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Activity Ideas for Preschoolers

...or... "Yes, you can still get something done with
older kids when there's a toddler in the house."

If you have ever tried to teach your older kids and deal with a toddler too, you know that life can get pretty complicated, and noisy, fast...while one child is asking for your help with algebra, another needs guidance with diagramming sentences, and the 3 year old is wanting to "do school" too, you can find your grip on sanity getting pretty slippery and wonder why you ever decided to do this...DON'T PANIC! Other homeschoolers have been through this too, and have offered this list of activities to help you tame the tempest: (Special thanks to Mrs.D, Kim, the Millers and the others who have contributed!)

First, see what you can do to actually INCLUDE your toddler - have special coloring books, washable markers, 'magic' slates, simple workbooks, large crayons, etc. at hand during school time so that the youngest can feel like they are actually participating in the schoolwork (You may want to make certain toys and books available to them only at this time) - they will proudly show off their "work" to any and all who come visit, and will joyfully move on to more challenging stuff as soon as they are able. Be prepared to be surprised at how much they will pick up by just being there. When you need to give more attention to the older kids, you might try to time the intense lessons during youngest's nap, or pull out the list below and see what works for you. Most of all, HAVE FUN!
NOTE: Use caution when allowing small children to play with small objects. If you cannot be sure they will not put them in their mouths, find another activity. Your attention will be elsewhere, and you must be careful!

Plastic (or cardboard) coins and a piggy bank- bought or home-made.(Pringles can, slit cut in top)

Playdoh with a plastic knife, rolling pin, cookie cutters, small plastic toys, etc.

Painting; watercolors, paint books, or food coloring in water with a Q-tip.

Chalk or light color crayons on dark construction paper.

Scissors and paper (no other objective in mind!)

Easy-to-use paper punch and strips of paper.

Stencils, paper, colored pencils.

Lacing cards; Cardboard shape with holes punched around it. Attach yarn, wrap masking tape around the end.

Plastic canvas with yarn attached, wrap end in masking tape.

Poke holes in thick cardboard with a tack.(Just be sure you know where the tack ends up!)

Shallow bucket on a towel on the floor. Add water, boats. Plastic fish, measuring cups, etc.

Writing tray; Put a layer of rice or cornmeal in a cookie sheet. Good for spelling practice or picture-drawing or practicing A B C’s.

Mini-sandbox; Put a layer of sand in a box the size of a banana box. Add trucks, cars, popsicle sticks.

Make a tunnel of kitchen chairs.

Give them a crochet hook and a length of yarn. Demonstrate chain stitch a few times. This is not for everyone, but if you refuse to do it for them, you’ll be surprised at what they figure out.

Stack cups or containers of different sizes.

Nuts and bolts, same or different sizes.

Scrap wood, hammer, nails.

Bucket of water and a paintbrush-for outside painting. Works best on wood or concrete.

Chalk on sidewalk or steps.

Let them "wash" a few plastic dishes. Put an egg beater, measuring cup and baster in the water.

A cup with non-toxic soapy water and a straw to blow bubbles. You may put it on a sheet of paper and add food coloring to the water.

A retractable measuring tape to measure with.

Arrange blocks by size, color, or shape.

Make a necklace or snack chain with yarn (masking tape on end) and any cereal with holes; Fruitloops, Cheerios, etc.

Dip string pieces in thinned poster paint. Fold a paper in half. Lay string on one side and fold over to create designs.

Flash cards; ABC’s or what ever you may have.

Pictures with colored glue. If you put these on a smooth plastic sheet, it can be peeled off when dry.

Super ball (see REMINDER: below!) or small car and a paper towel or Christmas paper tube.

Draw roads, houses, etc. on large paper or cardboard. Use cars and trucks on it.

REMEMBER: Use caution when allowing small children to play with small objects. If you cannot be sure they will not put them in their mouths, find another activity. Your attention will be elsewhere, and you must be careful!
Tops- bought or made with ½ toothpick and cardboard disk.

Look through the button box.

Watch a bug ! At the table, at an anthill, wherever.

Water colored with food coloring, eye dropper or paint brush, coffee filter. Once this is dry, you can iron it. Then cut the center out of a paper plate. Glue filter to it for a sun catcher.

Beanbags and a bucket.

Magnet and paperclips, washers, a nail, etc.

A large box. (yep, that's all!)

Throw a blanket over a card table or a couple of chairs. Offer clothes pins. They’ll know what to do next!

Glue and glitter pictures...get them into old clothes and onto a plastic drop cloth or old sheet first though.

A variety of magnets and the refrigerator door.

Stickie notes and a pencil.

Refrigerated cookie dough and a cookie sheet...they can play-dough the stuff into balls and you can all eat the results.

Tatooing...give them watercolor markers, get them into an old pair of shorts and let them do the body-paint thing...bubblebath follow-up required! (No lip or eye decorating!)

A stack of puzzles.

Ice trays and buttons, beads or marbles for sorting.

A marble maze - set it in a large cookie sheet or a shallow box to cut down on the lost marbles.

A plastic bottle (clean milk jug, well rinsed detergent bottle, etc.)and items such as clothes pin, straw, penny, etc., to drop in and then shake out again.

Ice cube on a sidewalk. Works like sidewalk chalk, but requires no cleaning. (Also useful for cooling down.)

Damp washrag and a dirty wall or a window, paper towels and a spray bottle with a little water in it.

Colored rice to pour through a collander or funnels.

Colored rice or colorful cerals to glue on paper - write the child's name in big block letters and let them glue stuff inside the letters.

Tape a sheet of freezer paper or newsprint to the floor and trace around the child (have them lie still on it with their arms and legs a little outstretched) and then let them color their self portrait.

Have a suggestion to add to this list? Or, if you find errors or broken links, please let us know via e-mail.


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