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5 Simple Ways to Occupy Preschoolers

We have "life group" at our house every Thursday night, which means we have 3 preschoolers in the mix (not counting 2 kindergarteners and 2 toddlers).

If you have any preschoolers living at your house, you may have noticed that it can be a challenge to give any project or conversation your focused attention unless the preschoolers have an activity that is keeping them busy.

So, I came up with 5 simple ways to occupy preschoolers.

1. Sorting beans.

I mixed 2 bags of dried beans (1 bag of pintos and 1 bag of black beans) in several bowls. I gave each child a spoon and asked if they could sort the beans into muffin tins using the spoon.

2. Sorting bears (or buttons or shells or whatever you have an assortment of)

You may have a store bought set of these counting bears, but if you don't you can use buttons sorted into cupcake liners or onto paper plates. Let the children decide how they will sort the buttons, whether according to size or shape or color. When they are finished, pile them all back up and ask them to sort them according to a different value (size, shape, or color).

3. Poking pipe cleaners into a strainer

This is super simple, but the children love it! They can poke in both ends, or just one if they choose. After everyone had a turn at this activity, during the Bible reading portion of our group, I gave each child a handful of pipe cleaners and showed them how to twirl each one around one finger to make "caterpillars". They all sat very quietly making their little family of "caterpillars".

4. Water/bubble play

Pull up a couple of chairs, fill up the sink about half way full of water, add a squirt of dish soap, and toss in a few cups. Instant fun!

5. Doll house/wooden train tracks

This works well, as does a wooden train track set, if it has been stored away out of site and only pulled out during special times. My girls will play for nearly an hour with this doll house or the wooden train tracks, if it has been a while since they have seen it.

Would you like to see more of my ideas on occupying preschoolers while homeschooling older children?

And don't miss out on these "5 Simple Ways" posts:

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  1. LOVE the pipe cleaner ones!! I’ve used the others, having had 10 pre-schoolers myself over the years. LOL!! But never the pipe cleaner/strainer idea.
    First grandbaby on the way so I can put this one into practice before too long!!

  2. We host small group at our house every Wednesday night and we have similar issues with occupying little ones. Great and cheap ideas!

  3. These are great ideas!! We have two preschoolers who would love these! I’m going to do two of them today! Thank you!

  4. One suggestion I would add is to give each kid a “workmat” space do to their work. I do lots of sorting activities with my daughter (we inherited Grandma’s button jar!) and I put Avery on a receiving blanket sized quilt (you could use a bathtowel) that we use only for her “workmat” when she’s doing activities with tiny pieces. Makes clean up MUCH easier!

  5. I’m going to have to try the strainer one, my oldest keeps asking me to teach her how to sew : )

  6. I love those activities they are part of most of my days, with 3 little goose (4, 3 and 1.5 year old) I have to keep them busy and out of trouble all the time!!!

  7. I love the pipe cleaner idea!!! My Annie is 2 1/2 and she LOVES to play in the water – I let her do that when I need to cook. :-)

  8. I just saw a link to this on a friend’s blog, and I LOVE the pipe cleaner idea! I had never thought of that! Our second youngest will be 3 in a couple months and I am always looking for ideas to keep her happily occupied during our school time. Thank you! :)

  9. I’d never seen the pipe cleaner one before!!!!! Soo going to invest in some pipe cleaners… wanted too before this post… definitely going to do it now!!

  10. I love the pipe cleaner idea! We have a 3 yo and a nearly 2 year old who will love that. Thank you!

  11. I have to say I went through this post with “But does she have 2 year old twin boys?” in my head. lol I quickly ruled out the beans that would end up in their ears or noses and the water that would be all over themselves and baby.

    But then I read on to the other fun ideas. I especially love the sorting one and the pipe cleaner one.

    THEN I read all the good comments.

    I like the workmat tip a lot!

    I also like the one that said she does let her little one play with water while she’s cooking– and so I decided to not snub it.

    Come to think of it, the beans would be okay for my four year old– and perhaps the twins if they are CLOSELY supervised.

    I better bookmark this post so I can recall it when I need it! Thanks Connie!

  12. P.S. I guess your post title DOES say preschoolers– not two year olds. 😉

  13. Ah, Smockity, how did you know that amidst all the wonderful New Year inspirational blog posts for us mommies, what I REALLY needed was a post on occupying the toddler?! I love it!

    Seriously, thank you for the great ideas! I’m sure I’ve read variations of most over the years, but you can never get enough ideas for the little ones. It’s like dark chocolate. There’s always room for more! :)

  14. Any deas to occupy a 20 month boy while I care for my newborn due in a few weeks? He is still in the eating crayons, play oh and tearing up paper stage. He doesn’t seem to be interested in sitting and doing a ‘busy bag’ craft. He would probably eat the beans or put them in his ears! He is jealous of me holding other children so I see a difficult adjustment for him. So different from my daughter who is almost 5 and did those things when he was born (of course she was 3 then and able to concentrate on a task) . She is in pre-k now so won’t be at home to entertain him.

  15. All great ideas I’ll have to remember the pipe cleaner one.


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