How to Keep Toddlers & Preschoolers Engaged During Coronavirus Shut Downs - Paper Pinecone Blog

How to Keep Toddlers & Preschoolers Engaged & Learning During Coronavirus Shut Downs

Published Date: 03/16/20

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) closing businesses across the country, including many daycare and preschool programs, there is a good chance that you are now faced with keeping your child home for the foreseeable future. The good news is that you don’t have to recreate preschool at home. Remember, children learn through play. This is especially true for younger children who are still learning important life skills like taking turns, patience, teamwork, and thinking outside of the box. These essential life skills are best learned naturally through play, not through workbooks or structured lessons. Try to not worry about your little ones falling behind academically during this time.  As we’ve discussed, children cannot learn academics in a traditional school setting if they’re not equipped with the social and emotional skills needed to participate in a classroom environment. That is what prepares them for kindergarten and beyond.  

That said, we know that you’re looking for activities to keep them engaged and take minimal effort on your part for set up and clean up – we're parents of little ones too and are in the same boat.  

Here are some fun ideas for keeping your kiddos entertained while helping them to learn naturally, through play. 

Follow your child’s lead on learning
If they love bugs, go outside and have fun looking for super cool bugs and maybe have a small notebook and crayons handy so they can draw the ones they like the most. Count the legs on an insect and then on a spider. How many more legs does a spider have? Boom! You just did a math lesson.  

Read about subjects that interest your child
Lay a blanket down in the yard and read out in the sun to switch up your environment. Create a fun reading nook by piling up pillows and laying a blanket over the whole thing and snuggle in like a nest. Or lie on your backs in the play tent and use a book light to create a cozy spot. While libraries are a great way to read lots of new books for free, many are closed right now so double check if you plan on visiting them. Keep in mind that reading real print books is better than reading from a tablet according to a recent study.

Board games are great ways to learn
Bring out the board games, set up some snacks, and enjoy some old school fun like we used to when we were kids. Board games are a fun way to learn about taking turns and many can help little ones naturally learn about colors, shapes, and more depending on the object of the game.

Cooking teaches science & math
Speaking of snacks, even young children can help in the kitchen. Let them help rinse fresh fruit or put chopped frozen fruit into a blender for a yummy smoothie. Since time is on our hands now, it’s okay if it takes longer than usual. Let them help put their own toppings on pizza bagels, oatmeal, or homemade cupcakes (box mixes count). Let them make a necklace snack with string and o-shaped cereal. Amazing for fine motor skill development! Preschoolers can help with bigger tasks and if using a recipe, explain the importance of gathering ingredients first (so you don’t find out you are missing something), why it’s important to follow the directions (sometimes certain ingredients have to emulsify or yeast has to rise first) before continuing on to the next step. Some of these things might come naturally to you but it is likely that children might have not thought about these before. A recipe helps children connect the written words to the actions you’re taking. Don’t forget to have kids help clean after you’re done in the kitchen. This helps children learn natural consequences.

Go outside
If the weather permits, go for a walk in an area that isn’t usually full of people. Are there any trails near you that tend to be less crowded? Take a drive to the ocean and walk along a quiet part of the coast. A nature scavenger hunt is a fun way to stay active while learning about leaves, animals, and other elements of nature. Make bird feeders as you talk about what birds eat and read about the local birds that come to your yard. Stay active and creative by building a backyard obstacle course using chalk, hula hoops, cardboard box tunnels, and other elements in your home and yard. There are many benefits to forest & outdoor preschools so this is a great time to get outside and explore, helping children improve their gross motor skills while expanding their imaginations, building their confidence, and developing an appreciation for nature. 

Clean out your closet
You know it’s something you’ve been meaning to do for a long time, so now’s the time. Use your finds to create a dramatic play bin of clothes and accessories and watch your child’s imagination run wild!

Get back to basics
Some other simple ideas to keep your children entertained are going back to basics. While creating sensory bins and doing Pinterest worthy crafts are fun, you can keep it simple going old school with chalk, kicking around a ball, playing catch or indoor golf using a soft ball and kid’s racket or softball bat (or even a tube of wrapping paper). You can also paint pictures, learn how to combine colors to create new ones, play charades, or make art using treasures like bit of string, sequins, gems, googly eyes, cut up pieces of paper, and stickers. Use an old box to cut out a frame to decorate for the art piece. 

Screen time
While these ideas are all screen free, if you do need a bit of screen time fun, you can use YouTube to look up kid’s yoga videos (check out Cosmic Kids Yoga who combines yoga and stories). These mini yoga sessions are fun and keep kids excited about moving.

Get more activities
For more daily activities, be sure to check us out on Facebook or Instagram and sign up for our newsletter. These are difficult times for many of us but we will come through this stronger. Enjoy the extra time with your little ones and remember to not stress about academics. Structured and unstructured play will help children keep developing essential life skills such as working well with others, keeping their hands to themselves, staying focused, working independently, and practicing self-control. You got this. We are all in this together. 

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