Play Time | Preschool Play
It is amazing how each child continues to grow and learn so much each year. I've enjoyed every single stage although it is fun as children enter the preschool (approximately 2 - 4 years old) stage since it allows you to be more involved in some of their activities and also allows you more free time as they play for extended periods by themselves. Please refer below for some play ideas:
Mommy and Me Classes
I signed up for our first "Mommy and Me" class when my son was around 20 months old. I was so glad I signed up. It was called Fun Fit Tots and it was an activity based class. Different music was played and we did various activities related to the music. It was a good introduction to a "Mommy and Me" class. I thought it was important to do an activity with other children since my son isn't in an outside care setting although he has always been an extremely social child. Even if your child is in an outside care situation you may want to sign up for a "Mommy and Me" class as a way to set aside special time together.
The next class I signed up for was called Tiny Tots and it was a Preschool Mommy and Me class. It was a great introduction to teaching the children what preschool is like in a shortened class, about one hour while Mommy (or Daddy) tag along. This class was extremely beneficial and I would highly recommend it if you have one in your area. The class was for 2 - 3 1/2 year olds and our son was not quite 2 when the class started. They allowed him to enter even though he didn't quite meet the age limit and I felt based on his prior interactions with other kids he would do ok and he did. But like with everything, all children are different.
The class was great as it really taught the children the general preschool structure. They start with a hands on activity at tables while you wait for all of the other children to show up. Then they do circle time, where each child says his/her name, then they listen to a story, and discuss the theme of the day. After that, each child makes a craft usually with some assistance from the parent. This is the part that initially our son wasn't quite sure about. I hadn't done many craft like activities with him prior to the class but a few weeks into it he really started enjoying the craft section of the class. After craft time, the children do a motor skill and then they get a snack. The class ends with a sticker for each child, which was probably my son's favorite part. The class goes really fast and is great for both kids and parents.
Some of the play ideas written about below I discovered through some of our Tiny Tot classes.
Most of my preschooler's play time usually consists of being actively involved or passively involved in my daily activities. Whether you are at home all day with your child or spend time mornings and evenings after your outside work you can involve your child in your daily activities. My son has always enjoyed being involved in my daily activities since he was an infant and as he grows older he is able to actively participate more in the daily activities. My son loves observing and helping when I cook, especially when we make things he can mix in a bowl. He is able to help sift the sugar, mix the ingredients, and grease the pan to bake a cake. Please see a picture of my son helping sift the sugar for the homemade cake we were making.
Making a Cake (24 Months)
When we go shopping he loves to push the shopping cart, help bag the fruits and vegetables, and put things on the conveyor belt when it is time to check out.
My son also likes to help unload the bags when we get home from shopping.
I think most children truly enjoy being able to "help" you. Thus, I've always tried to find ways my son can help me on a daily basis. Yes, at times the "help" may make the daily task take at least twice as long but for me it is worth it to not only teach my child about daily responsibilities of cleaning, cooking, doing laundry but to also to provide him confidence that he is able to be involved and able to help Mommy and Daddy during the day.
My son has always been able to entertain himself without me being actively involved in his activities. This works well for me as I'm usually busy during the day, cooking, cleaning and just doing general household management items since when he naps I'm generally working on the computer writing articles like this. I think it is good to find the balance between "playing" with your children and letting them learn to play on their own.
When my son was younger he would be playing by himself but probably within a few feet of me and now as he's entered the preschool age I've noticed he enjoys his independence more and will go and play in another room. Since I prefer to still have him in eyesight, I'm looking forward to moving to our new home where the family room is off of the kitchen so my son can still play in a separate room but I can also easily observe him at the same time.
If your child is hesitant to play on her own you may want to start with baby steps. First start playing the game or activity with her and then gradually step away but still keep the communication going about what she is doing. There are times when my son does request that I play with him, he likes to say "Sit" when he wants me to sit and join in his activity. I definitely try to join in occasionally but if I need to get back to something then I gradually leave the game and try to stay involved by talking with him about what he is building with blocks or what he is coloring.
Once my son turned two he really started doing more and more imaginary play. I love watching him come up with new things to pretend. He enjoys getting my pots and pans, putting various things in them, covering them with lids and then using pot holders to open them up and then taste his creation. Whatever he makes always tastes, "good." I think when your child is actively involved in your daily activities it is easy for him to find things to do in imaginary play as generally I find my son tries to mimic Mommy and Daddy's daily activities.
You may want to get your child a pretend stove/ sink combination like the one shown at The MOMMBY Amazon Store or let your child play with pretend food. Preschool girls probably enjoy playing with baby dolls and I know my son loves playing with cars and I'm sure he's imagining the cars and trains going on wild adventures. I did introduce my son to a baby doll about a month before his sister was due to start explaining things to him about a baby such as how she will eat and to start showing that we will be taking her places with us. He did enjoy practicing feeding the baby doll and he would ask me to bring her into the room to eat lunch with us.
