It’s a pretty crazy world out there at the moment; lockdowns and isolation are necessary and so is keeping kids busy and entertained. Particularly if you don’t want to end up with screen overload and the inevitable crankiness that comes with that!
If you are trying to keep things low-waste and cost effective, you also don’t want to be ordering new plastic toys or gadgets that will most likely get fought over and then discarded after a few plays.
The good news is there are loads of fun activities you can do at home, with the things you have, that are educational, low to zero waste and will keep bodies and minds working during time stuck at home.
So without further ado, here are my top 20 low-waste activities guaranteed to keep the kids busy for a while:
1. Online exercise classes. There are so many to choose from if you do a quick search of YouTube; yoga, kid-specific exercise, dancing, gymnastics, etc. I try to find something I can do alongside the kids and set an exercise time for each day.
2. Scrap paper notepads. Get kids to gather up scrap paper from the printer and around the house (old school notes, mail, etc.) and make some notepads. Make a pile, punch some holes in the top and tie them up with string or ribbon. These will come in very handy throughout your isolation!
3. Origami. Use magazines, newspaper, scrap paper or kids’ paintings and drawings from school. No need for new paper.
4. Make new crayons. I love this one. Collect all those old bits of crayon that no one uses and melt them down to make crayon ‘blocks’. You will need a silicone tray to put all the bits in and then pop it into an oven at 175 degrees celcius (350F).You can play around with colours to get a nice rainbow effect – let the kids choose their own colour mix. Let them cool and then pop them out of the mold for good times!
5. Water painting outside. Give the kids a brush and a cup of water and let them go wild on the concrete, deck, side of the house, anywhere.
6. Chalk drawing outside. This can be super fun! Kids can do outlines of themselves, draw anything they like, get messy and then just leave it there as semi-permanent artwork to enjoy until it rains again.
7. Homework. Yep, it had to be said. Kids are going to have to face facts that isolation isn’t a total party. Do what the school has provided and supplement with your own stuff. For younger kids, just a bit of reading and arithmetic each day can do wonders. I have made some free printable worksheets on the environment and will be adding to these each week – feel free to grab them here!
8. Jigsaw puzzles. At the beginning of isolation, clear a space and get a jigsaw puzzle going that all of you can help with. It is seriously relaxing to sit together doing it and also fun to just do a couple of pieces as you pass by.
9. Drop everything and read. Set a time each day where a timer goes on for 15-30 minutes and everyone has to stop what they are doing and get some reading done. I like to do it as a surprise at random times of the day to mix it up a bit. Sometimes we read to each other, sometimes we use it for quiet time and read our own books.
10. Food scrap gardening. Save bits of leftover veggies for the kids to plant in the garden and watch grow. Plant things like: a slice of tomato, the core of a capsicum, cucumber slices or chilli seeds straight into soil. Place ends of shallots, lettuce, celery, carrots into a glass of water and then transfer them to the garden once they shoot.
11. Holepunch confetti. Collect autumn leaves and make confetti with a holepunch. Kids love throwing it up in the air and running through it in the backyard.
12. Make playdough. This is as easy as flour, water and salt and a bit of food colouring if you have some. Kids love making it and playing with it and it can be saved and used again and again. Mix 1 cup of flour with ½ a cup of salt and ½ a cup of water and get playing!
13. Treasure hunt (outdoors). Give kids a list of things to find in the backyard – flowers, leaves, rocks, twigs, pegs, vegetables…
14. Treasure hunt (indoors). Give kids a list of items you have hidden around the house (the weirder the items the better!) for them to find. HINT: the longer the list, the longer it will take them.
15. Decorate the house. Find old newpapers, wrapping paper, brochures etc. and make paper chains, hanging ornaments, posters to jazz things up for the day.
16. Inside camping. Make a camp out in the loungeroom, turn all the lights off and watch TV or eat dinner surrounded by candles.
17. Baking. Because kids love it! Go through the pantry and see what you can make from what you have. This can be a great lesson in not wasting food (particularly with food scarcity being a concern).
18. Do a recycling/charity drive. Get into the garage/shed and go through cupboards and collect old paint tins, light bulbs, batteries, blankets, towels, clothes, toys etc. and have fun with the kids finding out where they can be recycled or which charities could use them.
19. Plant some seeds. Find out which fruit and vegetables should be planted now and get out into the garden for a while. Kids can make labels, get into a daily routine of watering and weeding, and enjoy the literal fruits of their labour.
20. Have a ‘use up your food’ day. Go through the fridge and cupboards and decide on cooking and baking that can be done to use up the fresh food you have available. Let kids choose the menu and help with the cooking. They can also make a shopping list at the same time.
I hope you and the kids have fun trying these out and I would love to hear how they go or if you have any great activities of your own!