The space you live in may have limits but a kid’s energy and curiosity know no bounds. With a little imagination, you can keep preschool kids busy if they’re stuck indoors with some fun activities, craft projects, cool games and a few household items. Channel your preschooler's endless verve into a focused (and lengthy!) indoor play session… with a little learning snuck in on the side.
Make an Exercise Dice
Get the preschool kids on their feet with a large, homemade DIY dice that has a challenge written on each side. The game is to roll the dice and then do the activity that lands face up.
You can download, print and glue our easy dice template (see below), or create your own. To make the dice, cut six pieces of thick and sturdy cardboard into even-sided squares (20cm x 20cm is good). Write a fun activity on each square, such as ‘Reach for the stars 10 times’ or ‘Do 10 jumping jacks’ (young yoga enthusiasts might prefer ‘Hold tree pose for five seconds’ or ‘Do downward dog for 10 seconds’).
Turn the squares over so that you can’t see the activities and lay them on a flat surface in a lower case ‘t’ shape. Join the edges with some strong tape (like duct tape), with extra pieces at the ends of the top and sides of the ‘t’ but not along the base. Fold up the top and sides, then bring the base of the ‘t’ over to make the top of the dice. Reinforce all your edges with more tape (any colour will do but since this tape runs along the outside edges and will be visible, rainbow is a fun idea). Your dice is ready! Just roll and get ready for some squeal-inducing fun indoor play – preschoolers will love the anticipation of not knowing what exercise they will have to do.
Play Kid Ninja Warrior
It’s an obstacle course with a super-charged name. Throughout your home, create a few low-investment, high-return fun activity stations that are also an age-appropriate indoor athletic challenge for kids. Think: pillow islands (pillows laid out on the floor that your child has to jump on to without falling in the ‘croc-infested water’ in between); balloon waddle (a balloon filled with air that your child has to keep between their legs as they walk); ladder jumping (create a ‘ladder’ on a hard floor with masking tape or washable chalk – whatever won’t damage your flooring – and challenge your child to jump between each rung without stopping); hoop hopping (if they can make it from one hula hoop to the next without touching the floor in-between, they win). Start the timer!
Three Ways With Water Play
Playing with water is a great game for kids and never loses its appeal. Once you get the activity set up, it requires minimal adult involvement. Warning: you will all get a little wet so the back patio is an ideal place for these activities.
Go on a scavenger hunt: add some black (or dark) food colouring or educational dye to a bucket of water, drop in some small waterproof toys and hand your preschooler some long-handled tongs or a long-handled strainer. Play a game by setting a timer and see how long it takes for kids to find each toy (a smock is a good idea to avoid splashes colouring their clothes).
Combine some role-play and water for a super easy and fun activity. Simply pretend to be a client needing some painting done, fill a bucket of water, hand the kids a large paint brush and have them ‘paint’ an exterior wall. Then watch your little painter doing long, flowing strokes up and down the wall.
Time for some target practice. Using chalk, draw a series of shapes, numbers or letters on a wall, ground or fence. To play, fill a spray bottle with water then call out the target and let your kid shoot at it until they hit, or make it disappear completely.
Go on Safari at Home
Africa may be a long way away but you can bring the savanna to your own set-up with this clever craft activity, perfect for preschool kids. Draw the ‘big five’ on some paper: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhinos – you can sketch the shapes and have the little ones colour them in. Use some Blu Tack to hide the pictures around the house (pot plants are a clever spot).
Next, use some sticky tape to connect two rolled up pieces of cardboard (or toilet paper rolls) together to make binoculars, then stick some clear cellophane or cling film over the openings at one end. Get your kid to hop in a laundry basket or cardboard box and push them around to spot the animals. To make it extra fun, play some animal sounds over your sound system.
Create Flowers and Trees from Handprints
An indoor day is the perfect time to get the paints out but few preschool age children can resist the temptation to stick their hands in. Turn those messy tendencies into easy art activities. Handprints make perfect flowers and treetops, with coloured wooden popsicle sticks as bases for the former and painted toilet paper rolls or small rolls of cardboard for the latter. Just cut out the handprints and use some glue or sticky tape to stick on to the base.
Open a Playdough Pizzeria
Even fussy eaters will love this one. Create pizza ‘ingredients’ with playdough – onion slices, tomato slices, olives, strips of red capsicum, salami rounds and so on. Then use a rolling pin to roll out a base. You order your pizza and watch your little chef whip it up.
You can take the game further by turning an empty cardboard box into an oven (draw on some numbered dials), as well as creating a menu together (a chalkboard or small whiteboard works well for this) and a ‘gelato bar’ – toilet paper rolls or rolled up cardboard are perfect as the ice cream cone.
Try a New Kind of Drip Painting
Splatting paint about comes pretty naturally to kids but this inventive kids’ craft activity adds an element of surprise. First, lay down some old newspaper or a messy mat (this will get a little messy but the activity will have a huge impact) where you are going to carry out this game – or do it on some grass in the backyard.
Get some plastic cups and puncture two holes at the top of each side of the cup, on directly opposite sides, and push some string through the holes to hang the cup. Puncture a hole in the base of each cup and cover it with some sticky tape. String the cups up – an indoor clothesline is ideal – and pour some paint into the cups, one colour per cup. Place the hanging cups over newspaper, dropcloth, grass or a sheet from a roll of butcher’s paper. Ready to play? Remove the tape from the base of the cups, have your preschooler push the cups and watch as the swinging motion creates a one-of-a-kind artwork. Note that the size of the hole in the base of the cups will determine whether the paint comes out in slow drips or fluid streams.