Coronavirus: Ways to keep your children entertained at home without screens

While schools are closed and many of us are self-isolating, here are seven more traditional ways to keep the little ones busy

Girl playing with lego. Getty Images
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Classes are cancelled, theme parks are closed and film screenings are off the agenda. And while we're happy to keep our children at home and safe, finding ways to keep them entertained without resorting to copious amounts of screen time is getting difficult. Here are a few ideas that don't include Netflix and iPads to start you off.

Stick to sticker books

For many of us, sticker books provided endless fun when we were children. A popular option are the Melissa & Doug pads, which come with more than 150 reusable stickers over a range of colourful, themed backgrounds that appeal to all ages and genders. National Geographic Kids also has a series of books, which includes more than 1,000 stickers and activities. They are available to order via, so you don't even have to leave the house.

Play with Play-Doh

Some parents may baulk at the idea of letting children play with the stuff indoors, but is there a better way to keep them entertained for hours on end than letting them get messy? Make sure you put an old bed sheet, paper or towels on the floor before they start, then let their imaginations go wild while they fashion myriad shapes out of the brightly hued modelling compound. Various packs are available to buy online. Themes include the farm, kitchen, doctor's surgery and even a Baby Shark set.

Get out the Lego sets

As long as you’re careful that no stray bricks are left out at night just waiting for a bare adult foot to step on them, then Lego can be lots of fun. Go for a standard box of classic bricks so children can create whatever their little minds come up with, or pick a pack with a theme. We particularly like the Dubai-inspired options, such as the architectural Burj Khalifa and skyline sets.

Try some colouring in

While this activity has been somewhat co-opted by adults seeking a state of mindfulness in recent years, it's simple, old-fashioned activities like colouring in that our children still love. There are plenty of books out there to keep children busy, many based around their favourite film franchises and beloved TV programmes.

High angle shot of a little girl colouring in a picture at home. Getty Images
Let the children's imaginations run wild with colouring pens and pencils. Getty Images

Have a go at jigsaw puzzles and board games

This is the kind of activity you can all get involved in as a family. You could be really ambitious and get a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, or get a few smaller, easier puzzles that are well-suited to budding brainiacs. You might want to order in a play mat to keep the puzzle intact, especially if you have restless pets. As for board games, we've all got a stash of family favourites somewhere – from Scrabble and Pictionary to Monopoly – that we can dust off and play together. The latter has just had a UAE makeover, as Hasbro released the Dubai edition in time for Expo 2020, so it's a good excuse to buy a new one.

Build a fort

Who didn’t love building a fort when they were a child? And, metaphorically speaking, there has never been a better time to erect extra walls of protection around your little ones. You’ll need a few chairs to hold up some large blankets and sheets, plus plenty of pillows to make it extra ­comfortable inside.

Child in a pillows and chairs fort making home. Getty Images
Help your children make a fort, then spend some family time in there away from screens. Getty Images

Then you can sit as a family in the “safe house” playing your games and simply enjoying each other’s company without the distraction of screens.

Get cooking

It's the perfect time to teach your children how to get creative in the kitchen. Whether you're baking cakes or whipping up a batch of chocolate-chip cookies, or testing their palates with more exotic concoctions, from curries to quesadillas, get your little helpers to stir, taste and advise, depending on their age and skills. You might end up with some questionable dishes and the mess might test your patience, but you'll have a lot of fun in the process.