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What To Do At Home With a Preschooler While Older Kids Are Distance Learning

What To Do At Home With a Preschooler While Older Kids Are Distance Learning


Feeling uncertain about the upcoming school year? With so much on your plate already with school-aged kids, you might forget that preschoolers also need to stay busy. I’m sharing lots of tips on what to do at home with a preschooler while siblings are distance learning, including active and quiet play ideas, craft and learning activities and the best things that preschoolers can do alone.

Little girls holds play foam with a toy

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At Home with a Preschooler and Not Sure What to Do?

Like many of you, I’m going to be home with my kids for the start of the fall semester. Our first days of school will be similar to years’ past, with teachers learning and assessing each student. Albeit this year everything will be done virtually and my kids will be meeting teachers and other classmates through a computer screen. Another thing that’s different this year is balancing my older kids’ educations while also occupying my preschooler.

I also work from home as many of you do. I can be more flexible with my hours and time spent working, which I know is a privilege. With older kids needing to join Zoom calls and have virtual chats with their teachers and other students, I still need to find lots of tools to occupy the youngest child.

I’ve collected quiet activities for a preschooler to do while older kids are distance learning. Some of these are things you can do together with a blend of educational, crafts and fun. I’ve also included things that preschoolers can do on their own with your supervision.

Activities to Do At Home With a Preschooler

These activities are ways to spend quality time with your younger child while your older kids are doing schoolwork. Some of these items would be fine for preschoolers to do alone with your mindful supervision (just to minimize mess!) I bought two cheap vinyl tablecloths – one to lay on my daughter’s table and another one for underneath as a drop cloth. This makes clean up quick and easy!

Jungle Crew Science Lab Set from GeoSafari includes hands-on activity cards for experiments you can do with household items and the kid-friendly tools in the set.

Play-Doh is the classic preschool hands-on activity. Roll it, squish it and use tools to mush the Play-Doh into various shapes for play. I got the Play-Doh Fun Tub, which stores the included dough and instruments inside the large bucket.

Little girl holding preschool art work

Need craft supplies? Grab the Giant Art Jar from Alex that’s stuffed with all the pom-poms, pipe cleaners and foam shapes you’ll need for those preschool-worthy Pinterest crafts!

More Things to Do at Home With Preschoolers

Playfoam looks like one of those activities that’s going to be a mess but it actually isn’t! This tactile and squishy foam is completely mess-free and never dries out. I ordered my daughter the Playfoam Pals Pet Party 6-Pack which has a mystery toy animal inside.

Little girl squishing playfoam

Kinetic Sand on the other hand isn’t completely mess-free but clean up of this cool sand is still pretty easy. Kids (and adults!) love squishing this “magic” sand that’s fluid through your fingers but can easily be molded and sticks together. This Kinetic Sand Folding Sand Box keeps the project in a single box. Or purchase the 2-lb bag of Kinetic Sand, some sandcastle building tools and a shallow dishpan for this activity.

Ways to Get Moving Together

Exercise, relaxation and meditation are something that you can do at home with your preschooler to increase movement and improve a good attitude throughout the day.

If you’re needing to stay in the house and keep a mindful eye on your student’s learning, taking the preschooler outside might be out of the question. Once computer use time is done, you might consider moving your student’s educational time to an outdoor location. Choose a socially distanced park where your student can lay on a blanket in the grass to complete worksheets while the preschooler plays.

A few exercise activities to try at home with your preschooler:

These two books empower preschoolers with breathing and yoga in a kid-friendly way. Breathe with Me: Using Breath to Feel Strong, Calm, and Happy is a kid-friendly way to introduce mindfulness breathing techniques to young children. Yoga Whale introduces simple yoga positions with an under-the-sea twist.

GoNoodle is a free app and website with fun and energetic video exercise routines for kids. My preschooler loves “Poppin’ Bubbles” and Moose Tube. GoNoodle is a good site for kids of all ages to use when they need to take a stretch break from learning. The Play60 football series are perfect for older kids. 

I’ve shared some ways that parents can get exercise at home. There are a few additional tips on how to incorporate children into your workouts.

Reading Time Together

Start a preschool-friendly chapter book series that will be engaging to your child. Opt for books that include images or illustrations, like Winnie the Pooh – The Complete Collection

Most preschoolers still prefer colorful picture books. Introduce diversity and inclusion through story books that can be read together with your preschooler. Choose titles with characters that don’t look like your child or that have a global perspective. My favorite come from Usborne Books

Books with large and clear lettering like the classic Dick and Jane books are great for beginning readers. Preschoolers will start to recognize the simple words and be able to “read” them back to you.

Kid's books on a shelf including Dick and Jane and Little Bear

Some preschoolers prefer to play quietly while you read aloud and that’s okay too. They are still hearing the cadence in your voice that comes with reading aloud. This is a great post-lunch option that might lull some preschoolers towards nap time!

