10 boredom busters & free educational resources for children during the COVID-19 lockdown

Four weeks into lockdown, no end in sight, and juggling remote working and schooling, you may just be starting to climb the walls, especially if you have limited outside access and are reliant on one daily outing for all the family to let off steam.

Help is at hand though with a wealth of home educations apps, audio stories, and lessons from a string of celebrities including Carol Vorderman, David Walliams and Jo Wicks for the whole family to tap into and make learning fun.

There are also lots of ideas on how to keep the kids happy and entertained when they are not involved in online schooling with a host of fun activities which can all be done within your four walls. If you are lucky enough to have access to a garden, if not, then have a go on your daily walk, there are some extra fun suggestions from charities like the RSPB and the Woodland Trust too.

Here are our pick of 10 of the very best boredom busters which also encourage creative and imaginative play and DON’T involve any digital technology – well maybe a little!

1.Paint a Rainbow

Turn a frown upside down by painting rainbows. We see them everywhere these days as a symbol of hope and a reminder that storms don’t last for ever. If you haven’t already painted a rainbow on your window, what are you waiting for? You can use all the colours of the rainbow – either cutting out the shape of a rainbow for children to colour in or painting a rainbow on to paper – wallpaper always come in handy if you want to paint the biggest and best rainbow ever, or why not ring the changes and use crepe paper, or dyed plaited string to make a 2D rainbow image and glue onto your background. Take the rainbows outside too colouring the pathway or patio with chalked rainbows - the sun is shining so they will be with you for a while! One family even used coloured chalks to paint every brick on the façade of their house to lift their neighbours’ spirits.

2. Go on a Bear Hunt.

Choose a favourite teddy bear or bears and put them in the window as a fun initiative to lift the public mood. You can even add a rainbow ribbon or a flag as an accessory. The social-distanced Teddy Bear hunt started in New Zealand after being endorsed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. It began after news broke that the country would go into lockdown and was inspired by the well-known children’s book We’re Going on A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. Householders are being encouraged to prop a teddy bear in the window of their home for children (and the young at heart) to spot on their daily walk. Bears are standard in our windows here at Be My Bear and they keep us smiling through even on the gloomiest of days. So get the trend going here and give ted a window on this mad human world!

3. Window Spotting

We have all been looking through our windows, watching the occasional walker, runner or cyclist go by but while “people watching” is limited, nature seems even more abundant than usual. With lockdown, we have experienced less noise and light pollution and as it is the start of Spring we have been able to watch new life as leaves unfurl, flowers blossom and pollinators fly about their daily business. Get into the habit of seeing what kinds of birds you can spot at your window or in the garden, listen to the bird song and try and identify the calls. A little digital cheat to help you is Lev Parikian’s Twitter Birdsong project to help you learn the different calls. Look at what the birds are carrying in their beaks – it could be moss, leaves, or twigs for nesting materials so make a note of the type of bird and materials used. Look into cracks of pavements or window frames to spot small insects such as ants or beetles and keep an eye out for bees – and not just bumble bees which are most commonly identified - did you know there are 250 species of bee in the UK , so start counting !!

On the subject of bugs, if you have a garden or balcony, why not make a bug hotel, part garden art, part habitat. Great tips from the RSPB (internet needed again I’m afraid !)

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/garden-activities/build-a-bug-hotel/

4. Think Outside the Box.

Find a small box – a match box would be ideal and find as many small items as you possibly can to fill it. If you are indoors, hunt for paper clips, buttons, rice, pasta, elastic bands etc. If you are able to go outside, look for little leaves, blades of grass, small snail shells, tiny twigs, feathers and pebbles. Turn it into a competition with your family – who can fit the most items inside their box?

Create a sensory box using a larger box such as a shoe box to fill with tactile items, anything from jelly cubes and grapes to cotton wool and combs. Use a blindfold and an egg timer with a prize for the family member who gets the right answers in the shortest possible time.

5. Make a Den

As a child, I used to love making dens just by draping a sheet or a blanket over a table and crawling inside with cushions and assorted teddy bears and dolls, creating imaginary lives for them all inside the fold. This can be done indoors or outdoors using whatever you have to hand. If you have bamboo canes, you can make a teepee very easily, otherwise if you are indoors, a clothes horse, table or cardboard box depending on the age of the child. They could decorate the sheet with felt pens or glue pieces of fabric to it. Suggest they take their favourite teddy bears into the den with them and have their very own teddy bear’s picnic – they can help you make the sandwiches and cakes – which can be delivered to the door on a tray. Give them a torch so that they can create a different atmosphere – they could even try shadow puppetry in there (see boredom buster tip 6 below).

6. Shadow Puppets

Why not try some hand puppetry with the kids making animal shadows using their hands. Some animals need more practise than others! Take a guess at what each one is supposed to resemble!

7. Make a Puppet

There is a wealth of hands-on creative activity out there (internet alert) from knitting kits and construction packs to puppet making and bear making – try our Boredom Buster packs at www.bemybear.com which come with fabric pens and T-shirts for decorating.

But there are lots of alternatives using products you can easily find at home in your store cupboards, sewing baskets and tidy boxes.

Many home craft ideas are a throwback to the sixties, the decade of my childhood when adults and children alike had to fall back on their own resources because products were limited. I remember spending many a happy hour writing plays which I then performed for my family and friends using string puppets.

