The self-quarantine is giving lots of people extra time at home with their kids. As a work-from-home and stay-at-home mom full time with two preschool-aged kids, we have lots of time to get creative during our playtime.
While a little screen time isn't harmful to kids, and we do allow screen time during the day, it's important for their bodies and minds to get moving, and being active during the day also helps kids sleep better! If possible, cutting screen time within 2 hours of nap time or bedtime can help them sleep better. The blue lights emitted from screens can inhibit melatonin production and make it harder to fall asleep.
If you're home with your preschool-aged kids and looking for fun activities to do with your kids to get them moving and keep them engaged, here are a few fun ideas that have been kid-tested and approved by my own 2 year old and 3 year old.
*Optional Idea: Write a few options on pieces of paper and let the kids take turns drawing one out one at at time. Do that activity for 15-25 minutes, then switch to the next activity.
1. Hide and Seek - Take turns hiding while one person counts to 20, then they go find the people who are hiding.
2. Hot and Cold - Have your kids go into another room while you hide something, then tell them to find it as you say "hot" when they get close, and "cold" when they aren't close to finding it.
3. Simon Says - Tell your kids different silly things to do, saying "Simon says" before you give each command. If you don't say "Simon says" before a command, and they do it anyway, they're out (for young kids, nobody is out, we just keep playing).
4. Flashlight Dance Party - When it's dark out (or if you have a room that gets pretty dark, pull out flashlights and turn on dance party music and let the kids go crazy. You can also move the light all around the room and have them chase it and jump on it.
5. Freeze Dance - Play fun kid music and stop the music at various times. When the music stops, the kids have to freeze. You can tell them specific dances to do, to make it more silly, or have them copy you as you do silly dance moves.
6. Red Light, Green Light - Have the kids stand on one side of the room while you stand on the other. When you call out "green light" they should run or walk toward you. When you say "red light," they have to freeze.
7. Hot Potato - Optional: Use a real potato! Play kid music and sit in a circle (or just back-and-forth with the parent and the kid) and pass the potato back and forth until the music stops. Whoever is holding the potato when the music stops, has to stand up and do a silly dance.
8. Paper Plate Skating - You can use plastic kids plates or paper plates (or even construction paper). Let them stand on the paper plates on hardwood floors as you pull them around the room, or allow them to "skate" on the plates on their own. You can also pretend the plates are "stepping stones" to help get across a river.
9. Build a Fort - Use sheets, blankets, chairs, and couches to build a fort.
10. Sidewalk Chalk - If the weather is nice enough to go outside, lay down and trace each other on the ground with sidewalk chalk (or draw pretty pictures).
11. Blind Taste Test - Have your kids close their eyes and give them different foods, and have them guess what they're eating.
12. Snowball Fight - Make snowballs from crumpled scrap paper or socks, and have a snowball fight.
13. Go Noodle Dancing or Cosmic Kids Yoga - Play the Go Noodle songs or Cosmic Kids Yoga on your TV and dance with the kids!
14. Cooking Show - Choose something easy and fun to cook together, and make your own cooking show. Examples: pancakes, biscuits, muffins, mini pizzas.
15. Shark Bait - Have the kids stand on one side of the room or yard, while the parent pretends to be a shark and the kids are the fish. Tell them to swim across to the other side without getting caught (and eaten!) by the shark.
16. Scavenger Hunt - Tell the kids to find and bring you specific things. Set a time limit (such as 10 - 20 seconds) to find each item. You can use descriptions like: something... yellow, round, fluffy, shiny, you eat, that goes on your head, etc.
17. Bathtub Party - Getting a daytime bath just to play is extra special! Use shaving cream (optional: with food coloring!) for fun finger painting in the bathtub, or just fill up the bath and give your kids some goggles and/or cups and measuring cups to play with the water.
18. Rescue Mission - Hide a stuffed animal somewhere in the house and draw a map for the kids to find it and rescue it before the 5 minute timer runs out. Play several times and take turns hiding the stuffed animal.
19. Build a Town - Use magnet tiles or blocks (or cardboard boxes) to build a town and make up stories about the town and the people in it (ours always involve cars that are speeding and get sent to jail, or fires that a fire truck needs to put out).
20. Zoo Charades - Tell the kids to pretend to be each animal you call out, such as: elephant, bear, lion, seal, monkey, etc.
21. Pillow Sack Races - Let the kids race while hopping in pillow sacks.
22. Hot Lava Floor - Pretend the floor is covered in hot lava, and they can't touch it, but have to hope across pillows and cushions to get around the room.
23. Freeze Tag - Tell the kids to run around as you try to chase them, and tag them. If they get tagged, they have to freeze for 10 seconds.
24. Follow the Leader - Walk around the house or yard doing silly motions as the kids copy you. Then switch and let someone else be the leader.
25. Beanbag Toss - Have one person hold a bucket or a bowl while another tosses a ball or beanbag into it. Have them step back to make it harder.
After playing these games and fun activities, it's important to do a calming pre-nap and pre-bed routine (5-10 minutes for nap time and 30 minutes for bedtime) to help your kids wind down when it's time for bed. Getting enough exercise during the day and enough sleep at night will help boost their immune systems and help keep them healthy.
What are your kids' favorite games or activities to do at home?
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Pediatric Sleep Consultant