101 Amazingly Awesome Things to do with your Preschooler

I was recently sent a link by a friend who found this great list of 101 things to do with your preschooler over at Southern Disposition.  I found it to be a great list and thought I'd share.

Sometimes my mommy brain needs a little creative prodding (does yours?). I want to do fun things with Sadie, but when I'm dry on ideas, we pop in a DVD. Don't judge me...you do it too. I recently went looking for a list of good activities that met some or all of the following criteria:

- rainy day activities
- sunny day activities
- activities that teach a life skill
- activities that teach basic kindergarten readiness
- activities that are free (or nearly free)
- activities that require interaction
- activities that spark curiosity

I found a few good ideas, but mostly, I saw a lot of "go outside and play" or "stay inside and play" type suggestions. While those are indeed excellent suggestions, I decided to make my own list so that other mommies who are potentially struggling with the "what should I do with my kid today" rut will have a few fresh ideas!

Here's a handy-dandy list of 101 Amazingly Awesome Things to do with Your Preschooler. (ok, a few of them aren't amazingly awesome, but 97 of them are.)

1. Pick dandelions and sort them by blossom size - they get "flowers" and you get free weeding! Put them in a little glass of water on the dining room table.

2. Cook spaghetti together. Let your child pour in the sauce, pour water (from a pitcher) into the pot, and break the noodles.

3. Paint on a canvas.

4. Open a blank document and let them type words that you spell for them (or their name) on your computer.

5. Lie outside on a blanket and point out shapes in the clouds.

6. Take a plastic baggie on a nature walk, and ask your child to find ten different things. Lay out the collection of found nature objects and compare their shapes, colors, textures, and smells.

7. Make sidewalk chalk art. Teach your child how to play hopscotch!

8. Dye eggs. (Who says you have to wait for Easter?)

9. Play "I Spy" with letters of the alphabet and/or household objects ("I spy something that starts with the letter 'W'" or "I spy something that plugs in,")

10. Sort something by color together (clothes, toys, books, etc).

11. Go to a hardware store and pick out a bunch of paint chip strips. Cut out the squares and glue pairs of them back-to-back on a length of string to make a paint chip garland (the string should be between the back-to-back paint chip pieces when you glue them together).

12. Play "Follow the leader."

13. Look at old photos and point out friends and family members. Talk about how they are different now.

14. Eat a spoonful of peanut butter. Or Nutella. Or something else that should probably be forbidden to be eaten by the spoonful. Pretend it's an extra special amazing treat and you're only giving it to them because you're the best mom (or dad) ever.

15. Move the living room furniture, put blankets and pillows on the floor, pop popcorn, and watch a movie.

16. Have a family game night...stack up games like Candy Land, Guess Who?, and Chutes and Ladders, and play until bed time.

17. Teach your child how to use your camera (or get them one of their own), and let them take a picture of you. Print it, frame it, and put it in their room.

18. Put on jeans and long-sleeve shirts and roll down a hill together.

19. Tell a story about when they were a baby.

20. Tell a story about when YOU were a baby.

21. Pull up blades of grass and sort them from smallest to tallest. Practice whistling through grass.

22. Teach them how to taste honeysuckle.

23. Sort jewelry by color, then re-sort by type.

24. Line up the stuffed animals on the sofa in the living room, give your kiddo a microphone (or a hairbrush, or a magic wand), and let them perform their favorite song.

25. Throw a sheet over the dining room table and make a fort underneath.

26. Match socks. Use the leftover ones to make sock puppets.

27. Have a conversation with them that aims at teaching them something. Talk about the function of the dishwasher as you unload it ("What do you think this does with the dishes?") or about why the ice in their drink melts when you pour them a glass of water ("Do you think the ice will stay in there forever? Will it melt? Why?")

28. Make music out of kitchen utensils.

29. Ask your child what their favorite animal is, what they think it eats, where they think it lives, etc. Then let them help you figure out what letter their animal starts with, ask them to help you find that letter encyclopedia, and look it up (yeah...like in a book.). Show them a picture of their animal and read them some interesting information.

30. Go to a park that has a playground and give them a quest ("Let's pretend that play structure is a ship!")

31. Go to a park without a playground. Take a ball or a bike.

32. Blow bubbles and try to catch them on the wand as they fall without making them pop.

33. Let your child cut the letters of their name out of a magazine with safety scissors and paste the letters (in order) onto paper.

