I belong to a Yahoo! Group about Catholic Homeschooling. Someone sent this list of 60 things for Preschoolers to do on their own and said to feel free to distribute it! It's wonderful. Now, you may not have all the toys she mentions, but she has links! Enjoy.
For what it's worth, I've compiled my list of 60 activities for my preschooler to do independently while I'm doing lessons with my other children. (If you're not homeschooling but still have a preschooler at home, this may help you get some "just for you" time...)
My preschooler will be encouraged to participate with our lessons as she wants to or is capable (like listening to stories during Language Arts or History; she can certainly "do art" but I'm not going to force it and hopefully these activities will keep her occupied and out of trouble.
Feel free to pass this on to anyone else whom you think may find this helpful.
Preschooler Ideas for Younger Siblings - 3 and up
Since I'm using all the provided curriculum boxes for the kids (from K12), I decided to take the biggest box --the one that the art clay, plaster of Paris, etc. came in, and designate it my three year old's "school box". This way her school box is just like her siblings'. This box will ONLY be used at school time, and will only be used at the table. You can take any box and decorate it and make it the "special" box...brought out only at certain times and each time having something different in it.
Inside will be her own pencil box that will have a set of markers, (crayola washable, naturally) a pair of Fiskars kid scissors, a box of crayons, a pencil, a pen, and a glue stick. Each day I will put some papers in there for her to either color, cut up, paste things on, or practice writing (simple mazes and such for her to follow, etc.)
Each week I'll put one or two interesting books that she will enjoy looking at. There will also be one or two "special activities" that will change from day to day, made up of (mostly) educational toys and stuff that I currently have on hand but has been "put away" for a while.... Each day there'll be something different to do, either loose in the box or in a zipper top Ziploc bag (the kind with the slider zipper is easier for the kids to manipulate than the traditional ones).
The idea of this box is for her to entertain herself with little or no guidance from me while I work with her older siblings. She will more than likely be participating with us during some lessons (she likes to play "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" with the phonics tiles, LOL) .
Here are some ideas for the activities. Some will be in a zippered bag, some won't. I have 60 activities, so that I'll have enough for 2 per day per month. At the end of the month I'll start over again. The key to the success of these is to keep them a surprise and limit access to them so that the novelty does NOT wear off. Some seemingly obvious things, like legos and matchbox cars are missing from this list because they play with them almost every day. I got the ideas for many of these activities from various websites with preschoolers in mind. I do not have these in any particular order. Obviously they need to be mixed up so there aren't a whole slew of similar activities piggy backing day in and day out......Also, I'm not going to insult your intelligence by reminding you about choking hazards, which some of these activities may contain...use your common sense based upon your child, and you'll be fine!...
1. sock match...several pairs of colorful infant socks that she's outgrown in the bag to match up or just play with. If I know her she'll have them on her hands and feet for half an hour.
2. dominoes...to build with and do who knows what with...
3. Discovery Toys Tinyville Magnets (these are magnets in shapes like people, vehicles, animals, buildings, cloud, stars, moon, etc...) and the magnetic white board
4. Play Doh, with geometric shaped cookie cutters
5. Play Doh with farm animal cookie cutters
6. Paint in a bag...put two colors of paint in a doubled Ziploc bag, seal it with clear tape, and let her squish them to mix the colors. There will be a couple of different color combinations
7. More magnets --from a magnet kit...lots of different plane figures and a magnetic base to build upon
8. Blues Clues Cards there are nine sets of four cards, three "clues" that go with one card. Got these at a dollar store that was going out of business...got them for 50 cents! :-)
9. Mixies cards (11 sets of three different cards that form a picture...these came from somebody's birthday party favor bag)
10. Puzzle Pairs (Discovery Toys two piece puzzles of things that go together, like a sock and foot, sink and soap, etc)
11. Memory...for The Preschooler I'll probably only give her 24 cards at a time as opposed to the full set of 72; this way I can get 3 activities from one memory game and she won't be overwhelmed!
12. Animal Lotto..she can match up all the animals on the boards...
13. Spirit "jigsaw" puzzle...I printed out a horse picture colored to look like Spirit and am gluing it to felt, then cutting it out in simple shapes for her to put together. I will probably put a couple more like this in
14. Pattern blocks (mine are from K12; easily obtained from curriculum suppliers for a few bucks)
15. Wooden Geometric Solids...these will keep her occupied for at least a half hour; as with above, easily obtained from suppliers, often for under $10 for a nice set of 12 hardwood blocks
16. Math linking cubes- these are the multi link cubes, not unifix cubes. The multi link cubes are connectable all the way around, unlike unifix cubes that only connect one way.
