What To Do With Babies, Toddlers, Kids And Teenagers At Home This Half Term

If you're stuck for half term play ideas now we're still stuck in lockdown, we've sought expert advice for kids of all ages – and don’t worry: screen time is definitely allowed.

At Home With Kids

by Rebecca Holman |
Updated on

Guys, it's officially February half term in England - which you may not have noticed because we've all been stuck in our houses, homeschooling in lockdown since January. The speed with which the Covid-19 outbreak has spread has changed all of our lives immeasurably. If you’re a parent, months at a time without schools, nurseries or, indeed, older relatives who can help with childcare has become an unhappy norm. And now it's half term - which means very little has changed, except you haven't even got the structure of home schooling to hang your day around. So, you're trying to work out what to do with your kids at home over half term, - then daunting isn't the word.Especially when you’ve still got to try and fit work in somehow. We’ve spoken to education experts, teachers, child psychologists and parents to pull together some of the best ideas, tips, online resources and half-term virtual activities at home to keep children of any age occupied, and keep you sane.

But firstly, here are some of the golden rules our experts shared with us:

Cut yourself some slack

‘It’s going to be a difficult time for everybody and we’re going to have to get through it one way or another,’ says Dr Alice Bradbury, associate professor at the UCL institute of education (and a mother of three). ‘I know we worry about screen time and we don’t want to put them in front of the television all day and every day, but we all need to get through this period, and we all need to stay sane.’

‘Things we previously thought were solid and reliable have suddenly disappeared and it will take time for the dust to settle and to find our new “normal”,’ adds clinical psychologist Dr Marianne Trent, who specialises in psychological therapy for parents and guardians of children. ‘Don’t think we all need to suddenly be excellent at these new roles which have come upon us.’

Get used to mess

‘Get comfortable with it being a bit messy’ suggests Dawn Isaacs, author of 101 Things For Kids To Do Screen-Free (which is a great resource to have to hand over the next few months). ‘Don’t try and have a beautiful house and have the kids at home – be comfortable with that. Or if it really bothers you, you can always have a tidy up every day for an hour at the end and make that one of the activities they do.’

Don’t hover

‘There’s nothing wrong with letting children come up with their own stuff to do,’ says Isaacs. ‘I don’t think parents should be guilted into coming up with all the ideas, and actually, children are capable of coming up with ideas themselves. We can lose that creativity and imagination as we get older because their imaginations are better than yours.’

Do things that are out of the ordinary

‘Kids love anything that’s out of their ordinary,’ explains Isaacs, ‘so try a backwards day where they wear pyjamas, everything is done backwards, or pitch a tent in the living room, eat in the bathroom. Anything like that is so exciting and they’ll always remember it – they won’t always remember the greatest computer game.

What to do with kids during half term in lockdown:

First things first, is PE with Joe on today?

Errrr - yep! The man himself is doing a morning PE class every day this week while half terms is on, so don't you worry, you still get 15 minutes to have a cup of tea/go for a wee, sit down for 30 seconds while your kids do star jumps.

National Trust properties near me

Lots of people are searching for National Trust properties near them at the moment - and National Trust grounds remain open (although not houses, gift shops, cafes, or other indoor areas). On their website, The National Trust said: 'In England and Northern Ireland, our gardens, parks and countryside remain open for local people to exercise. The safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors from the nearby community remains our priority and we urge you to book your visits in advance and stay local. Please always check the property webpage of the place you wish to visit before you travel.'

It's worth remembering that we are all supposed to remain in our local areas during this lockdown, but you can search for your nearest National Trust properties here.

And if you and your children can't make it to a National Trust property for this half term, don't forget that you can take part in the NTChallenge on Instagram each day:

Half term memes for parents

For more half term lockdown memes, don't forget to visit our sister brand for parents, The Juggle on Instagram @TheJuggleUk. And we've got plenty of lockdown jokes and memes here for when you need to laugh so you don't cry{ =nofollow}.

Great resources for children at any age:

Family Lockdown Tips and Ideas

This group, set up by mother of two and teacher Claire Balkind, who was looking for ways to entertain her children when they were in self isolation, quickly got hundreds of thousands of of followers and is packed with tips and suggestions for what to do with your kids, as well as a hefty dose of moral support.

Five Minute Mum

A website packed with five-minute ideas to keep your kids busy by the very clever Daisy Upton. Ideal if your working days have suddenly become an exercise in extreme multitasking.


Audible has announced that hundreds of children’s books will be available to stream for free, and you don’t even need to register. Head to Audible for more information.


Teacher-created planning and assessment materials, including daily timetables to support home learning.

Things to do with babies and preschoolers at home

Whether you’re trying to fit work around nap times or you’re suddenly mourning the end of the baby groups, you might be worrying about how to entertain a baby under the age of one if you can’t leave the house.

‘As babies grow older and sleep less they also need time for adult company and stimulation. The amount of time will depend on the age of the babies,’ explains Anne Sheldon, CEO of The London Preschool, which has nurseries around the capital. ‘This does not mean that they need constant attention when they are awake, rather a mix of adult contact time and time to explore and learn about the world around them.’