34. Let your child cut out "things they love" in a magazine with safety scissors and use them to make a collage. Parenting magazines and magazines specifically for kids are great for this!

35. Have a tickle fight.

36. Have a pillow fight.

37. Roll your kids up in blankets and pretend they're cocoons. See who can get out of their cocoon first and turn into a butterfly.

38. Put on relaxing music and do some yoga together...or pretend to do some yoga together. They'll never know the difference.

39. Play with play dough.

40. Spell words and play word games with magnetic letters ("Which one spells 'Daddy?' Is this word 'cat' or 'bat?'").

41. Go outside and spin in circles until you get dizzy and fall over...it's fun to watch kids walk after this.

42. Make a sensory box out of dry rice or beans and a shallow plastic container with a lid. Use funnels, measuring cups, and other containers to play in the box.

43. Spray shaving cream on a cookie sheet and write, draw, and sculpt with it.

44. Put six clear glasses on a table. Put a half cup of water in three of them - one with several drops of red food coloring, one with blue food coloring, and one with yellow food coloring. Use the empty three glasses to figure out what colors red+blue, blue+yellow, and yellow+red make when they are mixed together.

45. Shine a flashlight onto the wall in a dark room and make shadow puppets.

46. Let your kid pick out (or make) thank you notes and then USE them.

47. Show your child how to read the numbers on the digital clock on the cable box or the microwave (super helpful with keeping morning routines on track!).

48. Cut shapes out of construction paper, and then give your child school glue and dictate a sequence to them ("first, glue the big yellow square in the middle of the page, now glue the red circle to the top of the square, and now put the three little blue triangles inside the square"). Praise them for their ability to follow directions well. Praise yourself for reinforcing shapes, colors, patience, fine motor skills, and following directions all in the same activity.

49. Make letter shapes with your bodies.

50. Introduce your kid to classical music while riding in the car (You know...the station is always something like 89.7 or 90.5...you'll find it). Ask them questions about the music, ("Do you hear the violin? The flute is making this sound [insert your best flute imitation here]").

51. Commission a piece of artwork. ("Can you draw a picture of our family with your crayons?"). Once it's done, find somewhere prominent to hang it in your house.

52. Take a trip to the library for story time or to pick out books. Explain how libraries work.

53. Look up free activities in your area (things like "Touch a Truck" where kids can meet firemen and construction workers, or town park nights, or seasonal festivals).

54. Go to a baseball game...eat a hot dog.

55. Have your child pick out seeds for something (a vegetable, a flower, etc.). Help them plant it, take care of it, and watch it grow. If it's a veggie, reap and eat it!

56. Skype with a friend, a grandparent, or someone else who is far away.

57. Go to an antique store and peruse. Point out things that "used to be" to your kid...they'll be amazed that there was ever a world where rotary phones existed (and cellular phones didn't).

58. Play hide and seek or indoor flashlight tag.

59. Make bean bags (or rice bags) for a bean bag toss game. Use a hula hoop, bucket, or bowl for the goal.

60. Take a bucket of water and a paintbrush outside. Paint sidewalk art with water.

61. Make an easy indoor scavenger hunt ("Find a coaster, a bracelet, a crayon, and a sock!")

62. Make an easy outdoor scavenger hunt ("Find a pine cone, a flower, a rock, and a leaf!")

63. Go to a Lowe's or Home Depot kids' DIY clinic. (Click on the links for more info).

64. Hang a prism in the window and watch the rainbows.

65. Throw a pile of pillows blankets, and stuffed animals onto the floor and jump into them (the rainy day version of jumping into a pile of leaves).

66. Create a series of physical challenges ("first do a somersault, then do four jumping jacks, next crawl to that tree, and then run to the fence.")

67. Play charades using props.

68. Go to the farmers market. Make sure your kid will never embarrass you by not knowing what a potato looks like before it turns into French fries. ("that vegetable is an eggplant - see how shiny and purple it is? Is it bigger or smaller than the yellow squash? Which vegetable should we take home tonight to cook for dinner? Will you help me make it?")

69. Picnic in a park...or in your back yard. Let your child hep you make sandwiches and pack juice boxes and count grapes as you put them into plastic baggies.

