Being a Single parent is probably the biggest responsibility there is. Not only do you have a life to protect completely, you are responsible for all of the thousands of little decisions that go into making them a well rounded, kind, and well-functioning addition to this earth. Your life becomes second to making sure they have the best life you can give them.
But we are not just talking about the important life-changing decisions here, oh no! We are in fact talking about perhaps the most importantly from a child’s perspective: what you do to make life fun and exciting for them.
Yeah, they really don’t notice all the times you stop them from getting into precarious situations in their pursuit of adventure; even when you explain that the toilet isn’t for drinking from or the dog poop in the park is not a cool new way to fingerpaint on the pavement (yeah, they aren’t fussy about what form fun takes). They just see a big grown-up stopping them from having fun.
For a single parent, parenting in general is even more of a challenge. What with co-parenting struggles, or even not having someone to co-parent with, a general lack of support, or just being one tired adult trying to keep an eye on a hyped up ball of energy. The list goes on.
Finding fun things to do as a single parent can be daunting, some fathers may find it particularly challenging as they might not feel so comfortable reaching out for support and ideas, or finding support groups for dads (weirdly, these are still not as common as single mother groups.)
So, read on for some low cost ideas of ways to have fun with the kids even if you don’t have another parent to help out.
REMEMBER: To guarantee a great time for you both no matter what you are doing
BE PRESENT IN THE MOMENT.
Put those phones away and make the time about you and them and nothing else.
(Also see 50 Indoor Family Activities)
FUN SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS
Ages: 2+ with supervision!
There is no doubt about it, children love to learn and bonus points if there are colours, mess and funny noises. Science experiments meet the criteria, and are fun for parents too! The first time I made a cool lava lamp with an old water bottle, olive oil, water and food colouring, I felt like I was winning at life! Disclaimer: I am easily entertained!
There are an abundance of ideas online, a good one with printable resources and lots of ingredients you probably have in the cupboard already is: Very Simple Science Experiements from the noguiltmum.
TURN THE LIVING ROOM INTO A GIANT SOFTPLAY
Ages: 1+ with Supervision
Happy experimenting! And who knows, maybe you’ll unlock a lifelong passion for science in your child and they’ll become the next Einstein!
Cover the floor in cushions, teddies and duvets and whatever soft things you can find. If you really want to go for it and have the inclination, blow up an air bed if you have one, but don’t blow it up all the way so it’s bouncier.
Then proceed to roll and bounce around like a couple of triggers. If you are fairly sturdy, you may even allow them to jump onto you. I don’t know what it is about divebombing grown-ups but children love it and it’s a great bonding time.
BABY & TODDLER PHOTO SHOOTS
Ages: Any but 0-3 for maximum cuteness.
Okay, I’ll admit this is more fun for the single parent… but, secretly when your children are older, they will love looking at these pictures and feigning embarrassment! You can also buy costumes online really cheaply. And if you’re up to the challenge you can make your own. My mum once stayed up all night ripping off the hole punched ends of computer paper to make me a wig for my book week costume and I won 1st prize!
Find more inspiration here:
CHANNEL YOUR INNER DE NIRO AND ACT OUT THEIR FAVOURITE STORY
Ask your child to pick their favourite book or film and act it out for them instead of just telling a story. Get them involved if you can, and learn lines together! Use face paints, toys, household items as props and get stuck in.
Remember, just have fun, we aren’t looking for Academy Awards so don’t worry if it’s rubbish!
FORM A BAND AND MAKE SOME NOISE!
Ages: Probably best to stick to 5+ so they understand the concept of the key word!
Grab some earplugs and saucepans, boxes, tins or whatever you can find and just make up songs. You don’t even have to make up real songs, just make as much noise as possible. It’s fun for the children to be allowed to be loud and also helps expel excess energy.
With earplugs, it’s also a great stress reliever for single parent if they want to join in the fun and shout at the top of their voices.
