ALL DAY at home with kids – how do I structure the day?

I’ve been getting an increasing number of messages from people who are at home with kids in lockdown. I feel it could be imminent for us here in the UK too. So in order to try and help I am going to write and do a few things to give parents stuck at home with kids an idea of how to not go totally insane. First on the list, stockpile the gin/wine/chocolate….!! 😉

I thought perhaps a helpful thing might be to show you how I would structure the days and weeks if we were to suddenly be isolated to our house. It’s a little bit of a mix of what I did in classrooms and what I do to survive as a stay at home parent.

Firstly choose a theme for the week. It can be anything. Here are ten ideas on themes: Pirates, dinosaurs, space, nature, kings and queens, the seaside, superheroes, the seasons, animals in your country, our family. Try to see if any activity or game you do can somehow tie in with the theme. I would then dig through all my books and toys to find anything I had even remotely to do with that theme and get them out.

Ok so how do the days look? Here is how I would ROUGHLY structure a day at home with the kids so it had some education, some fun, and some chill time (for them and me). This would only be the case for Monday to Friday – weekends are slower and a bit of a free for all on screen time and lazing in pjs until midday. This is not a rigid plan but it’s a guide to help me give some meaning and purpose to the day. Also if you have your schedule somewhere the kids can see it and you refer to it together they are more likely to get on board:

Mornings – breakfast, TV time, get washed and dressed as per usual

  • 9am-9:30 – a phonics, word recognition, or spellings game (all on the menu bar of this website)
  • 9:30-10 – a writing or drawing task (write something around the theme of the week) or draw a picture for little ones. Only crayons and pencils out at this point.
  • 10-10:30 kids out in the garden with a snack – I would get a cuppa too.
  • 10:30-11 number and maths games (all on the menu bar of this website)
  • 11-11:30 story time – choose books and read together
  • 11:30-12:30 lunch and free play
  • 12:30 – 1:30 Either a science fun, art, messy play or baking activity (I will give more specific ideas later)
  • 1:30-2:15 TV time for kids while I clear up the messy stuff
  • 2:15 – 3pm outside play
  • 3pm – snacks and cups of tea
  • 3:15 – 4:15 board games and puzzles
  • 4:15 screen time with decent apps or a movie while I cook dinner
  • 5pm dinner

the rest is usual evening routine.

Some tips to support this:

  • Five minutes before each activity ends I would say: it’s tidy up time and get them each to put away one or two things.
  • I don’t expect the activity to fill the ENTIRE time slot every time. If they want to go off and play they can.
  • The night before plan ahead a bit if you can. Decide what you’re going to do for each little slot. Which phonics game to play or which board games you will let them choose from etc. The more prep you do the easier your day will be. There are all my ideas on the menu bars of this website.
  • If you are splitting the childcare and working with your partner then do half a day each. Play to your strengths – if one of you is better at educational stuff do that, if one of you loves to be creative and get messy do that.
  • Send them outside twice a day if you can regardless of the weather. Even if just for a few minutes!
  • If they are really into something then ignore the schedule (don’t stop play and fun just to keep to a schedule if everyone is happy) and just pick it up again when they’ve finally had enough of whatever they were focused on. Save whatever activity you had planned for the next day.
  • Use online resources. There are LOADS. Twinkl are giving people a month free and this is what teachers use. Try also education.com who have free worksheets. If you don’t have a printer copy them out onto paper yourself or recreate the ideas in chalk on a floor or on a white or blackboard etc. you might have.
  • It is OK to say to the children – “I am having a rest right now, please go and play.” I think working parents especially find this really hard to say to children because when they get time with them it’s precious and they want it to be totally devoted to their children, understandably. As a stay at home parent I don’t feel this way, and perhaps you might feel the same if this has been suddenly thrust upon you. The kids get SO MUCH of me all the time, it is absolutely fine to tell them that you’re resting for a bit and ignore them for 15 minutes so you can just sit. So if you’re feeling like it is all a bit much, allow yourself to explain that you need a little bit of time alone and go somewhere you can see but can’t hear them and just have some peace for a bit. I often go upstairs when they are in the garden and watch out the bedroom window. Obviously if you have a baby this isn’t possible, unless you can time it with a nap!
  • If you have talking speaker thing – set reminders for the timings of your day so it seems like the speaker is giving instructions not you – “oh did you hear that kids? What did Alexa say is next?”
  • It doesn’t matter what your schedule looks like but having one can really help break up the day into manageable chunks.

So an example of the actual activities I might do in a day are below. The theme is dinosaurs. I have dug out a few dinosaur toys, and books we have and downloaded The Good Dinosaur from the TV. I’ve also found some dinosaur songs and videos on Kid’s You Tube and book marked them and printed off a few dinosaur colouring in sheets and dinosaur words.

