Belinda Joyce

Belinda Joyce

The world has certainly changed over the past 18 months with many families going in and out of lockdown multiple times. Many parents are caring for their babies and young children while also working from home to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Home Play Ideas:

Try setting up some different play zones around your home. Depending on the age of your children, babies that can crawl will be quite different to toddlers and even preschool children.

Newborn & Young Babies

For a newborn or young immobile baby, you could set up an activity gym, a play mat for tummy time and a rocker. With young babies you could decide when to move them to the next station. They may even use one station each time they are awake at this age as their play time is often short between feeds and naps.

Older Mobile Babies

Older more mobile babies may enjoy play stations such as a play gym, a soft ball, a teddy bear and some blocks. Encourage your baby to move between stations by rolling or crawling, get down on the floor with them and show them the toys and how they work. Depending on the toys you have available you could try setting up a scene with people, cars and animals for them to come along and change (knock down).


Toddlers & Pre-schoolers

Toddlers or pre-schoolers may enjoy stations such as craft and more role play type toys such as tea sets, prams, dolls, cars and animals. You could set up a pretend café with a tea set and table and chairs, you could take in turns being the waiter, chef or customer. Try making an indoor cubby house or fort with couch cushions, sheets and chairs. Art and craft are great for this age too, such as playdough, crayons and paper and if you’re ok for something messy try painting, hand and footprints with paint.

Reading a book

Reading a book together is a lovely quiet play time activity. It can be a great activity before bed that will reduce stimulation and get your baby or child ready for nap time. Depending on the sort of book this can be quiet, or it can be exciting with singing, hand movements and more!


Put some music on, try different styles and see what you all enjoy. Kids music as well as classical, rock, folk, jazz, pop and disco can all be fun to try. Turn it up and dance around the loungeroom or have it playing quietly in the background.

Outside Play

Some outside play can be a great shift to get everyone out of the house. This can act as a nice circuit breaker to being inside almost all the time. Many children love the outdoors, even babies.

  • Babies enjoy sitting under a tree and watching the leaves move in the wind, cars driving past and different sounds and sensations.
  • Toddlers and pre-schoolers love to run around and move their bodies with ride on cars, trikes, equipment like slides and cubby houses.
  • Even just going for a walk around the block can help you all get some fresh air and have a change of scenery.

Routines help:

Research has shown that sticking to flexible routines can help all of us including babies and young children. It will depend on whether you are all staying home or if a parent is working outside of the home or working from home as so many currently are.

There’s nothing wrong with having an occasional pyjama day but getting up at a similar time each day, getting dressed, maybe putting on some make-up if that’s usual for you will all add some normalcy to your life.

If you have a newborn baby, there really is no routine in those early months. Just focus on getting through each 24 hours, perhaps try a feed, play, sleep routine to set a pattern to each day.

Move Your Body:

Get active for at least 30 mins/day. Try going for a walk or doing an online fitness work-out. Jumping on a trampoline if you have one. Even some classic games like hopscotch can be fun and get you all off the couch. Playing tiggy around the house or hide and seek, these can involve toddlers and up to all ages.

Doing some exercise has been proven to improve your mental and physical health, that’s a win-win.


Social Connection:

When we are not able to meet up with friends and family face to face, try using technology.

Video calls with friends and family can help us interact. Try some spontaneous calls as well as some planned. Try to aim to reach out to someone outside of your household at least once a day and get your kids involved in both choosing who and the call itself.

To make it more fun you can add in some themes and all dress up or share a meal together over the video call.

Social media often gets a bad rap however one of the strengths of social media is the ability to connect digitally. Seeing others and what they are doing, feeling less alone and more connected to the community can really help.

When you’re outside walking, talk to your neighbours from a safe distance of course. They will benefit from this as well.

Baking and cooking:

We know that most toddlers and young children are much more likely to eat what they have been involved in cooking or preparing. Some families are finding that they have extra time and are spending it teaching their children how to cook.

Cooking can be therapeutic and a wonderful activity to role model for children but be mindful, that with limited daily activities due to isolation we want to include it in a daily routine in balance with other activities. Maybe you could try making pasta or bread from scratch.

Quiet time:

As discussed earlier, reading a story to your baby or children is always great, it is especially helpful before nap or bedtime as it reduces stimulation, allows for some closeness and promotes drowsiness if they are tired.

For many parents, quiet time mainly happens when your baby or child is napping. This is a great time for reading a book of your own or watching a movie not suitable for your baby.

Screen time:

Screen time is not recommended for children under 2 years old, however this is very difficult to achieve for many reasons, screens are all around us, especially if you have older children watching TV in the same room. Even though not recommended, babies and toddlers love watching screens so try to limit it and I’d recommend avoiding letting them do this before bedtime as it is so stimulating that it is known to disrupt sleep.

Currently, many children are watching more screen time that usual as are many adults. Parents need to do the best they can and if that means your children having a little more screen time then that is OK. Try to break it up throughout the day with other activities and naps as well.

Some screen time for pre-schoolers or older children can be educational type games, these can be a win-win where the child enjoys some learning, and the parent feels guilt free.

Try to avoid watching too much news as most of it sounds frightening with many stories about COVID-19 outbreaks. This is beneficial to your mental health as well, look at the news and social media a few times each day to stay up to date with the new recommendations as they continue to change.

Your Mental Health:

First let’s acknowledge that this time is stressful for all of us including our babies and young children. They know when you are anxious or when routines are changed as they thrive on routine and knowing what comes next.

It’s important to allow your partner, your children and yourself the chance to express your emotions. No emotion itself is bad or wrong but can be acknowledged and worked through.

Go ahead and ask your children how they are feeling, this is very much age dependant. There are some wonderful picture books that show different emotions that allow you to talk about them in context.

Ask your partner how they are feeling and share your own worries and concerns. Sharing these feelings has a positive effect on all of us.


Getting through this COVID-19 pandemic has been a slow and long process and we are all in this together. If we can try to think about it as a pause in our lives that is giving us a chance to reset. Think about what is most important to you and your family and prioritise this into the future.