Most preschool teachers will tell you the kids love playing dress-up wearing a princess costume, fairy costume, or just pretending to be a mommy. Boys also if given the opportunity like to play dress-up. My son loved wearing his fireman costume, being Captain Hook for Halloween, and recently pretending to be a superhero or a "bad guy" dependeing what mood he was in. If you are looking to buy some costumes for your little one, please refer to the "Costume" article.
My son has always enjoyed running around. This may be a "boy" thing or simply his personality thing but he never seems to stop moving. He definitely needs time to run around whether it is riding his scooter, jumping, throwing a ball or kicking a soccer ball. Unfortunately for him as he approached two he could throw the balls too high and too hard that he no longer was able to play ball in the house. I occasionally will let him kick a soccer ball (as it usually stays on the ground) or play with his golf set but he is also getting too good at that and soon those will also be off limits in the main part of the house. In our new home, we will probably make our unfinished basement available for him to ride his scooter, kick the soccer ball and play catch for days when the weather doesn't allow him to do these activities outside.
Another fun physical play activity my son has always loved to do is simply dance to music. He's loved music since he was an infant and so if he has extra energy we like to put on music and him and I will dance around the house. Here is a video of him having fun dancing while Mommy and Daddy were packing to move.
Please refer to the "Craft Ideas" article for some craft projects and the "Preschool Lessons" article. Some children may be interested in art time earlier than others. My son enjoyed coloring as a toddler and then when he was 18 months and we did the Mommy and Me class and we started doing more crafts together. It took a few classes and then he really enjoyed doing the crafts. If you don't already have one you may want to invest in a kids table and chair set. You can find a fairly inexpensive small table and chair set at Ikea for around $19.99 (LATT table and chairs) to a larger more expensive set from Pottery Barn for $600 (Carolina Craft Table with six chairs).
Another great thing to have is an art easel. I was happy to find a reasonably priced easel at Target for $19.99 as most children's easels range closer to $50. It was the Board Dudes 3 in 1 Adjustable Children's Art Easel. It was super easy to put together (no tools needed) and exactly what we needed.
Overall favorite art activities:
- Coloring (Prefer Washable Crayons)
- Finger Painting (Crayola Color Wonder Fingerpaints)
- Water Colors
- Fisher Price Doodle Pad (Continuous Use, No Mess)
- Play Doh
- Painting with Water
- Side Walk Chalk
Please refer below for more information on the above activities.
When my son turned two he got a Finger Painting set (Crayola Color Wonder Fingerpaints) which he loved to do. This set was nice as the colors would only show up on the special paper that came with the set. It made really pretty pastel pictures. It is also fun to paint with water colors. If you want a no mess project, then the Fisher Price Doodle Pad is a great alternative. My son loves drawing on the doodle pad or using the shape magnets to make pictures and then erase and make new pictures.
Another favorite art time activity was playing with Play Doh and my son really liked the Play Doh Barrel he got for his birthday that included a tool to make noodles. He loved making noodles, although I have to say Play Doh can be fairly messy and on the days he played with Play Doh I would find little pieces of Play Doh throughout the house.
A fairly clean activity you can do outside is to fill a bucket of water and get an old paint brush or buy a cheap one and let your child dip the brush in the water and paint the sidewalk, side of house, or fence. My son thought this was a lot of fun and there is no clean-up involved. A standard outside activity is playing with side walk chalk or blowing bubbles.
Art activities provide a great time to teach about colors. By simply coloring my son was able to learn all of his colors and had fun identifying them at Easter time when we dyed Easter eggs.
Please refer to the "Toys - Preschooler" section of The MOMMBY Amazon Store to find some art time items such as a kid's table and chair set, an easel, the Crayola Fingerpainting set, and the Play Doh.
One of my son's favorite activities is playing in a rice box. I bought a cheap bag of rice and put some rice in a plastic container and put some small toys in the rice box. My son has fun digging in the box for toys. I had this at his two year old birthday party and kids of all ages loved it! It can be a messy project and it is best to play with it outside.
My son also loves playing with bubbles. There are various bubble tools you can buy, such as a bubble water gun and the standard bubble wands are also fun for toddlers/ preschoolers learning to blow a bubble. You can also get a new fly swatter and dip the fly swatter in bubbles and when you shake the fly swatter it will make really cool bubble designs.
Please refer to the "Preschool Lessons" article for some fun ways to teach your child some basic preschool skills. Your child is constantly learning 24 hours a day whether it is simply observing your daily activities; learning to play by herself; learning gross motor skills by throwing a ball, running and jumping; learning fine motor skills by coloring; in addition to learning her letters, numbers, colors, and shapes.
