Play Corner

examples of games that can be played at home

Porodica u igri u skrovištu napravljenom od čaršava
UNICEF Srbija/2020

Dear parents and all caregivers of children,

A challenge lies ahead of us all. The recommended measures of social isolation give the best results in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic, but they also bring changes in routines for all family members.

It is natural to feel scared, anxious and uncertain. Children can also feel confused, sad, afraid or worried. But they have much less experience than their parents, which is why it is harder for them to cope with a crisis. That is why parents are the main role models for their children.

Kindergartens and schools are temporarily closed, children are spending more time at home, and because of this you may feel the additional pressure and responsibility to organize the daily activities with your children. That is why playing together can help both you and your children. Children will feel safer in times of uncertainty, it will be easier for them to process confusing information, they will get closer with their parents and will increase their capacities and skills for future challenges in life.

Playing together can help both you and your children. Children will feel safer in times of uncertainty, it will be easier for them to process confusing information, they will get closer with their parents and will increase their capacities and skills for future challenges in life.

On this website, you can read about how to use play and joint activities to overcome challenges and difficult situations, but also how to stimulate your child’s development, strengthen and enrich family relationships. You will be able to read suggestions for games or joint activities that you can do with your child.

We will regularly update the website and add new ideas and suggestions.

In times of uncertainty, games that help your child feel safe are a great choice. Building your Hideout sounds like a great plan!

Building and creating something new gives the child a strong sense of independence and autonomy. The traits every parent wants for their child.

Moje skrovište
UNICEF Srbija/2020

1. My hideout – idea for small children and preschoolers

A Hideout can be anything a child chooses as their safe place. It can be built from any material and anywhere in the house. Pillows, bed sheets, blankets, chairs, tables, the nook under the stairs or a cardboard box. If you are playing with a baby, it can be just a fence made of a large book, magazine or pillow. Anything can be used.

Let the child choose as much as possible, both the place and materials for construction of their Hideout.

Be a guest at your child's Hideout and follow their rules. Allow and encourage them to take their favourite toys or other personal belongings of their choice to their Hideout.

Ask them what their safe place is called: hideout, cave, fortress, house or nest? Talk about who else has a hideout and about all the things you can do in a hideout.

Any activity in the hideout is welcome – reading a book, telling stories, lying around, hiding your favourite things or having a secret world of your favourite hero.

A snack at the hideout can be the highlight of a joint relaxation!

For this game you will need:

  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Chairs
  • Tables
moja slikovnica
UNICEF Srbija/2020

2. My picture book – idea for younger school-age children

Use the time you are spending together with your children these days to talk to them about different topics – spending time with the pet, what it was like when they lost their first tooth, or went riding a bicycle for the first time, about celebrating birthdays, about their first goal in a match, etc.

Ask them which of the topics you discussed they would choose to present in "their" picture book.

In this game, the child learns – writes, draws, makes up a story and presents their work to others, in an interesting way.

Agree on how you will make the picture book. Here are a couple of recommendations:

  • The drawing to text ratio on each page will depend on the child’s age (over time, the space for text will increase, and the space for illustrations will decrease).
  • Depending on what the child uses for writing/drawing, it can be double-sided (coloured pencils) or single-sided (maker pens) due to the ink bleeding through the paper.
  • Have them design the cover of the picture book and give it a title (talk to them about a title that should be interesting, so that other people will want to read it).
  • Suggest that they leave margins/some space on the left side of every page, because the picture book pages need to be joined in the end.
  • Help them with joining the pages together, by binding them on the side (with a needle and thread) or gluing them.

As a continuation of this activity, you can organize a game “Writer's chair – promotion of the picture book for household members”, and if video calls are possible, relatives and friends can join as well. The child will then present their picture book, and the others will ask questions.

For this game you will need:

  • Paper
  • Colouring pencils/marker pens
  • Pencil
  • Glue / thread and needle / rope / tie

 

From these games, children will learn:

  • How to increase their sense of security
  • How to develop self-esteem
  • The experience of being an author
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Planning, organization and problem solving
  • Creativity and imagination

 

Bonus tip for parents

Games may seem like making a huge mess around the house. We sympathize with that. Still, we suggest giving it a chance, encourage your child and be a part of their world. They may spend a couple of hours in high-quality play that engages all their potentials!

 

3. The spider web

With wool (or a similar material) build a spider web somewhere in the house (for example between furniture or under the dining table or in a hallway).

The idea is that children have to go through it without touching the wool.

Three more movement and fun activities to try:

  • Dance to the music: Turn the music on and swirl around with your babies.
  • Socks-toss: Prepare clean socks and a basket as a goal. Stand in a distance and try to throw the socks in the basket as many as possible
  • Frog Hop: Hop on not slippery surfaces with some towels as obstacles to make it more fun. You can also show your children imitate other animals like rabbit or kangaroo

 

4. Cook with your child

Do you know that there are many benefits of preparing the food with your children, which include social-emotional development; language; cognitive ability and physical development.

Some simple cooking tasks for your toddlers and preschoolers are stirring pancakes batter, rinsing vegetable or setting the table.

Kids enjoy cooking with their parents. You can also teach your children some basic rules of cooking, for example, we need to eat well-cooked food. 🍚🍳🍲🍎🥗

 

5. Make a computer with recyclable materials

Children will build their own computer and keyboard from recycled materials. The idea is to use cardboard or paper boxes for the screen, an egg box for the keyboard, and then paint letters and numbers on the keyboard and put a picture or screen.

Encourage play with children by sending imaginary messages to friends who are far away.

A variant is to build any machine that children want to make and draw buttons for them that do different things.

