Constantly coming up with new activities for kids at home can be a real challenge. Adding to that, activities are supposed to be both entertaining and educational with screen-time limited to a minimum! We’ve tried to find a good mix of fun things to do at home, while sneaking in a bit of learning here and there...
We don’t claim to have found the perfect way of organising activities for kids at home. Instead of focusing on finding the perfect individual activities, we have learned that it’s more important to find a good mix of things to do. Some activities might be a bit less entertaining with a focus on education, while others will be more fun and relaxing.
The “secret sauce” of activities will be different from child to child and from family to family. Looking at the long list of activities that we put together below, we don’t’ recommend for you to try out all of them, but rather pick and choose a few activities to try out from different categories. Children learn more when they are engaged so we try to tailor activities around topics they enjoy as much as possible.
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Digital Resources from London’s Museums and Galleries
While pausing our usual London Museum Visits, we have explored what the museums have to offer in terms of online resources dedicated to families and kids. We have actually been really impressed with the amount of online tools games, videos, VR-tours, quizzes and DIY-projects they have put together for kids to enjoy from home. Even though the worst of crises, London’s museums are continuing to be of great support to families looking for inspiration for their children! Here are some of our favourite resources:
Tate Kids from London’s famous art gallery is dedicated to fun and creative projects for children. You’ll find lots of engaging activities for your kids, including quizzes, games and artistic DIY projects.
The Great Fire of London is a game created by the Museum of London where kids can help “Tom” and “Jane” through the dramatic days of the Great Fire of 1666. We just love these types of games that are really entertaining but also educational in a stealthy way.
Science Museum Group has created a range of learning resources for kids. We particularly like their diy projects such as creating Rocket Mice. We are huge fans of the Science Museum, especially their Wonderlab gallery and can’t wait to test out their interactive games and apps.
Also, don’t forget to check out our list of VR tours of London attractions. Take a virtual tour to 10 of the best-known attractions in London from the comfort of your home.
Educational Activities for kids at home
We are not homeschooling experts by any means, but we strongly believe in using technology and online resources as important supplements to our kid’s education. The lockdown was our trigger to get more into the many online educational platforms available for kids beyond what our school is offering.
Especially for younger school-children, the gamification of heavy subjects like maths can be a real game-changer for kids that normally would have a hard time becoming engaged by traditional ways of learning.
If you are like us and use homeschooling resources mainly as a supplement to school learning, these links are a good start:
Bitesize is BBC’s learning platform for children (requires a British TV license). Core subjects covered include maths, science and English. The format is mainly TV-based, but you’ll also find interactive exercises and games. As always, the BBC is providing excellent quality and is a safe choice for your kids.
Maths & Coding Platforms for Kids
Mathletics is our preferred maths platform (supported through many UK schools). Students can solve exercises such as addition, multiplication, geometry, division and statistics. The questionnaires are engaging with drag and drop functionality and easy to understand explanations. There is also a play area where students can test their skills against other school children while earning points contributing to weekly certificates. Mathletics is part of our daily morning routine!
Another maths resource, Xtramath is a completely free app-based platform that helps pupils learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Using small animated films to make maths and other subjects easier to understand, BrainPop is a solid choice for grades K-12. And with the help of puzzles, Best Academy Online helping kids speed up their progress with primary school maths.
Starting getting into coding? Tynker is high up on the list offering courses for kids 5 years and older.
CuriosityStream is a video-on-demand streaming service which is offering subscription-based documentaries and series about science, nature, history, technology, society and lifestyle. If you are searching for the perfect courses for your kids, check out Outschool and Udemy which are offering thousands of online classes.
Khan Academy Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization with the goal of producing a set of online tools that help educate students. If you are getting seriously into home education, check out All-in-one Homeschooling which is a free home education curriculum from preschool activities to 12th grade.
Read our full article covering Homes Education Resources
YouTube channels great for learning
While we prefer organising family movie nights rather than letting the kids watch endless small movie snippets, there are some good educational channels on YouTube worth mentioning. We have installed the YouTube Kids app on their tablets, which does a good job automatically filtering out content that is not age-appropriate.
