group consists mainly of adults with a cognitive ability comparable to babies and toddlers. Every week, when I draw up a schedule, I foresee five major themes that recur: music, exercise, crafts, cooking and experiential activities.

Also today I apply that technique in providing activities for my daughter. By providing five major themes, it makes the interpretation of the activity a little easier for me. You can also look more specifically for the interpretation of the activity if you know what to look for. On Pinterest, for example, if you type in movement assignments for toddlers, you will find a lot of suggestions for this. By applying the five themes again and again, you can be sure that each domain is addressed for the child. So without much thought, you already have a simple form of variation.

How do you fill in these themes?

Musical activities

Everything you understand by music can be discussed here. This is the domain I’m least good at. Singing for a group, for example, has never suited me well, but over the years I have learned to deal with that threshold. Still, it’s quite difficult to pay attention to this nowadays. With my own daughter I’m able to do this a bit better, because the one I’m singing for is a bit smaller. Music is a broad domain: singing, making music, listening to music, crafting musical instruments, music memory, …

One of the nicest music activities I’ve done in the last few weeks with my daughter, I found thanks to the teacher. Very simple; you take a songbook (we do have a few in Annabel’s bookshelf) and you browse through it. At a certain moment Annabel shouts ‘stop’, and the page where you end up, you sing that song together. Make this moment even more cosy by sitting together on the couch or in a self-built camp, use a microphone or self-built musical instruments, and so on.

Movement assignments, games or sports

It’s not a state secret that children have a high dose of energy. Just when you think your kid’s exhausted, he puts a scoop on it. Sometimes it seems like children are running on full batteries. Sport and exercise are therefore extremely important to them. I often put games under here that require a lot of exercise. It’s easy to move around the house, cycle in the garden, go for a walk in the woods… Nowadays on YouTube you can also find fun mini disco dances that you can perform together. Every day we also do some exercises from the #Fitmom – book by Delphine Steelandt, which offers exercises you can do together with baby, toddler and child. One of Annabel’s highlights of the day.

By default, we end our activity day with a few movement assignments. I write cards with assignments you can easily get from the internet and put them in a bag. Annabel then draws an assignment and we carry it out together. In this way I try to use up her last bit of energy so she can start the evening in peace. It doesn’t matter how well your child does the assignment, especially doing it together and moving around are the priority here.

Crafting activities

When people are looking for activities with children, they are quickly inclined to do crafts. Although I think of myself as being very creative, I’m not a fan of arts and crafts. I think the process is important and not the result. Still, it is certainly not bad to work towards an end result. Although I do think it’s always best to focus on making it. When you look for craft projects on Pinterest you often see very nice results, and sometimes I have my doubts whether this is made by the toddler or the parent. So with craft projects it is important that you choose the right technique.

Older children can easily be given a step-by-step plan, for toddlers this is not obvious, they need more guidance. Nevertheless, it is important that you look for a way in which the child gains as many experiences as possible. Craft projects can also easily be divided into holiday or seasonal themes.

The topper of our craft projects is the canvas with profile that we made. Friday, one day before the official lockdown it became clear to me that I had to get some crafting materials for the coming weeks. During a visit to the Action I tapped four canvases upside down in heart shapes. Ideal to do something with this and to give as a present to Annabel’s grandparents later on.

How do you start?

First or all, the fun can start with red paint. We used the brushes to stamp, as that technique was still new to Annabel. Soon this stamping became blurred to lines and there was more paint on her face than on the canvas, but during the first phase you shouldn’t worry too much about the result. Here you can just completely let go.

When the canvas dries, you can work on the final template. With older children you can make this part extra special by working with shadow. Put the child in front of an empty wall in profile and shine on it with a lamp. Stick a white paper on the wall. The shadow of your child makes it easy to take over his profile with a pencil. With younger children such as Annabel, it is already a bit more difficult to use this method. Annabel didn’t want to stand still so we had to do it differently. The method is identical, leave the child in profile, but instead of drawing it over on a sheet of paper, take a picture. You then print this photo and cut it out.

The white remnant forms the template in which you will later dye with black. Because I knew Annabel wouldn’t be able to stamp between the lines, I took this into account beforehand. That’s why I made sure my stencil covered the whole canvas. For this I took a large piece of cardboard.

In the template you stamp with black paint. Make sure all edges are nice and black. You can easily do this to stamp on the cardboard itself, this has no effect on the canvas. Then remove the stencil and you will get the final result. 

Cooking activities

There’s nothing more fun with a toddler than to go into the kitchen and start cooking. You have to take the dirty kitchen. So before you start, it’s best to put the vacuum cleaner within reach. Cooking activities with children are especially successful if you let them do as much as possible themselves. We can all bake cookies by putting the ingredients in the food processor, but why not let the children mix the dough with their hands? The more experiences they gain, the more successful the activity for the child. Besides baking cookies, you can also make other fun desserts or smoothies.

Especially making smoothies is something Annabel loves to do. We use the last pieces of fruit that are lonesome in the fruit basket or fridge and mix them with yoghurt. Annabel cuts the pieces of fruit herself, which also involves a lot of tasting, and then throws everything into the blender. Together we push the blender and start mixing the fruit. As an extra we decorate our glasses with a sugar rim or a strawberry, which completes our moment.

