Whether your kids are home with you every day, some days, or when preschool is closed for a break, keeping little ones entertained for multiple hours isn't always easy. Aside from watching
Frozen on a loop, there are a lot of great activities for kids under the age of 6 that will keep them occupied and give you a minute to have some coffee.
It's no secret that kids have very short attention spans (again, unless Queen Elsa is on the TV), so having a toolbox full of age-appropriate activities will help keep whining and boredom to a minimum. If you have two kids with very different skill levels, there are a lot of ways to use the same materials for two separate activities so they're both learning, but also feeling like they're playing together.
If you've found yourself searching for ways to keep your preschooler entertained, the best thing to remember is that simplicity is best. You don't need a lot of bells and whistles to make an activity fun, because chances are good that if it's
age-appropriate and interactive, your child will be engaged in no time. To help you get started, here are some fun activities for you to try with your 6-year-old. 1 Leaf Painting Kristina Mengersen / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
You can do this activity in a number of ways so that it's age-appropriate for your child. For the little ones, all you need to do is bring in a few leaves from outside and have them paint directly on them, or even use the leaves as a paintbrush. If they are a little older, you can go out together to find the leaves they want to paint/paint with.
2 Zipper, Button, & Shoelace Boards
Grab a large piece of cardboard or some scrap wood, and create an activity board with zippers, buttons, buckles, shoelaces, or whatever other fine motor skill task you'd like your kid to work on. It won't keep them occupied for hours, but it will help them practice things they need to do to get dressed on their own (and give you freedom).
3 Digging For "Garbage"
Depending on your kid's age, fill a bowl or baking dish with green rice, Jello, or homemade slime and hide little toys or figurines to serve as "garbage." Let them dig through the bowl to find the garbage and have them collect the pieces in a small container (if you want to go the extra mile, make the container look like a trash can so they can throw the garbage away).
4 Planting & Growing A Garden
For kids 18 months and older, planting and growing some flowers, herbs, or veggies is a great activity. You can use a container to plant them or set up something in the backyard. Either way, have your child dig in the dirt, put the plant in, and cover it back up. Then, every day, you can go outside with them so they can water their plant. It's the activity that keeps on giving because they get to play with dirt and water and watch something grow.
5 Clothespin Counting
If you're working on counting and numbers, cut out pieces of paper and write out a number on each one. Have your kids clip as many clothespins on the piece of paper as it reads. This activity will help them learn numbers, count, and the actual spelling of each number.
6 Float Or Sink?
You can have your kids do this activity inside or outside, depending on your feelings about water play. Fill a bucket or tub up with water and have a pile of objects next to it. Have your kid put each object in the water to find out if it floats or sinks. The older they are, the more you can explain what's happening (and start to use objects that sink slowly or float when it looks like they should sink).
7 Tissue Paper Crafts Zen Rial/Moment/Getty Images
Tissue paper is a great material for kids to play with across age groups. For smaller kids, you can cut it up into little squares and have them glue the pieces to paper to make a picture. If they're older, you can help them make a paper stained "glass" window and let them see how it looks different when light is shining through.
8 Construction Paper Weaving
Take a piece of construction paper, fold it in half, and cut pieces from the fold to about 1/2 inch from the edge. Get another piece of paper and cut it into individual long pieces, about one inch wide. Unfold the first piece of paper and then have your child use the individual pieces to create a weaving pattern. You can make this activity less complex for your child by cutting wider pieces in each piece of paper.
9 Sorting Games
Kids love to sort things, so use that to your advantage. Whatever your child is working on, whether its colors, numbers, letters, sight words, create a sorting game for it. They will love putting their knowledge to use and creating little neat piles to showcase their skills.
10 Sensory Sand
Make some homemade sensory sand (or moon sand) that your kids can dig through, mold, and build with. You can put it in a tub and let them play with it as if it were in a sandbox (except much more contained and way less dirty). Depending on your child's age, you can also have them help you make the sensory sand before playing with it.
11 Playing With Pom Poms Thanit Weerawan/Moment/Getty Images
crafting pom poms have so much potential. Smaller kids can drop them individually into a water bottle, toddlers can use tweezers to sort them, and bigger kids can use them for counting. Then, of course, they can always be used for crafting as well. 12 Food Prep
Preschool kids love nothing more than to "help" and mimic everything their parents do. Use this to your advantage and have them help you with some food prep. You can have them pour ingredients into a bowl for baking, or give them a (dull) kid's blade to slice up bananas. The older they are, the more you can have them do as your sous chef.
13 Cork Painting
Have a few corks laying around? Use them for stamp art! Let your kids make dot paintings using different size corks and a variety of paint colors. They'll love the little masterpieces, and you can use it as an excuse to pop some prosecco this weekend (it's for the kids!).
14 Scoop & Pour
This activity is best for younger kids, and you can use just about anything for a scoop and pour game. A bucket of water and some measuring cups, rice in a plastic tub, poms, sand, basically whatever you have laying around. This will help smaller kids get comfortable pouring drinks eventually.