We also use the Google Family Link app, which makes it easy to set time limits on the usage of each app. In terms of the YouTube Kids app, we find the content available on the main screen to be very random, making it difficult curate a feed of videos from the channels that we have “pre-approved”. If there was a better solution for this, we would probably have used YouTube Kids more. We are also very sceptical towards exposing kids to advertising, which is another reason why we are micromanaging their use of this platform quite a bit.
YouTube Science & Space Channels
When it comes to science, we have been really impressed with Crash Course Kids, which is a bi-weekly show that is great for the whole family to watch together. Mike Likes Science is another solid choice, showing science inspired music videos while Science Max is a series that is all about DIY experiments that you can test out at home. The Science Channel is covering a whole range of topics, keeping kids up to date on new technology and exploration. Last but not least, SciShow with millions of subscribers is a hugely popular channel producing easy to understand videos of complex science problems.
YouTube Nature & Geography Channels
Nature and animals have always been high up on our kids agenda, and the NatGeoKids channel is a wonderful channel that inspire kids to explore the natural world around them. We also really like Geofocus which is all about geography, and how planet earth and humanity interacts. Brainscoop is an interesting channel that is sharing the work and research of natural history museums with the world.
YouTube Arts & Music Channels
Let your kids loose with the art projects on Art for kids hub which shows simple art instruction from a father and usually his son while Freeschool is a great place to introduce children to art and classical music.If your kids are into music, also check out Kids learning Tube which is teaching kids through music and animation in a fun and unique way.
Last but not least, no YouTube channel list for kids could leave out the hugely popular Cosmic Kids Yoga which is teaching kids yoga and mindfulness.
Intuitive educational games and apps
We find it really hard to sift through the thousands of mobile apps for kids available to download, narrowing down on the types of games that we think will be suitable for our kids. We generally avoid apps marked with “In-App Purchase” since it usually comes with constant reminders to spend money on add-ons, coins, subscriptions, premium features etc. This is often done sneakily, telling children to ask their parents to pay for upgrades.
Also, we much rather prefer paying for a quality app upfront instead of being bombarded with targeted ads for kids (in our opinion, personalised targeted ads towards children should be banned). On the other hand, there are some great games out there that can make a huge difference in terms of engaging children in learning. Here are some games that we can recommend:
Learning to Read through Games
Poio is an interactive and engaging game for Apple and Android allowing children to teach themselves how to read. The guys behind Dragonbox have also created the apps Numbers and Algebra giving kids a soft introduction to maths.
“..I can see how a deeper understanding of numbers can serve as a foundation for future mathematics, and I think DragonBox Numbers does a good job of it.”Geek Dad
As part of encouraging young kids to read, Literactive is a really useful provider of reading material for pre-school, nursery and grade 1 students available online.
Maths focused educational games
Happy Numbers is a game-based learning where kids get visual rewards of special creatures hatching from eggs and revealing new planets for having completed maths practice. Learn more about the amazing world of science by enjoying fun science experiments through New Zealand based Science for kids.
For 12-year-olds and under users, CoolMath4kids is an amusement park of games, lessons and more, designed to teach maths and make it FUN. For kids through 7th grade, Math Game Time is a great resource providing fun games to help kids understand and develop their maths skills.
More educational games for kids
- Abcya Over 400 fun and educational games categorized by grade and subject covering topics such as multiplication, parts of speech, typing, pattern recognition
- Funbrain offers hundreds of games, books, comics, and videos that develop skills in maths, reading, problem-solving and literacy
- Splashlearn StudyPad’s vision is to transform K-12 learning by making it fun and personalised for every child and to prepare them for skills required in 21st-century.
- Storyline Online The children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations
- PBS kids Educational games and videos from Curious George, Wild Kratts and other PBS KIDS shows
- Highlights kids Highlights for Children, often referred to simply as Highlights, is an American children’s magazine. The website is for children of all ages to play games and discover new jokes, surveys, answers to science questions, and fun crafts and recipes from Highlights
- Switch Zoo Switch Zoo has 142 species, and the website features additional animal games, music created from animal voices, a reference section, lesson plans, and poetry, stories and artwork created by students and other visitors.
- SeussVille The Cat in the Hat, Sam-I-Am, Horton and the Whos, and the rest of the Seuss characters welcome you to Seussville, Dr. Seuss’s playground in cyberspace
- Turtle Diary Anther interactive resource that can be really helpful inspiring kids to learn through different online tools such as games, videos and quizzes.
