A few lockdown home-ed hacks (in case it helps)

OK, it’s 4th Jan 2021 and this evening we learned that we’re on lockdown and none of our children will be in school tomorrow morning – in fact not until mid-Feb.

This morning: schools all set to be open for the duration. This evening: already closed for six weeks.

This news is great if it protects our families, but nevertheless thanks to the short notice, parents and teachers will be scrambling around tonight, trying to put together some sort of work/home-ed/life package by 8am tomorrow morning. We don’t yet have lessons for all the kids, so until the proper lessons arrive, here are some lockdown parenting hacks I picked up from summer 2020, in case it helps 😊

(Update – COB 5/1/21 – yey! We have teacher classes in place, way to go teachers! If there are school lessons, then that’s the way forward.)



I may have mentioned these before (here’s a list of posts, and a 2016 list of kids’ books that needs to be updated but lots of good authors there) and for ordering, hive.co.uk will help your local bookstore, or abebooks second-hand)


TV that looks like education (for all ages)

  • Co-parent iPlayer is great for science 

Of course, David Attenborough: A Perfect Planet – great, fresh Attenborough, and there’s also Life on Earth – older Attenborough for the fans

Brian Cox is a genius on space and physics. Here he is explaining colours. “The world we live in is beautiful to look at, but it’s even more beautiful to understand” – I love this guy – just google his name and enjoy all of it

  • Youtube for art

Chris Riddell has some wonderful character-drawing videos on youtube, including how to start a story from a drawn character – the 3 Ws: who, what, where?

How to draw animals on youtube – basically just search for the same (or anything else you want to draw)

It would be rude not to mention Bob Ross’s youtube – happy little trees!

Or do you fancy going back to the 1970s? Hartbeat on youtube  – worth it for the music and Morph 

  • Netflix is your language buddy – turn Netflix languages on with English subtitles so elder kids can flex their language skills and younger ones can do the same or read the subtitles

Madagascar (Literally any film of choice – different films have different language options that you can pick from the bottom right menu tab)


Actual language website

We tried Fable Cottage – and it’s quite sweet for short language bites. You can access the site for free, to see fairy tales written in different languages – English, French, Spanish, Italian, German – or pay $4.95 for a month* of membership to see videos in different languages. (Pay for membership and then cancel if you only want a month, otherwise it will renew.)

(For schools there are packages, starting at 150 kids for 1 year = $79)

This won’t keep a kid occupied for hours and hours but it’s a nice filler (“Go spend 20 minutes on Fable Cottage and then lunch will be ready” gives you time to write an email.)

(*I’ll try to find free options elsewhere as soon as I get a moment – this one was just recommended by school.)


Granny/Grandad Zoom lessons


Our Nan and Grandad are too far away to be hands-on childcare, to our great disappointment and theirs, so Nanna-Zoom cookery class is a great option for us, since we have older kids who are already capable of functioning in the kitchen without an adult present all the time, but who don’t have extensive cooking skills.  My mum’s an experienced voice giving hints and tips, recipe ideas, safety advice, and a careful set of eyes. She’s already preparing menu ideas.

This also sorts lunch.

(They’re only allowed to do this when I’m in the house working, but where else would I be? This is lockdown… Also I wouldn’t recommend this for kids under 16 or any kid who can’t already cook – they’d need an adult in there with them.)

Short of recipe ideas? There’s a brilliant collection of affordable, online recipes by @bootstrapcook – Jack Monroe – website here.


Writing letters

They can write to people. Even if they say the same thing to everyone, it’s a valuable reach-out that breaks the isolation – how are you, we’ve been doing this, reading whatever, hope you are well, lots of love. Sometimes it’s crazy what they write. Othertimes, sweet. The spelling doesn’t matter, the blotches don’t matter, the reaching out matters a whole lot.

Alternatives to writing: pictures, sketches, hand prints, origami, podcasts, music recordings.

If you know a trusted recipient who’s likely to reply, all the better – our kids love receiving letters and cards in the post.


Writing fiction or poetry

Kids make great writers – always fresh, always great to see them create. I blogged in 2017 about writing opportunities for children, but no idea how many of those are still going.

Stone Soup is still alive (10-week response time after submission)

Some of our children wanted to write, have advice on editing, and submit to journals or review sites. Others just wanted to write and enjoy, but the editing process dulled their pleasure. It’s brilliant to write for your mum, dad, friend, or bedroom wall if you don’t fancy the longhaul of editing and submission – but the sites are out there if anyone fancies it and it can be fun waiting for the response.


