17 ways to help your pre-schooler learn through play indoors

From improving hand/eye co-ordination and expressing their creativity to learning about numbers, shapes, and letters, these indoor boredom busters are educational as well as entertaining for your toddler and will help children learn through play…

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1. Form geometric shapes

Show your little one how to draw shapes like stars, triangles, and diamonds on paper, and then let them decorate them with markers, glitter, paint, or whatever you have on hand.

2. Cut and paste

If you have child-safe scissors at home, your little one will enjoy cutting shapes from paper, and gluing them onto another larger sheet of paper to make a collage.

3. Style troll dolls

Take a clean toilet paper roll and draw a face on the lower half using a black marker. Then cut long strands of hair by cutting into the roll vertically. Once the troll is ready, let your pre-schooler cut the troll’s hair however they’d like to. Get ready for some crazy hairdos!

4. Play family games

A great activity for the whole family can be playing simple card or board games that are suitable for your youngest one’s age and attention span. Just keep in mind that your child may get upset if they don’t win every game!

5. Experiment with clay

Your pre-schooler will like making all kinds of shapes and balls with clay. Help them roll the clay into a large egg shape. Then let them make it into an ‘egg head’ by adding colourful feathers as the hair, fake eyes or beans as the eyes, wool or string the mouth and ears, and a pom-pom as the nose.

6. Draw and paint

Your child can have fun creating art with crayons, markers, or pencils. Or have them do some finger painting or painting with a brush (or other painting tools). Select a few artworks to put into a memory book or display some on a wall or on the fridge.

7. Paper plate faces

If you have some paper plates at home, get out some arts and crafts supplies and let your pre-schooler decorate the plate. Let them use their imagination to add eyes, a nose, a mouth, rosy cheeks, and hair.

8. Explore educational books

As you pick out some books to read together, include some that cover concepts such as the days of the week, the seasons, size (like big versus small), the alphabet, counting, and the names of geometric shapes, for example. The focus shouldn’t be on pressuring your pre-schooler to learn; rather, the books should be so engaging that your little one is interested in finding out more.

9. Answer big questions

If you find your little one asking questions like “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where does the sun go at night?” don’t feel you have to have all the answers at the ready. Instead, see if you can look for the answers together using books that you have or online resources for children.

Often these important questions are answered in a way that’s easy for young people to understand. Doing this will show your child that it’s ok not to know something, and that it’s great to search until you find the answers.

10. Take virtual tours

Loads of the places you’d usually take your kids to visit - like museums, art galleries and zoos – are offering virtual tours online. This can help them explore places and learn about things that interest them in an interactive way. With all the free online resources available now, you don’t have to leave your home to see fascinating things from all over the world.

11. Float their boats

Encourage your young scientist to explore the concept of buoyancy by creating a miniature pond for them to sail different objects across. Fill a saucepan half full of water and collect some objects of different densities: small pieces of cork, wood, paper, and plastic, along with a leaf, a stone, a bar of soap, and a sponge.

Let them experiment with the objects to see which ones sink and which float. You could even ask them to guess first and then test their prediction.

12. Get treasure hunting

Create a basic map of your living room complete with the TV, windows, sofa, and rug marked using matching colours and clear drawings. Then draw an X to mark a few spots where you’ve hidden a surprise. The treat could be something like a single sweet or a sticker. You might like to hide something under a pillow or leave one on a ledge behind the curtain.

Your pre-schooler will love the hunt as well as the thrill of finding their treasure (just make sure your living room is baby-proofed before getting started, so that your little one is nice and safe). For more hunt ideas, try adapting our Easter egg hunt ideas.

13. Make indoor gardens

Gather some pots, potting soil, and some seeds or seedlings. Then show your pre-schooler how to plant seeds and water their plants. Watching it grow together will be a satisfying joint project that you’ll both enjoy.

14. Ice some cupcakes

If you enjoy baking, this is a nice way to spend time with your pre-schooler in the kitchen. Bake some cupcakes together and let your pre-schooler help you decorate them after they've cooled down. You can top them with moss green or purple coloured icing and ask your toddler to sprinkle them with edible glitter to make them into fairy cupcakes.

Alternatively, if a special day is coming up, choose a design in keeping with the theme. For example, you could re-create dad’s face for Father’s Day, using chocolate drops for eyes, a mouth made of jelly bean and a liquorice moustache.

15. Track their growth

As your little one grows taller, it’s fun to mark their height on a wall or door frame. Of course, you can always buy a height chart, or create your own poster using large sheets of paper and a ruler. Your pre-schooler will love seeing how tall they are and seeing how much they’ve grown since the last measurement.

16. Create greetings cards

If one of your close relatives has a birthday coming up, get your little one to design a birthday card (the card can always be mailed later) and then give the lucky person a video call so you and your pre-schooler can sing Happy Birthday. And even if there aren’t any celebrations in the diary, you can still create a card to say ‘Hello’ or ‘Thinking of you’!

17. DIY learning folder

Your older pre-schooler may enjoy learning in a more formal way, especially if they’ve started preschool or will begin soon. Get a ring binder, a few sheets of A4 paper, and a plastic sleeve for each sheet. Each sheet should be dedicated to a specific topic, which could include the alphabet, geometric shapes, colours, days of the week, numbers 1 to 10, and seasons.

You can design these sheets on your computer, making sure that the letters, shapes, or numbers are nice and big on each sheet. Print two copies – one goes into the binder, and cut the shapes out individually on the other. Stick a little adhesive putty on the back of each shape, and have your child place the symbol on the correct part of the page. Your pre-schooler may need help completing the various activities but if you help them and make it enjoyable, they’ll learn in time.

With these ideas, you should be able to keep your pre-schooler amused, and also help to learn about the world around them. It can be a challenging time, but there is support out there.

Even though you’re at home with your little one, being in touch with fellow parents via phone, video chat, or group chat will help you feel that you’re not actually alone. Creating or joining an online chat group of forum of other parents in your community will give you a good place share creative ideas for fun indoor activities. Plus, if one of you is having a bad day or struggling with a specific challenge, you can be there for each other.

What games does your pre-schooler love to play?
Let us know in the comments below!