Claire Russell of playHOORAY is an Early Years Specialist and children's play coach. Here, she shares her five top tips and games for keeping kids entertained at home.
Since Taoiseach Leo Varadker announced that all school should close for two weeks, it's safe to say that the vast majority of parents have been anxious - anxious about the safety of themselves and their loved ones, but also about the idea of being on triple duty. Playing the role of employee, parents and educator is no easy feat, and it has been understandably causing many parents huge levels of stress.
With a few tricks up your sleeve, you'll be able to make this time a little bit easier. And remember - while it is difficult not to think about the days, weeks and months ahead, you have no control over them. Breathe, and take it minute by minute, hour by hour. You're doing your best, and we're all in this together.
How to keep your kids entertained at home:
Choose a theme.
Claire says: "Playing around a theme can be really effective for young children and can bring all your activities together. Themes such as foods, shapes, colours and space not only help children to get excited, but can also you to think outside of the box. That’s not only with toys etc. but also the things you talk about, read and watch."
There is inspiration everywhere.
"It’s amazing what can inspire small minds, from walking past a muddy puddle to spotting a ladybird in the kitchen, use everyday items or situations to inspire your play and go with what they are interested in," Claire says. "If your young child is showing an interest by observing and asking questions, why not bring it into your play? If there’s nothing particularly sparking their attention, grab a book or watch an interesting programme that might just get them thinking. Bringing any of those well-known characters into the mix can be really inviting for children to want to play. "
Have games that they can revisit.
Claire maintains that while some activities will keep them busy enough to have a cup of tea, some are worth investing your time and energy in.
She argues: "There are other activities, like pretend role play, that are worth investing your energy in. Once they are set up, they are often those that children return to over a period of time. For example, a shop, where children can develop lots of different lines of play, will often be played with over a couple of weeks so set it up and leave it out. If it’s not being played with, just tweak it slightly - change it from a food shop to a pet shop with soft toys!"
Have back up games.
While something may keep them occupied, don't be fooled. They will get bored of it and will be asking you what they can do next.
Clare advises: "Always have in the back of your mind ‘Okay, after this what’s next?’. Have a little plan of activities you can do - something quick, simple, easy to grab and set up. And as always if you’re stuck, grab a book! It can save you and your little ones getting stressed when there is little to do. "
Think outside the box.
Kids love anything new and exciting - and this doesn't have to mean buying them a new toy.
Claire says: "Kids love novelty, something new can be super exciting, so let them play somewhere they’ve never played before. Under the dining table, behind the sofa, in the hallway, in the sink, in an empty bath, in your bed, anywhere! Let them take their usual toys and all of a sudden they will think it’s amazing! And the same goes for their toys. Bring outdoor toys inside, take indoor toys out. Add plastic toys to bath time. Move toys from downstairs upstairs, and visa versa. Trust me, it can add a lease of life to old or ignored toys!"
Will you be trying out any of these tips to keep your little ones entertained?