 

Stick to the usual rhythm and routines

Experts agree! Planning and sticking to your usual schedule is crucial, even when you're inside the house all day. Children should get up, eat and go to bed at their usual times.

Predictability, clarity and structure have a soothing effect during stressful periods. For children, especially younger ones or those who are anxious, it can be very good to know what will happen and when.

Predictability increases children's sense of security and control over the situation.

The daily schedule can look like the one from kindergarten or school and it should include alternating periods of learning and play, as well as planned lunch, snack and dinner times, a part of the day for rest and relaxation.

Make the schedule together and review it every morning to make sure it suits all household members. Entering the exact times into the schedule helps children know when the activity will begin and when it will end.

Remember, the family schedule must also include the time for your relaxation, and when you have it “on paper”, it is more likely that it will happen!

Deca plešu sa roditeljima
UNICEF Srbija/2020

6. Dance and sing together

When you dance with your child, he or she has the opportunity to learn about, experience and accept their body in relation to space. Dance and movement will release the accumulated tension from the body. Singing with your child has an impact on their behaviour.

Who says discipline can't be as sweet as a song? Singing will bring you closer, no matter what you sing. And through singing, it will be easier for children to show you how they feel – happy, excited, scared or proud.

Dance and sing in front of mirrors, change outfits and transform into different characters, singers and actors. Any household item can be a microphone, from a TV remote to a toilet paper roll, and a piece of carpet can be a glamorous stage.

Favourite music from a film, cartoon, or a music video will serve as additional inspiration. If you have a baby, it is enough to carry him or her in your arms and dance in front of the mirror.

Dancing is a great substitute for physical activity and for releasing excessive energy, especially when you can't go outside.

Dancing and singing activate many parts and functions of the brain, and neuroscience confirms that they promote brain development, language, motor and social skills in children.

Your child will like some songs more than others. Let them choose and develop their own taste! Allow them to connect with various melodies and rhythms and explore the surroundings with movements and their body.

 

For this game you will need:

Different types of music, fast, slow, cheerful, sad, classical or modern. A couple of household items, broomstick, brush, hair-dryer, hat, scarf. Music videos for new ideas. And finally, empty space and energy.

Deca se igraju orkestra sa roditeljima
UNICEF Srbija/2020

7. Family orchestra - idea for younger school-age children

Use the time you are spending together with your children these days to make rhythm instruments together, to play them together and create your family rhythmic exercise for each day to come (you can use it to start the day off).

Your orchestra will bring joy to the family, listening and following each other, but it will also bring physical activity that everyone needs these days.

Make the entire orchestra with your children from materials you have at home. Here are some suggestions.

Rattles made of various materials and in different ways:

  • Smaller plastic bottle in which you can put some grains (e.g. rice) and close it.
  • The plastic part from the chocolate egg which is filled with rice, and then placed between two spoons and wrapped with adhesive tape.
  • In one plastic cup you can put some grains (e.g. beans), and then another plastic cup is placed on top of it (the openings of two cups come together), and in this position they are wrapped with adhesive tape.

Drums made of plastic containers / coffee tin / sieve. On top of it you put a balloon/cellophane/adhesive foil, tighten it and wrap it with adhesive tape. For percussion mallets you can use graphite or coloured pencils.

Castanets made of cardboard cut in the shape of short rectangular strip that you fold in half, and then on the inside you glue small plastic bottle caps on each side.

Cymbals made of two metal lids.

Jingle bells made of metal caps strung on a rope.

Claves – two wooden mixing spoons.

All the instruments made can be decorated – with sticky coloured paper or painted. Let your imagination run wild.

As a continuation of this activity, you can organize an interesting game with hands as human percussion mallets that you can use to make various sound effects and be physically active at the same time. You can, for example, clap in different ways.

  • With outstretched fingers
  • With bent fingers so that hands make a cavity when they come together
  • Don’t move the left palm and clap with the fingers of the right hand
  • Arms are next to the body. You raise them up until you clap with your hand.
  • Clapping your hands on your thigh, with both hands at the same time or alternately
  • Hitting hard objects, your chest and similar with your fist

You can practice all these types of clapping individually with your children, and you can also introduce some new ones.

You can play by standing in a circle, with one family member showing a combination of clapping and others having to repeat it.

 

For this game you will need some of these materials:

Plastic cups, plastic bottle, coloured/graphite pencils, the plastic part from the chocolate egg, spoons, adhesive tape, coffee tin, plastic container, cellophane, adhesive foil, balloon, cardboard, metal caps, rope, marker pens, sticky coloured paper, various grains and similar.

 

The child will learn:

  • Expression through their body and movement
  • Risk taking
  • Flexibility and adaptability to change
  • Confidence
  • Sense for music and rhythm
  • Team work

 

Bonus tip for parents

It might be hard for you to move. We sympathize with that. However, we suggest you try with one song and include the other parent or other family members if you can. You might also find it fun and have an equally good time as your child.

 

8. Play with flashlights

Get a flashlight out and teach your children how to make shadow puppets on the wall. That can be a lot of fun especially if you make a story with the shadow puppets.

Play other games with flashlight: for example, can your child jump to the circle of light projected by the flashlight?

Can he or she reach it by their hand so high up on the wall? After a while they will most likely hold the flashlight them self, let them!

You can introduce preschooler of older children to the morse code or have a dance party with flashlights on.

 

Tip for today: Make personal and family plans

Despite the common feeling that the events around us are terrifying and out of our control, the experts agree that it is important to recognize the things that we can influence and that we can control.

Making plans helps you imagine vividly and clearly the near future and strengthen your sense of security, certainty and relaxation.

