Keeping Little Ones Busy
- Wednesday, June 18, 2008
• Sewing cards: Cardboard sewing cards can often be purchased at discount or school supply stores. Or, purchase plastic canvas and a large plastic needle at your local craft store.
• Large, wooden beads to string: Great just for fun, or for making/copying patterns. A related activity is to string Cheerios or Fruit Loops on yarn (use masking tape on the very end to make a needle).
• Puzzles: Start with simple wooden knob puzzles and move on from there. Ravensburger makes beautiful cardboard tray “see inside” puzzles.
• Nest and Stack Boxes: Wonderful toys for learning about size. Some have pictures that are completed when the boxes are stacked in the right order. Discovery Toys’ Measure Up Cups are similar, but are correct measurement-wise and are great to use with sand or water.
• Magnetic fishing: Tie a small doughnut-shaped magnet to string or heavy yarn; this is your “fishing pole.” Cut out fish from construction paper, adding a paper clip near the mouth. Children try to catch the fish with their pole. Variations: make this a learning game! Write letters or numbers on each fish. When your child catches a fish, name the letter or number for them. Later, see if they can name them by themselves. This activity can be used in the same way to teach colors, shapes, letter sounds, and so on.
• Felt board play: Betty Lukens Felts makes beautiful, full-color felts for counting, telling stories, and so on, or you can make your own by using a black sharpie to outline or draw shapes, numbers, letters, animals, and so on onto heavy duty interfacing (find it at your local fabric store). Color with pastel crayons and cut out. You can also cut pictures out of magazines or discarded books and apply iron-on interfacing to the back. For the board itself, use a large piece of heavy cardboard, wrap in blue flannel, and secure with tape/hot glue.
• Nuts and bolts: Go to a hardware store and pick out several sets of large nuts, bolts, and washers that fit together. Buy several of different diameters. Use them as an assembly project. This builds eye-hand coordination and estimation skills.
• Water play: Let your child stand on a chair or step stool at the kitchen sink and “wash” plasticware, dolls or doll clothes—or play with plastic measuring cups and old shampoo bottles.
• Rice/birdseed bin: This is a fun alternative to a sand box that can be used indoors or out by children who do not put things in their mouths. Fill a large, shallow plastic box ¼ of the way with rice or birdseed. It’s a good idea to keep an old sheet underneath, or put the whole box inside an old wading pool to keep the spills under control. Add spoons, funnels, measuring cups, a two-liter bottle, a metal strainer, etc. for play. Play figures and toy cars work well, too. Activities: stand the two liter bottle upright. Try to fill it up using the measuring cups, and then the funnel. Compare/learn math: See that two halves equal one cup, etc. Add a container of salt to the mix. Have the children use the strainer and see if they can separate the two. Just playing with the rice/birdseed is soothing to children and will engage them for a long time.
• Play dough: Provide play dishes, rollers, and cookie cutters.
• Art box: Include stickers, felt-tipped pens or colored pencils, stencils, rubber stamps, etc. Other activities that will engage a young child for a good period of time (but are a little more messy) are watercolors, coloring books with watercolors built in, collage with paper scraps, beans and macaroni, etc.
Finally, try to take on a new mindset. I’ve come to realize that interruptions will happen—they are inevitable. However, I’ve learned that interruptions can be a part of learning for my older children. Our interruptions teach us all patience, and the children learn how to do their schoolwork even when distractions are present. My older children have learned a lot about parenting, too. I know they will be confident parents someday.
Remember, this is but a short season of life. All too soon, new challenges will concern us. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our preschoolers and keep them busy with creative play. All too soon they will be grown, and we’ll wish they were little again!
Susan Lemons and her husband have been married for 23 years, and have homeschooled their four children (ages 19, 15, 6 and 4) “from birth.” Susan has earned both Associate and Bachelor Degrees in Child Development, and serves the homeschooling community as a mentor, “first contact” for new homeschoolers, and conference speaker. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about her column, or about preschool at home.
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