How to Entertain Your Young Children During School Closures Ages 1-4 (ish)

As the coronavirus continues to spread, we should prepare for the possibility of school closures and extended time at home with our children. For many of us, this means finding creative and novel ways to entertain our young children and keep them occupied. Below is a list of very affordable (or free) activities and games to get you started.

I recommend you collect supplies as needed and bring them out slowly over time. Surprise your child with a new activity or toy every day!

Outdoor Activities

  • Just go outside. Keep your distance from others and avoid playgrounds.
  • Start a garden! Consider the Toysmith Kid’s 3-Piece Garden Tool Set (available on amazon)
  • As spring comes, set your kids out to pull weeds!
  • Play with tricycles, balance bikes, scooters, etc
  • Chalk up your sidewalks
  • Collect leaves and jump in leaves!
  • Use wood scraps for a fun outdoor balance activity

Imaginary and Physical Play

  • Hide and seek with stuffed animals
  • Play with scarves-they can be picnic blankets, dresses, ghost outfits, etc.
  • Fun with cardboard boxes! They can be colored, have stuff glued on them, turned into boats, rockets, etc.
  • Freeze dance
  • Animal Freeze Dance on Youtube
  • Throw an unbirthday party-hang streamers from the door for your children to run through, blow up and play with balloons, make a cake-and eat it!
  • Play with Tape and Practice Talking, from Learn with Adrienne on YouTube

Arts and Crafts

  • Finger paint
  • Kinetic Sand (Mad Mattr doesn’t dry out or make much of a mess)
  • Melissa and Doug Water Wow
  • Color and Wonder
  • Scissors, glue, and construction paper!
  • Grocery fliers and magazines for paper mache (or you could have kids cut out all the things they like to eat and glue them on a paper)
  • Reusable Chinese Cloth Water Paper (find on amazon)
  • Cooking and baking activities

Games

  • Tape letters of the alphabet all over the room and have your kid find them with commands like, jump to letter A and hop to letter Y. You can also talk about the sounds, what words start with that letter, etc.
  • Pet Puzzles
  • Sticker books! Melissa and Doug has fun reusable sticker books, which can also be put on windows!

Water Play

  • Put a towel down, take your kid’s clothes off, fill a big bowl with water, and enjoy! You can give your child some measuring cups and spoons, little plastic toys from the dollar store, or other doodads to make the water play more fun
  • Glowstick Bath: Buy glow-sticks from the dollar store, turn the lights low in the tub, and enjoy!
  • Popsicle Bath (it’s just eating a bath in the tub, but for some reason, it’s so much fun!)
  • Make a pond! Fill a bowl with water and add stuff you find from the garden (leaves, flowers, etc.)

Sensory Play

  • Create your own sensory bins. Read about sensory bin basics here
  • Pompom sensory bin
  • Rainbow rice sensory bin. We had our toddler help make the rainbow rice and that was a fun activity, too! https://busytoddler.com/2019/08/rainbow-rice-sensory-bin-2/
  • Crick cut paper shred filler sensory bin (available at the dollar store)
  • Buy some plastic balls, some plastic scoopers, tongs, and whatever else you can find at the dollar store and go wild!
  • Put shaving cream in a muffin tin and then let your little one use food coloring to add colors, mix, and enjoy!

Science Experiments

Other

  • Buy various things at the dollar store (coloring books, markers, dominoes, figurines, etc.). Wrap them in tissue paper or wrapping paper (which you can buy at the dollar store) and let your kid open them, a few each day
  • Check out some new books from the library. Some libraries also have toys and games that you can check out. If you’re concerned about social distancing, many libraries have self-check out machines. You can also see if your library has a drive through pickup window
  • Sing sing sing! Here are words to some fun kids songs
  • Older children may enjoy a calm down corner, a calm space where they can relax and process their feelings

Websites for More Ideas:

While very few of us probably want to overly rely on screen-time, now is a time to accept that some screen time may be necessary for the parents’ own well being. Below are some tv shows and apps for young children

TV Shows

  • Daniel Tiger (Amazon prime)
  • Go Go Cory Carson (Netflix)
  • Cosmic Kids Yoga (youtube)
  • Molly of Denali (PBS kids)
  • Peppa Pig
  • Earth (Netflix)
  • Octonauts
  • Word Party (Netflix)
  • Little Baby Bum (Netflix)
  • Terrific Trucks on Hulu

Apps

  • Peekaboo Apps
  • Apps by Sago Mini
  • PBS Apps
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear App
  • Busy Shapes
  • Hat Monkey

This list was compiled by Elisheva Cohen with the help of the Academic Mamas with Babies Born in 2017 Facebook Group.

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