Sheldon suggests using simple, safe household objects to let a child explore: ‘Babies can entertain themselves for short periods of time but please always keep them in your line of vision when they are awake. Give a baby a basket full of safe kitchen resources such as wooden spoons, non-glass measuring containers, safe plastic implements and most babies will explore these for a period of time on their own with an adult closeby.’

‘Always, always sensory play,’ agrees Susie Robbins, the mother-of-three behind the Resolve To Play Instagram account, which is packed with brilliant and simple ideas for play for babies and preschoolers. She suggests coming up with ideas that engage different senses – ‘so for touch, you could try water play, you could pop a baking tray on the floor, add a little water and float a rubber duck in it – this will encourage tummy time and they will love learning about cause and effect too.’ (Babies and young children must always be supervised around water, no matter how shallow.)

‘Or for sound, create a circle of toys that make a noise, around your baby – this encourages movement during tummy time, or pre-crawling circles. You could pop some light foil over baby's legs and let them listen to the rustle and crunch as they kick. Or for sight, you could turn the lights off and run a shallow bath, add some glow sticks for a baby rave!’

Robbins also creates treasure baskets on her Instagram page, which are simple ways to keep a baby entertained: ‘They are a great way of creating sensory experiences for your baby – take a box or basket and fill it with baby safe bits and bobs from around the house. Brushes with bristles to stimulate the sense of touch, shiny objects such as spoons or chunky bracelets to simulate sight, for example. Change the content of the basket weekly.’

But equally, don’t feel like you need to wheel out something new for them every day. ‘Babies absolutely love repetitive play,’ explains Robbins, ‘as it helps to strengthen the synapses in their brain when they learn something new, so don’t tidy up activities, if it is safe to do so leave them out and let baby go back to them again and again. And again and again.’


If you’ve taken your child out of nursery, or they’re used to being looked after by grandparents who are now self isolating, then they might be unsettled. But, reassuringly, most neuro-typical children are quick to adapt to change, explains Dr Trent. However, she points out that they often take their lead from us, and if we’re feeling stressed or anxious (which, let’s face it, is a totally normal response right now) then they might notice that. ‘I wonder whether the real question is how will the grown-ups respond to the change in routine and then convey this to their young people? It’s unsettling for many of us and I think that we must all allow ourselves a period of adjustment and allow our children and young people to do the same.’

And even though your child’s still pretty young, don’t feel like you should be hovering over them every moment of the day. ‘Children of this age need time to play on their own, Sheldon explains. ‘Imaginative play for example is incredible at this age and it is important that children have this opportunity to express themselves and try out situations through play.’

This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a whole new bunch of things for your children to play with now either. ‘You already have everything that you need at home, but I do recommend that you get organised,’ says Susie Robbins. ‘You don’t need to buy any new toys as you can easily maximise the impact of the toys you already have. Toy rotation is extremely effective. Categorise your toys: cars, books, soft toys, dolls and so on. Leave out one category box and put the rest away – out of sight. Every week swap the box around and it’ll be like Christmas with new toys each time! You can also do this by theme if you have an older child (sea life, space, construction) and use different types of toys within that theme, a book, puzzle, soft toy.

Resources and things to do with babies and preschoolers over half term:


Susie Robbins’ instagram account, which features great ideas for treasure baskets and games for babies and preschoolers.


Another great Instagram account filled with clever ideas and wonderful treasure baskets for babies to explore


Claire Balkind’s Instagram features great ideas for treasure baskets, as well as play prompts for babies.


Beautifully illustrated teaching resources that can be printed off at home and are available via a subscription service.


An Instagram account run by two primary school teachers, with great games for getting your child ready for school – perfect if they’re nearing school age and have been unexpectedly taken out of nursery.

Things to do with primary school-aged children at home

It might be tempting to launch straight into a full school-style timetable with your primary-school aged children, but you’ll find that will be too intense for most children. ’Do not try to recreate school structure, explains Dr Bradbury. It's impossible – the school day is based on having 30 children in a classroom, so you’re never going to recreate the rhythm of the day that they would have at school, in fact it’s going to be a lot more intense, if you’re playing with a child one to one, so it’s also important to make sure they’re going to play independently.’

She also explains that the key is to pick the right activity for your children – both in terms of the right level (‘find things that are a bit difficult for them, but not impossible’) but also reflects their interests. ‘This is your chance for your child to explore their particular interests and talent more – so if they’re really fascinated by dinosaurs let them do a project on dinosaurs, this is your chance to let them guide you.’

And on a practical level, Dr Bradbury thinks we’re all going to have to cut ourselves some slack over the next few months: ‘One thing I think we’re all going to need if we’re all going to be together all the time is time quietly getting on with things. It’s going to be a difficult time for everybody and we’re going to have to get through it one way or another.’

