Schools and day cares are closed in many places around the country and parents are working hard to find the best easy, unique and fun preschool activities for home. I’m an elementary educator, who is now working from home, but have become the teacher for my three year old as well. It has been challenging, but exciting to come up with easy and fun preschool activities for home that we can do together. My son was at first struggling with my attempt to make our home into a structured school setting, so I’ve worked to disguise our preschool learning activities for home with fun.
What are some preschool activities for parents to do at home?
When I first started trying to come up with easy, unique and fun preschool activities, I had not had a chance to buy any supplies or prepare, so I had to use what was on hand. Lucky for me, I did have some guidance on what to do because I had sat down with some excellent pre-kindergarten (pre-k) teachers to ask them what my son needed to know.
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What are Preschool Activities?
Preschool activities are experiences and activities that are focused on students who are not yet formally attending school. These students could be cared for at home or in a daycare and haven’t reached the age to attend school as yet.
Preschool activities have to take into consideration that preschool students are usually not reading as yet and typically require or want to interact with others. Activities that require and encourage movement, touching, building and use of the senses are usually best for preschool activities.
The pre-k teachers that I met with advised me that the preschool activities that were most important were learning and saying the alphabet, learning and saying numbers 1-20, working to write his/her name, exposure to words and books and encouraging pre-reading (pretending or trying to read) and developing curiosity.
With limited supplies, a goal of items to master and the personal goal to make all his preschool activities for home as easy, fun and unique as possible, I started practicing the following preschool activities at home with my son to help us to bond in an interactive way, foster my son’s academic development and also keep him happy while learning.
What are Preschool Activities for Spring?
The weather has started to warm up and plants and animals are coming out in large numbers right now. Even though we need to practice social distancing, it is still possible to use easy, fun and unique preschool activities that encourage being outside and enjoying the spring weather.
One such activity I have started with my son is a morning walk. Our walk is an excellent preschool activity because it helps us get some exercise and fresh air, but I also use it to sneak in a large amount of preschool learning activities.
On walks, we sing the alphabet and try to identify things we see that start with specific letters and we look for changes outside that help us to know what season we’re in (right now we’re focused on looking for features for spring). Our walks also help us to identify and review colors, as well as work on numbers and counting.
Another fun thing we have done while walking is a mini science lesson on the difference between living and non-living things. My son caught on quickly and even spotted some traps I tried to use like asking him about a car or an earthworm that had died. He said the earthworm was not living now, but that it had been and that the car wasn’t living even though it moved and looked like it was breathing.
Possibly my favorite, easy, fun and unique preschool activity that happens during our walks are stories. My son and I take turns making up stories and then retelling the other person’s story. For example: On some days, I give him a prompt that I’ve already planned or I do one spontaneously.
One morning, we saw a turtle in the road on our walk, so we made up stories about the turtle (where he was from, where he was headed, what he thought about running into us, what he told his family about us and his experience once he got home). After each story, I ask questions to make sure my son can retell the story by giving the most important details (who, what, when, where, and why).
My son loves it. Before we have left the pavement of our driveway each morning he yells, “You tell me a story first and then I’ll tell you one.” In the beginning, his stories mimicked mine, but he has started weaving his own tales now, with less and less mention of my characters and events. As you can see, there’s a large list of ways you can turn a walk into an extremely fun, easy and unique preschool activity.
When we want to throw in Math, we identify numbers on mailboxes, count our steps or count how long it took us to walk. We sometimes even compare how long our walk was in comparison to other days.
Art has been one of our preferred easy, fun and unique preschool activities for a long time and it has become even more so lately. I love that art allows us opportunities to get outside and be active, but that I can always sneak in some learning too. We really enjoyed making and using diy sidewalk chalk as an interactive parent child activity.
Another art preschool activity we enjoy, especially in the spring when we can create outside, is painting using different items. We’ve personally used toy car wheels and dinosaur feet. During our preschool painting activities, we review colors and also do some work with numbers and adding and subtracting.
What are some simple bonding activities for parents and preschool children?