Zoom board games and reading stories

The grandparents may also be up for stories and board games – depending on what we both have a set of (dominoes? cards?)


Zoom music lessons (and Garageband)

If you have a music teacher, these can be gold dust. Also insane when you have a work telecon. But still gold dust.

Also Garageband app for those composers out there – hours of fun.


Outdoor activities


We’re all allowed to go out to exercise, so we will. We’re really lucky to live near woods and beaches, but even if you don’t, a walk out is great if you can grab the time, just to see the sky.

Night walks / dawn walks / wild swimming

Sure, this requires an adult to go too, but it’s an adventure in a time when a lot of adventures are missing. A late walk means they might sleep in, letting me work for an hour in the morning…


Running is more tricky if you have kids of different ages. Over the various lockdowns, trying to support a couple of kids doing DofE running distances, we’ve found that a small, safe circular space (away from traffic or other hazards) works best for running, where older kids can do more laps than younger ones but all still run their miles or whatever in sight of one another. All kinds of treats and bribes can be used to get them running around. Or you can let them shoot each other with Nerf pellets. Either way.


Obvs. You only need 2 people and you’ve got a game ❤ Dogs are both brilliant and crap at this, at the same time.



I think it was Michelle Obama, in her book BECOMING, who said that she was not raising kids, she was raising adults. Getting the kids to help out in the house is necessary for their growth, and really, really handy right now. Bribery is everything to start with, but also they can take pride in achieving something for the family.

Tip: sometimes they do it and it still doesn’t look like they’ve done it. Just saying.



The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is up again on 29-31 January 2021 – a chance to get the kids out for an hour and do something really great for wildlife. You can sign up for an online pack, or a posted pack, here https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/packrequest/

RSPB also have a sweet activity page.

Hedgehog Cabin is also lovely.


Toys, arts, crafts

Lego is our friend.

Meccano also.

Jigsaws – I find jigsaws frustrating and want to glue the pieces together because otherwise, what’s the point? But the kids enjoy them. In a six-week lockdown, we might resort to one. (For anyone who doesn’t have a ginormous or spare dining table to leave your jigsaw on for a week, and needs to store a half-completed jigsaw for a few hours, check out “jigsaw mats” on Amazon and then if £15 is too much for a bit of fabric, realise you can make your own for about £2 to £5 out of a wrapping paper cardboard tube and a bit of felt/cloth.) 

Arts and craft stuff – for sure. See also youtube arts people on the TV section above. Also really recommend Peter Gray’s book, How to Draw Animals – the kids pick it up in quick time and can create incredible drawings.


Online games

Minecraft – redstone is a work of engineering genius, the building parts a creative outlet, and also if you can play online, it allows the kids to hook up with each other for an hour of socials. Big groups can get together to chat and have a welcome laugh – and if the mic fails, you can also Zoom.

There’s also Human Fall Flat which they love but gives me the creeps just because the cartoon people look broken. Again, an engineering based puzzle game.



Let them chill, watch a film. Maybe the film of a book title covered in school (Skellig, etc) or maybe not – maybe just a film. Marvel, Potter, LOTR, Hunger Games, Nativity (it’s still Christmas in my head, and I am still in love with Mr Poppy). Grab a pizza and kick back because working from home is not 24-7. It’s not meant to be. If you want to make it educational, you can always review it. But seriously, chill – lockdown is not meant to turn our home into a place of work; it’s our home protecting us while we try to live and work.


Home beauty

You’re stuck at home, not able to get a haircut / your kids are at home with nothing to do… Let them cut your hair! What could possibly go wrong? OK, we did this last time and the kids really tried to do a good job, and it was fine. Actually fine, not fake fine – they did well and it was really sweet watching them really trying to do their best at something completely new. Yeah. I dare you.

Also good: letting them paint your nails, choose your clothes, do your make-up, and decorate their own rooms.


May 2020 


What about the days when nothing works, your job is in tatters, your house is a mess, you were served crunchy black rubber for lunch, they’ve shaved a bald patch into your scalp, and one of them didn’t get up at all – the days when we don’t achieve anything?

If we raise our kids in a perfect world, they won’t be ready for the real world. All we can do is love them, do our best, and try to be kind to ourselves. If they’re kept safe, fed and clothed, if we’re all safe, these times will pass. Meanwhile, let’s embrace the chaos, get to know one another, and surprise ourselves with what we can do.

And here’s one I learned – be gentle with one another.

Oh, and also, hair grows back.

Take care, stay safe, and all the best xx


Please use your judgement.
Use of any of these ideas is at your own risk.

Thank you for reading 😊