During the coronavirus “quarantine,” I’ve seen all the Pinterest-mom guides to kids things to do at home from preschool – painting tulips with plastic forks, making pasta jewelry, doing science experiments… but, y’all, that’s just not me. There’s a reason my kid goes to preschool, and that’s so I can outsource all that messy shit!
Don’t get me wrong… Since we’re in a shelter-in-place order and preschool has been closed, Jack and I have been doing a lot of fun activities for kids at home. He’s even been learning (shocker of all shockers!). But our home activities for kids require very few supplies, are super easy, and result in minimal clean-up.
Beware… the following suggestions are such no-brainers that they’re practically eye-roll worthy. But they pass the time like a charm! So, I give you a lazy mom’s a reluctant mom’s guide to fun things to do at home with kids!
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EASY Kids Things to do at Home – Indoors
Getting back to basics here… I feel like there are so many tech options for indoor activities with kids that we’ve forgotten about the simple stuff. Don’t get me wrong, Jack watches TV and occasionally uses an old iPad – but I do try to put some educational programming and games in the mix. Other than screen-time, here are our fun things to do for kids at home that have kept him active, entertained, and even learning:
“Painting” with Water
Since I mentioned Pinterest-mom painting projects, I’ll start with this. I first heard about “water painting” when a friend posted about it on Facebook, and I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. Turns out, it’s a great activity for kids at home, especially if painting is a regular offering at their school.
Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like — painting with water instead of paint. Yes, it’s lame AF. But, y’all, hear me out… Jack loves it! It’s one of the easiest things to do at home for kids.
I dug through a box of old colored pencils and found 3 art brushes. Grabbed some colored construction paper from the desk, and set Jack up at the table with the brushes, paper, and a dish of water. He got an absolute kick out of making streaks all over the paper. We let it dry, and he went at it all over again. I can hardly believe this “art project” actually keeps his attention!
This classic hardly requires explanation. Kids — especially preschoolers — can squish Play-Doh around for hours. I have Jack mess with it at the table to keep it all contained. Or, on a nice day, I throw it all outside on a blanket. As far as fun things to do with kids at home, this is a winner to keep kids busy.
I opted for a small Play-Doh kit perfect for young kids. The little bag has 4 containers of Doh and a dozen little cutters and molds. But they also make much more elaborate kits, if you want something more advanced.
Dry-erase Activity Books
These are my top picks for fun things to do at home for kids because they prepare preschoolers for actual instruction that’s soon to come at school. Jack is still just a pre-reader, but is already interested in writing — his name, mostly, but it’s a start! I figured I’d try to build on that, so looked for a letter-tracing book for him.
I was hoping for something reusable, so I wouldn’t have to pick up trails of paper strewn all over the house or have to keep buying replacement tracing paper. So, I did an Amazon search for “dry-erase letter books.” Imagine my surprise when it actually returned results! He’s also into mazes, so I tried my luck searching for that, too. Incredibly, I scored again!
Y’all, he loves them. He zoomed through the entire maze book the first day it arrived, then erased everything and immediately did it a second time.
And the letter tracing? He’s actually pretty damn good at it! Each letter page also comes with an additional page of activities, so Jack’s learning more than just writing. I initially thought he might still be a little young for something like this, but now I feel I missed an opportunity to start sooner.
Coloring with Mess-free Markers
Coloring is an activity that’s stood the test of time (if it hadn’t, they wouldn’t be making adult coloring books these days, amirite??), so we do a lot of that. But when we parents aren’t watching, who can trust their kid to color without coloring on things that shouldn’t be colored on? I can’t.
So, when he’s coloring unsupervised, he now exclusively uses mess-free markers and paper. The markers can only draw on the specially-made paper, and can’t mark up anything else in the house. #ParentingWin
Crayola makes various coloring books to use with their Color Wonder markers (Jack is particular to Daniel Tiger), but they also make blank drawing paper. This is a go-to if I need some time to make a meal!
Kids Playing Cards
We’ve tried to introduce card games a few times with little success. But, for whatever reason, it finally clicked! Go Fish is the game of choice, and Jack loves counting his matches at the end of the game.
We have the alphabet game cards for Jack, which gives us the added bonus of practicing upper- and lower-case letters with him, as well as learning about adult and baby animals.
Every time he draws a card, he asks me to re-fan his hand so he can hold it properly… which makes it tough not to take every match from him I can. I resist, which means he wins a lot. But the more success he has early on, the more he’ll want to play, so it works out!
