What are we going to do with the kids?! We are in a once in a lifetime situation and on the surface it looks grim. Isolating from each other is bad enough, being thrown together as never before is another! One thing for sure is that things will never be the same again. Many people are probably filled with horror at the thought of spending days and days – maybe weeks – at home with their families and wondering what on earth they are going to do to make sure they are not at each other’s throats. Parents will be at a loss to know what to do with their kids other than plonk them in front of a TV or other screen for hours at a time or battle with them to do the schoolwork that will be sent home.

On the other hand, this is an opportunity like never before to connect – really connect with each other. And the best way I know how to do that is to play games or do creative projects together. Many parents are not sure how to play with their children – and some have been too busy to learn. So here are some ideas that may not only help to keep things calmer at home but also have some fun together.

Set aside a couple of hours a day to explore all the possibilities for board games, construction games, word games, card games and craft ideas. Making a collage with cut up pictures can be fun. Or how about giving each young person a wall that they can use as an art board together with plenty of glue and pictures. It might not be your idea of home decoration, but this is a crisis and it might keep them occupied for hours.

In the picture above the family are playing dominoes. Last Sunday we played the card game Pinochle with a ten and twelve-year-old. They loved it. It is great for developing concentration – you have to pay attention not only to your own cards but also what others around you are doing.


PINOCHLE: You need two packs of cards: Deal 7 cards to each player. The aim of the game is to get rid of all your cards first.

You turn the top card of the rest of the pack over and each person in turn has to place a card of either the same suit or number. If they can’t do this they pick up a card from the pack.

This is straightforward with the following exceptions.

If the person before you throws a 10 it reverses the order of play

If the person before you throws a Jack you jump a turn

If the person before you throws a queen you must either lay two queens or pick up two cards

If the person before you throws a king you must either lay three kings or pick up three

If you throw an ace you can choose the suit

When you have two cards left you knock twice on the table (EVERY time you have two left)

When you have one card left you call PINOCHLE (peanuckle!) (EVERY time you have one left)

If you get any of this wrong, you have to pick up a card as a forfeit – though I suggest you have at least a couple of trial runs first.


The opportunities for learning are endless – there are games that involve numbers like the dice game Yahtzee or word games such as Taboo for language skills and many home-made games.

A simple game we used to play with our kids is to give them a paper divided into maybe six categories – this could be anything and change around each time you play – this is just a suggestion You then say a letter of the alphabet and they write in the spaces something that fits. If you have several children, you can give each one point for getting something and two points for getting something no-one else thought of. Here is an example with the letter B.

Bear Brazil Boots Baseball Bass guitar Banana



Pelmanism with a pack of cards is a game for individuals or pairs. You lay out the cards with the numbers/pictures face down. You pick up two cards and if they match you keep them, i.e. two threes, two kings. If they don’t match you put them back and try again. The idea is to remember where cards are so it enhances memory skills.


Children will also need active games, or they will go stir crazy. If you have some outside space all the better but even inside there are possibilities for movement. Dancing around to music until you suddenly turn it down and they have to freeze where they are. Playing Crocodiles where they have to stand (in pairs is best but can be individuals) on a piece of paper for a count of five without falling off (if you fall off you call out crocodiles because you have fallen off your ‘island’. The piece of paper is folded in half after every go!


I have written three editions of Circle Solutions for Student Wellbeing which is basically games / discussions and activities for social and emotional learning. Although intended for whole classes working in groups or pairs many may be worth exploring for young people at home. The third edition came out this month!

Please feel free to add more ideas of your own – we need to be supporting each other every way we can.