Shortly after lockdown started, our friend in Italy sent my husband a message to tell us to sloooowww down. She'd already been under lockdown for, I don't know, maybe 78 years at this point, so we realised that she probably knew what she was talking about. She warned us that if we blew through all our activities right at the start, we'd find ourselves burned out and at a loss for what to do after a couple of weeks.
She was right. We peaked too soon.
Initially, it felt as though there were an endless array of activities to do with the kids that were also fun for us. I mean, we're coming to the end of Week 3 right now and I still haven't consulted Pinterest which everyone knows is the world's largest repository of infuriating 'educational' activities to do with your children.
The problem is not a lack of things to do. The problem is a lack of enthusiasm. After endless days of each other's company, you don't need a new activity, you need new people to do them with. (Am I allowed to write, "A bit like sex!" after that?!)
Which is why, when this past Monday rolled around, my motivation to do ANYTHING at all was at an all-time low. But, today is Friday, and after spending Monday and Tuesday in a proper funk, I have since snapped out of it. My children mirror my mood and, holy hell, they basically became feral velociraptors. That was enough to terrify me into pulling myself together again.
After letting every standard drop for a couple of days - screen-time is underrated, anyway - I'm crafting my own homeschool itinerary to begin as of Monday. Yeah, I know, talk about setting yourself up for failure. But I'm already bored of the one the school is sending home and my attention span is far longer than the kids'. I very much doubt our lockdown sentence will be up before May so, with a whole month more of house arrest looming ahead, something must be done!
Before I start actually intentionally planning activities for the kids, I thought I'd share all the activities we've done so far that were mostly just off the top of my head and thus require little to no materials or planning. Just remember the wise words of our friend in Italy - don't peak too soon! Also, these aren't really in any order - either chronologically or in terms of how much enjoyment they actually inspired or time they passed. But time is just an arbitrary construct when you're in lockdown, right?!
1. Dig around under your bathroom sink for any old shampoos, body washes, lotions etc and have the kids make a 'George's Marvellous Medicine' style potion. Bonus points if you actually read George's Marvellous Medicine to them (or any of Roald Dahl's books, really - they're all fantastic).
2. Make a crumble. This is the EASIEST dessert ever and involves getting your hands stuck in to the flour/butter/sugar which is then delicious to lick off. Also, you can put it over the top of whatever fruit you choose so it's 'healthy'. Sort of.
3. If you get some warm weather, pretend you're on holiday and set up for sunbathing. Bust out the beach towels and suncream and crack open a cold beer.
4. One of our friends keeps chickens, so we've been saving our egg cartons to give to her. Turns out you can also build some pretty extraordinary constructions with just some builders' tape and egg cartons - they're like giant lego!
5. Fake tattoos are the gift that just keeps giving. I got these sparkly ones ages ago to wear to a festival. I never ended up going because I value clean bathrooms far too much so the tattoos have just sat in a drawer for ages. The kids loved applying them - Win even got a tramp stamp - and I didn't have to worry about being judged by their teachers because they're not going to school again for aaaaaages.
6. Joe Wicks. To be honest, I don't really understand why this guy has garnered so much attention, but his 10am PE classes live on YouTube are included on the schedule the kids' school sends home each day. Win sits down to just watch about 3 minutes in, but Adella's pretty gung-ho about finishing each one.
7. FaceTiming with your favourite family members is a no-brainer. Honey the mutt is Adella's. Who wouldn't love that underbite?!
8. If you don't yet have an enormous cardboard box, find a way to get your hands on one now. Transforming it into different things has kept the kiddos occupied for hours already. It's a rocket ship on the way to Mars in the first shot and then a castle in the second, just in case that's not completely obvious because it still looks like a busted cardboard box in both pics.
9. A little pre-bedtime stretching. This is especially fun if your husband has the flexibility of a picket fence as then your daughter will delight in mocking his inability to do basic moves.
10. Take ordinary food and stick it on a skewer to make it special. Here's baguette French Toast with strawberries, bananas, maple syrup and cinnamon.
11. Don formal gear to make yourself feel like an actual human rather than a recluse whose entire wardrobe consists of pyjamas. Warning: buttons may prove a challenge after going so long without.
12. Make salt dough and craft whatever you feel like out of it!
13. Puppets. We just folded a piece of coloured paper in half and glued it into a sort of semi-circle shape with a big-enough opening to fit a child's hand through. You can get a little more creative than we did with different outfits and hairstyles for the puppets.
14. Colouring. This is a model of Big Ben covered in mandalas that we need to colour in before we can build it... Adella received it as a gift for her birthday or Christmas and now is the PERFECT time to finally do what is proving to be a very lengthy project. Note super-healthy noodles with canned tomato sauce in the background. It's our lockdown diet staple.
15. We're really delighted that we have a huge terrace, even more so now that we're not allowed to leave our building. However, we're on the 8th floor, which makes it a less than ideal space for a five year old boy who's obsessed with football. I decided to build a large cage over half the terrace so that he could at least kick a ball against the wall without it flying over the edge. I ordered a safety netting designed to keep your cats from leaping from your balcony, which is pretty much the same thing.
16. I debated whether or not to include the following activity. Our kids LOVE it, but it's boring as hell for us. Have them write 9 numbers between 1 and 20 in a grid on a whiteboard or piece of paper, and then you shout out random numbers until one of them gets Bingo.
17. We made a train out of plastic chairs and took turns being the driver. We stopped at a ton of destinations, hopped off at each one and went on a rollercoaster, skiing, down a waterslide etc. This train went EVERYWHERE.