The preschool activities that have been the most successful while we have been at home have been those that also helped my son and me to bond. Here are some of the preschool activities that allow us to spend quality together while working on development. We have enjoyed quite a few preschool bonding activities like chess and cooking.
Preschool Activities in Math
I am the chess club sponsor at my school and have been teaching chess to students for the past 5 years. Last year, I decided to start teaching my preschool son chess, when he was 2, but have not been able to devote as much time to it as I would’ve liked. Now, since we’ve been home, I’ve recommitted to teaching him the game, especially since he’s been showing more of an interest.
While I teach him the name of the pieces and how they move, we also work on numbers, colors, problem solving, steps in a process and mathematical skills like subtraction, when a piece is captured.
It has felt deeply satisfying for my son to recognize that pawns directly in front of each other are blocked or to remember that the knight moves in an L shape. We get quality time together, while we work on many skills that will benefit him from later in life.
It has become standard practice that my son and I cook together as part of our preschool learning activities that help with bonding. Kingston loves being my sous chef and I love any opportunity to sneak in math skills like measurement, counting and numeracy. He typically does all the measuring and pouring and if there are any eggs to crack, he will count those out and crack them too.
Not only is cooking completely free, unique and necessary, it helps in the development of senses and life functions. While we cook, my son smells and tastes items, where appropriate. In addition, I have him retell the steps we took while cooking and ask him to identify which information doesn’t belong. For example: Did we use eggs, flour and pickles today? To which, he would normally reply, “Mommy, you’re silly. We didn’t use any pickles.” Kingston's favorite thing to cook and eat right now are Jamaican banana fritters. They were also my favorite thing to eat growing up in Jamaica and we make them together at least twice a week.
Another of our preferred easy and unique preschool activities that doesn’t require much in the way of preparation or supplies is coloring. We already had coloring books and crayons at home, so preparing just meant placing a large piece of cardboard on the floor to protect against coloring the carpet accidentally. Then it's time to enjoy time coloring, talk about colors and working on fine motor skills by remaining in the lines.
I’ve taught my son to repeat, “In the line, in the line. Take your time, in the line,” as he colors to work on not making broad careless strokes, but using shorter, more careful ones. Some days it is successful, other days, not so much, but regardless of how well he stays in the lines, we’re still able to review colors and make up stories about the pictures we are coloring.
Matching is another preschool activity that we love to use to work on many different skills while at home. We were lucky enough to have several cards on shapes, colors, numbers and letters at home, but these can also be easily printed or made using supplies you probably have on hand.
Preschool Activities with Books
7. Reading With Purpose
One of the preschool activities that has been a big part of working with my son through his feelings and emotions has been reading. We read all throughout the day after breakfast, during lessons, before nap time and before bed.
In addition to books about what we are learning and books my son is interested in, I add books on love. After reading, I ask questions about what we read (who the main characters were, what happened, what he thought of the book and what he’d like to read next). We also make paintings, drawings or crafts about what we’ve read. Sometimes, we come up with our own version of the story and sometimes we write about what we read.
8. Shape Art
Preschoolers need to learn about shapes and I’m very proud of this activity I came up with that helps my son’s childhood development, but that also allows us to spend time bonding. Like I mentioned, my son is good at resisting anything that looks like learning. Because of that I’ve become determined to disguise his learning as games, experiments or experiences. Enter our Shape Art. The basic idea is you use anything you have on hand to create the shapes your child is learning. We have used pillows, teddy bears and cars so far. I’m planning on adding dinosaurs, books and Legos.
9. Bear Hunt
I got this next idea from a social media activity where neighbors were putting bears in their windows so that children on walks could see them and have their spirits lifted. In our own community, there are not that many people I thought that would know about or do that for my son, so I decided to take things into my own hand. To get ready, I went room to room collecting all the teddy bears I could find. I was shocked at how many I came across. Now to be honest, they weren’t all teddy bears, but they would do the trick.
Now for the fun. While your child is not hanging on to you (I know when is that?), hide the teddy bears. I hid our bears while my son was sleeping. I hid teddy bears all over the house (in bathrooms, the kitchen, guest bedrooms, under tables, on the steps) and then I waited for him to wake up.