Pro tip: Try and make sure the neighbours aren’t home and doubly make sure your child know that this level of noise is only allowed on special occasions and have some kind of secret word that signifies all clear for noise (make this a word that you would never expect anyone to drop into normal conversation or you could regret it. I’d go with making up a word to be safe)
PLAY THE ‘WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?’ GAME
Start off a story and get to a really juicy bit and then say ‘And then …’ and let your child take over and keep switching every now and then and be amazed at where the imagination can take you both.
If your child is too young to come up with their own story elements, ask them questions to prompt where the story goes such as ‘Was the cat scared or did he get angry?’ or ‘ Did the dog run up the stairs to find the noise maker or was he more distracted by the noises from the kitchen?’, you get the idea.
PLAY HIDE AND SEEK WITH A TWIST
Normal Hide and Seek is a family favourite but how about making it more interesting?
Find The Teddy
Each of you hides a teddy or toy somewhere in the house and the winner is the person who finds the other person’s teddy first.
Water Pistol Hide & Seek
Hide and seek but the seeker has a water pistol! Probably best for outdoors and with older children!
Move, Hide and Seek
Sometimes known as Blocko! This is Hide and Seek where the hiders have to try and out manouevre the seeker and get to a designated spot without the seeker seeing them. When they get to the destination they shout ‘Blocko!’ or some other word you decide!
(Also see 50 family outdoor activities)
CREATE YOUR OWN PERSONAL ADVENTURE
Are you a single parent with a flair for the dramatic? You can keep this pretty basic like making up some places and characters and then when you are out, really get into it.
You don’t need to be a natural storyteller to make this work but it does help!
A fun one we did was at the park where there was a small building in the centre surrounded by a maze of plants. We were trying to find the secret treasure of Squirreldonia which had been taken by the evil Squirrel King.
Our mission was to traverse the maze and retrieve treasure from the elusive king. My 3 year old nephew’s delight at reaching the centre, where there was actually a grey squirrel running along the front was priceless. He was very stern ‘and don’t come back evil Squirrel King!’ as he chased him away. We then found the treasure which was an interesting stone that if he took home and painted and then hid it for someone else to find, would bring him lots of luck and chocolate!
NATIONAL TRUST DAYS OUT
Lots of free days out for members at some beautiful sites across the UK. There are always seasonal events going and there are hundreds of places to go. You have to book now but it’s easy enough through their website.
Look for 20 Best National Trust Playgrounds.
One of my favourites is Dyrham Park, Near Bath
JUST HAVE SOME SIMPLE PARK FUN!
Sometimes there is nothing more fun than swinging as high as you can on the swing or being thrown high in the air. Or simply running around, going for a nice walk to the river and doing some paddling, climbing trees and exploring secret paths and caves. All of these things make great memories for your child.
Try and recruit friends and relatives to come too. It gives you a nice break from being on guard every split second and children love finding new people to play their funny little games.
Take a nice picnic in the summer and waterproofs when it’s wet for some serious puddle splashing!
LOOK FOR COOL CREATURES AND PLANTS IN NATURE
Ages: Best for Younger Children
There’s something to be said for discovery. We are a world of explorers and this fascination starts from a young age.
From digging around in the garden and finding insects, to looking for tadpoles in the stream or finding a weird looking plant or tree. No matter how small, the discovery of these creatures creates a sense of excitement and achievement. Children can’t wait to show their discoveries!
Take a notebook and pencil and even get them to draw what they find in a little book of discoveries. Give the creatures names and revisit every now and then.
OFFER TO LOOK AFTER OTHER CHILDREN
Yep, I know it sounds crazy but you heard me right! Indoors or outdoors, having more than one child with you can be it’s own reward as they entertain themselves, allowing you to have a well earned cup of tea!
Obviously there is still some supervision involved but you don’t have to be as involved! Just keep an ear out for everything going silent. This usually means plotting and nothing good.
And there you have it. Just a few ideas of things to do as a single parent. Enjoy!
Other resources for single parents that you might find useful:
A great charity that supports single parent families. There is information about all sorts and links to other single parents/groups. https://www.gingerbread.org.uk/
Families Need Fathers is the leading UK charity supporting dads, mums and grandparents to have personal contact and meaningful relationships with their children following parental separation. https://fnf.org.uk/
Trussell Trust – For families that need a bit of extra help with food due to low income.