15 Stacking & Stringing
Stacking and stringing objects is a great way to work on fine motor skills. For smaller kids, you'll want to have them string larger objects like pasta noodles on something that stands up on its own, like a wood skewer or pipe cleaner. As they get older you can use smaller objects and string, and eventually get to a point where they are making some fun beaded jewelry or key chains.
The helper age is the best time to have some extra hands when you're cleaning. Keep their tasks easy, like wiping down chairs, sinks, or mirrors. Just remember to make sure anything they use to clean is safe.
17 Anything Involving Water
It doesn't matter what age they are, if it's an activity that involves water, they'll love it. You can make an age-appropriate water table by simply filling a plastic tub of water and giving them toys drop in there. You can get even more creative by adding (kid safe) bath color tablets, bubbles, sponges, or small items they can scoop out.
18 Playing Instruments
Expose your kids to music by letting them play with instruments (just don't do it on a day you have a headache). Small children can play with anything they can shake or pound on, and older kids can get a little more complex with things like harmonicas, horns, or ukuleles.
19 Play Doh Or Clay
Play Doh is a great tool to help little kids work on their fine motor skills. They can roll it around, make shapes, and smash it up. For older kids, have them mold something with clay, then, once it's dry, let them paint their creation.
There are a lot of
yoga poses that young kids can do as a way to unwind, relax, and calm down. You can start small with your little one by teaching them to touch their toes and balance on one foot. As they get older, you can get a little more complex and even teach them a short sequence to do before bed at night. 21 Hide & Seek
Whether indoors or out, kids love to hide from their parents. Just be sure to set some parameters like no hiding in the attic or in the washing machine.
22 Dominos Giselleflissak/E+/Getty Images
You don’t even have to have an official set of Dominos to teach a child how to line them up, then knock them down. This mesmerizing stacking game can be played with mini blocks or any other pack of flat stackable items (you could go big and let them knock down a bunch of amazon boxes), this can provide hours of fun.
23 Make Friendship Bracelets
The elaborate friendship bracelets of yore are all well and good, but just by teaching a child the simple steps of braiding, they can make their very own minimalist friendship bracelets.Using a safety pin, secure three strings to a pillow and then show them how to weave the strings together.
24 Make a Collage
Have a stack of old magazines or catalogs? That’s an entire afternoon’s craft project. Find some kid safe scissors and let your child cut their favorite images (which in and of itself will feel exciting — destroying mom’s catalogs!?). Then break out the glue sticks and let them piece the images back together in any fashion they choose. Make them feel extra special by framing their collage art.
25 Put on a Play
Encouraging kids to pretend is such a powerful way to develop a child’s emotional life. And one of the best ways to do that is to help them put on a play or performance. Whether they include other kids is up to you, but by developing a scene or multiple acts (how many hours do you have?), they can enjoy the thrill of performance, validation of an audience, and overcome stage fright.
26 Sing Together
Evidence suggests that even babies in the
womb can appreciate music. And that carries on long after birth. Introduce your kids to the joy of song by singing with them. You can sing classic nursery rhymes or let them take control of Alexa to play their favorite tunes, but the important part is to sing together to show them the joy of communal voices in harmony. 27 Look at the Clouds
One of the easiest and cheapest activities you can do with your children, laying on your back looking at the clouds can fill a whole afternoon if you make it a game. Ask your child to tell you what shapes or creatures they see in the clouds as they float by. You might be surprised what they come up with.
28 Create A Paper Chain
Help your child work on their motor skills and counting skills by building a paper chain. Get some computer paper and have them cut pieces, then tape or staple them in loops, linking them as they go. You can ask your child to count the loops to see who can make the longest chain, helping them understand size and numbers at the same time.
29 Teach them How to Cartwheel David Hollingworthm Getty images
Childhood is full of milestones like the first step, the first lost tooth, the first day they learn to ride a bike. Not to be overlooked is the day a kid learns to do a cartwheel. With your help and a little bit of grass, you can help them master this tumbling technique and years of playground bragging rights.
30 Have a Fashion Show
Playing dress-up is a favorite kid activity, the more wild the clothing the better. So break out grandpa’s old bin of work boots, let your kids play with your dresses or create a costume box just for them and let them hold a fashion show — laughs guaranteed.
31 Finish the Story
You may have played this game at camp. Basically one person starts a story then passes the story to the next person, in this case your kid. So you might say “Once upon a time there was a green frog who lived in a pond and had a best friend named…” then your kids take it from there. Creative and imaginative, you can keep the story going for days if you want.
32 Play Magic Box
A classic children’s acting class game, one person pantomimes opening a box then pulls something out of it and acts out what that object is. Everyone else playing has to guess what they’re holding. A fun introduction to improv, imaginative children will love this.
33 Be a Mirror
Another acting game, sit in front of your child and tell them you’re playing mirror and they have to mirror every move you make. Then switch and you follow your child. Silly and simple, they’ll love holding the power to make you move.
This article was originally published on
Jan. 1, 2020