Half term is upon us! We can’t quite believe how quickly the first school term has gone. How are your little ones getting on? Was it a new school - or perhaps the step up to primary school - for your children? Perhaps you are home educating and you returned to more focused learning after a long summer? Either way, the busyness and fun of the first school break is here, and we have an idea for embracing this time with your little ones. Half-term can sometimes be full of hustle and bustle - activities, play dates and weekend trips. As much as we love making memories with exciting visits and trips, there is something to be said about the magic of a slow, calm, family game afternoon. Here are our tips and ideas for trying out a screen-free afternoon with kids.
Set the scene
Moving from a busy bustling day to a calmer afternoon can be hard work! A great way to help transition your little ones into a time of connection is setting up a cosy atmosphere in your home. This is also perfect for autumnal afternoons in general! We recommend dimming the lights - real candles if you feel safe to use these with your children, or battery-powered tea lights work well too. Set a space on the floor or on a coffee table for the games to go, and add lots of cushions, blankets and pillows to surround it. These could be from your living room, or even brought in from your bedrooms, duvets included!
Next up, add some snacks. You could forgo dinner altogether (a welcome relief after a half term of meals, snacks and more snacks!) and lay out lots of cosy snacks or simple foods, like yummy oven treats to popcorn and cakes. Add in a few chopped vegetables and hummus for good measure. Lay these out on a separate table with a few plates for the family to help themselves over the afternoon.
Add some relaxing music alongside this - a quick search on streaming services will find ‘autumnal songs’ or ‘cosy songs’ to help set the mood. If you’re not averse to a screen in the background, YouTube have some brilliant screensaver-type videos which invoke cosy coffee shops, even Hogwarts common rooms! Follow your child’s interests and this is sure to add to the vibe!
Establish some rules
With your cosy spot all set up, we feel it’s important to establish some clear rules and boundaries around game afternoon. These don’t have to be about being prescriptive, but rather about setting respect and kindness with our little ones. This is especially true if there are siblings with varying levels of understanding - make sure children know to be kind to those who ‘lose’ and ‘win’ and that the evening is about having fun together. You might like to set up a grand prize or a tally board to track wins throughout the evening if you think your children would enjoy this - or perhaps work in ‘teams’ to collate points. Or, forgo tracking wins and losses altogether if your little ones aren’t quite ready for competitiveness.
Get your game on!
With a cosy set-up and fairness established, it’s time to get playing! Here are our favourite games for different age groups - we hope you find something that will suit your family.
Of course, many families will have children fitting into different age groups - in this case, we advise choosing a selection from each age range and splitting into ‘teams’ with an adult supporting a younger child when moving on to slightly more challenging games. Alternatively, many of our games can be adapted to suit different ages with moderated rules. We’ll note those below.
Toddlers (18 months to 3 years)
Eco Play’s Big or Small is a lovely puzzle set encouraging little ones to explore the different sizes of small, medium and big. Littlest ones will enjoy building the puzzles, while older siblings can support them with vocabulary and fine motor skills. Add challenge in by timing who can build the puzzle most quickly. For animal lovers, try out the Look I'm Big 5 reversible puzzles by Londji. A cute, engaging game which can have difficulty increased in the same way as Big or Small.
Pre-schoolers (3 years to 5 years)
Londji’s Save the Cat is a cooperation game in which players help firefighters save a cat that has fallen into trouble. A lovely game to work as a team to solve, with lots of opportunities for adults to model critical thinking and teamwork. This would work well if you have a younger child too - as they’ll be working alongside older team players who can support understanding.
Another favourite from Londji is Where is the Cheese? where players help a busy cook find 10 important ingredients to make dinner. Team up in pairs with adults for younger children or go head to head for braver players!
Almost grown up (5 years plus)My Monsters Observation Game is another offering from Londji, this time for slightly older players. Build a monster as quickly as you can with all sorts of body parts, colours and sizes!
For a more cooperative game, try The Fairy and the Wizard. Great for bringing in slightly younger players with the support of adults or older children, little ones will have fun constructing a forest for the animals, avoiding the witch who is keen on destroying things. Children will practice simple mental calculations and spatial awareness during building while working on their cooperation skills too.
Happy game playing!
We hope you have a wonderful time bonding, playing and making memories. Remember to tag us #eenymeenyco if you have a go with any of these activities!
Freelance Writer, Education and Play Specialist