You can have various plans, for example, for when and how you will make a meal that will delight the family members (it's enough to make fried potatoes that children love).

You can make a list of people you miss and a plan when to call them. Or you can plan when you will help your child socialize with their friends, grandparents and relatives using apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, Skype.

Bigger adventures come into play as well – you can plan to get a new pet. Or simple plans, such as deciding which film, series or show to watch with your family. These negotiations can sometimes take a while, but it is important that everyone is happy in the end, that it’s clear to everyone which decisions were made and when the plan will be implemented.

Children seeing you plan and “master” your time can be a very compelling learning experience for them.

Bonus tip for parents – involve children by agreeing with them which tasks from the plan are for them. This will help children feel important and know that their contribution to the family is valuable.

Game suggestion for small and preschool-aged children:

ispričaj priču
UNICEF Srbija/2020

9. Tell me your story

Making up and telling stories helps develop children’s imagination and creativity. Pick 5 household items, without any special order, the first things you see. It can be a glass, piece of cloth, key, plate, pen, coat, wallet, etc. Put them in front of the child and tell them to tell you a story that involves all the items. Get comfortable and enjoy the great ideas.

If you are playing with young children who still can’t talk, then switch roles – have the child choose the items, and you tell the story and get the child as involved as possible. You can also use the child's favourite toy to tell a personal story.

There is no right and wrong way to tell stories. Let your child’s imagination go wild and enjoy.

Have your child draw their favourite version of the story, or write it, with your help, with you writing as your child dictates it. They can then share their work with grandparents, relatives and friends online or after returning to kindergarten.

For this game you will need:

  • Ordinary household items
  • Sense of fun
  • Time
moji planovi
UNICEF Srbija/2020

10. My plans – idea for younger school-age children

We often think that we have all day to do something, and children often think that they have all afternoon to do their homework and other chores. But then, time runs out. Many things in our lives depend on how we use our time.

This is the opportunity for your children to learn together with you about the importance of planning various life activities, planning their leisure time and about how to make the best use of their time.  You can discuss the following situations with them:

  • Have you ever been sitting in class and thinking of something else or doing something other than what was assigned to do. What happens then when you come home? (Children will probably answer that they had to do at home the things they didn’t do at school, that it was harder for them to learn, that they felt bad they had to spend time doing that instead of relaxing or playing, etc.)
  • Have you ever made arrangements with your friends to do homework together after school, to go play with them, but also to go and visit your grandma, all in one day? (They will probably say that they wanted to do several things in their spare time but that they didn’t manage to).

This type of discussion should help your child understand that planning is very important. This will help them learn to fully utilize the time they have, so that they can play, rest, go somewhere, or spend a part of their day in another way.

The time you are spending with your children at home is the opportunity to make plans together for today, for tomorrow, for the next month, but also for the time after the quarantine when you go back to your daily activities, needs and desires.

The things you are planning for today or tomorrow will encourage children to think about how they can spend their time at home, including how to rationally use their time for learning, how to fit in their plans with plans of other household members (e.g. take a break from playing when mom is planning to set up the table for lunch).

But you can also plan with your children what to do when this is all over – where to go for a walk, who to visit, etc. This way you will motivate them, because you are sending them a strong message that this period will end, that they will return to their activities, playing with friends, going to the cinema or to a game. They will continue doing things they normally like doing.

You can show them the difference between short-term and long-term goals. One way to do this is to tell your child to write down something they can quickly accomplish and put the paper in one narrow box, and then to put a paper with things that take more time and more activities to accomplish in a second, wider box.

Wrap a rope/thicker thread around both boxes. And then measure, even just visually, how much rope was needed for each of the boxes – the shorter and longer rope represent a short-term and long-term goal. And you can relate this to routines and plans for each next day (short-term goal) and plans for after the home quarantine is over (long-term goal).

For this game you will need:

  • Two boxes, wider and narrower, or thicker and thinner
  • Rope/wool/thicker thread
  • Paper

From these games, children will learn:

  • Flexibility
  • Planning
  • Setting goals
  • Being imaginative
  • Language skills, understanding and use of metaphor
  • Creativity

 

Bonus tip for parents: Make sure everyone is involved in planning the activities, fit in your individual activities with joint activities. You can stick the daily plans on the refrigerator. You can talk with young children about all the things you will do together tomorrow. Make sure your children are looking forward to each activity they will be doing with you, but also to the prospect of returning to their activities with friends, at the playground, at school, etc.

 

11.  Playing traditional games (from when you were a child)

Another interesting activity that parents and caregivers can do with their children at home is playing folk or traditional games.

As simple as they seem, these games help stimulate children’s brains as well as their physical health.

Kids these days might not know much about folk games you played as children. Therefore, today is a good opportunity to remember your childhood with your children.

 

12. Let’s get mathematical

For everyone that loves math! Hereby are some fun and simple math games that parents and caregivers can try at home with your children! Do you know any other games? Share with us!

COUNTING GAME: Using counting sticks that you can find at home such as chopsticks or straws to teach children count and do some basic math.

SHAPE MAKING: Recycle your paper by drawing and making basic shapes like triangles, circles and squares in different sizes. Then your children can put them together to create pictures of houses or cars.

 

13. Make a video

Parents and children collaborate on a mini video making project to tell a story using a child’s color or black and white drawings.

Parents and caretakers can help the child develop their story and film the video.

Stay in touch with your loved ones

It is worth putting in the extra effort to nurture and strengthen your relationships with family, friends and colleagues, even if you can only talk to them on the phone and text each other. Socializing plays an important role in regulating your mood and helps you stay calm and stable. The same goes for your children.