  • 9am-9:30 – musical phonics – put out a load of letters on the floor and every time the music stops the kids have to jump on a letter and tell me what sound it is. Keep moving letters around, take them away if you want to make it competitive, join in.
  • 9:30-10 – get a large piece of wallpaper (or tape lots of bits of paper together) and write the word dinosaur as BIG as we can. Then colour it in with dinosaur skin and shapes and patterns. How many times can we write dinosaur inside a big D? How many swirls and zig zags can we draw?
  • 10-10:30 kids out in the garden with a snack – get out balls and hoops.
  • 10:30-11 get an empty shoe box with holes in and dried pasta. Number sums for Ewan where he puts the correct number of bits of pasta into the box as the answer to the sum and Flo just does number recognition popping the correct amount of pasta through the holes. Perhaps roll a dice too to get the sums or numbers.
  • 11-11:30 story time – choose any of the dinosaur books and read together – maybe act out a book with a dinosaur toy too.
  • 11:30-12:30 lunch and free play
  • 12:30 – 1:30 Get out some kinetic sand on trays, gather some leaves and twigs and rocks from the garden, make a dinosaur jungle with it all. Add in the dinosaurs once it is done and perhaps some cave people and monster trucks if the play needs to be extended.
  • 1:30-2:30 TV time for kids while I clear up the messy stuff
  • 2:30 – 3pm outside play
  • 3pm – snacks and cups of tea – I would lay out a puzzle while they are eating
  • 3:15 – 4:15 do the puzzle then choose a board game to do together.
  • 4:15 put on The Good Dinosaur
  • 5pm dinner

This is just one example of what I might do. This would be fine for kids aged 2-7 I reckon, although you can easily do this schedule with any primary school ages kids and just make the activities a bit more challenging for older ones.

I have absolutely NO IDEA if this will be helpful to you. I have just jotted it down today off the top of my head as this is what I would do if placed under lockdown. It wouldn’t be easy, definitely not. I expect there would be days where I shout “oh F**K the stupid schedule” or just plain ‘aaarrrggghh’. But there’s no need to panic for ideas of how to keep the kids entertained. I can show you LOADS of things on my social media pages on a daily basis and if we are all at home I will do a daily live chat/activity too. And really, how rare an opportunity is this? A chance to teach our kids, experience them, all be together as a family. For those who feel guilty for not being at home much here’s your chance to really bank up some points that will keep you going for years to come. 😉

I hope everyone is OK. I know it’s strange and scary but I’m here to help. My emails and DMs are open. I won’t be able to personally reply to them all, but I will read them and if I can see a certain request from lots of people I will do my best to help in any way I can.

I am going to write another blog post ASAP on ‘Skype / FaceTime playdates and games we can do across the airwaves’ which will also include LOADS of my favourite play account so we can still connect and play even when in isolation at home. Sending love to you all wherever you are. Let’s just five minute play our way through it shall we?

42 thoughts on “ALL DAY at home with kids – how do I structure the day?

  1. You are amazing lovely, thank you soooooo much for this! Have literally just decided to go into lockdown so you have made this time a holiday instead of bonkers. Already have g

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  2. Thank you! For everything. The posts, this email, the book, the sanity check, the structure, the ideas, the dancing, the chocolate-eating. Thank you, thank you. Love and continued support from a fellow mum and netball player (although not so much playing at the moment unfortunately… they don’t know what they are missing here in Belgium)

    ________________________________

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  3. Wow. This is great. Thank you. Just as I sit here wondering how to get through the next few weeks with everyone at home. I will try to use at least a few ideas (the structure! the theme) though the age difference (almost 10, 7, almost 4) seems to make it harder to find activities. Our youngest is a special needs child with, well… special needs. That makes it even harder. But your ideas already made me more optimistic.
    Best regards from Berlin where schools will be closed from next week on.

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  4. This is really helpful. I think staying connected to others is so important for our mental health so really looking forward to hearing about your Skype games xx

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  5. I’m on lockdown in Brussels with hubby working from home downstairs and teen on full school timetable via Google Classroom upstairs. In the middle it’s myself and Mr 4 and Little Miss 3. I know structure and routine are going to be key as we get a full five weeks out of school. And I’m useless at both… So THANK YOU!!!!!! Brilliant and inspiring as ever.

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  6. This is great, thank you! We are on lockdown now in Austria for the next four weeks. I’ve been home with my five year old with a broken leg for three weeks already so this lockdown is really tough for us. All ideas are highly appreciated!

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  7. This is wildly helpful thank you – except for the smart speaker tip: I think it’s so tempting but also just the type of ingraining I want to protect my kids from. I don’t want them obeying a robot or any disembodied authority that’s not me or another human who is responsible for them. We need to provide clear boundaries for all kids but especially those too small to understand the difference.

    Other than that I find this idea of a plan for the day an excellent idea. Thank you!

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  8. Absolute star, thankyou for taking your time to post activities. We are all in this together. Let’s do this. I’ve stocked up on wine and stickers, I’m ready to home school. Goodluck everyone. Stay sane. 😀🤞🏻💕

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  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are a life saver and have stopped me falling into a black hole of panic this morning. I am passing your website and book information on to everyone I can think of. You are amazing. Xx

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  10. Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve got 3 children aged 3 and under and I’ve been worried about keeping them all entertained and stimulated (whilst not going mad myself!) over the coming weeks. You are a lifesaver to mums everywhere! Please keep the posts and ideas coming if you can.

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  11. I just bought your book. It is fantastic! I’m an Early Years teacher with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I was looking for ideas to help my daughter without her knowing and without me going into teacher mode with her. The book has really helped to bring things I would do in the classroom home to my daughter but in a more natural way and I’ve just discovered your blog and ideas for lockdown, thank you!

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