I've seen on TV where you can teach an infant to read and although it would be interesting if I could teach my infant to read that was definitely not a goal of mine. I preferred to be actively involved in my son's day and follow his lead with teaching him about his world. My son has always loved to hear stories at nap and bedtime but during the main playtime before reaching the preschool age he usually wouldn't sit still long enough to hear a story or learn his letters. Although, as he turned two he became much more interested in "learning" letters and numbers. By 27 months my son enjoyed sitting and doing some preschooler books which taught numbers, shapes, colors, and letters. By this age he knew all of his colors, could count to 10, was starting to count to twenty and was starting to count backwards from 10. All of this occurred without us actively sitting down to teach him his numbers and colors.
We generally went over colors during art time and he naturally learned about colors. Then as he started to be interested in numbers he would ask to count things and so we would work on his counting, whether it was in the grocery store picking out apples or counting the number of cheerios he had on his plate. Please refer to a video where we captured him having fun counting his fingers.
After colors and numbers my son started to become interested in learning letters. He always liked the letter "O" and knew a few other letters. We found a book that had magnetic letters and he had fun putting the correct letter on each letter shape. It was more of a matching of shapes than identifying the letters but I would tell him what each letter was and use a word that he knew. For example, "M for Mommy." The next day when he got the magnet book out he remembered the word association with the letters, he would point to the "M" and say "Mommy" or the "A" and say "Apple." Sometimes he said the letter too but he seemed to remember the word association more than just the letter. This book had lowercase letters and I actually think he can identify capital letters easier but some of our ABC books got packed up for our future move to our new home so we'll have to keep using the lower case magnet book for now. My son also has a shape book where you match up the various shapes and he likes to match the shapes together.
Overall, when doing activities that involve teaching letters, numbers, colors, ect. I think it is important to follow your child's lead. Some children may be very interested in learning at a very young age, my friend's baby would love to sit and listen to book after book after book and by 1 1/2 she could identify several letters including all of the letters of her name and by 3 she was starting to write the alphabet. She loved sitting with her mom and practicing letters. While another child might not be interested in learning the alphabet until he is much older. For me, the key is to make learning "fun" and to follow my son's lead at this stage of his development when it comes to learning about the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors. As discussed in End Note, remember all children reach developmental milestones at different ages.
We love to do reading time before naps and bedtime. Some kids enjoy reading throughout the day but our favorite time is to relax before bed with some of our favorite books. When my child was 4 years old I started using the Children Learning Reading program. He really enjoyed taking reading to the next level and he quickly learned how to start sounding out words himself.
Please refer to the "Preschool Lessons" article for some fun ways to teach your child some basic preschool skills. Most preschool classes start when the child is three years old. If you live near South Riding, VA - the MOMMBY Preschool accepts children 1 1/2 - 4 years old! Note: You may want to start looking into preschools in January/ February if you plan to have your child start the following August/ September. At least for my area most preschools start to fill up at that time.
I decided that my son was ready and would benefit from preschool. He wasn't quite 2 1/2 when he started a 2 1/2 preschool program. (The program allowed a small number of children under 2 1/2 to join the class). I wanted to enroll my son in preschool for various reasons:
- He loved interacting with other children
- He was showing signs of being interested in learning (he knew how to count to ten and knew all of his colors and was starting to learn his letters)
- He had a baby sister coming in a month and I thought preschool would be a "special" activity for him while Mommy had some extra time to spend with his baby sister
The preschool class he attended was for 4 hours a day, twice a week. I actually intended to only send him once a week but there were no more openings for the once a week program. Some preschool programs in some areas are closer to 2 hours long but most of the programs in my area tend to be four hours. Also, for a four hour program twice a week, most of the programs range from $200 - $250 in my area which means approximately $2,000 - $2,500 a year which can be fairly substantial for a child to go to preschool. Thus, you will definitely want to evaluate whether you 1) Can afford to send your child to preschool and 2) If you think your child is ready and will benefit from preschool.
I decided to start my own preschool when my daughter was almost 2 years old because I wanted her to be able to have the preschool experience and there was no longer a preschool in the area that accepted children less than 3. I've enjoyed working with my mom who taught in elementary school for over 30 years to come up with creative ways to teach the standard preschool concepts of learning letters, numbers, colors, and just having fun while learning. Please refer to "Preschool Lessons" article for some fun ways to teach your child basic preschool skills
If you have a child that is very shy and not use to spending much time away from you or with other children you may be interested in sending your child to preschool for those reasons. Although, you may want to find a class that is shorter and possibly one day a week. Although, a lot of the preschools I spoke with mentioned the more days the child attends the easier it is for a child to adjust to preschool. They said it is easier for a child to adjust to a two or three day preschool rather than a one day preschool since the child gets more in a routine of attending. But you have to do what works best for you and your child.