Let them use social networks to stay in touch with their peers, even if they are otherwise forbidden to use them. Keeping in touch with others can help children feel less alone and can alleviate the sadness and loneliness they feel due to being away from friends.

Younger children will also need your additional support to use technology to maintain a sense of being close to relatives and friends, who they cannot see at the moment. Grandparents can use technology to maintain some of the usual routines in their relationships with their grandchildren – they can read a story to their grandchildren every night or introduce some new activities that they can do online or over the phone.

After these contacts, children may show more openly that they are sad due to being separated. Don’t let this confuse you. This only means that the child has connected with their feelings and in the long run it may be better for the child than acting as if nothing is happening.

It is important to offer comfort to the child at this time, to acknowledge how they are feeling, to send the message that it is okay and to make a plan for when they will talk again to the person they miss. It’s not perfect, but it helps maintain the sense of being close and connected, and that reduces stress.

Maintaining personal contacts is important for all children, including children from foster families and children's homes, who are already separated from their loved ones, from brothers, sisters and parents.

Now that they cannot see them, it is crucial that the adults the children trust (foster parents and counsellors in homes) ensure this and support children in maintaining their personal relationships.

moja umetnost
UNICEF Srbija/2020

14. My art

“My art” is a game that provides children with the opportunity to experience how various objects and body parts can be used to create art.

Put watercolours, temperas or edible food paint into plastic containers. Put a paper on the floor, as big as possible. You can use any paper, parts of old wallpaper, newspapers, papers already written on, drawing paper or cardboard. Then, find as many household items that can be used for painting as possible. Make sure to use your and your child’s hands, feet, fingers and elbows.

Play with shapes, colours, sizes and body parts. The result can be a great piece of art, gift-wrapping paper or wallpaper for a part of the wall or wardrobe.  But don’t worry, if you get carried away and everything falls apart in the end, this is completely fine, the emphasis is on the process from which children will learn so much while having great fun.

 

For this game you will need:

  • Paint
  • Paper
  • Sponges
  • Cloths
  • Cut potatoes
  • Brushes
  • Being ready and willing to get messy and have fun

15. My photo album – idea for younger school-age children

In the conditions when children are staying at home, they draw and write things that interest them, and very often their work is intended for people they hold dear. At these times when they are not seeing their grandparents and other members of the extended family or their friends, you can suggest that they draw or write something for each of them.

You can take a photo of each of these works and send them to their special persons. In addition, it is a good idea to create an album together, where the child will put and keep their works, which will stay as a memento of this period of home quarantine when it's over, which they will be able to show to others, go through again, to reminisce of the time spent with the family, of the messages sent through drawings, songs and essays. 

The album can be made from a folder you already have at home. If the album needs to be bigger, you can make it out of cardboard that you will fold in two equal parts, and reinforce the place of folding with adhesive tape. To make the album, you can also use the covers of the size 5 or 3 school drawing paper that school-aged children already have at home. Children can decorate the covers as they wish, by gluing paper, cloth, with drawings, by drawing their hand contours or leaving hand marks. On the cover, write the first and last name and the period of time when the works were created.

 

For this game you will need:

  • Folder, cardboard, covers of the size 5 or 3 school drawing paper
  • Adhesive tape
  • Paper / (sticky) coloured paper / newspapers / illustrated paper / gift-wrapping paper / all kinds of paints and coloured pencils or crayons / cloth or rags / wool / glue / beads

 

From these games, children will learn:

  • Gift-giving
  • Creativity, flexibility, playfulness
  • Documenting their own work and progress
  • Balance and coordination
  • Focus and concentration

 

Bonus tip for parents: Don't forget to share your work with relatives and friends. Photograph it and let your child boast about it to everyone. And one more thing, modern technologies are not the only way to strengthen the sense of being connected. Talking about loved ones, looking at joint photos, drawing people the child loves and writing letters are all more than adequate activities for the child to maintain the sense of continuity, security and being connected. 

 

16. Organize a treasure hunt at home

Make a set of clues to advance in the search for treasure inside the house. The clues can be clever questions that make them discover corners or things around the house that they may not have known what they were for.

The treasure can be something your child really likes to eat or a "voucher for" doing some special activity with you.

For younger kids, you can hide individual letters and once collected ask them to put the words together out of the letters they found.

 

17. Organize the house with your child

Parents or caregivers could take this opportunity to teach some of the most basic life skills to your kids. Clothes folding could be one thing!

Other ideas: organize the toys with your child (big, small, cars, games et.);

Organize the shoes in the hallway.

Take exclusive time for your child and yourself, without news, phones and without the “virus”

Every day, take some time that you will spend only with your child. It may seem that you are together all the time and that there is nothing new about this idea. However, dedicated time just for you and your child is the easiest and most efficient way to feel great as a parent and to be sure you were really with your child that day.

It can be only 20 minutes, but it is important for both your child and you to know that this is the time when you are 100% committed and involved, without anything distracting you. This is the time when you turn off the phone and TV, you don't make lunch and you don’t clean the house – this is the time that you and your child are spending with each other.

Ask your child what is it they want to do. When the child can choose, it builds their confidence. Watch them, follow them, listen to them, have fun!

Game suggestion for small and preschool-aged children:

18. Make a shadow puppet

Children are often trying to “catch” their shadow which is always “running away”. Very often they are amazed at the size and shape of shadows. Shadow is a phenomenon that arouses the curiosity of children of all ages. 

To play with shadows with young children you need a source of light (the Sun, table lamp, flashlight), flat surface to project the shadow on and imagination. Using your hands, you can make various interesting shadows together, a bird, rabbit, small, big or teeth.

