Ask the Pediatrician: What are some no-cost, screen-free activities to play with my preschooler?

Most parents want to do more for their children than their parents did for them. But have you ever noticed how children can have so much fun with something as simple as a cardboard box?

Simple toys like blocks, balls, jump ropes, and buckets are often the best kind for kids when it comes to play, which is essential for healthy development. In fact, they are more effective than more expensive toys in allowing children to be imaginative and creative, which may be out of reach for many parents.

So why not take that cardboard box and have some fun with it? YOU are the best toy your child will ever receive, more than any material gift.

While it may be difficult to unwind and give yourself over to play, consider this time with your child to be an adventure. Not only are you promoting the numerous benefits of play, but you are also getting to know your child better and strengthening the parent-child bond. To begin with, your role can be quite minor, and the play you engage in can be almost any activity.

Here are a dozen old-fashioned play ideas that your preschooler will love.

  1. Duck, duck, goose: Everyone forms a circle and sits in it. One child is “it” and goes around the circle tapping everyone on the head while saying, “Duck.” At their discretion, the child taps someone and calls out “Goose.”

At that point, the child who was tapped had to get up and chase the child who was “it” around the circle of children. If the “it” child makes it around the circle and sits down, they are “safe.” If they are tagged by the “goose,” they are out. In any case, the goose is now “it,” and the game can resume. Only two children are eventually left. The child who is the last to leave without being tagged wins.

  1. London Bridge is collapsing: Two children form a bridge across from each other by joining their hands. All the children pass beneath the outstretched arms as everyone sings the nursery rhyme. When the song concludes, the arms are dropped around the child who is passing by at the time. The song then switches to “Take the key and lock her up.” Those who have joined hands can begin rocking their arms back and forth. Preschoolers enjoy being “locked up” and swayed back and forth.
  2. Limbo: Take a broomstick outside and have two older kids or adults hold the ends. Allow the kids to go under the stick without touching it. If the stick is touched, the child is eliminated. Following everyone’s turn, the stick can be gradually lowered in increments. If music is available, this can also be done.
  3. Egg races: Bring some hard-boiled eggs outside with some tablespoons. While balancing the egg on the spoon, have fun telling your preschooler where they need to walk, run, jump, etc. This helps with balance and dexterity.
  4. According to Simon, this is one of the most popular games for young children. It promotes active listening and concentration. Simon is your name. Stand in front of your children and issue commands like “Simon says to touch your nose” or “Simon says to do a jumping jack.” The children must do whatever you say as you call out each order, as long as you say, “Simon says.” If you simply say, “Do this,” whoever follows your current action is out. The child who is the last one standing wins.
  5. You sing the tune and control the pace with your head, shoulders, knees, and toes. Children must touch the mentioned body part as it is mentioned. You can speed up the music, forcing your child to move faster and faster to keep up. It can be quite amusing as everyone tries to touch their knees and toes as quickly as they can.
  6. Nature walks: You can turn any outdoor walk into a nature walk, even a walk around the block. Examine the weather, animals, insects, and plants. “Look at those big clouds,” you might say, or “Touch this grass.” It’s still wet from the rain from yesterday.” Preschoolers, in particular, enjoy exploring and will undoubtedly have many questions for you along the way!
  7. Follow the leader by moving around and doing different movements. Everyone must follow your lead. Simple. Great. Fun!
  8. Tag: You can be “it” to begin with. Everyone is trying to catch and tag you. When a child tags you, that child becomes “it.” Some designated areas, such as trees and park benches, can be considered “safe.” This is a fantastic reason to run around!
  9. Run around: You can be “it” and tell everyone what to do. For instance, “Run from this tree to that tree,” and “Hop on one foot from this bench to that tree.” There are so many ideas that you’ll probably run out of them before your preschooler gets bored!

While there may be numerous opportunities to capitalize on “teachable moments” during these activities, the important thing is to do what comes naturally to you as a parent. Playing with your friends should not be a chore or something you feel obligated to do. Take advantage of the time you have with your child. It will be over all too soon!

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