17. Lincoln Logs
18. dry rice with a funnel, measuring cup, measuring spoon, and containers
19. Lacing beads with shoe laces (the long heavy duty ones from ds's old workboots work really well)
20. Giant pegboard and rubber bands
21.Rubber stamps with farm animals
22. Rubber stamps with numbers
23. Discovery Toys Playful Patterns
24. Discover Toys AB Seas alphabet fishing game
25. Discovery Toys Itsy Bitsy Spider Game
26 Discovery Toys Bright Builders (being a former consultant has its advantages!)
27. Stickers! Lots of STICKERS. Draw shapes on a piece of paper and give lots of tiny stickers to fill in the shapes with. You could also write the child's name on there to put stickers on each letter...so the name shows up in stickers. the smaller the sticker the better as it takes more time to fill them in.
28. Animal cards...you know those "clubs" where you get wildlife cards? Well I picked up half a set at a yardsale and the kids love looking at the pictures...that should keep her busy for 20 minutes
29. Mr and Mrs Potato Head Not sure if it's educational, but it should keep her busy for a half hour, hopefully. LOL
30. Bucket of Goop (three parts cornstarch to one part water) in a small empty oxyclean bucket with a scoop, funnel, graduated cylinder from K12, and another container to pour the goop into. Messy and fun but easy to clean up.
31. Watercolor paints I miss those old "Paint with water" books where all you had to do was have a paintbrush and water. The new ones come with a set of watercolors attached, but in this case, I'd really like the books with the pictures already "colored" and you just swipe it with a wet brush to "paint." Maybe lacking in creativity, but hey. After painting one picture The Preschooler will probably have the paint set ruined by not rinsing out the brush...my idea here is for her do to something WITHOUT guidance from me...oh well...
32. Lacing cards. Using the shoe laces from the lacing beads. I'll cut out shapes from light weight cardboard and cover with contact paper before punching holes in it. Someone else suggested using old bleach bottles but
I'm afraid that cutting them up will ruin my scissors. LOL
33. Felt shapes and felt board...using cookie cutters and other things as patterns, I'll make some little people and geometric shapes for her to play with. I'll cover a piece of sturdy cardboard with felt.
Bananas for the Monkeys Original Author Unknown: Cut five monkey shapes out of brown felt and fifteen banana shapes out of yellow felt. Number the monkeys from 1 to 5 and place them on flannel board. Have the children identify the number on each monkey and place that many bananas in front of it.
34. Puppets in a Bag --yarn, facial features already cut out, a brown lunch sack, and some glue...a puppet kit!
35. Glue, Yarn, and shapes...sorry, no creative name for this. I'll draw some shapes on construction paper and give her a small (the tiny size) bottle of Elmer's glue to squeeze onto the lines I drew (helps build small
motor coordination) and then she can put the yarn on the shapes. Other times, do this with her name, or a house, or something similar. I buy the tiny bottles once, then get the more economical bigger bottles to refill
with later as needed. I don't even buy Elmer's half the time.
36. Collage in a bag...rip out some magazine pages with interesting pictures for her to cut out and paste on a piece of paper...maybe following a certain theme...like one time have it all healthy foods...another time, families and kids, animals, flowers, etc.
37. Bean Sort - Since she's pretty much beyond sticking a bean up her nose and requiring dh to remove it with needle nose pliers, I figure this is now a safe activity for her to do with only moderate supervision. (yes
that's what happened and I got rid of our "Don't Spill The Beans Game" after dd and I were traumatized by this.dd was much more mortified by the sight of her daddy heading toward the preschooler's nose with those pliers...I didn't look. :) ) Lots of different beans in a bucket for her to measure, pour, sort, and throw on the floor for me to vacuum up.
38. Eyedropper, small container of water, and a mini ice cube tray or Styrofoam egg carton. If you're feeling adventurous, use colored water to make it interesting. Demonstrate how to use the eyedropper both to fill and
empty the cups... Would also work well with mini muffin tins, I suppose...
39. Colored Pasta - color your own pasta, using wheels or any other pasta that has large openings (easy to lace.) Use small amount of rubbing alcohol and several drops of food coloring in an airtight container or Ziploc. Leave the pasta in for a few minutes ; shaking it up or stirring a few times. Take it out to dry in a single layer. . then provide laces to string them up. You could provide some color or shape patterns on cards to duplicate.
40. Penny Count (source: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/3446/keeplittleones.html) I will make a more compact version on a single sheet of paper, and use circles the same size as the counting tokens (bingo chips)...match the colors and number amounts! But I thought the whole idea was pretty neat:
Make a poster board showing "cells" of numbers. Example: Draw a square, write "1" in it. Draw or tape down "1" penny in the square. Do the same with each square...up to ten or twenty...your choice. I'd start with 10 first and then draw two more squares at a time up to twenty as child gets better at this skill.
