Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Preschooler Activities

There was a post on one of the groups today from a soon-to-be first time mom who is adopting a four year old. She wanted to know some activities that she could do with her daughter.

The most important thing I've learned is that most preschoolers would rather spend quiet time with mom or dad than go to a zoo, a museum or some big show. Not that they do not like those things occasionally but what preschoolers want most is your undivided attention.
Here's our family's favorite activities:

Kitchen time. A child's size apron and their own cookie cutters, dough scraper and half moon vegetable cutter are wonderful tools. Don't fuss over cookie dough if you don't want to - buy the already prepared stuff in the grocery. We love to bake and sometimes we go all out but there is always dough in the freezer ready to slice up for cookies. Muffins are good too as they can be frozen and kept for school snacks. Friday nights are pizza night in our house. My husband stops off at the pizza parlor and buys the dough. Then he and my son make pizza and rollies (an invention of Q's that he's very proud of - rolled up pizza dough around whatever fillings he likes.) My husband slices up veggies (no my son doesn't use the veggies - but hey one day - you never know) puts out tomato sauce (homemade, from the jar or from the same pizza place) and cheese and maybe ham. My sons total time in the kitchen with dad is probably 30 min (of course, dad is in there for much longer) but the memories they are making together are pricesless. Fruit smoothies are great for breakfast or quick lunch and we always have frozen fruit on hand to make them. They can be made with milk, soy milk or just a banana and oj. This is a very noisy activity and I can see how it might be frightening for children are not accustomed to the sound.

Garden time.
You don't need a garden. 6 small herb pots a few seeds and some dirt, cover with plastic wrap and have the child mist every day. Soon they will have their own herb garden! Mint is one of my favorite herbs for children as it makes a terrific tea for tummy aches. Of course if you do have outside space that's nice too. Gardening for a preschooler means digging a hole - and watering, lots and lots of watering. Don't plant anything precious or expensive, preschoolers are going to kill half of what they plant. For that reason I buy a full tray of bedding plants and let him plant the full tray pretty close together. That way when half of them are all smashed up from gettting stepped on and squished (or drowned in over zealous watering) he doesn't really notice. This is not about the look, it's about getting dirty and feeling the earth between your toes.

Beach, lakefront, riverside;
Any place that you can wiggle your toes, run from waves, feed ducks or throw stones into the water is pure heaven for preschoolers. If they collect stones and sticks and seed pods give them some paint and glue and sparkles and let them make some art when they get home.

Movie night.
We are not big movie watchers and the language issue can make it difficult but I highly recommend the Pingu dvd. If you don't know Pingu he's a penguin and he doesn't speak english or any other human language. He does speak but it's penguin, so no one in your family will be able to understand it. Pingu lives in a snow covered land of course, with his mom and dad and his baby sister (her birth from an egg complete with doctor penguin helping with a spoon is one of my favorite episodes.) They are charming and adults as well as children will laugh throughout the episodes. We can't do movie night without popcorn and our prefered is jiffy pop for the dramatic effect of the inflating tinfoil.

We have an art table that is all his with paints, markers, oil pastels always out. I like the big artist sketch books with the wire binding. They can pull out the pictures if they want but if they leave them in you have a sketchbook of life as they see it. when one book is full put the dates on the front and keep. You'll be amazed at the progress.
When we work together we always make abstract work. Perfectionist preschoolers can get very hung up on "but I can't draw a dog as well as you!" and they can give up. So we make a lot of abstract stuff. Put a piece of paper in the bottom of an old 8x12 cake pan, roll some marbles in paint and then put the marbles in the cake pan and roll around. Or take the same pan, fill up with cheap shaving cream (about 3 inches deep) smooth it out and drizzle food coloring on the shaving cream. take a small fork and swirl the food coloring dots through the shaving cream. Now lay a piece of paper over the shaving cream and pull up slowly. You'll have a beautiful swirly masterpiece. And take yarn paint the yarn and use the yarn to paint on the paper by laying the yarn down in patterns. Lastly, we don't use crayons in our house. My son wouldn't touch them, I'm not exactly sure why but he had boxes of them and never used them. Then I bought him some inexpensive oil pastels and he's been drawing ever since. They feel very different from crayons and any child that likes hard lines and edges and drawing within the lines will not like them. But for the true budding artist you can't beat the depth of the colors and the emotion of the lines that your child will produce. Much of what he produces are literally frame worthy.

Tea parties are great for boys and girls, just invite all their stuffed animals and dolls and serve real tea (mint or fruit flavored) and of course cookies.

Camp in the living room/ dining room/ kitchen. Lots of pillows, chairs, blankets, flashlights and picture books. Make sure you get in the fort also. Don't forget the band-aids and first aid supplies, there's always a stuffed animal who gets hurt and will need some medicine.
The most important element to all of the above activities is YOU. Do not think these are activities for them to do on their own, although they may be capable. The idea is to spend some time together doing an activity that they enjoy.

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