You've been in the same house with the same people doing the same stuff for what already feels like too long.
If some of those people are small serial spillers with an insatiable appetite for playtime, then it can be challenging to find fresh ways to keep them entertained. Older kids have online learning to do or are happy to be left alone making TikToks and gaming.
Preschoolers, however, don't typically spend hours in their rooms productively doing puzzles, messaging friends and re-watching episodes of Brooklyn 99. Lockdown with little kids is a little bit more work.
My wife is a kindy teacher so she has plenty of ideas to keep our preschoolers happy, but I also think this is a moment for me to step up and be awesome. Dads are great at doing really fun stuff, going on adventures and keeping our little ones busy.
Of course, mums can do all the things dads can, but there's something special about the way that dads do it. Dads were an absolute asset back in the olden days when we were allowed to visit playgrounds.
They were the ones who set new records for the highest you can push a child on a swing. Dads were the first ones to let the preschooler mix their own drink at the free refill station. Dads would let babies sit on their laps while driving around an empty car park.
Even though dads are usually the ones to overestimate how far a toddler can ride a bike and underestimate how many snacks to bring, dads can be great with preschoolers during lockdown.
These mini versions of us are pretty adorable so almost anything you do with them is enjoyable if you're just soaking in the moment. But singing 'Wheels on the Bus' can certainly lose its charm after about 55 rounds. The magic happens when you do stuff that both dad and toddler like doing. Here are some examples.
Go outside every single day
The easiest way to entertain the preschooler is to take them outside every day, several times ideally. Little grommets need to burn energy so that when it's time to sleep, they are absolutely wrecked and can't summon the energy to demand another story.
Preschoolers are a bit like puppies. You only need to say "Walk" or jingle the keys and open the door – they'll immediately sprint around in circles, knocking things over in an attempt to get outside as quickly as possible.
And you don't need to wait for a sunny day. As our Scandinavian friends say, there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. Wrap them up in multiple layers (your toddler that is, not the Scandinavians) and head out on an adventure. You don't really need ideas for what to do, just leave the house and see what happens. The toddler will take forever to put their shoes on and even longer to keep up once you leave, but that's all good. It's time spent doing something other than watching another episode of Babybum.
Toddlers have amazing imaginations and time can really fly by when you join them at their level. One simple way to kickstart a make-believe session is to play dress-ups. You could be superheroes, scientists, firefighters, robots, animals or a strange combination of all of those. You'll soon discover that a silly dad is a fun dad. The sillier you let yourself become, the more fun you will have.
Take them to work
For the non-essential working dads (that sounds a bit harsh, doesn't it) you've probably set up a home office somewhere, away from the disturbance of your curious, play-addicted little people. One way to entertain the preschooler is to invite them to your 'office' for a visit. Sit them on your lap and let them sabotage your Zoom meetings.
It will be incredibly disruptive, but making time for our kids and giving them focused attention makes them feel special. You can give them an unplugged spare keyboard and sit them on their own chair. They'll bash away at the keys, demand you play The Wiggles and ask questions like "What does this button do?" after pushing the off switch on your laptop.
It doesn't have to be for long, but it can be a moment each day that your kids really look forward to. It'll be slightly annoying and fun, but that basically sums up preschoolers.
Cooking anything with kids is fun but it's better if it involves less cooking and more assembling. That's why burgers and sandwiches are great. Give the tiny sous chef the challenge of building the ultimate sandwich. The ingredients are limited only by your imagination (and tolerance for supermarket queues).
The cool thing about sandwiches and burgers is that you basically just build a big tower of food. It's like playing with blocks but you can eat it. The key is to lower your expectations regarding presentation and taste – your dish possibly won't look great, or taste good for that matter.
In fact, sometimes the food ends up being such a disaster that it even grosses out the dog. That's totally okay. The goal of making ultimate sandwiches isn't just to eat stuff and mess up your house, it's to have fun and connect.
You don't have to watch kids' shows
Dads can spend quality time with kids watching something you are both engaged in. Try to find the middle ground between Peppa Pig and the PGA tour. Your viewing could include exercise classes or learning a dance routine, and watching animal shows, magic tricks or first-person perspective videos of roller coasters.
Watch science experiments and then try one yourself. Watch sport highlights and then play that sport. You'll know if you're watching something good; not if your kids are silently glued to the screen but if they are so loudly inspired that they are compelled to stop watching and go play.
We're in the middle of some pretty challenging days but for our children, this could be the best time of their lives. There are loads of other ways to entertain toddlers, like reading books, building huts, playdough and painting, but the point isn't to just keep them busy. The point is to connect with our kids as much as possible. Dads are great at playing with preschoolers and we've never been given a better opportunity than right now.