The latest lockdown is proving especially difficult for parents of children with four hands. Photo: Getty

Tips to keep your children engaged while not destroying yourself during lockdown

Across about a third of the country, parents are staring, empty eyed, into the middle distance, while their beloved kids unleash a special hell around them. Emily Writes shares some timely advice.

Aucklanders are once again stuck at home with their children with very little notice. If you have to work from home, activities to keep them occupied is a must. Here’s an incomplete list of things for your kids to do that may or may not entertain them for five minutes before they say, I’m booorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed.

Caution: avoid the comments unless you seek the smug condescension of someone with estranged adult children telling you that you should be using this time to cherish every single second of every single moment with your adorable offspring.

Let’s start with stuff they can watch on screens because, let’s face it, you will not get through this week without screens.

Dr Michelle Dickinson AKA Nanogirl is a hero in our house. We are very stoked about her new show Kitchen Science. The full season is on TVNZ on Demand now. Just lay out the rules before you start: “Sorry kids, Jacinda said we can’t do any actual cooking unless you’re quiet for three hours. It’s just the rules for lockdown.”

The Kid Should See This is a great website with safe videos for kids that might even educate them. This website got my kid through many hospital stays. It’s incredibly wholesome. Now eight, he just wants to spend all his time watching Kook Slams. I miss the days when we watched time lapses of mushrooms growing with a chaser of baby hippos swimming.

Born to Move encourages kids to get their daily exercise in. I personally prefer “Gentle workouts for over 70s with heart conditions” for my workouts, so I usually just put this on for them and watch from my desk.

How to do Stuff Good is also on free-to-air television. There are two seasons and they do arts and crafts, cooking, reading and general “making”. My kids made a very gross hair gel that they still use.

Art and craft projects can be basic. Don’t let that prick Mister Maker guilt you into using paint inside. Chucking some printer paper at your kids and saying “figure out how to make origami” is fine.

Here are some tips other parents have helpfully suggested:

Mandala art
If you don’t have a compass just draw around a plate. Repeating patterns is really calming for little minds (and you too).

Paper planes
Give your kid a measuring tape and get them to record how far their plane travels.

Recycled box marble runs
Goon boxes work especially well I’m told.

Shaving cream in the shower
Great for little ones. I chuck my youngest one in there without any water and he comes out smelling like a wrestler but it definitely entertains him for at least eight minutes.

Nature art
Make bunting from string and leaves. Make friendship bracelets. If you don’t have a backyard, garden or any trees at your place – you can grab some bits and pieces while on your state-sanctioned walk.

Wash the windows
You’d be surprised at how much kids love to wash windows. Just give them a squirter gun or hose and some sponges and they’ll get right into it.

Paint with water
Give them buckets of water to “paint” the fence or driveway (ensure there’s lots of supervision if you have a shared driveway). Washing the car is also heaps of fun until they reach a certain age and refuse to do anything for you.

Sending your kids on missions is a great way to entertain them. It’s also pretty easy and gives you at least a few minutes of peace. You basically just send them on a mission with a list of things they have to do or get. For example, five square shaped things, two very soft things, six tiny round things, one hard thing, one thing that we can sacrifice to end lockdown …

You can also do this on a walk. Find a red letterbox, the number 12, a fluffy dog, a yellow flower and a green car. It also works with counting waves or toots from cars.

Other parents had great tips for some simple games:

  • Sit in the car and let the kids pretend to drive somewhere. They enjoy the novelty of it and can take turns being the driver while you snooze in the back.
  • Cover the floor with towels and cushions for a simple “the floor is lava” game.
  • Home hair salon (no cutting!)
  • Homemade tattoos (I let the kids colour in mine, I also let them just draw their own).
  • Fort cities with blankets and chairs.

The Department of Conservation has heaps of great activities for kids, including: a guide to making a wētā hotel, nature journals, and instructions on how to make 3D birds and face masks.

You can also turn to Pinterest mums. Trust me, nobody has their shit together more than Pinterest mums (or appears to anyway). These women can make paint, glue, “messy play” out of literally anything. Anything you have in your cupboard.

This woman made chickpea cookies, which firstly: what? And secondly: she then used the chickpea juice (?) to make some kind of goo for her kids to play with. I shit you not. It actually looks really fun.

This woman used beetroot juice to dye play dough because I don’t know.

This woman just knew her kid would eat those gross water bead things so she worked out how to make them edible.

It’s also a chance to meet your neighbours (from far away – don’t go near them). Our neighbours put up a daily sculpture outside their house for the children on our street. Others would do dances in the window as our kids walked by. It’s a nice reminder that there’s a lot of goodness out in the world, even if we’re feeling isolated and a little scared.

My kids left messages taped to the bus stop for those essential workers who were possibly feeling really worried. It was a great way to teach the children gratitude and empathy while also hopefully brightening someone’s day a little.

And if all of that fails, I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to let them play Minecraft for eight hours. I can’t remember their name but some Highly Qualified Parenting Expert said it’s totally cool and probably really good for their brains. Good luck!

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