With a preschooler, you can draw shadows of their favourite toys and turn it into a small piece of art together.

pozorište u kući
UNICEF Srbija/2020

19. Shadow theatre at home – idea for younger school-age children

This is an opportunity to organize a shadow theatre at home together with your children. Children can stage the play, and you will be the audience. This is also an opportunity to record the play and share it with their loved ones (grandparents and other relatives, friends).

To organize this theatre you only need a lamp and a bed sheet.

Shadow theatre can be organized in various ways, by children making silhouettes of animals or objects or by you cutting out figures made out of cardboard and sticking them to mixing spoons. The theatre can also be turned into miming – with you guessing what children are doing behind the bed sheet, e.g. washing hands and similar. 

 

For this game you will need:

  • Bed sheet
  • Table lamp or flashlight
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive tape
  • Sticks / mixing spoon

 

From these games children will learn about:

  • Imagination and creativity
  • Creating new things
  • Dimensions in space: big, small, near, far

 

20. Let’s get messy! Make Playdough

Kids love creating with playdough and it’s even more fun if they participate in making it with you.

This is great, kids can be creative, and it also builds strength in their hands for fine motor skills. 

You can find the recipe here: https://teachingmama.org/how-to-make-jello-playdough/

 

21. Imagine what a cardboard box can be 

If you can find a cardboard box, get creative with it. It’s funny how kids love playing with simple things like cardboard boxes!

You can turn them into a little fort, a boat, a rocket ship, you can paint on them, put stickers on and if you cut out funny stuff from old magazines you can let the kids glue them on. There's no limit.

 

22. Play ‘I spy’ or “I see”

Practice some math and language skills by playing the simple game “I see” or “I spy”. Keep it simple, start by saying e.g.  “I see in this room something blue”, and let the kids ask you more clues on the object you have on your mind and want the kids to guess it.

They can ask as many questions as needed until they found out what it is. Some more clues you can give “I see something small and round”, “I see something soft and white” Etc. This is extra fun outside: “I spy something that moves”. And for older kids: “I spy something that start with a C”

 

Limit the influx of adverse information

The time of the epidemic and the state of emergency is turbulent in itself, new information constantly keep coming in and everything changes, sometimes by the hour. It is important for us all to stay up to date and not miss any important information. But we can control when and how much we are ready to hear on a daily basis, so that we stay informed but not overwhelmed with information. Turn off the TV, limit your use of social networks or conversations with friends that increase your anxiety, waste your energy and ruin your mood. Include media and content that have a positive impact on you.

 

Bonus tip for parents: Keep your children informed – but in a simple way

The best way for children to get information about the corona virus situation is from you. They have already heard a lot, and your silence could only confuse them. But the information you are giving them, especially in the case of younger children, should be brief and clear, so they can understand what's happening around them. Remember, children do not need to know every single detail. For example, if they ask you why they are not going to kindergarten, try to avoid the answer – because this virus is dangerous or people are dying from it. But you can tell them that for a while you won't be going to work and they won't be going to kindergarten, and that many people are working hard to get everything back to how it used to be. Or you won't tell your two-year-old that you won't be going to grandma's to avoid infecting her, but you will say, even if they don’t ask, that you won’t be going to grandma's as you usually do, but that you will call her over the phone and see her again another weekend.

 

Bonus tip for parents: Children hear everything, even when it seems like they are doing something else. Check with them what they heard, how they understood it and what they would like to share with you and hear from you.

nasa basta
UNICEF Srbija/2020

23. Our garden

If you already have a balcony with flowers or houseplants, involve children in plant care. Also, you can plant a fast germinating seed. For example, common bean. It is enough to put one bean into water-soaked cotton wool or in an egg shell with some soil, and put it in a warm and sunny place. Water it regularly and in just a couple of days you will be able to watch the seed grow. 

Gardening activities are good for children because they activate all senses – a child can touch the plant or soil, count the leaves, see what the little leaves or flowers look like. Through gardening activities, children will also develop finger skills and precision, and older children can join discussions on scientific concepts and healthy diets. Working together stimulates binding and good family relationships.

For older children, preschool- and school-aged children, you can take a photo every day of how much your bean has grown – after that, you can make a photo collage (like a small biology experiment). Share the plant's growth with your extended family. Grandma and grandpa may have some useful advice.

 

24. When the bean finds its way to the light – activities for younger school-aged children

Here’s the opportunity for children to see the importance of sunlight for the life of plants in a practical example. In this regard, older children can continue with growing beans. They can put the container with the growing bean in a shoe box, close it, and cut a hole on the side.  They should put the box next to a window with lots of sun and leave it like that for a couple of days, until they can see the plant coming out of the hole in the box.

That is the moment to talk to children about how the plant found its way to the hole in the box (it followed where the light was coming from into the box). You can then talk about various examples you have at home, for example, why the houseplant stands next to the window or why it is “leaning” towards the window, etc. You can also start a discussion on sunflowers, highlighting the phenomena of them following the Sun. For this, you can use photographs that you can find online.

 

With gardening, children will learn about:

  • Responsibility
  • Patience
  • Planning and organization
  • Ecology and respect for the nature
  • Importance of the Sun for all living beings
  • Connection between the animate and inanimate nature

 

25. Wash clothes, toys or dishes with your child

Take your toy cars/action figures/dolls/ little animals, etc. Place them up by the sink. Filled the sink with soapy water. Have a bucket of water on the other side to rinse the toys off. Lastly, dry them with a towel. With this activity kids also learn how to follow steps and they can also do this by themselves with parents just watching.

With preschoolers you can also show them how to wash socks or a handkerchief and how to dry it outside with clothespins.

