Fun Activities for Preschoolers
Play helps preschoolers master the skills they’ll need for academic subjects later on. Storytime advances pre-reading skills like rhyming, wordplay, and the ability to follow a plot. A simple activity like playing with soap bubbles can stimulate science learning while building with blocks establishes a foundation for understanding geometry. Repetitive play (such as putting a puzzle together, taking it apart, and then reassembling it) hones motor acuity, while unstructured group play boosts kids’ social skills. Days at home with preschoolers can seem long and tiring, but these play ideas are sure to bring a smile to your face and theirs.
Water is a wonderful joy for most children. Take out the sprinkler, use a small dish of water, or even use a pool outdoors on a summer day. Always supervise! They’ll enjoy plastic spoons, pitchers, squeezy toys, sponges, and containers of all sizes. Keep the room warm, and stay near while the little ones splash, squeeze, pour, and enjoy.
A plastic reclosable container about the size of a loaf of bread can be a wonderful reusable toy. Fill it with rice, cornmeal, or sand, then bury and hide ten small, child-safe toys or implements in it. Using a timer, give each child a minute to search for the toys. Keep taking turns until all ten items have been recovered, then allow free play with the toys. On another day, add various sizes of plastic spoons, pitchers, a funnel, a strainer, and containers. Lead the children into exploring the best ways to pour from one container to another.
Most children enjoy rolling toys (such as cars, balls, animals on wheels, etc.). To make it even more fun, lean a board against a step to form a ramp. Your children will spend hours racing toys down the ramp while you water the garden or mow the lawn. Provide empty cans or containers, ribbon spools, and so forth; basically, anything that will roll will be fine.
Make sidewalk chalk!
You’ll need plaster of Paris, one-cup containers for mixing (one for each color), molds (toilet paper tubes, muffin or drinking cups, or candle molds), and food coloring. Spoon ½ cup of plaster of Paris into each mold. Add water according to instructions on plaster of Paris container. Stir well. Add food color as desired. Stir gently for swirled color or thoroughly for solid color. Allow each to stand until completely dry (overnight or more). Supervise children at play.
Fun with Tracing
Provide a dull pencil and tracing paper (but no crayons) with some basic shapes drawn darkly on white paper. Have kids trace these simple shapes at first (circle, square, etc.). Then, have them enhance the circle by turning it into a drawing of a face or turning the square into a house. Finally, let them color their drawing. Once they are successful at drawing the simple shapes, coloring books provide great tracing opportunities. Praise their efforts, use of colors, good tracing skills, and original ideas.
Glue a small picture (dog, cat, tree, box, book, etc.) to a 4” x 6” index card. The use of stickers simplifies this greatly! Use a dark permanent marker to print the word for the picture in lowercase letters beneath it. Have your child use magnetic, block, sponge, and stamp letters to spell the word that you have written.
Use picture cards with words. Print the same word again on an additional card. Have your child match the word card to the picture/word card. With this simple game, he is getting ready to read!
Jump the Rope
Lay a rope on the ground, and have the children take turns jumping over it. Alternately, use two ropes and move them farther and farther apart.
In and Out
Obtain a hula-hoop for each child, and show them how to jump in and out of it. Later use it as a “safe space” for the child to sit in while playing or listening.
Make a Face
Use a safe mirror. Make a sad, happy, scared, surprised, pleased, or angry face and encourage your little ones to put the same feeling on their face. Talk about how the emotions feel.
Use dominoes as learning tools. Your youngest children can line up dominoes, and watch as they fall in synchronized fashion. Older ones can match them by color or number. School-age children will enjoy adding (or even multiplying) the dots on each side and writing the number sentence (like 2 + 3 = 5) represented by one domino.
Let the little ones help make lunch by tearing lettuce for salad, spreading peanut butter or jam on a thin half-bagel, and/or slicing a banana with a plastic knife for dessert (sprinkles on top).
Use one sock or a dozen non-matching ones; any size will do. Put something in the sock, and ask your children to identify it by feel. One by one, let each child reach in and try to identify the piece inside. The person to name it first gets to keep it for creative play after all the hidden items have been identified.
Show the children two items and have them name the items. Hide one. Ask which one is missing. Build to removing three items from ten.
Have your children take turns predicting how many beans, rocks, marbles, etc., will fit in a bottle cap, cup, basket, small box, jar, etc. Then check it out and see who is closest!
First Counting Game
Roll a large die or spin a spinner. Name the number rolled. Count that number of items. Put them in a large container. Cheer a lot, clap, and encourage your child! When the container is full, the game is won!
Fill a trunk or a large cardboard box with scrounged extra clothing. Be sure to have wigs, hats, scarves, purses, bags, shoes, shirts, aprons, and whatever else you can find. Children will have hours of fun trying things on and making new outfits. They’ll add many props over the years. Keep the camera and camcorder handy!
Make Play Dough!
1 cup flour
1 cup water
½ cup salt
1 T. vegetable oil
2 tsp. cream of tartar
Mix ingredients together over low heat until the mixture pulls away from the pan. Knead. Try different scents like vanilla or lemon extracts. #
Courtesy of Joyce Herzog, a teacher and author of Scaredy Cat Reading System, Luke’s Lists, Budding Authors series, and more (joyceherzog.com).