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Distracting Pre-schoolers

While you work with the older kids...

By Mary Leggewie

Sometimes those sweet little angels will just drive you bonkers when you're trying to do intensive work, like math, with an older child. Here are some ideas to spur on that break you need!

Number one has got to be: Naptime!!!

Toy Rotation: bring out toys like those following that they only get to play with once in a while, or maybe even only while you're working with the other child. I've even had luck with boxing up a bunch of toys, and bringing them out later; the kids think they're new toys!

"Priming the pump": I've found that often if I just take 3 minutes to throw a few new toys out that the kids haven't played with in a while that they find new interest and will keep busy for 15-20 minutes. Just a few minutes of "priming the pump" might yield you that bit of quiet time you need!

Good quality toys like Brio train sets or Brio Mec. These seem expensive, but if you figure the dollar value per hour of playtime, they're cheap! I recommend saving them for the grandkids even though it's tempting to sell 'em off as the kids get older.

Doll houses

Toys horses with stables

Refrigerator/washing machine boxes (these are good for at least 3 weeks of play!). Any cardboard box is a thrill for my kids, and so are those bubble pad sheets for shipping!

Dominos-do you remember lining them up so they would all fall when you touched the first one?

Felt sets

Books on tape with a little kid tape recorder

Junk Mail ... save your junk mail and do a "mail call" once a week or so. Let them open it up.

Car maps ... these can be the commercial ones made of carpet, or you can even use tape to mark your kitchen floor


The Tupperware cupboard-who doesn't have a drawer or cupboard filled with plastic storage containers? Pull them out all over the floor with some measuring cups. If you're brave, and depending on the age, you could even let the child measure beans or water or something else that's safe. Or maybe have them wash plastic containers at the sink.

Legos, Duplos, or Lincoln Logs

Animal collections-my kids love playing with these inexpensive museum quality figurines!

Stencils-you can find these cheap or free easily.

Thread cereal rings or spaghetti noodles! You could use Playdough as a base.

Bowling with foam/rubber balls and toilet paper tubes in the hall.

Make a little photo album that's kid safe. I used my "reject" photos and made up a cheap little album for my daughter and she loved looking at the pictures of our family!

A deck of cards to play with!

A cleared out cupboard gives my 5 year old a thrill to hide in! His own little cubby hole!

A toy shopping cart. I see these at garage sales all the time. You can even have the child go collect his toys on the floor!

I don't worry if occasionally I resort to mindless computer games and TV! Once in a while it can be a life saver, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who does it! But I try to keep these two things to a minimum. Resources Related to This Article

Homeschooling Support Section for more tips and encouragement!