- e-learningforkids Free and fun digital education for children worldwide
- Seterra A fun, interactive geography game with quizzes your children can play with and learn about the world
Discover Trees and Plants with an App
GoogleLens A free app from Google that lets you look up which plant (or anything else for that matter) you’re looking at by taking a picture of it. We have used this while going to our local woodland park by first identifying the plant or tree with the app, and then pressing the leaves when we get home. It’s a nice way of combining digital and nature experiences, highly recommended!
Tree ID British Trees An interactive tree identification app from the Woodland Trust (UK woodland conservation charity). The app is not based on AI recognition like Google Lens but is still very useful as it takes you through a series of guides based on the trees’ features. It also works in offline mode which is great if you’re hiking in the wild without mobile network coverage.
Read more about our favourite educational games and apps
Outdoor activities in your local area
Being mindful of social distancing rules, these are the activities that we think can be considered safe. Most of them can be done in very close proximity of your home, or as part of your daily exercise. Getting out of the house breathing fresh air is really important for everyone’s wellbeing and kids also concentrate a lot better when back inside the house doing homeschooling tasks.
- Fresh air and music: If you’re homeschooling under lockdown like us, try to sit close to natural sunlight and open the windows to get fresh air. Play some relaxing nature sounds on Spotify to lift your spirits!
- Go for a walk: It’s time to discover the green space in your local area! Did you know that 47% of London is green? We have been exploring our local parks in detail, and have been surprised to find serene pieces of nature that we had no idea existed.
- Cycling: In recent years, London like many other cities have been building more and more dedicated cycle paths shielded from traffic.
- Scooting is a safe activity that you can enjoy with your kids almost anywhere in London. Check our article about safe scooting paths for kids, and don’t forget your helmets!
- Skateboarding: If your kids find it boring to be cycling and scooting, why not take the step up to skateboarding!
- Walk your dog: This is a no-brainer (if you have a dog), so make your dog happy while getting your daily dose of exercise!
- Make an outdoor theatre play: Let the kids act out their favourite character and create a play in your local park or garden. We’ve made several including the Three Billy Goats Gruff, part of our recommended Nordic children’s books.
- Fly a kite: London is almost constantly windy, and therefore excellent for kiteflying! Our current favourite places are Greenwich Park as well as Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath.
Take Advantage of your Green Space Locally
- Go birdwatching: Birds are everywhere! The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds‘ website has plenty of resources to get you started. Don’t forget binoculars, pen and paper!
- Identify trees: Take along a book or use Google Lens to identify trees using leaves, bark, twigs, buds, flowers or fruit.
- Make a leaf book: Related to the activities for kids above, take advantage of your nearest green space and make a leaf book with all the different types that you can find!
- Orienteering: Learn to read a map and use a compass. Start by making a map of your local area, which makes it easier for children when they have something familiar to relate to.
- Gardening: If you are lucky enough to have a garden, this is a great time to inspire your kids to enjoy plants! The Royal Horticultural Society ‘s website provides plenty of tips.
- Climb a tree: It feels like all children nurture a dream about climbing to the top of a tree. Perhaps an instinct left from our early ancestors? That’s thousands of years of parents anxiously watching their children attempting to reach the treetops :-)
- Start your own herb garden: Herbs like chives, mint and basil grow anywhere, so why not put up a small herb garden on your balcony or in the kitchen window! It’s also a great way to get your kids more involved in cooking, as they can become responsible for finding the herbs that taste good with the dinner.
- Put up a tent: Kids just love tents, so why not go camping in your own back garden or even on your balcony!
- Make pinecone animals: We’ve made pinecone sheep and cows, as well as boats made out of bark. Basic stuff, but our kids really enjoy it.
- Build a bird feeder: Build or buy a bird feeder for your balcony or in your garden and make a list of all the birds visiting!
Read our full article on Outdoor Activities
10 great family movies included in Amazon Prime
Amzon Prime is probably not the biggest streaming platform for kids movies in terms of number of titles available. However, since many are paying for an Amazon Prime subscription anyway, it’s an affortable way to access some good quality children’s movies online. Here is the list of movies that we can recommend:
- Paddington (2014) A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home.