When my son woke up, I told him we had a fun book to read and then we were going on a hunt. If you have a copy of the book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, you can read it together. We watched the video of Michael Rosen reading the story aloud and loved it. My son liked it so much, we watched it twice.
After our second viewing, I announced that there were bears hidden all around our house and we had to find and count them. I told my son how many bears in all were on the loose and then we immediately got to work. Some were obviously hidden, but others were in some sneaky places. I was happy that my son found them all and we had a great experience bonding over searching and counting all the bears. Once they had all been found, then we sorted them by color and size and I shared stories with him on the origin and meaning behind some of the bears.
If you have a preschooler at your house, you understand all too well the need to provide interactive activities that give movement opportunities. We spend a lot of time outside walking, playing with balls, playing with water, doing art, but another beloved activity is musical chairs.
I know you’re wondering why you hadn’t thought of that yet. To be honest, I don’t even know how it came to me, but I am so happy it did. All you need is a chair and some music. Here are some of our favorites. Start the music and then get ready for the fun.
My son has become good at musical chairs, so much so that he will even move the chair as I’m trying to sit. We use musical chairs as a brain break activity and when tensions are running high. It helps both of us to calm down, laugh and get some separation from the lesson or refusal to eat meals that usually leads us down a rough path. Another brain break activity you can use is Go Noodle (short videos that children and parents can dance to.
11. Handwriting Practice: Tracing Numbers, Letters and Names
Maintaining the progress my son was making and accelerating it is important to me. The pre-k teachers I spoke with emphasized the importance of letter, number and handwriting practice. As a result, we spend a good amount of our day working on preschool activities that help in the development of my son's handwriting and knowledge of letters and numbers.
Luckily for me, we had invested in a few handwriting tools, but we have also come up with several free ones around the house as well. Some of our favorites are Pen again Twist and Write pencils, LeapFrog's Mr. Pencil and his magnetic Stem writing board.
There are many places where you can print off your preschooler’s name and have them trace it. We have a laminated copy and use dry erase markers that we wipe clean after each time we practice handwriting. We also practice handwriting with water blaster toy shooters and use letter cut outs and play dough.
I have been learning Spanish for the better part of my life and fully intended on teaching my son Spanish too. I started off strong, but then focused a bit more on sign language. Now that we have more time at home and I’m the primary teacher for my preschooler, I’m committed to working more with him on Spanish.
Thankfully, Lorena and Lennox at Bilingual Beginnings have an extensive collection of resources for preschoolers who are learning Spanish. One we love, because it reinforces a skill we need to practice, but also introduces Spanish is the Letter A Spanish activities.
Another fun way that we’re able to work on letters, numbers and fine motor skills is with puzzles. Again, quite by accident, my son has ended up with several puzzles. We have some of the simple foam character puzzles that we use for basic counting, colors and just to bond and enjoy time together, but then we have some more difficult puzzles for preschoolers that focus on numbers and letters.
13. Music: Non traditional instruments
This activity is one of our favorites. This one is not so much an academic activity, but is like our art and creativity component. We will collect odds and ends around the house and then use them to create music.
Our instruments have included Legos, pots and pans, our hands against walls or counters, empty bags, really anything we could get our hands on. Sometimes we make music to known tunes or songs, but most times, we come up with our own wacky tunes and lyrics.
Preschool activities with cars
Preschoolers love cars. It is a known fact. I found out early in my attempts of teaching my son at home that if I could use cars, it would pique his interest and keep his attention longer than other methods.
We have used cars to learn and review shapes, to create letters, to work on numbers and addition and subtraction. It has also been helpful in learning and practicing colors and identifying similarities and differences through sorting. For example, we have sorted cars by type, colors and height.
15. Science Experiments
I have quickly discovered that I can use my son’s natural curiosity to my benefit to create preschool learning activities, bonding experiences and enhance his childhood development, with minimal effort and supplies.