18. Not so much an activity as a pure delight. The arrival of these bad boys was the highlight of my week. If you're in lockdown, you're going to spend an awful lot of time in comfy clothes. Wearing tatty old slippers every day is just not on. These were only 15 euros on Amazon and worth every penny. I'm a 39 and ordered the 40-42 size as having too small slippers would be the worst.
19. Creative Zoom calls. I mean, let's be honest, any social call with over 4 people is pretty painful in terms of people talking over the top of one another. However, if you play virtual beer pong or all join in for a singalong or do a pub quiz, they can be a lot of fun.
20. Bubbles. Obviously you can do what you're supposed to do with them - take turns blowing them and popping them - but you can also blow them onto a wet table and create a whole little bubble town.
21. Paint outdoors. Less clean up stress and gets them some fresh air as well.
22. That oldie but goodie - reading. Adella's reading 'Poems to Live Your Life By' in this shot, which is a gorgeous little volume of poems illustrated by Chris Riddell. Highly recommend.
23. There's a round of applause every night here at 8pm. It's ostensibly to thank all the front-line health workers caring for those stricken by coronavirus, but it's also a chance to spread some good cheer to your neighbours so we're all reminded we're not alone. Lots of people here are making a big ol' "Everything Will Be OK" sign to display in their windows. Our kiddos alternate between holding the sign and clapping and whooping like lunatics every evening. To say they are proud of it is an understatement.
24. Live ballet classes with The Ballet Coach. Sarah's got classes for all ages - I may even bust out the tutu and join in one of these days.
25. We made slime and it actually worked! All it took was glue, saline solution, and food colouring. Miracle.
26. We planted some geraniums and I don't think they're dead yet... which is also a miracle!
27. We attempted to make rock candy and failed - I don't think it works with brown sugar. We may give this another go to see the crystals forming... however, I'm kind of reluctant to make what is the equivalent of crack cocaine for my kids.
28. Dye your hair a crazy colour - nobody's going to see it anytime soon!
29. Speaking of hair... try a home haircut. Same as above, nobody's going to see it even if it turns out terribly.
30. Stand back and marvel at the sight of your kids having conference calls with schoolmates like proper little C-Level executives.
31. I set up mini-golf on our terrace by cutting a paper cup in half and taping it to the ground to make the holes. You do obviously need a club and ball for this, but I'm pretty sure a club can be made out of any old cardboard and there's probably a ball somewhere in your house.
32. Schoolwork is entirely novel if you do it on a whiteboard.
33. Adopt a pet. In this case, an ant that he creatively named after himself. Keeps things simple.
34. It's someone's birthday somewhere. Make them a cake and send them a video of you blowing out the candles and singing them happy birthday... any excuse for cake!
35. A bowl of strawberries and cream is always a treat. Pair with champagne and tennis whites if you want that true Wimbledon feeling.
36. If you haven't baked cookies, are you really even in lockdown anyway? Talk about 'fattening the curve' as my friend Alex said.
37. My amazing parents hosted a treasure hunt for the kiddos. They met online with their treasure hunting book bags and then had to solve a series of clues that my parents told them. Each clue led them to a different object in the house to put in their bags. After they'd said goodbye to my parents, they then hid the bags and did 'warmer, colder' with us hunting for them.
38. BUBBLES. I mean, just look at his face.
39. Adella got a clay set from her cousins a year or so ago, and it's another one of those perfectly messy crafts that keep them occupied and outdoors.
40. Face painting. They did their own based on pictures they pulled up on the internet. Not bad at all and very apt for our little circus...
41. Take a family HIIT class - Katherine Williams is hosting live ones every weekday!
42. Join in one of Jennison's yoga classes.
43. Leap around like wollies to one of Cameron's dance classes. Just because Cameron makes it look easy doesn't mean it is, but it's really, really fun!
44. Cirque du Soleil is releasing loads of their shows online - they're amazing even from your living room.
45. Pretend you're Elton John and tickle the ivories. There are piano apps if you don't have a piano or keyboard.
46. Same goes for the drums - talk about cathartic. Win got this drum kit for Christmas, but some pots and pans and a wooden spoon would have the same effect.
47. If you thought drums were cathartic, try rigging up a punching bag.
48. Win's Aunt & Uncle in California bought him this ping pong set for his birthday last year. I love it, mostly because the kids will finally clear and wipe the dining table if there's the opportunity to play ping pong on it.
49. Have you tried meeting Google's 3D animals yet?! Google how to do it as their instructions are far clearer than mine could ever be.
50. Dominoes will suck up a nice big chunk of time because your kids will inevitably accidentally knock the thing down countless times before it's ready to go. I recommend inserting 'fire breaks' every now and then. When the line is complete aside from the fire break gaps, make the kids sit well away from the dominoes while you fill in the gaps. That way they know exactly who to blame when you accidentally knock half of it over...
51. This video needs some explanation. This is my dad on FaceTime guiding the kids through an acting story. He narrates the story and they act it out. Here they are on a boat (the dining table), spotting an island on the horizon, and then swimming over to it (the yoga mat is the island). If you've got a friend/relative with a wonderful imagination and a lot of patience, these acting stories can keep your kids occupied while you escape to make dinner or rock quietly in a corner trying to find your happy place. Though, with my dad's stories, I can't resist joining in...
It looks like there are 51 items on this list, but I included bubbles twice so felt the need to flesh it out a bit. Hopefully these activities will stave off the complicated Pinterest crafts for a few days at least!