 

 

26. Make a short video with your child

Find a situation with your children that has made them laugh a lot, something very fun that has happened to you as a family.

The idea is to make a little "storybook video" with the story of what happened. 

 

 

Involve your child in everyday family routines

The new circumstances have led to families spending most of their days at home. While such circumstances definitely increase the stress for all family members, families can have the capacity to make sure that everyone feels good and respected. In the responsibilities regarding everyday family routines – food preparation, laundry, household hygiene, and similar, children will find opportunities to learn and explore, but also a strong sense of belonging and being important for the family.

Child's involvement in family routines means child’s active participation in all everyday family activities. By participating, the child assumes a part of the responsibility for the given activity, which allows them to build independence, confidence, self-esteem, the sense of being respected.

It is important to recognize how and to what extent a child can participate in the activity, in relation to their age, interests and capabilities. Resist the urge to do something instead of the child, or to go after the child “fixing” things that they can and know how to do, more or less skilfully. Parents often have this urge – because it's quicker and/or easier this way, or you are under the impression that the way the child is going to do something is not good enough. In childcare, parents have a very important task of balancing the child’s autonomy and the child’s need to be supported.

That is why now, when most family members are home and the time and responsibilities are organized differently, it is the right time to let your children make their own bed, set and clear the table, take out the laundry and hang it to dry, take down the dry clothes and put them in wardrobes, participate in preparation of meals – bring the necessary groceries, and, according to their age, clean and cut them or use the stove to prepare simple meals. All of these are activities that children between the ages of 2 and 7 have the skills for. 

Child’s participation in these activities will be safe if parents develop the skill of observing situations from the child's point of view, so they can provide support from that perspective. Parents can achieve this by following what the child is doing, recognizing their interests, what they can do and where they need help. The child will enjoy their responsibilities and achievements.

This way the child is active, they learn through activities that represent natural cognitive opportunities. Through such activities, children influence and change the world around them, they contribute to the family and its functioning. For example, during preparation of meals, a child can count the vegetables being prepared and thus explore numbers, sets, concepts, or they can learn about colours, shapes and smells.

Cutting, mixing, with a mixing spoon or hands, adding spices with fingers, using clothes pegs or bigger and smaller laundry and kitchen utensils are all great exercises for coordination and fingers (which are contributing later to writing skills). Such activities make more sense in the child’s and family’s life than any exercise or worksheet developed for these purposes.

Such involvement in family routines allows the child to feel good, accomplished, satisfied and happy, safe, self-confident and competent, but not overprotected and controlled, but confident that their skills and interests are recognized and respected. Take the opportunity and support your child this way.

priprema obroka
UNICEF Srbija/2020

27. Bathing fruits and vegetables

Involve your child in preparation of the lunch or snacks, by washing vegetables or fruits together. Encourage your child to take the groceries you are preparing and put them in a bowl. If necessary, help them turn on the tap to wash the groceries. Talk to the child about what interests them regarding this activity, why fruits and/or vegetables are healthy, where they grow, why it is important to wash them, what they taste like, which one they like the most, what colour it is, how many of them there are, who will eat what and how much, etc.

Encourage your child to ask questions, to find answers on their own, draw conclusions and demonstrate various skills. Praise those skills and your child's independence whenever you notice them. These questions can be a source for various topics to explore (why are tropical fruits called tropical, where in the world do people eat the same fruits we do, and which people have other fruits, how is winter preserve prepared, etc.).  Older children (aged 3 to 6) can prepare fruit on their own – pick, cut or peel it, serve it and clear up after the snack.

If your child is very young and cannot participate in the activity in this way, maintain eye contact while preparing a meal, let them hold some groceries in their hands, so they can explore texture and shape, all the while talking to them with a broad smile and eyes wide open. Talk about what you are preparing, who you are preparing it for, what it tastes like.

In most cases, a baby will put the food in their mouth and have some reaction to its taste – name this reaction (you like it, it is sour, and similar).

 

For this activity you will need:

  • Groceries
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Active listening
  • Time

 

In this activity, the child will have the opportunity to:

  • See themselves as competent
  • Feel like an active, full member of the family
  • Develop confidence and self-esteem
  • See you as a person who sees, supports and respects them
  • See you as a person who is there when they need you
  • Learn about groceries
  • Learn about colours
  • Learn about numbers
  • Learn about tastes
  • Explore relationships within the family

 

Bonus tip for parents: You may feel that you can prepare the meal on your own much quicker and without the countless questions. You are probably right, but try doing family routines this way. You will soon realize how rich these activities are with stimulating content for the child and the whole family, and that there is no need to take special time and create a special activity for planned stimulation of the child’s development. Even when everything goes back to how it used to be, involving your child in family routines is a way to spend quality time together. Routines are natural, usual activities and provide many more opportunities for a child to learn and practice their skills and knowledge.

 

28. Relaxation activity: Baths and Water Play

Whether your child splashes about or leans back and slowly dumps water into different bath toys, the sensation of the water, the sound of the tub filling, and perhaps the smell of bubble bath or a few drops of essential oil can all calm a child!  

At other times, even playing with floating toys in a large container of warm water can have a relaxing effect.

You might follow by a cozy story time—good every day!

 

29. Relaxation activity: Starfish and Tornadoes

Draw a picture of a thermometer. Draw a starfish (or another peaceful creature familiar to the child) at the bottom and a tornado at the top. Ask if your child feels calm and peaceful like a starfish or revved up like a tornado.

When your child is feeling over-energized, brainstorm together about ways to feel more like a starfish. For example, bouncing a ball to help release some of that energy.