Dawn Isaacs also suggests setting your children up with things they can run with for hours. ‘Set them up and let them run with it – get them to try junk modelling with old containers, pretty much empty recycling and let them at it, and it will keep them busy for ages. Junk fashion shows are great – give them masking tape, bin bags and newspaper, it costs nothing, you’re being creative and interesting. If you’ve got a bit of outdoor space, get them to make their own fairy houses. Kids’ imaginations are amazing, if you set them up, they can go on for hours.’

Resources and things to do with primary school-aged children at home this half term:

Primrose Bakery At-Home Baking Kits

Primrose Bakery have just launched some at home baking kits which are great for children to get involved with. Kids can choose from a five-layer rainbow cake kit, vanilla cupcakes topped with vanilla icing kit or a decorating box filled with ready-made cupcakes and icing ingredients. The baking kits will keep children entertained, teach them a new skill and then, once finished they can tuck into the delicious treats baked by themselves.

Chris and Xand van Tulleken

Doctors Chris and Xand Van Tulleken - Doctors, twins and presenters of CBBC's Operation Ouch (amongst many other things) are doing lives on Facebook throughout lockdown to teach your children more about the human body. The first episode is all about bones (and, they promise, there will be homework)...

PE wIth Joe

Joe Wicks promised to be the nation’s PE teacher during the last lockdown. You can still check out his daily PE sessions, which ran from March till July, on his YouTube channel, and he's just announced that is PE sessions will be back for this lockdown, running Monday, Wednesday and Friday!

Cosmic Kids Yoga

Yoga and mindfulness (in the Zen Den!) for children aged five and up – perfect if your child is feeling anxious and unsettled at the moment.


The husband-and-wife team started doing free art workshops on Instagram each Wednesday during the first lockdown. And if your child (or you!) are really missing those school art classes, you can buy one of their stay-at-home art kids on their website.


During lockdown one, Weareteachers.com published this fantastic list of children's authors doing live readings of their books (plus a few celeb cameos – hey Oprah). And now they're back with these essential resources for all parents working out home schooling - again.

Online Coding School

Cypher is putting on coding e-courses for children aged 6-12, with four different groups within that age range. At £195, they aren’t cheap, but include five 1.5 hour sessions with 4-6 students per class, so good if you’re hoping to recreate a classroom experience for periods of time.

Phonics Play

If your children are learning to read using phonics, PhonicsPlay have reduced the cost of an individual subscription to £6 per year, with a two-week free trial, giving everyone access to videos, games and flashcards. Equally if your child's school has signed up for a subscription, parents can also get access to this too, so check that first.

Mad Science

STEM educators looking to make science fun for kids, their website is full of ideas for at-home experiments your kids can try while they’re off, online quizzes and printable sheets. Since the first lockdown, they've also launched the Mad Science Kid's Club, which you can try for $0.99 for the first month (the price then increases to $10 a month).

Things to do with secondary school-aged children at home

You’ll probably find that older children will have access to work via an e-learning hub and specific work to do, but if you want to avoid several months of conflict, agree a schedule with your child that’s as collaborative as possible, and takes into account their interests. One secondary school teacher we spoke to who was preparing students for months of social distancing last week explained that it’s important to take their fears about loneliness and isolation seriously. ‘We asked children what they were concerned about before they finished up, and they weren’t necessarily worried about contracting the virus, it was the loneliness.’ For this reason, she doesn’t recommend you instantly take away your child’s phone or Xbox, for example, as these are all ways they’ll be connecting with their peers and friends.

‘Talk to them about what they’re worried about – reassure them that it’s normal to be worried at a time like this, but it’s all temporary and it will get easier as they get used to it,’ she explains. ‘Give them an opportunity to show off their knowledge and skills, whether that’s in demonstrating some work they’ve done, or helping you prepare a meal for the family.

‘Use the opportunity to talk to them about healthy eating, get them to weigh out ingredients for you – things that give them a sense of responsibility and a chance to be productive.’ She also thinks a routine is important – try to get them to get up and dressed at the same time each day and have regular mealtimes. Apart from anything else, it will make it a lot easier when they finally do go back to school.’

Like with younger children, she suggests using your child’s hobbies and what they’re already interested in – if they’re in a band, help them set up their rehearsals via a video conferencing app, or if they’re into board games, a site like Dicebreaker allows them to play online with their friends.

Resources and things to do with secondary-school aged children at home this half term:


Create quick-fire quizzes for the whole family by topic or key stage, especially good if you’ve got a couple of competitive teenagers. You can sign up for free, and the premium version is currently free for teachers to sign up to.


The free language-learning app breaks things down into fun, bite-sized chunks.

Cambridge University Press

The publisher is offering free 90-day trials of their digital learning and teaching services, including digital versions of their textbooks.

Google Arts and Culture

Google is offering a host of interactive experiences - from how to draw your own self-portrait a la Frida Kalho to creating your own machine learning-led Opera.


Allows your child or teenager to connect with and play board games with friends and family members they can’t see IRL at the moment, online.


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