For the first few weeks of quarantine, my two- and four-year-old didn't seem to notice too much how much life has changed recently. They randomly ask about our routine outings (COSI, the zoo, etc.) and their friends, but we've kept ourselves busy at home and with (short and loud) hiking trips. But as the weeks drag on, I can tell my people are starting to feel a difference in our daily lives, even if they can't articulate it. It's getting easier for them to slip in to a place of boredom and restlessness that gives way to some less pleasant behaviors.
I want to continue providing my kids with fun ways to learn, but sometimes it's hard for me to generate my own ideas. I am so thankful for the myriad of free, online education resources and activities available! I do occasionally find myself slipping into what feels like a black hole of trying to find the right activities. So I asked three Kindergarten teachers what activities they recommend for parents and preschoolers spending extra time at home right now. Here are some of their suggestions, along with related links that i've sifted through...
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts not only get our littles up and moving with purpose, they are also great for teaching kids to notice things. An indoor scavenger hunt is a fun way for kids to view their normal surroundings a bit differently. When the weather cooperates, take the hunt outside and look for things in your neighborhood or search for things in nature on a hike in the woods.
Create an Obstacle Course
Homemade obstacle courses are another fun way to keep littles active and engaged. There are lots of examples indoor and outdoor DIY obstacle courses online. If you have one of those collapsible play tunnels, a few sports cones and some pool noodles, there are myriad possibilities. I personally do not own any of those things, so yesterday I took our couch cushions, a couple of small slides, a basketball and hoop, and some stuffed animals and made up my own...my kids were thrilled.
For indoor obstacle course ideas, check out this dad-approved indoor obstacle course example. Or take a look at this outdoor obstacle course option that only requires chalk and sidewalk!
Make a Fairy Garden
Confession: I had to Google "fairy garden" to figure out what that is after reading it as a recommendation from the Kindergarten teachers I consulted. From what I gather, fairy gardens are small manicured garden spaces, that often include small ornate plants and figurines or decorations. If you don't feel like going to great lengths to collect these particular elements (that may or may not be scattered all over the back yard by small hands), collect things in nature with your little and make your own preschooler fairy garden. Moss, twigs, small plants or seedlings, one of the dozens of tiny doll toys floating around the house, rocks to paint, etc. can all be gathered together in a big pot or corner of the backyard to create a fun little play space for your child. If you, like me, have no idea what this is all about or you want more ideas, check out this example of a DIY kid-friendly fairy garden.
Connect with Nature
My four-year-old and I have had several conversations recently in which she asks to go somewhere. I have to repeat the explanation that the place in question is closed but that we can still go outside in the woods somewhere. She has learned to answer these questions of hers now with, "Hiking's not closed."
In addition to the scavenger hunts mentioned above, there are lots of ways to engage preschoolers in nature.
- Look for animals. Talk about what food they eat, where they find water, etc. to practice identifying their needs and habitat. Scholastic has a neat three-week learn at home plan for PreK that largely focuses on animals and nature.
- Re-create an animal's habitat using things found in nature, like this animal habitat project for kids.
- See how many different kinds of leaves, seeds, blossoms you can find. Depending on your child's academic level (and your interest in seeds), you can check out Scholastic's five-day lesson plan on seeds.
- Pick two leaves or flowers and name all the things that are the same and different about them.
- Play I Spy, hiking edition. Put a forest-focused twist on this classic kids game to practice using nature vocabulary and observation skills.
- Read a book outside together! This can make stories like these springtime-focused picture books come to life.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of at-home activities to do with your preschoolers, but hopefully you've discovered a new idea or two to spark your imagination and inspire something fun that you can enjoy with your young one!