10 Sep 2021

Locked down entertainment: Fun things to do with children at home

5:19 pm on 10 September 2021

As Aucklanders face another weekend in lockdown, we bring you ideas for family games, art creations and messy play to keep the kids entertained.

Happy children. Top view creative photo of little boy and girl on vintage brown wooden floor. Children lying near books and toys, and painting

Photo: 123RF

These activities are free and fun for the whole family, from teens to toddlers. Some require general household items, some are aided by an internet connection, but for most, all that's needed is a little imagination.


  • Make an obstacle course the whole family has to participate in
  • Do an online yoga video, workout or take a kapa haka class together
  • Take turns being the exercise instructor, with other family members following along
  • Use string, rope, a scarf or stick and do the limbo
  • Have a dance party (in the dark)
  • Boil some eggs and have an egg and spoon race
  • See how many times you can throw a ball to each other without dropping it
  • Create a dance routine for your family to learn
  • Roll from one side of the house to the other (great for younger children)
  • Write a list of active activities (such as 10 star jumps, 10 sit ups etc) and time yourself doing them. Try to beat your record each day


  • Give a cardboard box new life by turning it into something entirely different
  • Get a few sheets and some chairs, and make a hut to remember
  • Bake something, then devour it together
  • Transform cardboard boxes into simple jigsaw puzzles - and get the kids to cut out their own pieces
  • Make ninja stars
  • Who knew boxes had so many uses? Make one into a puppet theatre
  • You'll need puppets for that theatre...why not make some out of socks?
  • Make marble mazes out of cardboard, straws, glue and paper
  • Using household items, make rubber band cars. Make more than one and race them.
  • Make a car ramp and race cars (or balls or marbles or boiled eggs) out of...you guessed it - cardboard!
  • Put your lab coat on and make a volcano, using vinegar, baking soda, water, food colouring, dish liquid, a plastic bottle and cardboard
  • Make paper planes and race them
  • Make daisy chains


  • Write a list of 10 things and head out for a walk to see how many you can find
  • Also while out walking, count how many cars you spot, or how many things of a certain colour
  • Play I spy
  • Go bug hunting in your backyard or neighbourhood. Take photos of the creepy crawlies you see and then draw them
  • Look out for birds, either while at home or on a walk, and contribute to a global citizen project by sharing your findings
  • Draw a map of your backyard, hide something in it and give your family the map and clues to try and find where the item is
  • Explore your garden or house using a magnifying glass or old glasses


  • Everyone has a piece of paper folded into three. Everyone draws a head and shoulders down to the fold line. Next, swap papers and draw the torso and arms down to the next fold line. Swap again and draw the legs. Unfold to reveal what who you've created together
  • Draw a picture, then challenge others to see if they can copy it by following your instructions. Take turns then compare pictures
  • Draw each other!
  • Watch an online art tutorial and follow the step-by-step instructions to recreate the image
  • Make abstract art together by taping pens and pencils to a cup and moving it around the page
  • Make origami, and if you have enough paper or card you could even try 3D origami
  • Make a family of caterpillars by turning old egg cartons upside down, cutting off the tops and flaps, cut from one end to the other to make two long bodies then paint and decorate
  • Collect leaves and use them to make art
No caption

Try to find moments in your day to have some fun by having a pillow fight or playing musical cushions Photo: 123RF


  • Hide and seek
  • Get the board games and cards out
  • Screw paper into balls and use straws (or rolled up card or paper) and have a race blowing the balls across a table or floor
  • Play copy cat and drive everyone mad
  • Take inspiration from this list and play charades
  • Play What's the time Mr Wolf?
  • Pick a long word and see how many other words you can make from its letters
  • Play musical cushions or chairs
  • Hide something and get others to find it - this is a good one to be set up by parents the night before so the day starts off with excitement and fun
  • Make a treasure hunt
  • Have pillow fights
  • Using different colour pegs for each child, hide them in a room when they are not watching, then invite them in to find them (make it harder for the older kids)
  • Find the largest top in the house and have two people get inside it. The person at the back has their arms through the sleeves and puts make up on the person in front's face
  • Get everyone to write five things they like and five things they don't on little pieces of paper. Mess up the papers and take turns picking one and guessing who wrote the answer

Messy play

  • If you have chalk, write messages and draw pictures on your driveway for your neighbours to see as they pass
  • Make gloop, slime and finger paint with items found in most kitchen cupboards. Head here for recipes for each.
  • Make rainbow rice and find different containers for the children to use to play with it
  • Water play: Get different sized containers, cups and pots and let the children do the rest
  • Make rainbow foam using nothing but dish liquid, water, food colouring and a mixer
No caption

Photo: education.govt.nz

  • Dress up and have super hero adventures, or dress up in each other's clothes and pretend to be a different member of your household
  • Experiment with makeup and hairstyles (and give mum a massage while you're at it)
  • Make a show and perform it virtually for family and friends
  • Write a story and draw the illustrations, then read it to your family or to loved ones via messenger apps
  • Time yourselves making lists, for example your favourite places, all the people you know, fruits and vegetables. Write a list of the things you want to do as a family after lockdown is over
  • Make up a story by taking turns - someone says a couple of sentences, then the next person picks up from where they left off, and so on


  • Get all the musical instruments out (or any household item that makes noise) and start a family band
  • Have a family movie night
  • Have a teddy bears' picnic - let the children choose a different spot each time
  • Have a sing-a-long
  • Look through old photos
  • Sit down as a family and start a memory book, writing down some of your favourites from the past and documenting this unusual time you're in now

Head here for our comprehensive guide to online resources for children.

  • Coronavirus lockdown at home: A guide to online resources for kids
  • Teachers' TikTok and class karaoke among ways to keep students going
  • Digital divide hurting new cohort of kids
  • Covid-19: Schools expect to run catch-up classes
  • Covid-19: School bubbles make most of unique lockdown experience