How To: Plan Activities When You Are Not There

Our simple ‘How To’ series with Robyn Taylor offers up a host of suggestions for making sure activities run smoothly when you’re away.

Not all activity coordinators work all day, evenings, or weekends, and there is a real worry that residents are missing out on social, mental, and physical wellbeing when you are not there. As long as you ensure there is plenty available for residents to do themselves, or for care staff to help with, and have a good reporting system and support from your management, you can make sure there is always lots to take part in.


First, and most importantly, express your concerns to your manager and ask for their support in ensuring that activities take place when you are not there. Many staff do engage in social interaction, however, you need the support of your manager to ensure planned activities will continue to happen.

Create a form which must be filled out and handed back to the manager when an activity is carried out in your absence. Handing it to the manager ensures that more activities are likely to be done in your absence.

If you plan an activity for a member of the care staff to do, ensure you have communicated with them and their team leaders, and written it in their diaries and handover sheets. Remember, the care team may not have experience in activity leadership like you do, and they may not feel confident being centre of attention. Ensure you take this into account when the team leaders are delegating who is going to deliver a session and what you are leaving them to do.

If you can, set aside a short session with a few care staff members to help encourage their confidence. Do some simple warm-up exercises and practise a few simple activities together, then schedule a couple of the care staff on together so they can support each other. Start small – a simple crafting activity with a small group, for instance.

Prepare the items ready for the staff member to use straight away, without any prep and provide simple instruction sheets if needed. Always ensure you collect it the next day, so you do not lose items. For most of the activities you deliver, there is no reason why the care staff cannot do the same, as long as you get everything ready, inform the staff, communicate in diaries and handover sheets.

Always be mindful though, if they are short-staffed, then they may cancel the activity or move it to a different part of the day. Don’t put an exact time on your calendar, leave some leeway and only specify AM or PM, and organise another member of staff to step in if needed.


  • Play a CD – have the resident guess the name of the song. All they need is a CD and the contents list.
  • Coffee mornings – and chit-chat groups. They will have the tea and cups, all they need to do is sit and chat.
  • Film afternoons – get the film ready and place it on the desk the day before. All they need to do is invite everyone to the film and put the film in the DVD player.
  • Nail pampering – provide a box of nail varnish and other accessories to the team and collect it the next day, putting it somewhere safe again.
  • Read the Daily Sparkle – print off the newspaper in advance and ensure they have the Carer’s Notes readily available.
  • Walk in the garden – or around the block.


  • Set up a table in the lounge with a simple activity which people can do independently. Place a poster in a photo frame with some instructions, inviting people to take part.
  • Place items around the home such as dominoes, chess, colouring-in sheets, board games etc.
  • Featured areas are great to do down corridors and in corners of rooms, and you can change them throughout the month. You can include textures, books, objects to prompt reminiscence etc. Ensure you label things clearly and then you can put them back when you find them in someone’s room later!

Remember, things like this do not have instant success. The first time you plan for another member of staff to complete an activity in your absence and it doesn’t happen it is frustrating because you know the residents are missing out. However, do not give up and keep setting things up – determination pays off and everyone will get the hang of it eventually.