Simple games you can play in five minutes to keep kids happy this summer holiday

SCHOOL’S finally out for summer but having had the kids at home for more than three months, many parents might be feeling a tad weary at the thought of six more weeks.

Usually at this time of year, I’m full of naive optimism and looking ­forward to spending quality time with the ­children in the sunshine – but 2020 has taken parenting to new extremes.

I feel like we’ve all unlocked a secret super-level on a video game where we can earn 100,000 bonus points if we just manage to keep the kids entertained until September.

So how can we still get that “summer holidays” feeling at home when play groups are closed, many holidays are cancelled and, in some areas, friends’ homes are off limits?

What I like to do is play five-minute games – games which take five ­minutes to set up (we’re all exhausted aren’t we?) and five minutes to tidy up afterwards.

I also follow my golden rule, which means setting it up, saying nothing then letting the kids discover it and decide they want to play – this always helps to take the pressure off.

So here are my favourite ways to enjoy some easy fun at home.

  •  Five Minute Mum: Give Me Five, by Daisy Upton (£14.99, Penguin) is available to buy now. Follow Daisy at @fiveminutemum.

GAME 1: Toy Tombola

(Age 3+)


  • A pen and paper
  • Scissors
  • A small box, basket or bag
  • Five, ten or 20 small toys (to match the number set up)


  1. Write the numbers your child is learning (1–5, 1–10 or 1–20) on the paper, then cut out each number.
  2. Fold the numbers up, and put them into the box, basket or bag.
  3. Lay the small toys out in a line for your children to find.


  1. Shake the box of numbers and say, ‘Roll up! Roll up!’
  2. Ask the children to choose a ticket, open it up and say the number.
  3. Count along the toy line together to find out which toy they’ve “won”.
  4. Remove it and replace it with the number.
  5. Repeat until all the toys have been won.

GAME 2: The Restaurant

(Age 2+)


  • A pen and paper
  • Five plates or bowls
  • Toy food
  • Five soft toys


  1. On a piece of paper, draw round a plate or bowl. Then draw three of the food items on to the plate. Finally, draw one of the toys at the top of the page.
  2. Repeat for each toy, using different food items for each. These are the toys’ “food orders”.
  3. Set the toys out in a line or on a picnic blanket.
  4. Leave the plates and toy food nearby, along with the orders.


  1. Explain to your little ones that the toys have come to a restaurant and that they have already placed their “orders”.
  2. Let your child select the toy they want and find its order.
  3. Show your child how to find the correct toy food to make up the order.
  4. Finally they can take the meal they have made over to the toy.
  5. Repeat with all the toys.

Extend play by feeding the toys their dinner, and washing up afterwards.

Older kids can write items of food instead of drawing them.

GAME 3: Living Room Volleyball

(Age 2+)


  • Cushions
  • A balloon
  • A paper or plastic plate for each player
  • A scoreboard


  1. Create a “net” by dividing the room or garden in half with cushions.
  2. Put the balloon, plates and scoreboard nearby.


  1. Explain to your kids that one player goes on either side of the “net”. The idea is to hit the balloon over the net and get it to touch the floor on the other side.
  2. For volleyball, hit the balloon with your hands. For tennis, use a plate as a racket to hit the balloon.
  3. A player gets a point every time the balloon touches the ground on their opponent’s side. Mark the points on the scoreboard.
  4. The first player to get five points wins.

GAME 4: Paper Aeroplanes

(Age 2+)


  • Some thin card or paper
  • Pens
  • Scissors


  1. Make one paper aeroplane per player.
  2. On bits of card or paper, write down some letters or numbers, and cut them out.
  3. Fold the bits of card so it stands up on its own.
  4. Line up the letters or numbers. These are your “targets”.


  1. Make one paper plane per player.
  2. On bits of card, write large ­numbers or letters. These are your “airports”.
  3. Place the airports around the room.

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Each player takes turns throwing their plane to knock down the targets or attempt to land at the airports.

Experiment with adding paper clips or masking tape to various parts of the planes. Does this make them fly better?

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