Koala Crate

I’ve recently signed up my daughter for her first delivery of Koala Crate, a subscription box with monthly craft activities that are ideal for preschool-aged kids. You might have heard of Kiwi Crate for school-aged kids. Koala Crate includes age-appropriate activities for ages 2-4 to complete with parental assistance. Little kids love mail just for them, so it’s an awesome subscription box if you’re home with a preschooler!

Little girl with open box from Koala Crate

All the parts are included in the shipment. Our first box included everything we needed to enact a doctor’s visit. Intended to develop empathy, the kit included an interactive health checklist with sliders, medicals tools, a felt bag to decorate with stickers, toy bandages and a board book. Once my daughter and I had read all the material together and played a bit, she was able to take the items and play alone. My review of Koala Crate is high! The parts are higher quality and the kit really encouraged her creativity. An included booklet for parents explains ideas with questions to ask your child.

Sign up for the subscription to have a box sent then pause or cancel the subscription at any time. My daughter was thrilled with her first Koala Crate and is already asking when the next box will arrive! At 4 years old she’s on the cusp between the Koala Crate and Kiwi Crate. Fortunately we can change kits any time so I may switch to another line soon.

Little girl with items from Koala Crate subscription box

To order Koala Crate (or any of the boxes in the Kiwi Crate family) click the link and receive 30% off with code LEARN30!

Education Alongside the Big Kids

Preschoolers who are watching their older sibling attend virtual school may also want to participate in learning activities. Set up a small area where your preschooler can learn with minimal disruption to their brother and/or sister. I have a large table for my students and a smaller table next to my desk for my daughter. This way I can oversee her learning and help her with worksheets without interrupting her siblings.

Preschool girl doing a workbook with colored pencil and paper

  • Develop the fine motor skills by practicing pen and crayon control.
  • My daughter loves to see her preschool school work displayed so consider putting up a cork board to show off.
  • Dry erase boards and pens can help preschoolers learn writing techniques without waste of paper.
  • Flashcards are a reasonably inexpensive way for preschoolers to learn basics like upper and lower case letters or numbers on a faster recall.

What Preschool Workbooks Should I Choose?

Putting pencil to paper is an important fine motor skill that preschoolers need to develop. Workbooks with minimal tasks are a helpful tool as they often have lines to trace and coloring keys to follow. It’s a great way to introduce simple instructions in a way that preschoolers can visualize and understand. Many workbooks include reward stickers for kids to add inside the pages.

Wondering what to do with the paper workbook pages that your preschooler has completed? I give my daughter a pair of Pre-School Training Scissors and a glue stick. She cuts out shapes from the workbooks and pastes them onto other completed pages. It’s a fun way for her to improve cutting skills, create a craft and then everything goes into the recycling can when she’s done.

Preschool Educational Online Learning

I’ve largely kept my daughter off the computer and she’s never used a mouse or played any online games. However I understand the importance that an online curriculum could offer her in the way of education. When I decided to introduce computer learning to my preschooler, I went directly to ABCmouse.

ABCmouse is well-loved for it’s vast collection of preschool and early education material. Reading, math, arts, science and social studies –  they are all covered with age-appropriate activities, games and books that help preschoolers learn while having fun. My son used ABCmouse as a preschooler and I was excited to introduce my daughter!

Ready to try ABCmouse with your preschooler? You can get your first month completely free and the rest of the year at a very reasonable price. – First Month Free – Click here!

Preschooler on a tablet playing ABCmouse educational games

Monitoring Online Learning with Preschoolers

  • ABCmouse can be used on a variety of devices including a cell phone, tablet, Amazon Kindle, desktop or laptop computer. 
  • If you have multiple young children, ABCmouse has three separate child profiles so that all the kids can be logged in on individual devices, playing at the same time.
  • Online learning will require use of an internet connection. Make sure that additional devices aren’t slowing down the connection for your distance learning students by updating your modem, increasing internet speed or upgrading your service.
  • Use headphones on your preschooler so the noise of the games doesn’t interrupt your other students.
  • Set up time limits from the start. If your preschooler has not played online games make sure they understand that when the timer goes off, they need to take a break.
  • Track your preschooler’s progress across all categories to see where they could focus more attention.
  • Special Offer 37% Off an Membership! Receive 4-Months for Only $19.95!

Quiet Time Activities a Preschooler Can Do Alone

I’ll be completely honest here. At the end of the spring semester my preschooler spent a considerable amount of alone time watching Disney+. While educational television is appropriate in small doses, hours on end every day isn’t good for anyone, especially preschoolers. Knowing that we have at least another few months (probably more) of homeschooling ahead of us, I’m better prepared to entertain my preschooler with these quiet activities! 

The mess-free Water Wow books have been a lifesaver on long car trips and on plane flights. My daughter still plays with her Melissa & Doug Water Wow! at home. I’ve even set her up with a small cup of water and a paint brush so she can more delicately “paint” the images.

