inspiring joy filled living

5 ways to keep a preschooler busy at home

May 7, 2020

Last week we started a crash course in homeschool and I’m desperately trying to find ways to keep my three year old busy. There are moments where the best option for my sanity is for her to watch Paw Patrol or Sofia the First, but here are a few things that have worked for us.

1. Playdoh

Oh my goodness, you guys, Paisley could play with playdoh for hours! It has been a game-changer for keeping her occupied and somewhat contained. We set up plastic placemats underneath the playdoh in an attempt to keep it from being tracked through the house. Right now she’s loving the toys that make playdoh spaghetti. She also is enjoying using plastic spoons too!

You can make your own! Check out this simple recipe here!

Another option is this really fun set!

2.  Popcorn, Cheerios and/or Gold Fish cracker counting

This one doubles as a snack! Yeah! I poured out all the snacks out on a plastic placemat (I use these for everything!) and then gave her several snack cups. She was counting and sorting her snacks into different cups. It’s more fun when you use a few different snacks. To buy a few extra minutes, she loved it when I poured out a package of fruit snacks!  

3. Pouring

Alright, this one will get all over. If the weather is nice, I highly recommend setting it up outside. Or if your kitchen needs to be mopped (let’s face it, with 3 kids at home my floors always need to be cleaned!) then go ahead and set up in the kitchen. Paisley’s favorite is to set up her plastic tea set with real water. She then loves to pour “tea” into the teacups. And back and forth until the water is covering the floor. If you don’t have a plastic tea set, feel free to use any little pitcher or plastic cups you might have. I have a robust collection of kids to go cups from Islands and CPK that I like to use on these kinds of occasions. As mentioned, the floor will be wet so have a towel handy. I like to think of this one as a win-win because Paisley was busy and my floors got a little bit cleaner. Bonus if you bribe your big kids to clean it up for you (See those fruit snacks really do come in handy. If I’m out, M&M’s do the trick too!)  

4. Sorting

Empty egg cartons are awesome for this. If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to use small plastic cups, dixie cups, or small cereal bowls. Set them up in a row. Then pour out a bunch of little objects to sort and separate. Some of her favorite things to sort are buttons, noodles, dry beans, small toys like Shopkins (my big girls have a ton of them), hair ties (again, with three girls in the house, we have a bunch), legos or any other small objects you might have. It’s great for fine motor skills too. I usually set her up next to me and if needed, give her suggestions like find all the blue objects.

5. Build a Fort

At one point or another all of my kids have loved building forts. Taking every blanket and pillow that we own and creating their own little haven is great fun! Sometimes this does require help from me or one her sisters, but once it is built then she thoroughly enjoys bringing in her stuffed animals and baby doll into the fortress. Then I bring out one of Paisley’s favorite items. This will be the highlight of the fort experience and usually buys enough time to finish 2nd-grade math. The flashlight. Something about the button, it’s fun in the fort, in the bathroom with the door closed and every closet in the house. Sometimes the magic happens and she pulls out some books to read in the fort with the flashlight. Our longest run yet was thirty minutes. 30 freaking minutes. I can get so much done in 30 minutes! Especially right now, when everyone is home 24/7 and I can’t even go to the bathroom without someone sending me a note under the door. Ok, so this one tends to be more work on the back end where clean up is involved. But I’ll take those precious minutes of being able to get a little bit of reading out loud done with my 7-year-old.

I hope these tips are helpful and bring some joy to your day as we all navigate this new normal. Full disclosure here, this is a unique and disruptive time for all of us. There are certainly moments where my fear and anxiety creep in and I’m waffling between holding back tears and crossing things off my to-do list just so I feel like I have some sense of control.

I know our precious kiddos feel it too and there might be times where the best thing to do is throw out expectations all together, snuggle under a blanket and watch Frozen for the 100th time.

Mama, you are doing an amazing job. You are strong and capable and God hand-picked you for your child. We are all in this together. 

Be well, my friend. 

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