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keeping preschoolers "busy"

I’m not really big on structured preschool activities. I kind of feel that if I provide a rich environment for my preschoolers then they will naturally learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it. Obviously, this is the ideal and, well, the ideal is not always reality. Sometimes, reality is that if we don’t have something structured for “little miss mess” she will find a way to be helpful…like painting her fingernails and toenails (by herself with acrylic paints) or putting away the (glass) dishes or, well, you get the idea.

Years ago, when Phoebe and Benjamin were little, we were no longer able to do the bulk of the older boys schooling during nap time and it was getting very hard to do things like math and phonics with preschoolers running wild, I mean discovery learning, all over the place. So we began to structure their day.

Each of the older boys had 30 minutes a day that they were to play with the “little ones” while I worked with someone else. (Meaning play a game together, not play play like the little one is the toy) That gave me about a hour and a half. Then they would play with something from the “fun box” for about 30 minutes. They could pick anything they wanted, but they could only pick one thing at a time and it had to be put away before something else could be picked.

This is kind of where we find ourselves with Esther. I can see that there are times when she is going to need to play by herself, which is something she is not used to doing. So I’m putting together some activities to keep her constructively busy.

Here’s some of the preschool activities: 
Each of these are in a zip lock or fabric bag and the bags are in tote.

  • dominoes – we have a double 15 set and we never use more than double 9 so I put the others in a bag to be played with.
  • classic set of memory cards – you can get several bags out of one set
  • dry rice with a funnel, measuring cup, spoon and containers – this will actually be in its own container
  • lacing beads – old macrame bead and a shoe lace
  • rubber stamps and paper
  • stickers and paper – Carl’s mom always brings the kids stickers. I have no clue where she gets them all but they are great to put in here.
  • lacing cards – Phoebe has an old set that she is giving Esther
  • Felt shapes – in our mudroom I have a chalk board and a felt board hanging on the wall. We’re making shapes for Esther to play with on the felt board. You could cover a sturdy piece of cardboard with  felt to make a felt board. Here’s a great cupcake pattern .
  • Bean sort – Different beans and an egg carton to sort them in
  • Yarn, glue and paper – “draw” a picture with glue and let your preschooler cut yarn to cover the glue.
  • Colored pasta – color pasta with a small amount of rubbing alcohol and several drops of food coloring in a zip lock bag. Shaking and stirring a few times. Take it out and let it air dry. If you use big pasta you can string it. If you use small pasta you can put glue on paper and make mosaics.
  • Magnet with paperclips, washers, screws , nails, etc.
  • colored straws and scissors – great cutting practice!
  • view master and reels
  • paper, glue and small tissue paper squares. Cut tissue paper in squares. Put drops of glue on the paper and show the child how to squish up the paper and put it on the glue drop.
  • paint with water pages – here’s a great tutorial
  • tweezers (large plastic kind) and pom poms to sort.

Disclaimer:  Obviously, all these items are not appropriate for all preschoolers. Each parent needs to decide for himself if his child is developmentally ready for some of these small objects.

We also have a leap frog, chalk board, pattern blocks, cuisenaire rods, play do and, occasionally, older children to keep Esther busy.

If your child is older then you could do some ABC and Number activities.

So how do you keep your preschoolers constructively busy during the day?

Thanks for sharing with your friends!