- Paddington 2 (2017) Paddington is now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community
- Room on the Broom (2013)To the annoyance of her cat a kindly witch allows a dog, a bird and a frog to join them on the broomstick
- The Highway Rat (2017) The Highway Rat is the story of a rat who craves buns, biscuits and all sweet things.
- Early Man (2018) Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding way
- Asterix and Obelix: Mansion of The Gods (2016) In order to wipe out the Gaulish village by any means necessary, Caesar plans to absorb the villagers into Roman culture.
- Ernest and Celestine (2012) The story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest, and a young mouse named Celestine.
- A Dog’s Journey (2019) A dog finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he meets.
- The BFG (2016) This is the charming story of an orphaned girl who becomes friends with a giant who takes her to the Giant Country!
‘The Witch tapped the broomstick and whoosh! they were gone…’Room on the Broom
Favourite kids movies on Netflix
Netflix is definitely a lot better in the kid’s segment than Amazon, with several good quality series and films available. We have not included TV-series this time but only focused on feature-length films. Rather than letting the kids binge-watch cartoons and TV-series, we much prefer organising movie-nights with the family watching and discussing the film together. Here is our list of recommended Netflix movies:
- Minions (2015) Ever since the dawn of time, the Minions have lived to serve the most despicable of masters.
- Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015) In the dark and mysterious lands of Transylvania, Drac is getting increasingly worried about his grandson Dennis.
- Shrek (2001) A funny and romantic story about the green ogre Shrek and the adorable Princess Fiona. Full of witty comments and hilarious situations, this movie is just as entertaining and funny for parents as for children.
- Peter Rabbit (2018) Peter Rabbit, his three sisters: Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail and their cousin Benjamin enjoy their days harassing Mr McGregor in his vegetable garden.
- Happy Feet (2006) This is the wonderful story of the charming penguin Happy Feet set in Antarctica. A sweet story for children of all ages. If your children are into animals and nature, this is a great choice for a family movie night!
- The Little Prince (2015) At the heart of it all is The Little Girl, who’s being prepared by her mother for the very grown-up world in which they live.
- Ballerina (2016) Félicie is a poor orphan girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina. An emotional movie that our 6-year-old daughter enjoyed a lot, insisting on ballet lessons afterwards :-)
- Benji (2018) Two school kids strike up a friendship with an orphaned puppy named Benji.
- Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution (2019) After a scientific experiment leads to the creation of a clone of Mewtwo, he sets out to destroy the world.
- The Angry Birds Movie (2016) An island is populated by happy, flightless birds, but then the mysterious green piggies arrive.
Read our full article about Netflix Kids Movies
Indoor Play Activities for kids
We tend to enjoy a lot of the old-school activities like building dens, hide & seek and tag which are all listed below. Our kids also enjoy colouring a lot, although we (the parents) might not always be the best in organising big arts and crafts projects. Our kids also enjoy dressing up a lot, often in their favourite character. We make sure they have costumes easily available, so they don’t need to constantly come and ask us for help.
- Family quiz night Check our quiz page for tips and resources to get started organising a family pub quiz night! Test your skills with our very own London Kids Quiz and London History Quiz.
- Emoji quiz Help your kids work out these London locations and tube stations disguised as emoticons!
- Treasure map & hunt (make a map and hide a favourite treasure somewhere in your home)
- Build a den using blankets, the couch and every cushion/pillow you can find
- Stop motion movie using Playmobile or Lego characters (download the app Stop Motion)
- Board Games – Dust off and play your old collection of board games from your childhood that you had forgotten all about. Also, check our list of London family board games to enjoy!
- Build a bug hotel full of creepy crawlers
- Family cooking – Gather the family and make some easy and popular dishes together! Here are some delicious kids friendly dishes from The Greenwich Mummy.
- Fold paper planes, colour them as fighter planes and see how far they’ll fly
- Freeze! Choose your kids’ favourite music and turn the volume up. Ask them to dance until the music stops
- Hide and Seek No list of play activities would be complete without Hide and Seek, now would it?
- Marbles try to hit your opponents marbles out of the ring with your one large marble!
- Tag – no further explanation needed!
- Costume night – take what you can find in your wardrobe and make a funny outfit
- TV Show – Create your own cooking TV-show!