My son was extremely excited about preschool as I started talking about it a few weeks before he started to get him excited. He was looking forward to meeting his teachers and making new friends. The first day he did ask for me a couple times and they kept telling him that after lunch I would be there to pick him up so his response was "I want to eat." But he did well and when I picked him up and asked him if he had a good time he said "yes" and when I asked if he wanted to go back the next day he said "yes." Although, when we got there the second day he did turn and leave when we first arrived but then soon as they asked him to join in to play with the trains he was ready to participate. Once again when I picked him up he was happy to see me but as we got in the car he also was happy to share some of the things he did that day. When my son was 3 1/2 he attended preschool on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 4 hours and loved it. I've been very happy with my decision to enroll him in preschool and I look forward to doing more preschool activities in our home for both him and my daughter through the MOMMBY Preschool.
Toys and Games
Along with playing with every day items your preschooler finds around the house there are a lot of nice toys you can buy at a store. Refer above for Art Time information about various art supplies and different art activities. Your child may be interested in imaginary play and you may want to buy "child size" items like a play stove, a tool set, a baby doll, or a train track set. My son also loves to play music and he's enjoyed using Daddy's old electronic keyboard. You may want to buy your child a play keyboard or a drum set. In reference to outdoor activities your preschooler may be ready for a scooter, my son always eyed the scooters up at the playground and when he turned two I got him the Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter which he immediately loved.
There are several games a preschooler may start to be interested in as well. My son received the Uno Moo Preschool Game for his second birthday and we haven't played the game according to the instructions yet, since Mommy never read them but he loves taking out all of the pieces and putting them back in the farm and also putting them on his wagon and pulling them around the house. It looks like a very easy game to play as I believe it is a color learning game and since colors were one of the first things my son learned we could probably play this game together. Some other preschooler games are Eric Carle ABC Game or a favorite, Chutes and Ladders.
Overall, I think less is more and so I wouldn't bombard your child with too many toys. Your child may still enjoy playing with toys she started playing with as a toddler. My son still enjoys playing with his wooden blocks and his megablocks and he still will play with this Little Tikes Tool Box (shape sorter). He also still enjoys using his pretend grocery cart, pushing his vacuum cleaner around the house, and riding on his fire engine.
Please refer to the MOMMBY Amazon Store for some Preschooler Toys to buy.
The American Academy of Pediatrics "strongly discourages television viewing for children ages two years old or younger, and encourages interactive play. In addition, "[f]or older children, the Academy advises no more than one to two hours per day of educational, non-violent programs, which should be supervised by parents or other responsible adults in the home." As discussed in "Infant Play" and "Toddler Play" I have allowed my son to watch a limited amount of educational TV or DVD's. My main philosophy is to not use TV extensively and if my son does watch TV or a DVD to chose an educational selection.
As a preschooler my son loves anything on PBS such as Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid, WorldGirl, Martha Speaks or Super WHY!. My son also enjoys watching some of the Disney Playhouse shows like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I bought him a few DVD's of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Winney the Pooh prior to going on our trip to Disney World so he would be familiar with the characters. I'm sure my son would also like Handy Manny and Disney's Little Einsteins.
My son still enjoys watching some of the other videos he enjoyed as a Toddler, such as Barney and Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. When my son approached two he was able to watch a full movie and we did purchase some children's movies to have for long trips in the car. Two of his favorite movies are Cars and Finding Nemo. I generally don't let him watch movies during the day and I try to save them for long trips but that doesn't mean I've never put in a video if the time warrants it and let him watch part of the movie. Overall, I try to stick to the 30 minute educational TV shows when both of us need a "TV break." Generally, my favorite time to let him watch TV is for 30 minutes first thing in the morning (especially when I was pregnant and needed an extra 30 minutes to get moving in the morning) and then if needed another 30 minutes when I'm making dinner if he is not content playing by himself.
Remember the most important part of play time for your preschooler is making sure she is having a good time while learning and observing the world. Sometimes it is nice to sit back and simply observe your preschooler interact with her environment and other times it is fun to be actively involved in play time.
Remember all children are different and meet milestones at different times, so what my child enjoyed at certain ages may or may not be what your child enjoys. Please check with your healthcare professional if you have any questions about what toys are safe for your child and/or how your child is developing and meeting milestones. Overall, just love your child and both of you should have a wonderful play time together.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "Where We Stand: TV Viewing Time." healthychildren. 11 June
14 June 2010 <http://www.healthychildren.org>.
Last Updated: September 2010