After baking another batch of cookies together and playing hide-and-seek with your preschooler again, it’s discouraging to look at your watch to discover that it is only 9:30 a.m. With everything on pause, keeping little ones busy is more challenging than ever. Don’t despair! Here are a few ideas that are fun and include an element of learning!
Freeze dance. Turn on some music, let the kids dance around and them freeze in place when the music stops. This supports coordination, balance – and giggles.
Explore a new environment. Walk on a street that you have never walked along before. Talk about what you see. Great scientists are good observers.
Become nature scavenger hunters. Collect leaves, pine cones and twigs and discuss the ways these objects are alike and different. This also expands kids’ vocabularies.
Go on a photo safari. Don’t want messy leaves in the house? No problem! Take pictures of your outdoor finds to create a photo collage. Help your little ones sort and categorize the images, skills essential for kindergarten readiness.
Create your own memory games. Print two small photos of each member of your family – or even a few friends. Arrange them upside down and take turns finding two of a kind.
Build a tower. Set a timer to see who can build the tallest tower in 3 minutes. Try again and see if you can beat your time. Teach the concept of “personal best” so that children of different ages and abilities aren’t competing with each other. If the tower falls down, encourage your child to try again to reinforce the idea of resiliency.
Play card games. With a simple deck of cards, you can teach your kids Go Fish, War and Old Maid – plus counting and number recognition.
Play Red Light, Green Light. Staple a green piece of paper and a red piece of paper back to back. The person who is “it” stands at one end of the room or yard while everyone else starts at the other. When the light is green, everyone moves toward “it” until that person calls out “Red light!” and everyone has to freeze. This helps build coordination and concentration.
Try Mad Libs. With books, apps and printables available, everyone can play. Even your littlest can join in with the help of a parent or older sibling.
Play the headband game. Create homemade clue cards with pictures of objects on one side. Each player takes a card and, without looking at the printed side, tucks it printed side out into a headband they are wearing. Players ask each other yes-or-no questions as they try to be the first to guess what card they are wearing. The turn taking involved builds patience and good sportsmanship.
Figure out What’s Missing. Collect five or six items and place them on the floor close together. Let all players see the items. Now, cover the items with a small blanket, and have the players cover their eyes. Remove one item from under the blanket and have the children reach under without looking and try to discover what’s missing. This benefits focus and attention span.
Practice card deck math. Remove the face cards from a deck, have your child choose any two cards and add up the numbers.
Build an obstacle course. With all of the boxes arriving from Amazon, create your own course for kids to climb over, under and through. This helps children learn positions in space, while getting the chance to move.
Paint the house. Break out a bucket with water and a few old (clean) paint brushes and set the kids to work “painting.” Add soap and “paint” bikes and trikes for a kids’ car wash.
Last but not least, children love doing grown-up tasks, so let them take out the trash, set the table and work in the garden. What may be tedious to us, can be pure joy to them!
Susan Rudich, M.Ed is an early childhood educator, parenting coach and adjunct professor of child development. In addition, Susan is a fellow of the Simms Mann Institute’s First 36 Project. The Project cohort studies the latest in human development theories and neuroscience as they relate to children ages 0-36 months. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.