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Tuesday 3 October 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# parents panel
Yes to treasure hunts, no to colouring: Parents share their hits and misses while stuck at home
We asked mums and dads around Ireland for the activities keeping their kids entertained.

BY THE TIME your little one reaches toddler and preschool age, they’re well able to tell you what they want. And that’s where the trouble starts, from dealing with tantrums to navigating bedtime. That’s why it can be so helpful to hear how other parents are getting through it all.

Our Toddler and Preschool Parents Panel is made up of parents with little ones from 24 months up to age five.


It’s been close to two weeks since creches, preschools and schools around Ireland shut their doors to help slow the spread of COVID-19. For families around the country, that has meant a big change to the daily childcare setup, and likely some cabin fever too.

School closures are now set to extend beyond March 29, it was announced on Tuesday, meaning routines won’t be returning to normal anytime soon.

With that in mind, we asked parents around Ireland what activities have been a genuine hit with their kids so far. What craft projects bought them ten minutes of quiet from a cranky toddler? What garden toys kept both a preschooler and a six-year-old simultaneously distracted?

Here’s what has worked (and what hasn’t)…

I’ve made a (sort-of) written schedule, which is a series of pictures in a row that I’ve drawn to represent the day’s activities: This is stuck on to the side of the kitchen island so they can see it. There are no times written down, just the order of events, with basic drawings showing a breakfast bowl, a t-shirt and trousers, then maybe a book, Lego block or a TV screen. This stops the kids constantly asking “What’s next?” and “When can we watch TV?” And it allows them some ownership on when they get TV time too – when all the finer activities are done!

- Emily Lewis

I break each day into slots. Exercise videos online are a godsend, we do them together… then beach time, Play-Doh, drawing and cooking!

- Cliondhna Kerrigan

I’m going back to the old reliable Play-Doh box. I recommend adding in some extra bits like googly eyes and small lengths of pipe cleaners to fire up imaginations and keep them interested. Outdoors, buckets of soapy water to “wash” all the toys went down well yesterday.

I printed off some simple colouring sheets and join-the-dots for the 4.5 year old, but he’s not buying into them yet!

- Michelle O’Brien

shutterstock_1588128664 Shutterstock / PhotoMavenStock Shutterstock / PhotoMavenStock / PhotoMavenStock

We are having good days and bad days to be honest. I’m trying to do a random act of kindness a day to keep us all sane and grateful: we have baked brownies and dropped them to people we would normally see during the week, made “a banner of joy” (just a banner saying “we miss you”) and stood in people’s gardens waving it in at them, wrote to two men in our local nursing home who we usually see whenever we are out for a walk, things like that. The bad days involve PJs all day and eating nothing but carbs!

- Tracy Kilgallon

I’ve found things okay so far, if anything the kids are getting sick of me! One thing that has worked is this: we have white sticky back plastic covering a low cupboard door so the girls can take their whiteboard markers and work away.

- Nicola Barry

shutterstock_1601017078 Shutterstock / BetterPhoto Shutterstock / BetterPhoto / BetterPhoto

One new activity we have added is treasure hunts. I write out some simple clues (the kids are only three), my husband reads them out and they all try to find the next one. We’re also making lots of cards to post to family which takes up loads of time.

- Joanne Burke

My three year old and I both really miss her mornings in playschool. The big hit here has been making cards and pictures to post to both sets of grandparents. She really misses them, so it keeps everyone connected, and the grannies and grandads are loving all the artwork in the post!

- Deirdre McCormack

The girls got balance bikes from Santa so we are getting out every day to practice on those. Progress is slow as they feel compelled to stop and wave at every car, bus or dog that goes by! But that’s okay, we have plenty of time on our hands…

- Ger Lowry

We’re trying to have as normal time as possible, which means lots of FaceTime with family and friends. My six year old and her cousin have had great FaceTime success setting up a Junior Scrabble board in each house, and replicating the tiles on both ends – it works! Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube and 10@10 on the RTÉ Player (Irish lessons, fitness and so on) are big hits here.

- Juliet Ward 

More: The no-bullsh*t guide to cooking with kids – how to do it while maintaining your sanity>

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