Expressive activities

my favourite of favourites. You can take this theme very broadly. Everything that is performed in an emotive way falls under this theme. Puppet theatre, shadow games but also sensational activities are included. A kind of activities that are all too often forgotten, while they are still very important for the development of the child. Playing with sand, with boiled spagethi, corn or mud, it’s all part of it. It’s all about feeling and trying it out.

Annabel is a big fan of painting right now. Best of all, she would hang her hands full of paint. She doesn’t need a brush. That’s why I came up with the idea of body painting. You’re not tinkering with anything here, but you’re being compassionate. Here it’s all about the experience, the expression, the trying out and the socializing. A session of bodypainting with toddlers (and children) does require some ‘letting go’. Take it for granted that you will hang full of paint afterwards. Don’t try to avoid this. Couple a joint visit to the shower afterwards. Your child will be happy to try and wash the paint off your leg. Finally, afterwards you can make a small spa – a moment where you completely rub and massage your child with nourishing body cream. A great afternoon!


2.   There’s more than just Pinterest

Now that you have the big five themes in which you can vary, you have to look for interpretation. You can move every Monday, but if you choose to play soccer every time, your child will soon get tired of it. Under each theme you have a whole range of activities. We are often inclined to go straight to Pinterest. Pinterest is certainly not bad. It contains a whole collection of activities and ideas.  

At times when I’m bored – yes as a mother, I have those moments once in a while! – I like nothing better than scrolling on Pinterest. When I find something that appeals to me I immediately pin it in the right folder. During empty moments I can really amuse myself with this.

But there’s more than just Pinterest. On the worldwide web you’ll find a lot of sites and blogs that can inspire you. There are many kindergarten teachers who have a blog on the internet where you can find great activities. But next to the internet you have even more possibilities. It may sound old-fashioned, but the craft books of the past often still contain some nice gems of activities that are not done nowadays. The technique of weaving was one of them. Although this was the ideal activity for toddlers it was done less and less. Now we see this gradually reappearing on the internet, in a more modern variation.

Find your own inspiration

Be inspired by the world around you. Inspiration and creativity come from small things. Why on earth would you look for a special way to bake an instagram-worthy cake, when you might as well involve your child in the preparation of dinner? Annabel enjoys cleaning cauliflower together rather than baking biscuits together.

Before the school closed, she worked around school on the theme of the rocket. Since Annabel is in a Freinet school, the theme always comes out of the child’s interest. I especially remember how cute I thought it was when my 2,5 year old daughter told me that the rocket flies to the moon and goes very fast. With the closure of the school, the subject had become obsolete. Until last week we went for a walk and Annabel saw the church tower in the village. She assumed it was a rocket. When we got home we immediately looked up pictures on the internet of the rocket and afterwards we made one with cardboard. The point is, sometimes you just get a lot of fun activities out of the things your child is doing or telling.


3.   Dose and do not over-question

You’re not supposed to entertain your child from 9:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. You’re not a school teacher – unless you read this as a teacher, then ignore my sentence – and you’re not in school. Nothing about this situation is normal so don’t pretend you’re in school. This isn’t like that. So don’t question your child about entertainment. You don’t have to provide dozens of activities to fill the day. I foresee one or two organized activities in the morning. The morning lasts longer than the afternoon. So here we do provide two activities. In the afternoon Annabel takes an afternoon nap so she often only wakes up around 3 pm. Then there is until dinner time for one activity and a bit of playing outside.

The duration of the activity depends on your child’s age. My daughter has a concentration span of about half an hour. After thirty minutes, she’s had it and she’s in the mood for something new. So a cooking activity of an hour is not an issue with us. That’s why we provide two activities in the morning. We foresee two shorter activities so that she stays stimulated.

It is very important that a child is not offered organised activities all day long. We also provide a ‘free play’ pictogram in each block (morning and afternoon). At the moment, the interpretation is entirely up to Annabel. Whether she wants to play with the dolls or read or colour booklets, she chooses it. The only condition is that she plays alone and I don’t interfere. While she has ‘free play’, I keep myself busy with the household or with my own schoolwork. Of course Annabel regularly asks for attention during these moments, but here I stand firm.

Learn how to be bored

Besides the fact that Annabel is given time to learn to give her own interpretation, she also learns to be bored. As a parent it can sometimes be a bit tricky, a child getting bored, but there are certainly stronger aspects to this. A child effectively learns from boredom. For how does he deal with boredom, and how creatively will he fill it in? Boredom may be difficult at first, but it really is something valuable. 


Last but not least … 

Finally, it is very important to give yourself a little credit. Not every activity will catch on equally well, and sometimes you think you’ve found the activity for your child, and in reality you’re not. Believe me, that feeling is not nice. In those moments, you’d like to throw in the towel, and that’s okay. Totally okay. Better next time. Listen and observe, and remember that being together is more important than the activity itself. 

For more activities you can go to SMOTHERHOODS.com

This article has been written by @SMOTHERHOODS

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