10 Ways to Entertain a Preschooler and an Older Child
Given the right guidance, preschoolers and grade schoolers often get along famously. Use these tips to help bridge the age gap.
Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Given the right guidance, preschoolers and grade schoolers often get along famously. Both are able, and the older kids can help the younger ones when a challenge arises. Try these activities when little ones and slightly older ones play together:
- Working on the Railroad: Make a train out of empty boxes. Stores like Costco and Sam's Club have piles of them for the taking. Hand out bandanas and hats as costumes, and play a CD of train sounds or Woody Guthrie songs. Let the kids venture to destinations of their choice.
- Whatever Floats Your Boat: Make boats from Styrofoam blocks or meat trays, with a paper sail held in place with a stick, bamboo skewer, toothpick, or lollipop stick. Sail in a pond, a pan of water, the backyard pool, or the bathtub.
- The Wild Blue Yonder: Make tongue-depressor gliders, and glue them on blue paper with cotton-ball clouds. Each child can write her name and the name of her glider on the paper with white chalk.
- Stuffed Animal Scene: Ask the kids to gather all the stuffed animals in the house. They can set them in a "boat" (dresser drawer, cardboard box, or laundry basket), make up a story about where they are going, and give each animal a role to play: captain, first mate, sailor, deck swabber, cook.
- Roll ‘Em Up: Kids love rolling pins — or let them use a can or heavy plastic cup to flatten sandwich bread. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters. Spread with soft strawberry cream cheese and decorate with raisins or mini chocolate chips. Enjoy as a snack!
- Put Me in the Zoo: Hand out paper plates, glue sticks, bits of yarn, and other craft materials. Have the children make animal face masks.
- Green Thumbs: Plant lima beans in paper cups of soil. Water and put in a sunny window; sprouts should appear in less than a week. Or line an empty glass with a wet paper towel and tuck the beans between the glass and the towel. Keep the paper towel damp, and within a few days the seeds should sprout. Then plant them in soil so they can grow.
- Soapy Sculptures: Pass out cakes of soft white bath soap. The kids can carve them with craft sticks or plastic knives and score with forks, old toothbrushes, or their fingernails.
- Science Lab: Split a stalk of celery halfway up, and place each end in a separate cup of water dyed with a different shade of food coloring. In several hours, the veins and leaves will take on the colors.
- Leaf It to Me: Go outside to gather leaves of different sizes and shapes — and colors if the season allows. Make people using the collected leaves for hair, body, face, hats, and clothing (glue onto stiff paper). Add detail with crayons, paint, markers, and other art materials.
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