Try playing this game at different times of the day and help your child describe the energy levels.

For example, if you play first thing in the morning, you can say, “You like to snuggle and watch cartoons.” Or, “I bet you could run up and down the stairs five times before I finish making breakfast!”

 

30. Relaxation activity: Freeze Dance

Play some lively music on your phone or computer.  Encourage your children to make up any kind of dance to the music (show them at first).  After a few minutes, stop the music and say “FREEZE!”  The child “freezes” in the silly position taken at the moment the music stopped.  Begin the music again and continue as often as they enjoy it.

 

31. Relaxation activity: Belly Breathing with Stuffed Animals

Let your child lie on his or her back and put a stuffed animal on belly. Have them breathe in and move the stuffed animal up, then breathe out and bring the stuffed animal back down.

This helps teach children to use their belly to take big deep breaths.

 

32. Blowing Bubbles

Children must blow carefully and slowly to make the bubbles, which will help them take deep breaths. Blowing bubbles using your own hand as the bubble wand is also great for tactile input and can be soothing.

They can do this by dipping their hand in the bubble mixture and either blowing through their fist or by making a circle with their thumb and index finger and blowing through that.  Experiment!

 

33. Relaxation activity: Flower and Candle Breathing

A simple activity is to tell children to breathe in like they are smelling a flower and breathe out like they are blowing out birthday candles. 

Demonstrate for them (may be hard for the youngest— try another activity perhaps).

 

34.  Relaxing with Yoga

If you know simple yoga poses, get your child involved. Try the simple child-friendly yoga poses to calm down emotions and see how it feels.

 

Lazy Cat Wakes Up. 

Pretend you are a lazy cat that just woke up from a lovely long nap.

Have a big yawn.

And a meow.

Now stretch out your arms, legs and back – slowly like a cat – and relax.

Use screen time wisely

The state of emergency and quarantine period has definitely limited our activities outside our homes, with children attending school on screens and socializing via video chats, or using the internet and TV to watch stage plays, explore museums and listen to music. At the same time, experts are warning about the adverse effects of “screen time”, especially for children.

All this leaves parents with the dilemma of “how much screen time is OK” and “is there quality screen time”. We have to take into account the fact that it is expected that children will have more screen time than usually in the current conditions (lack of direct social contacts, parents busy working from home, etc.).

This now includes TV, phones, tablets, video games and social networks, Skype and other forms of communication, so it is important to answer the question of how to introduce quality into these activities.

It is important for parents to jointly decide with the child on the content the child can consume – it should be educational and should enable (or be in the function of) exploring, i.e. learning about a certain topic. It can be related to some topic of the child’s interest, books or stories they are reading, or the content (e.g. TV programme about space, animals, professions) could stimulate the child to think and draw conclusions.

It would be best if the child watched the screen content together with the parent, so that the parent can direct the attention to what is important or discuss what is happening on the screen, allowing the child to truly learn from the content instead of being just a passive recipient.

It is certainly necessary to create new routines regarding the use of screens during the quarantine period. The fact that children may be spending more time playing video games or watching videos doesn’t mean that you should abandon all rules. It is best for families to enter the most suitable time of the day for a short break in front of the TV or laptop into their daily schedules, in order to create a predictable and stimulating environment for children and make families feel more secure.

Please note that for children under the age of 18 months, the recommended screen time is still 0 minutes. Also, the quality of a film, classical music concert, stage play, museum tour and similar, seemingly educational content drops when the child follows it only passively.

put oko sveta
UNICEF Srbija/2020

35. Around the world

Organize a virtual trip for your family. First, decide where you as a family would like to travel, pick a destination. Then, start exploring that place (city, mountain, town). For this, you will need to use “screens” and the internet, and you can use virtual tours of some cities. This way you will together get familiar with interesting customs, important places and building, plants growing in this region, eating habits, music of the region...

And the activity continues after we move away from the “screen”. For example, you can draw a postcard, write a message, photograph it and send it to grandma and grandpa, loved ones, friends. You can make one of their traditional meals, try some of their games or make a souvenir from that country.

You can discuss your virtual trip. Let each family member share their impressions. Listen to each other carefully.

The trip can continue another day or you can go to another place the family members pick.

For this activity you will need:

  • Screen (preferably a laptop or TV with internet)
  • Paper and colour/regular pencils
  • Groceries

 

Children will:

  • Be able to learn about various cultures, traditions, customs, animals
  • Have the opportunity to develop imagination and memory
  • Learn to appreciate artistic values
  • Learn through having fun
  • Have the opportunity to expand their vocabulary and develop communication skills

 

Bonus tip for parents: Don't forget that children learn from models. Manage your screen time and talk about the impressions and feelings that the content you are watching evokes. Let your child see how you prioritize your screen time in relation to work, cooking, and recreation at home. This way you will be teaching your child the same skills.

 

36. Feathers and Statues

Pretend you are a feather floating through the air for about ten seconds. Suddenly you freeze and transform into a statue. Don’t move!

Then slowly relax as you transform back into the floating feather again. Repeat, making sure to finish as a floaty feather in a relaxed state.  (Parent—end with a hug!)

 

37. Build a Silly Story

Children age 4 and older may enjoy this.  One person in the family starts a story, and then other family members add to it in turn.  For example:  “One day David went for a walk.  The first thing he saw was a . . .” Then turn to the next person (maybe the other parent says “purple giraffe!”, making it simple for young children but fun and exciting.”  This could lead to drawing pictures of the family story or sharing it with others via Zoom or FaceTime.

 

38. Squeeze a Stress Ball

Take the ball(s) in one or both hands and squeeze and release.