Our most recent science experiment came from cooking. I was cooking with dry kidney beans and my son started asking questions about its color, why I cooked it, where it came from and then it dawned on me, let’s do an experiment. I vaguely remembered in school and in several science fairs seeing children experiment with seeds.
I grabbed 3 clear plastic cups and 9 seeds and took my son to our dining room table. I asked him if he wanted to try to grow them. He was overjoyed. Then we talked about what we knew about seeds and what 3 ways we wanted to try to grow them. He said water and soil and then I talked him into using cotton (wrap the seeds in cotton and then keep the cotton moist) as our third option. In no time, we had our three cups labeled and our seeds in their 3 conditions.
I have been keeping our followers on Instagram and Facebook aware of our kidney bean plant progress. We have had a clear winner and the experiment gave immediate results, which is important with preschool aged children, who are not the most patient.
Another example of how my son's curiosity shapes our science experiments and leads to some easy, unique and fun preschool activities came while we cooked again. My son was intrigued that steam or water that fell onto the stove disappeared.
As he started asking questions, we had a mini lesson on heat, melting and evaporation. We did a quick observation of what happened when I placed an icecube on the hot stove. He loved it!
Next, I decided to take that excitement and his love for Frozen and Queen Elsa and put it into an easy, unique and fun preschool experiment. While he slept, I placed some of his toys in ice. The next day, when they was frozen, I told him that Elsa had come to our house and played a trick by freezing some of his toys. I asked him how we would free them.
At first, he wanted to get his Mousekatool hammer and try to smash them, but then he got worried they would break. Then he said we could melt them. He took the frozen toys out into the sun, but realized that would take some time.
Next, he saw the water hose my husband had left out from watering the grass and yelled, "We can spray it." He grabbed the hose, changed the setting on the nozzle and started blasting the frozen toys. In no time, they were all free.
He enjoyed this experiment so much, he asked if I could tell Elsa to come back and freeze some more toys. The next time Elsa came and froze his toys, he chose to free them with a water blaster instead of the water hose. We talked about why the water blaster took longer than the water hose. He was able to tell me the nozzle on the hose made the water come out faster and that there was more water.
16. Imaginative Play
I saved this preschool activity for last because I personally believe in its importance, especially during difficult times. Children need chances to play, to use their imagination, to create and my son and I look for opportunities to do so in each of the activities I mentioned above. For example: While walking, we create stories about my son’s favorite things (his family, PJ Masks and Superheroes in general, with a little current events or animals added in).
We’ve made up stories about tornadoes, because one swept through our area recently. My favorite stories we create are when we each say a sentence and then the other has to add the next sentence.
We also practice imaginative play while building Legos. In those situations, we not only build shapes, but we create well developed characters. Typically, they are superhero related, but we are dealing with a three year old boy.
My current favorite imaginative play experience we have are our breakfast picnics. I spread a blanket on our front porch and we sit on our porch to have breakfast. When we finish eating, we make up stories about the birds, turn everything around us into different things with our imagination and have an excellent time playing.
This is a difficult time for us all. I have always loved spending time learning and playing with my son, but the necessity of it and the urgency has changed the stakes. What has helped me is the realization that our preschoolers still need the same, if not more, chances to learn and grow, since they are isolated from the learning that happens with peers and social situations.
Come back often to see what other resources, tips and ideas I’ve shared that may help your family learn from home. If you have older children in addition to your preschooler/s, check out the other resources I've already shared. If you need additional online learning or quality websites, visit websites to engage your bored child. Do you have a child who loves writing, then greatest writing prompts for kids may be a great resource for you?
If your child needs support in research skills or social studies, here’s a personalized learning resource on Martin Luther King Jr.. As you work on learning from home, be sure to remember to make some memories and have some fun. Using this post simple, diy ideas for book character costumes would be a good way to lighten the mood at home and bring books to life. Looking for ways to keep your child active? Think about karate through online lessons. If you’re a mom, who also happens to be a teacher, like me, here’s some help to navigate online teaching.
Have fun learning with your children and making memories. Remember to give yourself some grace and accept that it’s acceptable to set the bar a little lower right now, especially if it means maintaining your health and sanity and taking care of your family.