Boys often come out of the chute ready to move and explore. As they approach preschool age, boys often prefer physical activities over activities that require them to sit still. If you have a busy boy (or two, or three, or a busy girl) in your home, here are some simple ways to keep them moving and active while teaching them something at the same time.
1. Jump (or hop or clap or spin) to the number (preschool/early elementary) – Hold up a few of your fingers and have your child jump that many times. Five fingers on Mom’s hand equals five jumps from Timmy. See how fast he can jump, or how slow. You can make it more challenging by having him jump two less than the number of fingers you are holding, or one more. Or, to be even more challenging, have your child jump the answer to the number of fingers on one of your hands times times the number of fingers on the other hand, or one hand plus the other hand, or one hand minus the other hand, etc. See how fast they can jump, or how silly they can jump. Variation (toddler/preschool): Place some sort of markers (paper would work) and have your child hop forwards or backwards the same number of spaces as your fingers, like a board game. Variation (toddler/preschool): put colored construction paper down (as in Candy Land) and have them hop around the “board” according to the color you call.
2. The Penny Game (toddler/preschool) – You need stairs for this one. Place numbers on your stairway (pieces of paper with clear, large numbers written on them) that will sit at the end of each stair so as not to be in the way. If you have ten stairs for your stairway, place number 1 on the bottom stair, number 2 on the next stair up, number 3 on the next stair, and so on. Grab a penny (or another coin, or a button, or whatever) and have your child sit on the bottom stair (stair 1). Stand and face your child while you secretly hide the coin behind your back in one of your fists. Bring your clenched fists around to the front so your child can see them and have your child guess which hand is hiding the coin. If he/she guesses correctly they move up one stair (to the stair marked 2). If they guess the wrong hand, they move down a stair (or don’t move at all if they are on stair 1). The goal is to get to the top of the steps. This activity not only keeps them moving but introduces them to numbers, the number line and the basics of addition and subtraction.
3. Ball toss (preschool/young elementary) – place 4 or 5 small bowls (like soup bowls or small mixing bowls, or any containers with relatively high sides – shoe boxes would even work) on the floor or a table. Have your child try tossing a ping pong ball into one of the bowls. Have small pieces of paper, each bearing a letter of the alphabet, placed in the various containers. (There should be one paper for each letter of the alphabet, so if you have five containers, four of them will contain 5 papers and one will contain 6). When the ball lands in a container pull out a letter of the alphabet and place it on the floor or table. As they continue to toss the balls into the containers, keep pulling out letters (have them say the letter sound as well!) and arrange them in alphabetical order until they have “won” all 26 letters. Variation (older boys): Nerf Shoot – instead of tossing balls, have your child use a Nerf gun to hit paper or plastic cups or small boxes on a table or bench. Have a question inside each cup like, “What is the capital of Delaware?” They get one point for hitting the targeted box or cup and a bonus point for answering the question correctly. Have them play against a friend or sibling to see who can reach 10 points first.
4. Draw letters/shapes in sand or dirt (preschool) – who needs a Magna Doodle (do they even still make those?) or a drawing app on an i-pad when there is dirt around? Have your child draw shapes or letters in sand, dry dirt, or, if you are brave, mud with a stick. If they are young, start a shape or letter and have them finish it for you.
5. Color/letter treasure hunt (toddler/preschool) – hide 5 red (or any color) things in one room and see if your child can find all five. Or hide five things that begin with the letter “B”. The possibilities are endless! Variation: Instead of hiding things, grab a clipboard and paper and go looking for red things (or black, or green) like an apple, a red sweater, or a cardinal outside. Write down what you find. Or go searching for things that start with a certain letter. If you hunt for “B” things you can look for books, a baby, bathtub or banana.
6. Math treasure hunt (preschool/early elementary) – this is a lot like number 5. Hide 5 blocks (or cars, or large Legos) around the room. Tell your child how many items are hidden and help him find them (treat it like a game of “hot”/”cold”). As he finds the blocks, talk to him in math terms: “Timmy, you have already found one block, and you just found another, now we have two blocks because one block plus one more blocks make two blocks” Get the idea? Variation: Have a set amount of blocks to work with. Have the child go into the other room. Hide some of the blocks, but don’t hide all of them. Then talk to him in math terms again: “Timmy, we have five blocks all together. I still have two blocks here with me. How many of them are hid?” Then go find them.
7. Geography run (preschool/early elementary) – Get a large world or U.S. map. Place the map at a level where your child can easily reach it. (We have a laminated map that we have taped to a large piece of cardboard so we can carry it around from room to room or prop it up on an easel) Using small Post-it Note tabs have your child find places on the map and mark them with the tabs. It may be best to start with the continents since they are large and distinct. Spend a few days teaching your child the location of each continent on the map. Then, when they are ready, call out a continent and see how fast he can run and mark it with the sticky tab. Use a timer to check his times. Variation: You can use this with any instructional poster. Have your child run and point to letters or numbers, or classifications of animals, or the planets, or whatever you have at your home.
8. Nerf Gun Safari (early elementary) – If you are not crazy about having your child “hunt” for animals, you may want to skip this one. Take your son on a Nerf Safari by placing various stuffed animals around the house then turn off the lights. Grab your flashlights and go “hunting”. If your child finds and hits an animal have them look under the stuffed animal for a question you have hidden there. The questions can be about whatever they are learning in school at the time. They get one point for each animal they find and one point for each question they get right. Variation (preschoolers): skip the guns and just go animal exploring. If you find an “animal in the wild” read the question that is hidden beneath.
9. Math bounce (elementary) – you can practice math and ball skills at the same time by having your child bounce the answer to a math problem. If you ask them, “What is 2 + 1?” they would bounce the ball three times. Variation (older elementary): This game could be used addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It could also be used for other subjects: have them bounce how many legs on an insect or an octopus, have them bounce how many planets there are, bounce out the letters that spell “elevator”, etc.
10. Stack things – find a large quantity of something. Playing cards, plastic cups, paper cups, empty yougurt containers, dominoes, and shoe boxes all work well. Let them stack. And knock down. And stack. And knock down. You get the idea.
Well, hopefully this list will help spark some ideas to keep your wee lads under control and out of trouble. 😉 I would love to hear YOUR ideas for keeping little ones busy. If you have an idea to add to this list leave a comment and tell me about it! 🙂