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  • Writer's pictureNanny G

COVID-19: 15 play essentials for self-isolation

DISCLAIMER: Please note that in sharing this list I am only sharing items that I have and will be using with children in the event of self-isolation. My hope is that this will encourage you to purchase a few extra bits or even look around your house at what resources you already have. None of the items of this list are essential to life and therefore there is no need to stockpile or purchase everything listed below.

With a growing number of countries closing schools due to the current outbreak of Coronavirus. And an increasing number of families having to self-isolate, I thought it may be useful to share some essential items that I like to keep on hand for activities with children. It might be worth sharing some of these items with friends and neighbours instead of going out and buying or even stockpiling any of the items in this list.

I have a few blog posts to support those of you who are affected by the current events that I will lin ASAP.

Hopefully these will be of use to you all during these interesting times!


1. Basic Art Supplies

I always like to have a box or two full of craft materials in my office. My box contains PVA glue, paints, masking tape, paper, card, wax crayons, pencils, pens, stickers, scissors, sponges, brushes and watercolours.

2. Subscription services

Although I try to limit screen time for my little ones, I do choose to invest in some services such as Spotify, Netflix, Prime, Disney+ and other memberships such as educational apps. All of these services have some really fun educational resources for children of all ages.

3. Puzzles

In my office, I have a wide variety of puzzles. They are great, quiet time activities that develop children’s problem solving skills. I get mine from charity shops and The Works where you can get a variety of puzzles for a few pounds.

4. Board games and cards

In our house, we love a good board game! They are probably easier with older children but there are games out there for little ones too. I suggest snap, happy families, uno, Dutch Blitz, cluedo, snakes and ladders, twister, LIFE and of course monopoly.

5. Secret Toy/ Magazine stash

I know that not everyone can afford to or chooses to do this but I often buy little bits and bobs that I stash away in my rainy day box. I often find these things in the clearance section or in charity shops. Things like sticker books, magazines, reading books, games etc. are so useful on days where the children are just fed up and morale is low. These don’t have to be expensive items, they could even be toys that you have swapped with a neighbour or friend.

6. Food items

There are a few food items that I try to keep for work only. These can be used in baking activities as well as at home science experiments and even to make your own play dough. My preferred items are: rice, cornflour, digestives, condensed milk, icing sugar, marshmallows, food colouring, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.

7. Books

I am a self confessed bookworm and really encourage my little ones to develop an interest in reading. I spend many weekends scouring charity shops looking for books that they might enjoy or that cover subjects that they are interested in. Even at age 3, my little charge is happy to have a quiet hour reading books and listening to stories. We also have some audiobooks in the car too. I really like the “that’s not my” series, anything by Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, I also enjoyed the CHERUB series when I was growing up. I also have a few books with fairytales and classic stories which’s are always lovely to revisit.

8. Wooden blocks

I think most families have a box of blocks in their house but if you don’t, I would highly encourage you to get some. Not only are they great for building (and knocking over) but they can be used to for phonics, baisic maths skills and other learning activities.

9. Soft balls

Again, I think most people have a soft ball as they are super versatile however, if you don’t you can get them at affordable prices in charity shops and online. If you’re quite crafty, you could always sew and stuff your own. These are great for releasing some energy. From about 7months, children will enjoy rolling, throwing, catching and playing with balls.

10. Tent

We don’t have a pop-up tent however we do own a normal tent. Not only are tents a great play prop, they are also a nice way of making a “quiet space” within the confines of your own home. Quiet spaces are a great way of supporting children to self-regulate. They enable children to take time out if they are feeling upset, frustrated, tired or overwhelmed which I can imagine many will feel after a few days stuck indoors. If you don’t have a tent you could always make a fort out of pillows, sheets, towels and blankets.

11. Small world toys

Whether it’s Lego, playmobil, little cars or animals, these little toys can be used in so many different set-ups. I find that putting 10 minutes of effort into preparing a play set up really helps children to engage with an activity for longer than if you ask them to get something out and just play. If you are looking for some play set ups, comment below and I would be happy to write a blog post or two with suggestions.

12. Tuff tray/ Activity table

Like almost every other nanny out there, I swear by tuff trays and activity tables. I have the IKEA FILSAT table and absolutely love it. There are loads of ideas online for different activities. I personally do lots of sensory play with playdough, rice, water etc. with mine.

13. Loose parts

I am passionate about loose parts play and like to store as many loose parts as I can in my office and garden. Containers, sticks, logs, planks of wood, pipes, buttons, beads, ribbon, scraps of fabric, slices of wood, recycling. These are great for junk modelling and generally just exploring.

14. Printer

Make sure, if you can, that your printer is well stocked with ink and paper before you go into isolation. I have used mine to give my little ones “homework” from Twinkl, to print colouring pages, quizzes, puzzles and more. You could also print out other lists of activity suggestions or a daily schedule to follow during isolation.

15. Household goods

A few essentials that I keep spare of for play purposes are: dish soap (for foam), conditioner (for play dough), shaving foam (for sensory play), cloths, chalk, empty spray bottles, a tarpaulin, chopsticks, paper straws and wooden skewers.

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