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Entertaining pre-schoolers from home

HLN's Becca Watts has pulled together the best online activities for little ones with short attention spans to help keep them occupied when one or both parents are now trying to WFH.

By Becca Watts

As parents up and down the country are finding out, keeping the kids entertained indoors with no end in sight is not the easiest of tasks (I admit that that may be putting it lightly. As a parent myself in a vulnerable household, if anyone has asked if we need anything dropping off, the answer has repeatedly been wine) and the task is made all the harder when looking after pre-school age children who aren’t the best at focussing on one thing for any length of time.

With that in mind, below is a collection of online activities for your little ones that may help relieve some of that pent up energy when the sun isn’t shining enough to play in the garden, get their creative juices flowing and help calm them down when you just need a few minutes’ peace.

If you and your baby are missing out on your usual sensory classes, fear not. Lucy from The Baby Hub in Gateshead will be starting up online classes for you and your smallest ones as of next week, featuring songs and activities to keep them stimulated and entertained. She’s also selling boxes packed full of sensory essentials so that the fun and learning can continue beyond classes. For updates, to purchases sensory boxes and for future classes, visit her Facebook page.

The Owl Tree Café is a fantastic initiative that provides a play space with crafting, imaginative play and songs for under 5s whilst also being a caring, supportive space for parents and a tasty place to grab a snack too. Whilst everyone is in lockdown, Hannah has turned to Facebook and YouTube to continue offering daily singalongs, crafting ideas and a community space for parents to still connect. Live broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube can be followed live or caught up on at a later date.

Many toddler classes have also turned to online options whilst real-life classes can’t continue. Whilst some are only available for their paying members, others have decided to broadcast classes to everyone during this time and for free. Little Movers was set up in the North East by Melanie Buck, focussing on dance and movement for children aged 18 months to 5 years, has franchises across the country and has even been featured on CBeebies. Melanie is currently providing free live sessions throughout the week at 10.00am and they can be accessed on Facebook, YouTube or found on their website.

Whilst Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books is unable to open its doors (and if you have little ones and haven’t visited yet, it really is a must once they reopen), they are entertaining the little ones with a series of storytimes over on their Facebook page. They’ve teamed up with Andersen Press to get famous authors and illustrators involved each week but are also featuring storytimes and crafty ideas by their very own story catchers.

Maybe it’s just me, but quite a lot of activities I’ve had a look at online have required some form of reading, counting or ability that is beyond my two-year-old. The BBC has taken the work out of the hunt for age-appropriate activities by curating a collection of age-specific activities particularly with lockdown in mind. Find a range of crafty, arty projects that don’t require loads of resources, are quick to set up and really helpfully broken down into different preschool-age sections.

If you’re short on time and need to occupy the kids now, the Five Minute Mum could be a lifesaver. With both a book and a website crammed with ideas, each activity only takes five minutes to set up, five minutes to put away and can keep the kids occupied for ages. Minimum effort, maximum effect. The activities are aimed at kids from 1-5 (though there are some blog posts aimed at babies even younger) and are organised in a range of ways so you can choose to focus on writing, numbers or free play to name a few. This way, you can help the littles with literacy, numeracy and motor skills while they play. It’s like tricking them into learning – such a win!

Piers Torday is a phenomenally successful author of magical middle-grade fantasies (and hails from Northumberland so bonus points there). He will be reading a chapter a day of his books on Instagram Live, starting with The Last Wild.

Mo Willems is an award-winning author and illustrator of both picture books and early readers. Having written for Sesame Street before turning to picture books, you can be sure that his books are full of warmth, humour and a few life lessons too. Every day he is currently posting a lunch doodle where anyone can grab a pencil or crayon and paper and join in.

Sarah Crossan is a Carnegie winning poet and author, known for her powerful, moving novels in verse. She’s currently working on poetry workshops via her Instagram aimed at 11+.

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