Do you have a hard time coming up with new and creative ways to keep preschoolers busy WITHOUT screens? Check out my ideas that are tried and true. Nurture their love for learning and exploring. These activities are great, because most of them don’t require full parent supervision, so they make awesome activities for them while you’re trying to get things done as well!
If you’ve ever seen how preschools often divide things up, you might notice that there are usually a lot of stations for kids. My preschoolers are not the cleanest of folks, in fact they make most of the messes in my house, so I like to make them portable stations that I can put up in the closet or on a shelf when not in use. Do it however it works best for you!
- Inexpensive Crafts – Our favorite crafts over the years have been the easy kind that use household supplies. These may require a little bit of prep, but Enchanted Learning has some cute instructions on how to make animal paper bag puppets. They also have instructions on how to make tons of different paper plate crafts out of those cheap, thin, white paper plates and some construction paper, markers, and glue.
- Playdoh – This is a no-brainer for most parents, but I like to take it a step further and only let my kids play with it if they’re using a cookie sheet with sides. It stays contained and you have a lot less mess. Before we went to the cookie sheet system, we would end up with Playdoh (affiliate link) all over the cracks in our chairs, and that hard to dig out!
- Water Fun – You don’t have to have a water table (aff) for your children to get the benefits of playing in the water. We often use our small sink in our half bathroom downstairs, or sometimes the kitchen sink. You could also fill a small plastic tub, even the small shoebox size, up with a few inches of water. Give your preschooler some measuring cups, measuring spoons, floating boat toys or other bath toys, a watering can, or whatever else you can think of.
- Mazes and Dot to Dots – There are several places that you can print these off online. All Kids Network has mazes, dot to dots, hidden pictures, color by number, and more. Raising Out Kids also has a nice selection, and they even have some simple “how to draw” sheets.
- Lacing and Beading – Shoelaces are a cheap and perfect way to help kids work on their fine motor skills. They’re great for using with lacing cards (aff) because of their size and the reinforcement at the ends. They also work perfectly for beading activities with either large beads with the huge holes in the middle or pasta with large middle sections (like rigatoni or ziti).
- Dry Erase – My kids are obsessed with my dry erase boards. I use them for my older children to do homeschool work, but my little guys can’t get enough! They’re more than happy to spend 10-20 minutes drawing on their. It’s even more fun if you provide them with a small package of tissues or a little dry erase board eraser. Mine love to draw, erase, draw, erase, draw, erase for a good long while! If you have time, it could be a fun activity to do with your child if you take turns drawing something together. For example, you could draw a flower together, where one person draws the middle, the next does a petal, the first person does another petal, and on until you’ve created a masterpiece together.
- Color Wonder – We love Crayola’s Color Wonder (aff) products in our house. My kids can draw all over themselves and the house and not get marker EVERYWHERE. We also like that it is non-toxic and there are color sheets available that are totally blank and also all of the cool cartoon characters that they love.
- Dress Up – You can easily purchase premade dress up costumes, and even chests filled with outfits. However, you don’t have to spend a dime! Pull things from your own closets, throw in some extra fabric that you have cuts or yardage of, make something out of cardboard boxes or milk cartons, get creative!
- Scissor Skill Station – This one is great for doing inside of a big plastic tub. It will help eliminate the mess while still being a lot of fun. Fill a big storage tub with some safety scissors and any kind of scrap paper, wrapping paper, junk mail, and/or recycleable product packaging. Your preschooler will have a blast tearing and cutting it all apart! Save the scraps for the next idea…
- Craft Creations – In another big tub, you can include small poster boards or manilla paper, scrap paper (possibly from the scissor skill station above), Washi tape, scrap fabric, stickers, colored pencils, crayons, glue sticks, white glue, and even some little hole punchers. Your preschoolers will be able to make whatever their heart desires! Be aware that some preschoolers need a little more guidance than others, so some might be overwhelmed with all of that and might prefer for you to draw a small template on a paper, for example of a flower, and have you tell themto use the scraps to make the flower. Adapt it to fit your child’s needs for some crafty, creative fun.
- Letter Practice – Tracing letters or practicing printing numbers can be a great screen-free activity for kids. There’s a great hair gel bag method that kids love, or you could try salt or sand letter tracing, too.
- Activity Books – We like to buy the inexpensive activity books at Dollar Tree with coloring pages and mazes. You can also purchase some skill-based books from Kumon (aff) like tracing, dot to dots, logic problems, and more. They’re fairly inexpensive and very educational.
- Letter and Number Magnets – These are terrific for preschoolers. My favorite way to play with these with my kids is to give them a cookie sheet! They’re magnetic, portable, and sort of control how much space your child is using while playing with them.
- Building Blocks – We have a HUGE stash of wooden blocks for our kids to build with. We also have quite a few Mega Bloks (aff) and Duplo sets. These are perfect for keeping your preschoolers busy while creating special, unique projects. Don’t forget to take a picture of their cool creations so they can brag about them later to friends and family that weren’t around to see it the first time!
- DANCE PARTY! – This one is our family’s stand by! If all else fails, turn on some tunes and host a dance party. You can usually find some “clean” top hits radio stations on free apps or you can pop in some KidzBop, Nursery Rhymes, or whatever else your kids like to jam to.