At this stage, in our third lockdown of the pandemic, it’s fair to say we are all struggling to juggle working from home whilst also juggling home-schooling and keeping the little ones entertained too!

We’ve collated some of the top ideas for activities to do/try at home with younger children, using stuff you’ve invariably got at home anyway!

Water/Sensory Trays

Children under 5 love water play, in whichever form it takes, whether it be indoors or outdoors, on a large or small scale, water play is bound to keep them occupied! If you have a small plastic container, even a washing up bowl will do, add some receptacles (and some towels!) and be fascinated at how emptying and filling can capture your child’s attention for extended periods.

Similarly, you could create a ‘themed’ water tray by adding the child’s favourite toys/figures/vehicles and some food colouring.

Alternatively, if you don’t mind a spot of mess, a sensory tray is a great activity for a child to explore and return to throughout the day; whether it be rice krispies and construction vehicles, a dinosaur swamp made with water, coffee and cornflour, or a 3 Bears Tray full of porridge oats, bowls, spoons and some teddies; children are more likely to re-visit or stay at an activity/experience if it’s something they are interested in,  so adding their favourite characters or toys can make all the difference!

Busy Bags

Busy bags or boxes are a great resource to have in the cupboard to bring out when your child needs some down time or to add some focus to the day; busy bags are effectively pre-prepared activities/resources in a little bag that are designed to challenge your child in one way or another.

Busy bags could include anything from; colour matching with flashcards and random coloured objects, to nuts and bolts loose in a bag and the child has to try and screw the nuts onto the bolts using their fine motor skills.

For younger children, a busy bag could contain some pipe cleaners, add a colander from the kitchen and you’ve got a fine-motor threading activity that will keep them busy long enough for you to enjoy a hot cup of tea!


Puzzles may seem like a simple suggestion but actually hold a wealth of learning opportunities and also have the potential to engage children for extended periods of time. Depending on your child’s age/stage of development, even a selection of simple inset board puzzles will be enough to encourage self-initiated challenge and keep children busy with very little mess or input from you!


If you can stand the mess and have the resources at home to do so; painting is a great activity for children of this age group.

It doesn’t have to be bog-standard painting with a brush either, as children can quickly lose interest if it’s something they do regularly, why not change it up and use kitchen utensils, shape cutters and corks to make marks – literally use anything other than a paintbrush!

Kill two birds with one stone and use some body parts to create cards and messages to loved ones – grandparents love prints of tiny toes!

If you have a car mad child, putting cars into paint and making car tracks provide endless mark-making opportunities and can even enhance their small world play once dry as they’ve created their own road!

If mess really isn’t your thing, then place spots of paper on some card and slide inside a plastic wallet or ziplock bag and voila! Painting without the mess as children manipulate the paint with their hands through the plastic, causing no mess for you!

Shadow Drawings

Shadow drawings are a fantastic way to not only explore light and dark with children, but also to encourage early mark-making and language skills.

And all you need is some paper, a pencil and your child’s favourite figures or toys to draw around the shadow! (Objects with quirky shadows make the best marks!)

See how it works with this dinosaur shadow drawing activity –

Watch this space for our blog on baking with children which is also a great activity for under 5’s (we promise there won’t be a banana bread in sight!)

With special thanks to Chloe Webster – registered childminder and Under 5s specialist!