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20+ at home activities for under fives

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With a three-year-old and eight-month-old at home, I know first hand the 1-5 age bracket can be the trickiest age to keep entertained, especially now that Canberra’s schools, parks and play centres are temporarily closed.

With an abundance of energy and lower attention spans than their older counterparts, thinking of things to do around the house each day is no mean feat.

Never fear, we’ve put together 20+ easy home activities bound to keep your little ones occupied while at the same time taking care of their development—you might even get a minute to yourself to have a peaceful cuppa or two!

Sensory play activities

  1. Get out those old cardboard boxes and create! A box can turn into anything: a train, ramps for cars, an aeroplane or a miniature house.
  2. Slice some potatoes in half and cut stars and other shapes into each flat surface. Dip the potatoes into saucers of paint and let your toddler use them for printing.
  3. Play dolls’ hospital using toilet paper or tissues as bandages and a few band-aids, then line up dolls and toys as patients.
  4. I’ve learned the hard way shaving cream is one of those sensory activities that toddlers can’t get enough of. Instead of waiting for them to steal it from you in the shower, buy a small can they can use, squirt some on a pan and just let them have fun. Add food colouring if you like (you might want to put them in an old shirt and maybe put a towel down, too, things could get messy!)
  5. Create a necklace, toddler style! Use a piece of string (a shoestring works well because of the hard end) and something to thread on it such as beads or large pasta noodles. It’s a great fine motor activity.
  6. Fill a large Tupperware container with tanbark or jelly and grab some small toys to hide inside for them to find (if you’ve got any spare Woolworths Ooshies, they’re ideal.) Grab a magnifying glass or torch and tell your toddler to look for the hidden critters.

Learning activities

  1. Get tracing! Tracing books can be easily purchased from most stores and can help when your little one is starting to write words.
  2. Draw or stick pictures of objects such as apples, cars or butterflies on cards to help your child count in twos, threes, etc. For example, stick two apples on the first card, four apples on the second, six apples on the third, and so on.
  3. Grab some chalk and draw up a chart with eight squares in total on your driveway. Tell your toddler to collect two sticks for the first square, then three flower petals for the third, and so on.

Moving activities

  1. Bowl indoors! Grab one of the kids’ balls and set up a few items for pins—paper towel or toilet paper tubes work best!
  2. Put on some tunes and play musical bumps. Tell your toddler they have to sit down as quickly as possible when the music stops.
  3. Hide and seek in the house—grab a teddy bear and take it turns in hiding/finding it.
  4. Use pillows, books, chairs or anything around the house to make an indoor obstacle course! Tell your child they have to do three star jumps at the first obstacle, one dance move at the second, crawl to the third obstacle, and so on.

Art and Craft activities

  1. Make cards for someone special in your family, for example, a grandparent (especially appreciated in this tough time!). Get your little one to draw their own picture on the front and buy some stickers to decorate.
  2. Use coloured paper, craft paper or plain old white sheets coloured with crayons to make origami. Teach your child how to fold paper to make interesting shapes like aeroplanes, rockets, boats, birds, etc.
  3. Put plain white glue in several empty, squeezable plastic containers and add various watercolours to make bottles of different coloured glue. Now let your child squeeze out various coloured patterns onto white chart paper and let it dry. This will make a colourful display piece once the glue has dried.
  4. Ask your child to go out to the garden and collect different leaves, petals or tiny sticks. Next, use chart paper to draw an outline of scenery, flowers or a tree. Now spread glue over the outline and stick real petals, tiny branches and leaves to form a beautiful picture. This one is perfect for autumn!
  5. Give your toddler some biscuit cutters, a rolling-pin and play dough, and explain how to cut out ‘biscuits’. (A garlic press is fun for making squiggly bits.)
  6. I don’t know what it is, but my kids are obsessed with letterboxes and the mailman. Make a letterbox by covering an old cereal box in red paint or paper. Cut out a slot for letters and make pretend envelopes. Your child can write on the envelopes, stick on pretend stamps and post them.

Outdoor Activities

  1. If you’ve got a sandpit, grab a few buckets and build a “kingdom” of sandcastles and shapes. Encourage them to use their imagination and think of buildings the kingdom will need; e.g. hospital, school etc.
  2. Go bug-hunting in the garden. Find different insects and explain them to your child.
  3. Get your child to help you with weeding the garden or planting. It will inspire their curiosity and help them discover how plants grow.
  4. Go on a scavenger hunt! Draw up a list of things you want them to find, either in the backyard or down the street. Give them a bucket and make sure they tick everything off!

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