6 Activities to Keep a Preschooler Busy


We are officially going to be homeschooling for the remainder of the school year until summer…and then the kids will still be home after that since most summer activities have been canceled.

Well, this year certainly took a turn!

Could you have ever guessed that you would be a homeschool mom by March? Am I surprised? No. Kids can’t keep their distance. Even when I lecture my kids about the importance of washing their hands during flu season AND pack hand sanitizer in their lunchboxes so that they clean their hands before touching their food, they forget. I see so many mom friends struggling. Between jumping from websites to apps to zoom calls, it can be overwhelming. For many parents, add a full-time job or two and it’s super stressful.

I think I’m in the minority when I share this but, I was happy to hear the kids weren’t going back to school. I’ve really enjoyed being home with the kids and not having the busyness of schedules, soccer and gymnastic practice, pickups, and drop-offs. I’ve been on more walks with the kids in the last month than I’ve been with them in the last year. We have played games, had picnics in the yard, and made lots of memories.

But homeschooling is HARD especially with a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old at home!

Keeping my preschooler entertained while I am helping my older kids stay on task is the most challenging part of my day. I have four kids but I am no expert at this! I’ve had a running text with my friends with preschoolers on things to keep them busy…successes and failures…so, I knew I needed to focus my attention on this just as much for myself as everyone else in the same boat!

Here are a few ideas that worked for us

1. Sensory Bins

Sensory bins can be made by filling a big Tupperware container with rice, dried beans, or noodles or a mixture of these shelf-stable ingredients. Then add some plastic measuring cups, plastic toys to hide in there, mixing spoons…basically just use your imagination! Pinterest has so many fun ideas for sensory bins. Putting a sheet down before play has helped keep the mess to a minimum but fortunately, this can be swept up fairly quickly. Also, make sure you stay nearby because some things could be choking hazards (it’s best to make sure your child is past the age of putting things in his/her mouth). My son’s favorite sensory box was an underwater theme with water beads which leads me to the next idea…

2. Water Beads

Water beads come as small hard beads in the packaging but when they are placed in water for eight hours or longer, they turn into marble size, squishy beads! They are SO fun to put your hands or feet in! We put our water beads in the water table on the back patio and I threw in a measuring cup, strainer, and mixing spoons, and my son played for 30 minutes. The older kids love them too. We bought the multicolored beads. When my son saw them he said: “Ohhhh mermaid beads”!

“Mermaid” water beads!

3. Magnetic Tiles

Magnetic tiles are on the top of each of my kids’ lists of favorite toys! My 3-year-old will play with these for a good 30 minutes and make diamonds, boxes to put things in, towers, houses, and even sort them by shape and color. At the suggestion of another mom friend/teacher, I drew a large shape onto a big sheet of paper and had my son fill it in with magnetic tiles. 

Filling a drawn shape with magnetic tiles.

4. Bubbles

For a while, I stopped buying bubbles because (as most of you have probably noticed) kids like to empty the entire container of bubbles onto the ground within minutes of opening a bottle! Here’s a recipe that actually makes great bubbles and I had all the ingredients.

Mix 1/2 cup of water, 1 Tbsp + 1tsp of dish soap, 1 tsp sugar

Make a big batch and you will always have bubble solution on hand! I also found that several fun wands with a plate style bubble solution holder kept us from wasting large amounts of solution. My preschooler also spent about 20-30 minutes playing with bubbles and loved it! The older kids love this too!

5. Tent-making

Make a snack for the tent and put some books in there!

6. Playdough

Pretty self-explanatory and always a kid-favorite!.

I hope that some of these ideas help make your days a little easier and give you some moments of peace! What things keep your preschooler busy? 

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Elizabeth Wagner is a 5th generation Charlestonian and a 3rd generation James Islander.  She and her husband maintained a long distance relationship throughout her nursing school and his Marine Corps deployments. They married in 2010. After working as a neurosurgical nurse for ten years, she became a stay-at-home mom of their now four kids. From her natural passion to help others and through caring for her own children, Elizabeth became interested in herbal remedies, the benefits of plant medicine, and natural ways to treat her kids illnesses. In 2016, after the birth of her third child, she started Island Bloom Herbals. She makes homemade elderberry syrup, cough syrup, and herbal teas. She and her husband are beekeepers and have three hives in their backyard.  Elizabeth and her husband also love to dive. Her husband proposed to her underwater off the coast of Charleston and they have dove in the Georgia Aquarium with whale sharks!