‘7 Ways to Keep Your Preschooler Engaged at Home’ originally ran in July, 2019.
Attending events, parks and museums are great, but sometimes shuttling back and forth, vying for good parking and dealing with crowds is just not on the menu for the day. What else can we do to keep these little minds productively busy?
Like me, you’re probably determined to fight boredom and avoid the frustrations that come from telling your child multiple times a day to “just go play!”
Here are a few low-key activities that have helped preserve my sanity and deter meltdowns:
1.Visit the classics and rock out: I realized that my child had no idea who Simba or Aladdin were!
Make a list of some of the classic animated movies and set aside time to watch together. As your child starts to show interest in certain movies and new characters, create a playlist of some of their favorite songs from the soundtracks. This provides the best beats for home dance parties and sing-alongs in the car.
2. Adopt a plant pet: Allow your child to pick out an indoor or outdoor plant from a local store or nursery. Help them transfer it to a proper pot and place it somewhere that is visible and gets appropriate sun for the species. Let them know that it’s their job to look after the plant and keep it watered and cared for. Remind them daily to check on it and ask them about the changes they see.
3. Creation Station: Set up an area where crafts supplies are easily accessible and bountiful. Go crazy! Start with paper of different sizes, colors and textures. Keep a few household throwaways on hand such as strips of wrapping paper, packing popcorn, small empty shipping boxes, tissue paper, bubble wrap or empty paper towel rolls. Throw in some extras like colorful buttons, feathers, yarn, popsicle sticks, stickers, stencils or cookie cutters. Add in a box of markers, crayons and/or colored pencils and a few glue sticks and you have yourself a party! Ask your child what they want to make and give them the space to be creative.
4. Cooking for Small Hands: Young children find the process of making food fascinating. Start with teaching your child how to make their favorite lunch, scrambled eggs or a fruit salad. Work up to cutting out cookies, rolling dough, topping pizzas and mixing cake batter. Ask them what they would like to make. When making meals for the family, set aside a portion of the prep for them to do. When food is served, be sure to let everyone know what they helped make.
5. Give the Kid a Camera: No … seriously. Give your child a camera, tablet or phone and tell them to take pictures. Tell them they can take a picture of whatever they want and set them loose. This can be done at home, indoors or outdoors. You may get a lot of blurry shots, partial selfies, pictures of little legs and feet, but they’ll be proud of what they created.
Ask them to explain their pictures to you while you view them. This can be done over and over as the seasons change, you visit new places and have new experiences.
6. Chores for Little People: Give your little helper regular things to do around the house. Tasks like putting toys away, wiping off the table after lunch, making their bed or dusting with a fluffy duster may bring out an enthusiastic side of your child you’ve never seen. Have them set out the cups, napkins and/or silverware at mealtimes. Don’t be surprised if you start hearing, “Can I help?” more often.
7. Just Paint: Putting paint on everything can be a magical experience. With some supervision and child-friendly paints, your child can paint almost anything. Try mini canvases, rocks, poster board, foam board, wood cutouts, fabric, etc. Most items can be found at your local dollar store. Using a cheap plastic table cover saves on the messes and offers quick cleanup. Simply wipe it down, let dry and save for the next project. If the thought of mess makes you anxious, take the painting party outdoors!