Try making your own puppet theatre and puppets using cardboard, socks and any decorative items you have to hand. Choose a selection of different coloured socks - plain, stripy, spotty - and create your puppet personalities. Sew on buttons for the eyes and nose, embroidery thread for a mouth and wool for hair. You could even use pieces of fabric to make a hat or cap and decorate with stick-on gems or feathers – let your imagination run wild. Once you’ve created your characters, make a puppet theatre from an old cardboard box which you can paint or leave plain as you choose. You can also draw and colour in scenery back-drops which can be changed during the play. Write a script or improvise – serve popcorn and drinks to your audience during the interval.

8. Paint a Masterpiece

Why not get the family together and create your very own artwork using handprints from each family member. Each one chooses a different colour paint and paints their hand to create a print – they can overlap or develop a particular design depending on how the hands are positioned. You could add uplifting messages or words along each digit. An alternative is a potato print – easy to do by halving an old potato and carving out a shape which is then dipped in paint and pressed onto paper. Or go for a combination of both. Try shadow drawing – all you need is the sun or a lamp - with the kids choosing their favourite figurines or animals and drawing around their shadows. They can then colour them in. You could also get them to create a masterpiece by colouring in the dots imprinted on kitchen towel with felt tip pens – they could follow the pattern or develop their own.

9. Sculpt a Work of Art

How about creating a sculpture or model. If you have Playdough the kids will be used to creating figures or shapes using the fun factory. But you can easily make your own from a recipe that has stood the test of time and never fails. The kids will enjoy making the dough, especially adding food colouring – a word of advice - do this in the kitchen!

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • half to 1 cup of cold water
  • 2 drops of liquid food colouring

Mix the flour and salt then add the water, oil and food colouring. Knead the mixture well, adding a little more flour if the consistency is too wet.

And finally some pebble or stone art. Collect some stones from the garden or while out on your daily walk and paint faces or scenes on them. The larger ones can be used as paper weights or door stops, the smaller ones can be used in a pebble pool or around the base of potted plants to add some additional colour.

10. Garden Project

For those lucky enough to have a garden, there are numerous projects which you can involve the children in during lockdown from digging and weeding to preparing seed beds and watering. But even if you only have access to a small yard, balcony or even window sill, some of these ideas can be adapted to the smallest of spaces. It’s not only a fun way of introducing children to the concept of nurturing but could be used as a lesson in biology, studying the germination and seed dispersal of the plants.

Start by sowing seeds – it’s just the right time of year for the kids to to help with flower and vegetable growing. Give them an area of the garden or several plant pots which they are responsible for from planting to watering and then potting on. If you only have indoor space, plant microgreens such as mustard and cress initially on damp paper towel, then moving them to a windowsill once they have sprouted. Plant bean seeds in a jar, again using damp paper towel so that you can see the germination process with the roots and shoots sprouting in full view. Another idea is to dig up a dandelion and pot it to watch the growing process with the formation of the seeds followed by fun with the actual dandelion clocks!!

Cut the tops off carrots, turnips, beetroots and pineapples, sit them in a saucer of water and just watch them sprout into life. The best is an avocado stone which will sprout within a week or so and can subsequently be transplanted into a pot as a seedling. Push four toothpicks around the middle of the stone, pointed end upwards and then rest the stone on a glass or jar filled with water so that the end of the stone is in contact. Then put it on a sunny window sill and watch it grow.

Fun Facts & Information

Weather Facts

Cloudy Days
Clouds are all sorts of shapes and sizes and colours. Englishman Luke Howard devised a system for classifying clouds which has never been bettered. Puffy cumulus cloud, feathery cirrus cloud, layered stratus cloud are the three basic types on which all other variations are based.

Rainy Days
The wettest place in the world is a mountain in Hawaii where over 11 metres of rain falls ever year.

Snowy Days
All snowflakes have six sides but photographed under a microscope no two have the same design.

Rainbow Days
We have seen so many rainbows during lockdown, painted on windows and doors, chalked on pavements and walls and drawn onto t shirts and clothing. But did you know the colours of a rainbow are always in the same order red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Hurricane Days
Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are all names for the same violent wind storms – they are called hurricanes in the Atlantic, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and typhoons in the Pacific.

Which cloud is this?

Science Snippets

The Solar System

The Earth is one of nine planets circling the Sun. Mercury’s orbit is closest to the Sun while Pluto’s is furthest away.
Remembering the order of the planets is easy if you know this simple rhyme.
My Very Efficient Memory Just Stores Up Nine Planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)

History Hits

  • 3,500 Million Years Ago (MYA) - life began.
  • 215 MYA - dinosaurs were evolving. They were around until 65 MYA.
  • 5.5 - 2.5 MYA - The distant ancestors of all people were around at this time.
  • Around 2,500 BC - the great pyramids at Giza, Egypt (one of the wonders of the world) were built by Egyptian slaves.
  • 490 BC - the first ever marathon was run by a Greek messenger Pheidippides who raced from Marathon to Athens with news of a Greek victory over Persia - it was 24 miles (38.5 km).
  • AD 105 - a Chinese man Thai Lun is said to have invented actual paper.
  • 10th Century - gunpowder was first invented.
  • 1286 - the first spectacles were invented by an Italian glass maker
  • 1876 – the first telephone call was made by Alexander Graham Bell.

Chinese Horoscopes

There are 12 Chinese zodiac signs. Unlike constellations, the zodiac signs are represented by 12 animals. In order, they are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Chinese horoscopes are based on the year of your birth and the Chinese New Year. Each year is named after an animal. Find out which animals you, your family and friends are.

Fingers crossed the lockdown restrictions will have eased by the time you get to the end of the list!

Have fun!