YouTube Exercise Videos for Preschoolers
We’ve been trying to take Jack to a little Ninja Warrior gym a couple times a week, but it closed when it was still cold out. So much of our indoor entertainment for kids is sedentary, so I looked for some active things to do at home while inside. I turned to YouTube and searched exercise videos for preschoolers, to keep him moving when we’re spending time indoors. I quickly discovered that he doesn’t love exercise videos… unless they’re being led by cartoon characters!
Little Sports has become his channel of choice. The two characters lead short sets of exercises like jumping jacks, windmills, toe touches – easy indoor physical activities for kids. I’d say it’s great for littles as young as toddlers, on up to elementary kids. The videos range from 9 minutes to 30, so there’s something for all attention spans. They’re some of the best indoor activities for kids to stay moving, IMO.
Outdoor Activities for Preschool Kids
We have a postage-stamp backyard with a tall privacy fence. We don’t use it a ton, because we typically like Jack to play with other neighborhood kids who run around the ‘hood in a large pack. But, in these times of self-isolation, the backyard has worked out pretty well! Here’s what we’ve been doing:
Preschool Nature Scavenger Hunt
This is a super easy idea for things kids can do at home in the yard. It requires literally zero prep or supplies, meaning zero effort on your part. Just ask your kid to find things that are already outside. I ask Jack to find clovers, ants, flowers, etc. Then we talk about his treasure (“How many petals does that flower have? How many legs does that bug have?” You get the idea.).
When he gets tired of that, I’ll hide some toys in the yard. He’s obsessed with his little dinosaur figurines and the idea of being a paleontologist, so telling him to go dig for dinosaurs works, too. He also has a thing for egg hunts, no matter the time of year, so I break out the plastic eggs regularly.
If it’s too cold out, all this easily transfers to an indoor scavenger hunt for preschoolers, too! Scavenger hunts are, by far, the easiest of my picks for fun activities to do at home with kids. And at zero dollars, it’s the cheapest, too!
When it comes to activities at home for kids, bubbles are simple, they’re cheap, and what kid doesn’t love bubbles? We went an extra step and got Jack a bubble-blower, and it’s been a hit. Of course, Jack being so little means the bubble machine isn’t always used as intended… but his antics are so stinkin’ cute!
He points it into the bushes around the yard, covers them with bubbles, and calls them “bubble bushes.” He does the same with the patio furniture. But my favorite is when he puts on a pair of my shades and makes “bubble glasses.” Who knew bubbles did more than just blow away in the wind??
Drawing With Sidewalk Chalk
This is absolutely the time to break out the sidewalk chalk. Jack loves drawing on the concrete and, these days, he says all his odd shapes are musical instruments (*insert shrug emoji*). This activity typically requires lots of participation from me, since he often asks me to draw things with him. I also use our chalk play as an additional opportunity for him to practice his letters, numbers, and shapes – doing it outside sometimes holds his attention longer than practicing inside.
And, I’ll sheepishly admit, I did borrow a Pinterest suggestion for this one. After searching for fun things to do at home with family, we took the idea of using painters’ tape to make shapes on the sidewalk that we then color in. Works great for kids Jack’s age, and older kids, too. And when that loses it’s luster, there’s good old-fashioned hop-scotch!
Kids Water Table Play
A while back, we got Jack a toddler water table, and it’s the toy that holds his attention the longest of any other. He can splash around in that thing for hours. Yes, it gets all over, but it’s just water… far easier to clean than any other medium! It’s been one of the best activities for kids at home that we’ve ever purchased.
And, on the learning front, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Jack drops things in and tries to guess whether they’ll sink or float, and we’re even having conversations about wave energy. Water tables provide pretty kick-ass STEM learning opportunities. And the entertainment factor holds for a wide range of ages – from babies all the way up to 40-somethings (okay, me… I’m talking about me).
We have one with a cover, so we don’t even have to empty and refill it between play sessions! #WorkSmarterNotHarder, y’all!
And there you have it – my suggestions for preschool-age things to do with kids at home while quarantined! Like I said, suuuuuper simple… no-brainers for most people. But it’s hard to remember some of these basics when we’re being bombarded by all the elaborate Pinterest projects in our various news feeds, and feeling pressured to live up to them.
Between trying to do my own work, make meals, etc., I don’t have the energy or brain power to set-up elaborate crafts for Jack. So, these are the kid’s activities at home that we’ve been rotating through to pass the time while preschool is closed. They’re all so easy to prep and clean-up – if that’s even necessary at all!
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