Experiment with squeezing the ball. Find a way that is right for you, adjusting the speed, pressure, and timing of your squeezes to whatever way you like.

 

39. Be a Turtle!

Pretend you are a turtle going for a slow, relaxed turtle walk. Oh no, it’s started to rain! Curl up tight under your shell for about ten seconds. The sun’s out again, so come out of your shell and return to your relaxing walk.

Repeat a few times, making sure to finish with a walk so that your body is relaxed.

 

Imagination improves your health

The power of imagination is a form of a psychological immunity for children. And adults are said to be mentally healthy as long as they can use their imagination. Joint creative games are a “gym” for children's imagination, through which they develop their senses, intellectual capacities, confidence and self-esteem.

“Make believe” games in which the child can become anyone, travel anywhere, with ordinary household items getting extraordinary powers, help the child express and communicate their feelings, develop emotional and social intelligence.

Preschool-aged children cannot always express and accurately explain their feelings, and creative endeavours can be the perfect way for your child to show you, in a way that is safe for them, how they are coping with feelings such as anger, sadness, worry or happiness.

Benefits from playing together:

1. It provides opportunities to spend quality time together, and cleaning up after the game can be a joint activity

2. Learning to respect the other person's creative and thought process – let your child express creative freedom

3. Learn to manage conflicts: stay calm when the colours start “flying around” and ask your child to join problem solving / cleaning up the paint or collecting flour

4. Development of child's autonomy – while they are experimenting with sorting, reaching, measuring, adding material, etc.

5. Improved communication as you develop the skills of active listening, accepting, encouraging and positive appraisal of the child

6. Respecting boundaries by being calm and clear in your demands if challenges appear, such as the child painting on the wall instead of on paper.

papirni šeširi
UNICEF Srbija/2020

40. Paper hats

This is a game of role playing and imagination. Make a hat from newspapers or any available paper. When a child puts on their hat, they can become a cook, pirate, wizard. Encourage them to look at themselves in the mirror and start a conversation with the new personality they see in front of them. You should also join this conversation and the emerging story.

For this game you will need:

  • Newspapers, papers
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive tape
  • Coloured pencils
  • Mirror

 

41. Invisible ink – idea for younger school-aged children

This activity has several layers of meaning, from the most obvious ones – drawing and writing, to expressing one’s desires, including for children who find that hard to do, to getting to know one another.

That's why you can organize it in many ways, depending on your assessment of what will have the best effect in your family's circumstances.

The central part of this activity is writing with white crayon on paper. For example, you can decide to have each family member write down their wish, then swap the papers, and then paint the paper with a water colour to reveal each other's wishes. But it doesn’t have to be just wishes, it can be messages for each other, writing secrets, etc. The messages can also be in the form of drawings.

This activity can also be organized with the paper you are writing on intended for a person who the child cannot see because of the physical isolation, so they can send them a message this way.

This activity has a “liberating” approach for the child, because what they are writing is not visible, so you can use it to discover the child’s fears.

 

For this game you will need:

  • Paper
  • White crayon
  • Water colours

 

From these games, children will learn about:

  • Imagination and creativity
  • Expressing their desires
  • Sending messages to loved ones
  • Discovering fears

 

Stay positive!

Although most adults feel very worried, for most children hearing “school is closed” or “you are not going to kindergarten” calls for celebration. Parents should accept this sense of excitement and use it as a springboard to help their children stay calm and happy.

Let your children know that you are also happy they are excited, but at the same time, make sure they understand that while it may seem like we are on a vacation, things will be different this time. For example, simply and cheerfully inform them “It's great that we're all home together. We’ll have a great time! But remember, we will still work and stick to the daily schedule.”

medenjaci
UNICEF Srbija/2020

42. The world in my plate

Although we often say, and we've also been told many times “don't play with your food”, we now know that playing with food is actually a great way for children to develop imagination and creative thinking. It might even increase their appetite.

You can make all sorts of things from food. Potatoes can be rocks, broccoli can be trees with canopy, noodles can be beautiful velvety clouds or sun rays. Not to mention ketchup and various sauces 😊.

Help your child develop new stories and imagine new worlds in their plate! Encourage them with questions: Who is that in your plate? What do you like about this character, what is he or she like? Tell me more about what’s happening? What will happen next?

For this game you will need:

  • Usual food
  • Dinner together

 

43. Little confectioner

This is a chance to make biscuits together. And not just any biscuits, but honey biscuits. This is your chance to talk to your child about honey:

  • Honey is a liquid (this may seem a little unusual to the child, but you can use honey to teach them that there are liquids of different densities, e.g. comparing it to water)
  • Honey is the only insect product humans eat
  • Honey has health benefits
  • There are honeys of different tastes depending on the type of flowers bees collect pollen from

Here is a very simple recipe for delicious honey biscuits. Success is guaranteed, which will make the child successful and happy.

 

You need:

  • five tablespoons of honey
  • five tablespoons of sugar
  • two eggs
  • one teaspoon of baking soda
  • flour

 

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together
  2. Help your child knead the dough until it's firm
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to the thickness of a finger
  4. With a small cup (biscuit cutter), the child and you can cut the dough into honey biscuits
  5. Put baking paper on a sheet pan and place honey biscuits on it, with some space between them because they will rise a little
  6. Put the sheet pan into a pre-heated oven.
  7. Bake honey biscuits for 15-20 minutes at 170°C until they become light brown.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven.

BON APPÉTIT!

 

Children will learn about

  • Honey
  • Patience
  • Enjoying success
  • Joy of creation
  • Problem-solving
  • Language skills
The Play Corner was developed with the financial support of the Lego Foundation.