70. Get various (safe) items from around your house (a favorite stuffed animal, the remote control, a book, a crayon), blindfold your child, and then let them try to guess what the thing is just by touching it. Take turns!

71. Make a beaded necklace out of a piece of string (or jewelry elastic) and some beads.

72. "Tight Rope Walk" on the curb (safely please).

73. Taste and smell the spices on the spice rack (only use a speck if tasting...a little goes a long way). Ask questions about the spices ("Which one smelled sweeter: the cinnamon, or the garlic powder?")

74. Cut out and decorate a mask using the cardboard from the inside of an empty box of cereal. Tie it around their face with string or elastic.

75. Limbo with a broomstick.

76. Play indoor Marco Polo - crawl on the floor instead of swimming.

77. Find your town on a map or a globe. ("Where does Grandma live? Where was Daddy born?")

78. Play high/low. ("What is the best thing that happened to you today? What's the worst? What is the best part about being a big brother? What's the worst part?"). Encourage conversation that stems from these questions.

79. Build a bird feeder together. Cover a pine cone with peanut butter, roll it in bird seed, hang it from a tree, and watch for birds.

80. Tell your child five reasons why you think they're the best kid ever.

81. Point out things in your house that are in the shape of a circle, square, rectangle, triangle, etc. ("How many circle shapes do you see on the ceiling? What is the shape of this pillow? Let's put all of the square pillows in this pile and all of the rectangle pillows in this one!")

82. Turn off the TV.

83. Play big band music and dance around the living room.

84. Let your child pick out a new toy that they want, and then tell them that they have to earn the money to get it. Encourage them to do chores or help them take a photo of an old toy and put it up for sale on Craig's List or Ebay. Once the item is sold, help them take it to the post office and ship it. Make sure you remind them along the way what their "goal toy" is so that they'll remember why they're doing all this work.

85. Pretend to be statues. Tell your child to stand really still and see if you can get them to move without touching them/tickling them, etc. Take turns!

86. Go to a pet store and look at the dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, parakeets, goldfish, lizards, and hamsters. Talk about all the different types of animals that can be pets. Ask to hold them. Which ones are soft? Which ones are friendly? Which ones are the easiest to take care of?

87. Practice fine motor skills like buttoning, zipping, tying, buckling, fastening, and snapping. Cut up old clothes and put the fine motor pieces into a storage container to keep on hand so that your child can play/practice.

88. Put on old clothes, go outside with your child, and tell them to get as dirty as possible...you don't want to see a speck of clean on them when they're done playing.

89. Pretend you're just meeting your child and practice shaking hands. Please teach them to grasp firmly and make eye contact. It's never too early to learn, and they'll feel grow n up while they're practicing.

90. Play the rhyming game. Think of a word and then take turns thinking of rhyming words...even if they're made up words, they still count! Read a Dr. Seuss book for ideas...

91. Ask your child to put together a donation box of old toys, and then take it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army (or your favorite donation center), and let your child give the box away themselves. Explain the significance of donating, and walk around the store...maybe you'll find something awesome!

92. Pick out three piggy banks for your child. Paint them, decorate them, or just purchase and use pre-decorated ones. Tell them that one is for saving, one is for spending, and one is for giving. Give your child a stack of quarters, dimes, and nickels, and let them figure out how to split their stash among their banks. Define "saving," "spending," and "giving."

93. Make patterns. Use a stash of buttons, silverware, legos, or anything you can find that has multiple matching pieces. Start laying out a pattern (i.e., yellow button, blue button, blue button, yellow button, blue button, blue button), and let your child try to finish the pattern once you've gotten it started.

94. Make a paper target by tracing circles onto paper in a variety of sizes (use plates, cups, and bowls for an easy pattern), and hang it on the refrigerator. Toss plain magnets at it and see who can get closest to the bulls eye.

95. Bake cookies from scratch.

96. Visit a local petting zoo.

97. Lie outside in the grass, close your eyes, and talk about what you hear instead of what you see (birds? wind? cars?).

98. Put on gloves, grab a trash bag, and pick up litter around your neighborhood (keep a close eye on kids for this one).

99. Build a terrarium together.

100. Host a neighborhood park night - let your child help you with the flyers, bring a case of juice boxes, and let the playground equipment do the rest of the work.

101. Create a treasure map and go on a treasure hunt. Make sure the treasure is worth the quest! Bonus for dressing up like pirates.

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