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Activities To Do With Your Preschooler

Being the Parent of a Preschooler Is Great

Children between the ages of 3 and 5 are becoming more independent and actively participating in the world around them. Preschoolers develop a great deal during this stage and are eager to learn and try new things. This is a special time for parents because you can play with your children in more creative ways and watch as they learn and grow. Playing with your preschooler encourages learning, increases self-esteem, and creates stronger family bonds. Preschoolers love routine, so creating a regular playtime can help them better prepare for and engage in activities. Daily playtime with your child may also make other tasks go more smoothly because your child will appreciate this special time and the natural need for attention will be satisfied.

Here are some easy ways to engage your preschooler in everyday tasks and playtime activities.

Get Things Done
Everyday activities, such as grocery shopping and cooking dinner, can be fun for the whole family. Playing simple games like “I Spy,” telling stories or singing songs, and having your child help in age-appropriate ways are just a few ways to incorporate play into your daily routine. Try different options to see what your child enjoys most. Include siblings in these activities to keep everyone in the family busy at the same time.

Here are a few ideas for how to make everyday tasks fun:

  • While driving, tell a story together by alternating sentence by sentence. Start the story with any sentence and have your child say the next sentence. Continue until one of you decides on the story’s ending.
  • After washing the dishes, ask your child to try to match the lids and bases of plastic containers and stack them neatly on a low shelf.
  • While waiting in line, practice standing on one leg; your children will love being silly in public, and it will also help build their balance!
  • At a restaurant, use a menu to do an A-B-C search: Start with the letter A and work your way through the alphabet.

Get Active
Preschoolers have a great deal of energy and enjoy using their bodies. Physical activities have many benefits for your child, including increased bone density, decreased risk of Type II diabetes, and increased self-esteem. Getting enough physical activity also helps children behave better during the day and sleep more soundly at night.

Here are a few fun physical activities to do with a preschooler:

  • Put on their favorite music and play “freeze dance” with siblings or friends. When you stop the music, all dancers freeze in their places.
  • Play catch with a small, soft ball.
  • Walk around your neighborhood or a local park. Make your stroll more interactive by alternating between walking fast, jumping, or skipping over cracks in the sidewalk.
  • Take your child outside to puddle-jump after a storm.
  • Invite friends over for a mini-Olympics with activities such as jumping jacks and sprints.

Get Messy
Many preschoolers enjoy activities that allow them to learn by engaging their senses. Examples of sensory activities include playing with water or ice (touch), sniffing spices in the kitchen (smell), comparing flavors in food (taste), making music with household items (sound), and playing with colored paints (sight). Get older siblings involved in the fun by allowing them to help lead the activities. Be careful with small items and be sure to buy nontoxic materials to ensure safety for children of all ages.

Below is one example of a sensory play project to do with your preschooler (adapted from PBS.org):

Make Silly Putty
Supplies: ¼ cup Elmer’s all-purpose glue, ¼ cup liquid starch, food coloring (as needed)

  • In a small bowl, mix the food coloring into the glue until the color is even.
  • Pour the liquid starch into the mixture.
  • Stir and let sit for five minutes.
  • Pull the putty out of the bowl and set it on a clean paper towel.
  • Knead the putty for five to ten minutes.
  • The final product is just like store-bought Silly Putty. You can bounce the Silly Putty or use it to make different shapes or copy newspaper print.

Many more sensory activities have been compiled by the mother of a preschooler on her blog, OnePerfectDay.net.

Get Imaginative
Preschoolers are at a great age for imaginative play. They can try new things and learn about the world around them. Psychologist David Elkind, the author of The Power of Play, explains that by using their imaginations, children create a world in which they are strong and in charge, something they don’t often feel.
Different children prefer different types of imaginative play, so be open and supportive of their interests. Some children may enjoy one-on-one interactions, such as acting out scenes from their favorite stories, while other children may prefer to play in larger groups or build model cities with blocks. Whatever the preference, follow your preschooler’s lead to use play to explore various interests.

Here are several ways to help preschoolers use their imaginations:

  • Decorate large cardboard boxes to create rockets, houses, or cars to play in.
  • Make paper dolls and act out scenes.
  • Play restaurant in the kitchen and have your child pretend to be the chef.
  • Get cozy on the couch and take turns telling stories.
  • Ask your child to lead you on a treasure hunt in the park.
  • Get out Legos, blocks, or paper and markers and create new worlds together.

Look for Opportunities in Your Community
In addition to these home-based activities, look for community programs near you that welcome preschoolers. Public libraries, YMCAs, and community centers are among the places that often host free activities for young children and families. Many communities also have vibrant online groups for parents in which moms and dads keep each other informed about local events, regular playgroups, and resources. Search for groups on Facebook, MeetUp, or Google, but be careful to ensure you are accessing groups that focus on positive family supports. A clearly worded description and active moderators are signs that the group is well-maintained and will have helpful information.

Family Centers are wonderful places for free playgroups and social activities. At these centers, parents and children can meet other families, learn about community resources, and participate in activities. Programs are free and open to all families in the community with young children.

Find Activities and Tips Online
In addition to OneToughJob.org, there are many other good websites and blogs where parents and child-care providers can share activity ideas to be used at home. If you are looking for more activities, explore these sites:

  • Education.com — A list of preschooler activities from a major education support website.
  • Funathomewithkids.com — A parents’ blog with many home-based activities you can do with a baby, toddler, or preschooler.
  • Kidshealth.org — A list of games to play with your preschooler from a website that focuses on physical and mental health.

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