Kids ages 3-5 have tons of energy and are eager to walk, run, dance, and play.
It's a great age for exploration too. Preschoolers learn a lot when given the chance
to investigate their environments (with supervision, of course).
There's much for preschoolers to explore. Now that they're older, they can focus
their energy and tackle more complex activities like playing dress-up, riding trikes,
planting seeds, or building something out of snow.
With patience and some imagination, you can help your preschooler be a safe and
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Hang back. Resist the urge to give your child too many directions
or too much correction. Try offering encouragement instead. If your child wants to
use her shoe as a hat or a pretend teacup, so be it. The language you use can make
a difference. Say, "That makes a great hat!" or "How does that tea taste?"
If your child is doing something unsafe, gently correct or distract. For example,
explain the real use of an object ("The pot is for cooking, not bonking your little
brother"), then encourage exploration of more acceptable uses for it, such as
getting a spoon and using the pot as a drum or to make a pretend soup.
You can suggest ideas for play, but chances are your child may have a different
activity in mind — or might stumble onto something intriguing. Allowing kids
some time without intervention can help them develop their creativity and learn to
master tasks on their own.
Mistakes are OK. Trial-and-error is a brilliant teacher. Letting
go enough to let your child fail in a small way (like being unsuccessful at working
a zipper) is good for both of you. When your child begins to do something incorrectly
and gets frustrated, offer encouragement. You also can provide opportunities to keeping
working at the skill that's being mastered. Then one day soon, your child will
be zippering like a champ.
Activity Ideas for Preschoolers
You don't have to go anywhere special to encourage exploration. Here are some easy
ways to do it:
Splash It Up
Kids at this age love water and wet sensations. Find safe household items or look
for stuff in the yard that could be washed and examined. What happens to a leaf when
it gets wet? What about a rock? Set them up in an area that can get wet — outside,
in the bathtub, at a table with a waterproof cloth on it and the floor below —
and let them wash, rinse, dunk, and splash! As always, be sure to supervise kids closely
during water play.
Making "touch bowls" of things like corn kernels, flour, dried beans, rice, dry
spiral pasta, or sand can give children interesting things to feel, grasp, dump, and
pour. Be sure to supervise so no one tries to eat what's in the bowls.
Act It Out
Preschoolers also enjoy role-playing games. Provide safe props for everyday tasks
like going grocery shopping, cooking dinner, or going to work. And give them a box
of old clothes, hats, and other accessories so they can dress whatever part they're
Create a Work of Art
It may end up being abstract art, but that's OK. Fill a "creation box" with drawing
materials, stickers, clay, pipe cleaners, straws, and blocks. Lay down newspaper inside,
or on a warm day, let them create outdoors.
With child-safe binoculars and a magnifying glass, kids can explore the great outdoors.
This can work in your backyard in or any nature-rich environment.
When it's safe to do so, let your child lead the way. Stay a pace or two behind
and let your child make the discoveries. It's fun when mom or dad points out a
ladybug scooting across a leaf. But if you're a preschooler, it's even more fun when
you can call out, "Hey, Mom. Look at this!"