Little kids love stickers but they can often be tricky for them to use without help. Choose larger images like Big Stickers for Little Hands. Peel off the outside frame around the stickers so that only the individual stickers are left on the page. This will assist preschoolers in being able to remove stickers by themselves.

More Quiet Activities at Home With a Preschooler

Scratch books (like the Scratch and Sparkle Dinosaurs Activity Book) can be completed quietly at home with preschoolers with minimal mess. 

Coloring books and crayons are a classic quiet activity for preschoolers. Favorite characters are popular with my kid so I do a lot of printing from coloring pages found online. I recommend signing up for HP Instant Ink if you do a lot of printing at home. HP ships the ink cartridges before you need them, at a low monthly price.

Preschool girl holding a colored drawing of Mickey Mouse holding a birthday cake

Every family should have a wide variety of Crayola crayons, washable markers and colored pencils on hand. Don’t worry about trying to fit them all back into the original box! Get inexpensive snap-close pencil boxes and clean up is quick.

Magnets are fascinating for preschoolers – a true STEM activity! Just always make sure that the magnets are large pieces that cannot be swallowed. Magna-Tiles are a classic for free form building and play. My son had this Magnetic Pattern Blocks Set with foam shapes that can be placed onto a board, with dry-erase marker details added in around the design!

Quiet Reading Time

Create a special box of “Reading” books that only get pulled out during school hours. Consider choosing fun learning books or relaxing picture books that kids can enjoy without you. Interactive and engaging pictures are ideal. Or choose books with simple text that your preschooler can memorize so they can “read” the book back to themselves. Wordless books that are only illustrations are another option for a quiet reading nook.

Preschool Board Games to Play Together

I’m starting to get that glossed over look, playing the same ‘ol board games month after month with my preschooler! But she loves to play with me so I’ve been toughing it out through multiple games daily of Memory Match and the same two puzzles over and over.

A new puzzle makes for a great prize!

Our preschool board games definitely needed a refresh though and I invested in a few more fun classics and new-to-us games that her siblings play with her sometimes too. Candyland and Chutes & Ladders are the standards, but here are a few new choices to add to your game collection:

  • And a few games they can play with a partner or by themselves:
  • Spot It! Junior
  • Let’s Go Fishin’
  • Pop Up Pirate
  • Honeybee Tree
  • Mr. Bucket Game

Help With Housekeeping

Yes, of course on top of keeping track of virtual school meetings and multiple schedules, you’ll also be keeping up with house work at home with a preschooler! So why not take advantage of the extra helping hands and teach your kid how to pitch in? 

Preschool girl folding a dish towel

From meal prep, laundry or kid-friendly toy organization, preschoolers are usually willing to jump in and help. True, it might take longer to let your preschooler “help” with housekeeping but it’s a pay off in the end. They’ll learn new skills and lifelong tasks, understanding that chores are a daily routine. I have tons of tips in this post about why our kids do housework.

Do you have a preschooler who is always asking for a snack? Cook up something fun in the kitchen together. Use The Everything Kids’ Cookbook for meal inspiration, then whip up lunch for the big kids!

Little girl with mom in the kitchen mixing a bowl

Toys That Encourage Solo Playtime

If you need to have time to yourself and your big kids are doing school, choose toys for your preschooler that will encourage solo play. Free play time will boost imagination and creativity within your youngster. And they’ll love that they don’t have to share toys with their siblings!

I’m all for choosing unplugged toys that have long lasting power. I purchased this BRIO Cargo Railway Set for my stepson 20 years ago and here it is, still going strong! Yes, it might cost a bit more upfront but the heirloom quality of some toys is worth it.

Preschool girl playing with wooden BRIO train tracks

It’s a perfect classic toy that many kids don’t already own. Made more famous in the Toy Story series, my preschooler loves our giant box of Mr Potato Head parts. Especially when she doesn’t have to share them with her brother!

Another classic building toy that’s quieter than wooden blocks, Bristle Blocks allow preschoolers to build without the usual frustration of their creations toppling over.

Start a Special Gift Box

Some days are going to be rough and all the usual tricks aren’t going to work. Think about starting a behavior chart for preschoolers at home using the free printables in my article. Having incentives and being able to work towards a goal can encourage a better attitude. 

Little girl standing at fridge next to a printed behavior chart

For my daughter I started a special gift box of toys that I pull out when she’s met a behavior goal. The items range from a one dollar Hot Wheel race car up to a Barbie doll. Naturally I keep the box out of her sight and only pull out the items as a surprise. The hidden box of treats is a welcome break in the boredom!

Looking for more ideas for being home with a preschooler? See this post on things to do at home with toddlers and additional things to do with kids at home!


Tuesday 25th of August 2020

Lots of great ideas! Brio trains are amazing! My sister-in-law shared their collection with us when Lily was little and we’ve since passed it on to our other nephew to use! Eventually it will go back to sister-in-law to give to their son when he has kids.

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