2) Give your child a basket or plastic container of pennies and have him match up pennies that you have put down with the picture in each square. (Ex. In the "2" cell, he would put below your example 1, 2 pennies in a
one-to-one correspondence. Check him when he is done by having him count each cell with you. Repetition is what teaches counting!
3) Eventually "test" your child by showing him only a number "3" printed on a index card and have him lay down 3 pennies and say "3". You might even write the word "three" along with the number "3" back in step one so that the child is learning a sight vocabulary word along with the printed "3". You would only do this if your child already knows the alphabet though. Then you could hold up a card that says "three" and see if he can lay the correct pennies down when seeing the word too.
41. Super ball or small car and a paper towel or Christmas paper tube. If you feel creative you could make a marble run of sorts with a couple tubes (see www.familyfun.com) I probably won't...she'll be happy enough with this. Why get more complicated than you need to? I could also let her color it with markers if she wanted.
42. Magnet and paperclips, washers, a nail, etc.
43. A large (big enough to climb in) box. 'Nuff said.
44. A giant piece of paper (or PAVCS posterboard) to color on...whatever desired...just give the paper and markers and you're set.
45. Lots of colored pom poms and tweezers to sort them out...look for tweezers that will be easy for little hands to manipulate, like the ones that come with the game Bed Bugs...heck, look for the Bed Bugs game. LOL
46. Treasure Hunt: large pot or box filled with corn meal, oat meal, rice, etc, with small "treasures" hidden inside...individually wrapped candy, coins, Barbie shoes, game pieces, etc. Make a picture checklist with all the items to find!
47. Colored Straws and scissors: nothing more to say. LOL straws are good for scissor practice because one snip and you have instant results. Provide Elmer's glue and paper and it's time to make a mosaic!
48. Discovery Toys Busy Bugs This can be duplicated with any manipulative, but I just got the game off eBay for $10. Might be able to find something similar in a homeschool catalog... kind of like the penny poster above, just using something different to play with and put the "problems" on index cards instead of the poster. You could use stuff around the house like coins, counters, buttons, pasta...make up index cards with patterns to duplicate/put simple problems on there: show items with number and number word under it, or do a simple problem like 2+2= etc...... This activity will be accompanied by a couple bug books and hopefully a neat bug video from the library!
49. Sticks, chunks of moss, rocks, leaves...with small rubber animals or dinosaurs...add some sand in a 9x13 baking pan...don't worry about sand on the floor...that's what vacuum cleaners are for!!!!! On a nice day do all your school work outside...heck, let the older kid SKIP schoolwork to do this outside... :-)
50. Magnetic Treasure Hunt: like the treasure hunt (#46) above, only this time use metal items and a magnet to attract them! Be sure your magnet isn't too strong or your kid will get several treasures at once!
51. Memory 2 see activity 11
53 Memory 3 see activity 11
54. Checkers and a small purse/canvas bag.... Checkers are cool cause they stack. If you can get more than two dozen, that's even better. Dollar stores often have checker games.
55. Chess pieces. Get a cheap chess/checkers game or two at the dollar store. Rachel likes to play with the pieces like they're alive. :-)
56. Magnetic Marbles I picked these up at a dollar store. Amazing the things you find at these places! I know that they'll be interesting for at least fifteen to twenty minutes...maybe more.
57. Popsicle sticks and Elmer's glue. Bob the builder at your service! Real cool if you have colored sticks...or just color them with markers when done. This is great for eye hand coordination and small motor building. You could put the glue in a small plastic cup or on a paper plate and have child apply it with a cotton swab to avoid "excessive" glue....
58. Rubber Stamps with letters
59. Viewmaster and reels --I'm trying to collect educational rather than twaddle reels (cartoon characters = twaddle). I want to find reels of animals and places that are real.
60. Farm Animals and Barn. Our barn was being abused (read: animals left all over the house) plus we really don't have shelf space for the barn to be out all the time. So I'll bring it out from time to time...maybe when nothing else is working and the Preschooler is being a real pill.
One thing I am going to try not to worry about is "THE MESS" with some of these activities. Messes happen. Elmer's, crayola markers, and watercolors wash off. Sand and rice vacuums up. (You'll note I didn't put finger paints or tempera paint activities here...#1, that's not recommended without supervision...because tempera stains...and #2...well, tempera stains. LOL I've chosen things that will have a moderate clean up factor, if any. I may even let the Preschooler use the vacuum hose to clean up any spills...the other two will probably fight her for the "privilege". LOL And when they're old enough to actually handle the vacuum, it's no longer "fun" for them and they don't want to do it!