Whether parenting is your full-time occupation, you’re a remote worker, or you work outside your home, spending quality time with your kids is still your number one priority. As your kids mature, their needs change dramatically. While toddlers might be content watching cartoons, a preschooler may need more.
With that in mind, we’ve created this list of family activities for preschoolers. As you’ll see, this list differs from similar lists made to keep toddlers entertained and engaged. To learn why suggested activities differ between the two age groups, it’s helpful to learn how toddlers are different from preschoolers.
Perfect Activities for Preschoolers
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Differences Between Toddlers and Preschoolers
Toddlers are generally thought to be between one and three years old. During their toddler years, kids become more mobile as they learn to walk, run, and climb things like furniture. While toddlers often strive to be independent, they remain heavily reliant on their parents and caregivers to satisfy their needs.
Children often start to talk during their toddler years, but their speech is often limited to simple phrases and short sentences. Toddlers are able to follow basic instructions that provide one course of instruction, such as “put your dirty clothes in the hamper.”
When they’re in this age group, kids enjoy simple activities as they start to learn shapes, colors, and some letters. Rather than playing with their peers, toddlers often engage in parallel play, meaning they play alongside other kids but they don’t play with each other.
By contrast, the age range for preschoolers is three to five years old. In general, preschoolers are even more curious about the world around them than toddlers. As a result, preschoolers often ask a lot of “why” questions to learn more about the world that surrounds them.
Kids between the ages of three and five often have more finely developed motor skills compared to toddlers. Given their more advanced speech, preschoolers are able to express their needs, wants, and feelings. Kids in this age bracket are increasingly independent as they do things for themselves, such as dressing, brushing their teeth, and lacing up their sneakers.
Preschoolers are typically more interactive with other kids and adults than toddlers are because they’re better communicators. In addition, preschoolers often engage their creative thinking skills to self-entertain. That’s why your preschooler may have an imaginary friend or be the captain of a fanciful pirate ship that’s “docked” in your living room.
An awareness of time and the difference between night and day tend to develop during a child’s preschool years. Preschoolers usually start to learn the days of the week and the months of the year as a result of their greater awareness of time.
Given the noticeable differences between the two age groups, it’s only natural that preschool activities differ from toddler activities. To keep preschoolers engaged and to facilitate their development into independent kids, it’s important to pick activities that involve your kids’ senses, challenge their minds, and develop motor skills.
Family Activities for Preschoolers
1. Plan a Treasure Hunt
While there are plenty of printable activities you can do with your young children, you can employ your inherent creativity to come up with kids’ activities that go well beyond flashcards, worksheets, and the use of a crayon or two. For example, you can plan a treasure hunt in your home.
Pick up some fake jewels from the local dollar store and plant them throughout your home and/or yard. Make a map that your preschoolers can use to find the gems. You can make your map appear old by soaking it in coffee so it will brown. Making the map look even more authentic is a breeze. Let your coffee-doused map dry out, tear some of the edges off, roll the map up, and secure it with twine.
If you don’t want to do the legwork yourself, consider signing your crew up for an in-home family scavenger hunt by Let’s Roam. Our family scavenger hunts are perfect for curious children of all ages, including your preschoolers.
2. Spread Some Slime
Sensory activities are important for young children. Making and then playing with slime with your preschoolers is a good way to engage their senses and share some ooey-gooey laughs.
While you may think making slime is more of a chore than it’s worth, think again. You can learn how to make slime by following our simple recipe. As you and your preschoolers prepare the slime, your kids can watch the ingredients form into slime right before their eyes. They can smell the mixture, too. Of course, your kids will be able to feel the slime once its transformation is complete.
3. Create a Sensory Bin
Bins filled with things that have different textures and hand-feels are a wonderful way to engage your children in some unforgettable sensory play. A sensory bin can contribute to your children’s development in some significant ways, such as:
- Encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving
- Fostering their imaginations and creativity
- Strengthening your kids’ fine motor skills
- Improving their language skills and vocabularies
To create a sensory bin, pick an appropriately sized container for the number of preschoolers who’ll participate in the sensory play. You should also consider the type of materials you’ll put in the container when you’re choosing one. For larger groups of kids and wet or damp materials, you may want to choose an unused kitty litter box. If just one or two kids will participate and you’re using dry sensory materials, you may want to go with a shallow cardboard box.
In general, it’s wise to choose a theme for your bin. Here are some theme ideas you may want to consider:
- Marine life
- Favorite movies
- Children’s books
- Your backyard
4. Prepare Kid-Friendly Recipes
Cooking with your family members is a lot of fun regardless of everyone’s age. You can get your preschoolers in on the fun by pulling out a family recipe that’s age-appropriate. What are some things you can prepare with your young family members? DIY strawberry pop-tarts and fruit roll-ups, ice cream in a bag, rock candy, popsicle sticks, and bake-less cookies are a few ideas.
Although different families may choose to make different things with their preschoolers, they all have something in common regardless of their finished products. In every household with young kids, parents can use recipes like lesson plans to teach their kids math skills, improve their reading and comprehension, and augment their fine motor skills with the precise measuring of ingredients.
As you prepare snacks and easy meals with your kids, keep the recipes they enjoy the most. As they age, you can collect their favorite recipes in a family book. When your kids have children of their own, you can give each one a copy of the book so they can prepare foodstuff with their own children using their favorite childhood recipes.
5. Do Some Science Experiments
You don’t need a full-blown lab to do some science experiments with your preschoolers. Instead, you just need an open mind, a few willing participants, and some tools and ingredients you probably already have in your cabinets or pantry.
Kids who engage in science activities starting at a young age often develop a lasting interest in science and all the things that make the world go around. If you want to jumpstart your children’s interest in science, consider doing these five super cool science experiments for kids.
