Coronavirus: how to keep children happy, learning and entertained at home

We know it can be hard work keeping children occupied at home these days but here is a good article originally published in the Irish Times, on keeping children happy, learning and entertained. John Sharry (Parents Plus) shared it on his website which makes me think it is well worth sharing here!

You can download the original article here:-

Coronavirus: How to keep children happy, learning and entertained at home

School work, baking, exercise, online resources… Help is out there, even if you can’t go anywhere

A little planning and imagination will help to maintain harmony in your home over the coming weeks

A little planning and imagination will help to maintain harmony in your home over the coming weeks.

In a previous incarnation, just before my first child was born, I left my job in the media and trained as a Montessori teacher. The plan was that I would be able to incorporate my work and home life without too much upheaval, and this proved to be true.

Three sons later, I returned to my writing role and began working on a freelance basis – with three children under the age of six at home with me.

So as parents up and down the country are facing, with trepidation, the prospect of at least two weeks at home with their children – indoors for much of the time and without the welcome distraction of playdates or playgrounds, as we are being advised to avoid these to slow the spread of coronavirus – I want to share with you some of the entertainment tricks I have used while working from home for the past 15 years.


Toddlers like feeling useful, so clear some cupboard space and fill it with your child’s plastic eating utensils, wooden spoons and an inexpensive, pot, pan and mixing bowl. Make sure it’s at child-level so they can access it at will, along with some pasta they can ‘cook’ with. Leave cloths, dustpan and brush within easy access so they can ‘help’ you clean and allow them to ‘wash’ clothes in a basin.

Toddlers: Let them loose with some pots and pans
Toddlers: Let them loose with some pots and pans

This age group has a keen eye for the smallest things, so if you are not self-isolating, a trip to the park, woods or beach will keep them amused for hours as they hunt out shells, bugs and other treasures. If you’re staying closer to home, the same can be done in the garden.

Another curious toddler interest is sorting stuff – laundry into piles, different coloured/shaped pasta into groups, toys into categories, cutlery drawer, shoes into pairs – so root out (or create) jumbles of items and get them to order it.

And when the TV needs to be turned on, you can’t beat old favourites like Sesame Street and The Muppets and the more recent The Best of Toddler Fun Learning (all on You Tube).

Top tips for toddlers

  • Allocate jobs
  • Use educational TV
  • Keep them active when indoors by having jumping, skipping, dancing sessions – it will tire them out and give you a bit of a workout too.

Ages four-six

This age group is still wonderfully curious and aside from the usual baking activities, my guys also “helped” with dinner – with plastic utensils, they chopped and peeled, stirred and mashed. This not only kept them busy and by my side while I was cooking, but it also gave them a sense of achievement and the motivation to eat what they had prepared.

Ages 4-6: Now’s the perfect time for making dens and forts
Ages 4-6: Now’s the perfect time for making dens and forts

I would encourage everyone to relax the rules over the next few weeks and allow kids to spread out their playing space – setting up various worlds involving dinosaurs, soldiers, dolls, trucks, farm animals, whatever, can take hours and even if the actual game only lasts 30 minutes, trust me, they will spend forever setting the scene.

Dens in the living room or bedroom are always fun and once set up can be a magical place to bring books and treats.

Drawing pictures, or printing outlined images off the internet for colouring in are always good for keeping busy, and when you need a solid hour to finish some work, there are some great educational programmes on Netflix and You Tube such as The Magic School Bus and Ask the Storybots.

Top tips for ages four-six

  • Making dens and forts
  • Colouring in/creating worlds for their toys
  • Help with meals

Ages seven-nine

Bill Nye the Science Guy and Octonauts are good shows for this age group but of course there’s only so much screen time they can and should have. I found that “nature/treasure hunts” were a big hit, and wrote lists of things to find in the garden, such as “2 long twigs, 4 daisies, 3 smooth stones” (Substitute words with drawings for the younger age group). This, armed with a “picnic” (some snacks) will keep them busy for ages.

Ages 7-9: Have a treasure hunt and use the spoils in craft projects
Ages 7-9: Have a treasure hunt and use the spoils in craft projects

If you haven’t got any outdoor space, get them to find different things around the house and bring to you for inspection (make sure it’s a long list).

The nature haul can be turned into an art project (outdoors if possible but with newspaper over the kitchen table, if not). Stones can be turned into ladybirds, twigs painted to make a display, flowers pressed and bugs photographed and returned to the wild.


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        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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