I don’t know about your family, but my family gets stuck in a rut very easily. We hear a lot of whining for more screen time. Well, maybe not whining so much as debating. By the end of the summer, Dash had learned that if he whined for more screen time, he lost it. Instead, he would build up a case for how we should actually run screen time: what days, how often, and why it was necessary. We were looking forward to kindergarten starting so we didn’t need to hear his testimonies again and again. We had to find some screen free preschool fun!
Now that school has started, I don’t have to listen to his reasoning, but I still have one child at home and it would be easy for me to just turn on the TV and let him watch so that I can get some stuff done.
Instead, we played with cars, went on a run (while Jack rode his bike), visited some friends, played more cars, and set up his train track. He also helped me bake banana bread and played with soapy water in the sink. Currently, he is back in his room with the train.
Go-To Screen Free Preschool Fun
Being at home alone is not going to get easier, so I will need to have some tricks up my sleeves.
- Preschool Programs: One of those tricks is Three Rivers Parks Preschool Programming.
- Exercise and Play: Another trick is going to the Y for exercise and playtime.
- Books: And of course, the library!
- Fresh Toys: A key way to stay home is to use the toys we have and rotate them. Maybe not everyday but at least a couple times each week. This may be the time to consider a membership to the Minneapolis Toy Library. Start out Monday mornings by selecting your “new” toy of the week!
Mommy (or Daddy) and Me Outings:
My Screen Free Preschool Fun Arsenal
Some of the toys in our rotation will be creative and some just fun. But these are the items I like to have on hand all the time.
1. Trains & Cars
Pushing a vehicle along a floor can entertain for at least 10 minutes, maybe even 15! I’m kidding. With the right set up and a little time playing along when you need a break from housework, this can be a go-to.
Where to Find Them. If you are not already over-run, wheeled toys of all sorts are easy to find second hand. We also like the clean lines of the wooden toy below from Imagine Childhood.
Preschool kids are just getting to the age where they can manipulate Legos enough to start building. During the day they don’t have to fight with the big kids for all the best pieces. Set them up at the dining room table for building fun.
Budget Fun: If you are not already getting it for your older kids, now is the time to sign up for the FREE LEGO Magazine. These fun periodicals will just keep coming until they are 9 years old and they offer tons of ideas and entertainment.
Where to Find Them. While LEGOs can be found anywhere you buy toys, you may want to consider signing up for a monthly Brick Loot Subscription Box. Your Pre-K will get a new theme box in the mail each month with LEGOs, design ideas by famous designers, mini figures and other exclusives. Packages are approximately $25/month.
3. YOXO (Play from Scratch)
Paired with any cardboard you happen to have on hand, YOXO offers endless fun. Joy’s family created a family puppet show out of YOXO pieces and packaging from Cloth Diapers. Get your preschooler started with this idea and they’ll follow you around with puppet entertainment all day long.
Budget Fun: Because YOXO packs are getting harder to find, I recommend tracing the ones you have onto sturdy cardboard so you can make your own when the originals wear out. Definitely look around the house for items to mix with your YOXO toys. Consider your recycle bin your “expansion pack”.
Where to Find Them: Unfortunately, these locally-made toys have gotten pretty hard to find since we originally published this article. YOXO is currently out-of-stock on Amazon*. We don’t know if they’ll be back. I grab them every time I see them at thrift stores and luckily, since they are locally made, I do sometimes see them. Some of our local museum stores may also still have some in stock.
4. Play Dough
Pull out the cookie cutters, the pasta press, a rolling pin and let them go crazy rolling snakes and making “cookies” for you to declare delicious.
Budget Fun: Instead of buying Play Doh, make Easy Sugar Cookies. All the fun of Play Doh with a snack at the end.
Where to Find Them: You can purchase a Play Doh Super Color Pack of 20 from Hand2Mind for $23.99 that can last all school year.
The trick to puzzles is to pick a theme your child loves. Once they get the puzzle bug, you can expand and start to go with more and more pieces. This can even become a life-long hobby.
Budget Fun: Some Little Free Libraries feature puzzles. Take a puzzle home and then return it when you are done. Puzzles are also a great thing to check out from the Toy Library.
Where to Find Them: Find the LOL! Surprise Puzzle in a Ball featured below through our affiliate link to Fun.com.
6. Dress up and Pretend Play
The best thing about being home, is that your preschooler can live in their dress up clothes if they want. Let them pretend to the heart’s content and try out different grown-up personas.
Budget Fun: Discards from your own wardrobe and a few scarves and old sheer curtains can provide tons of fun.
Where to Find Them: We became affiliates of Little Adventures because their dress up clothes are high-quality real clothes. You can wash and dry and re-wash and dry these costumes as often as needed. Find fun outfits for both boys and girls with fairy tale and adventure themes. Fun.com also offers High Quality Dress Up Costumes – specializing in licensed characters.
I completely expect to have a helper with me all day long. Helping in the kitchen, helping with the laundry, helping out in the yard. But I think letting him play on his own and encouraging creativity will be something that will help him even more in life!
And don’t get me wrong. I do plan to use the TV. I have a feeling it will be an easy fallback for me. (Just being real, folks)
This article was originally written by Gianna Kordatzky in September of 2014 and is updated as needed.
More At Home Resources for Parents with Preschoolers
- Tinkergarten offers fun outdoor exploration activities to do with preschool kids. Do them on your own or join on of their classes.
- Maestro Classics is a fun way to introduce kids to classical music through stories and activities. (Affiliate link).
- Our Top 3 Games to Play with Preschoolers
- 6 Ways to Raise Socially Aware Preschoolers and Caring Toddlers.
*This article contains affiliate links to Imagine Childhood, Brick Loot, Amazon, Hand2Mind & Maestro Classics