6. Play Card Games
Card games help kids develop their motor skills, strategic thinking, and observational abilities. These games can also awaken your children’s competitive sides, and they can teach them valuable lessons about winning, losing, and being good sports.
Which cards games should you play with your youngsters? There are tons of card games you can play with preschoolers using a regular 52-card deck of generic cards, such as:
- Old Maid
- Go Fish
- Crazy Eights
7. Build a Fort
Whether it’s a rainy day or the sun is shining brightly, it’s a great day to build a fort with your preschoolers. Grab some blankets, sheets, and pillows, and ask your youngsters to help you build a fort in the living room. If your kids are game, leave the fort up for the night and let your children camp out in the soft structure they made.
Even if you hear your children’s hushed giggles well past bedtime, you’ll be glad you let them have some late-night fun in their fort. Just be ready for your bed to be overrun if the fort collapses or your pets decide to retake their usual floorspace.
8. Make Old Clothes New Again
Every parent knows how quickly kids grow and need new clothes. A lot of parents also know that younger children don’t always enjoy donning hand-me-downs from their older siblings. If you rely on your older kids’ clothing to dress your younger children on occasion at least, we suggest you make the hand-me-downs like-new again by tie-dyeing the items.
Tie-dyeing is one of those fun activities that can entertain preschoolers for however long your supply of pre-worn clothing lasts. The activity gives children an outlet for their creativity and artistic expression. While there’s no reason to give your children a blueprint for their tie-dye creations, you can suggest patterns like:
- Bull’s-eye patterns
- Nebula designs
- Diagonal strip patterns
- Polka dot designs
- Sunburst patterns
- Sailor stripe designs
If you’re not going to pass down clothing even after it’s tie-dyed, you can still let your kids tie-dye used clothing so you can sell the items in your next garage sale. Alternatively, you can encourage your kids to tie-dye other things, such as their blankets, pillowcases, or sheets.
9. Craft a Family Tree
Making a family tree with your kids is a fantastic way to teach them about their extended family members and deceased relatives. As you make the tree, you can tell stories about your family members and teach your kids about family traditions.
To make your family tree, gather supplies like poster board, construction paper, craft sticks you can use as branches, and family photos. You can cut out your tree’s base and some leaves using your colored construction paper and have your children glue them and some well-placed craft sticks to the poster board. As you fill the leaves with individual family members, you can cut out the relevant pictures for each leaf and affix them to your family tree as appropriate.
When your family tree is done, you should write “My Family” across the top. So that your children can expand on the tree when they’re parents themselves, consider having the tree framed or preserved in another manner so it will be available for your adult children to use as a reference when they grow up.
10. Set Up an Obstacle Course
An obstacle course is something your kids can do on their own or as a team depending on the course’s complexity. Your course can be as simple as a path cut through the backyard that has a few hurdles your kids must overcome. Alternatively, you can make an intricate course that’s fraught with difficult challenges your children will need to work as a team to conquer.
11. Put Together a Family Mobile or Collage
If you’re trying to think of a preschool family theme for an activity, why not make your family the theme just like you did for your family tree? You can use your old family photos to make a mobile. Have your kids tie each picture to a string. Then have them affix each string to a hanger to create a mobile they can hang in their room.
Your kids can also use your family photos to make a collage. Pull out a piece of poster board and have your children glue your photos to the board. Let your kids look through some magazines so they can add pictures of your family’s favorite things and activities to the collage.
12. Enjoy Fingerplays
Fingerplays are one of the kid’s activities that are sure to make everyone laugh until their tummies hurt. Draw amusing faces on your fingertips and overlap your hands so that your fingers intertwine, with your finger pads facing your children. Have each preschooler play a song using your fingers while you make a unique corresponding sound every time they press one of the “keys” that are your fingertips.
13. Encourage the Creation of a Family Book
No list of family theme activities for preschoolers would be complete without the suggestion of making a family book. You can lay the groundwork for a successful activity by getting a three-ring binder for each child. Fill each binder with some free printable sheets that will enable your kids to tell the story of your family from their own perspective.
The printable sheets should include telling lead-ins, such as “my family likes to…,” and “why I love my family so much.” As they work on their books, your kids can add pictures and handwritten notes to the pages contained within.
14. Recreate Circle Time at Home
Circle time is popular in pre-k programs because it brings kids together, helps them relate, and allows them to do some light math activities like counting others’ siblings. You can recreate this time with your kids at home.
One theme you might want to devote some time to is your individual kids. Let each child share their thoughts, likes, dislikes, and interests. Discussions like these will help your kids realize how similar and different they are from each other, and it will enable them to see that there’s nothing wrong with those similarities or differences.
To help your kids better accept themselves and each other, consider adopting an All About Me theme for the literary activities you’ll engage in while in circle. Some of the relevant books you may want to read with your kids include:
- I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont
- I Can Be Anything by Jerry Spinelli
- Marvelous Me by Lisa Bullard
- I Like Me! by Nancy Carlson
- What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan
- I’m Gonna Like Me by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell
- You Be You by Linda Kranz
- The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler and David Lee Csicsko
15. Stir Your Children’s Competitive Juices
There’s nothing wrong with some fun activities that stir up your kids’ competitive juices. If you have an old toy racetrack stored in the attic, break it out and set it up. Have your kids race each other with marbles or Matchbox cars.
If you don’t have a toy track, find one of your pool noodles and cut it in half. Use each half of the noodle as a race track your kids can use to compete with each other.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’d like to explain for family’s history and heritage to your preschooler, why not craft a family tree with them? This creative activity will make it fun! You could even create a family book with the kids!