Have you run out of ideas for keeping your kids entertained indoors after just under two weeks of the coronavirus lockdown? You’re not alone, so we got in touch with five parenting authors and podcasters and asked for their recommendations to help put an end to the continual chorus of “I’m bored.” Read on for their picks of the best toys and games to occupy children of all ages while playgrounds, soft play, and friends’ houses are out of bounds.
For ages 18 months and up
“It looks like a beautiful room decoration, but it is more than that,” says Sergei Urban, author of TheDadLab. “There are an incredible number of ways you can play with it.” Younger children will enjoy experimenting with different ways to stack, sort, and build the pieces, and older ones will incorporate the rainbow arches into imaginative play — they could become a cradle for dolls, a fence for farm animals, or a bridge for cars.
Bring an element of soft play into your home with this tunnel. Marvyn Harrison, founder of the Dope Black Dads podcast, has bought at least ten of these as gifts for other families over the years, as it provides “hours of fun.” Harrison’s tunnel of choice is from Ikea and not available to buy online, but this Knorrtoys tunnel is a good alternative.
For ages 2 and up
Candice Brathwaite, author of I Am Not Your Baby Mother, says her 2-year-old son was given a balance bike for his birthday and it has come into its own recently. “I used to find them quite strange,” she admits. “But now, seeing how quickly he bounds around the kitchen on it, it’s made me excited for the day I get to teach him how to ride an actual bike.”
Louise Pentland, author and founder of Mothers’ Meeting podcast, says her 2-year-old is enjoying playing with this mini-ice-cream cart. It comes with activity cards featuring the orders of six hungry characters, so parents don’t have to worry that they’ll be required to come up with endless orders.
If you’re looking for a puzzle without Peppa Pig, Nina Malone, founder of the Dope Black Mums podcast, recommends this set featuring pictures of people from the three main cultures in Nigeria. “It has different difficulty levels in one box, so it is great for multiple ages and is a fun way to learn about history,” she says.
For ages 3 and up
More time spent indoors means more opportunities for accidents to happen. Malone recommends this mess-free set for children who have a habit of colouring outside the lines. “Last week, I had an amazing masterpiece created in red pen on my kitchen wall. So, after that joy, I got this,” she explains. “It’s great value for money, as it can be used over and over again.”
For ages 6 and up
Brathwaite recently purchased this game to play with her 6-year-old. “Oh my word, it has been a revelation to have everyone step back from their screens and want to participate,” she says. “It’s also been a great learning tool in helping teach my 6-year-old about patience and strategy.”
Now is the time to lean into your children’s current interests. Pentland’s older daughter is a big fan of these collectables, so she’ll be stocking up. This particular package comes with 15 gifts to unwrap, including a surprise doll and accessories.
“I really wanted to be saintlike and leave technology out of this, but what kind of parent would that make me?” asks Brathwaite. “The pressure is on right now, and if there is one thing that I know will keep my 6-year-old content (and even sometimes the 2-year-old, too, as he does enjoy watching her play), it’s her Nintendo Switch. With the ability to be played by one or two people, I can guarantee that it’s going to get a lot of use as we try to find ways to stay sane whilst at home.”
For ages 8 and up
Harrison says this STEM kit is “really good for curious minds and a great time drain,” as it contains everything your child needs to complete more than 200 electronic projects.
LEGO is “an oldie, but total goldie,” says Pentland. If your children tend to power through kits, then three-in-one sets like this are a good choice if you want to keep them busy for longer.
Invest a bit of time teaching your child a hobby like photography, and soon they’ll be so busy arranging the perfect shot that they no longer require your involvement. Harrison says this camera, which produces instant credit-card-size photos, provides parents with a “great way to be creative with your kids.”
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