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14 preschool activities to get your child ready for the classroom

Laura Richards
July 19, 2017

You can't believe your little one is already starting school — preschool, that is. It's a big transition for kid and parent alike, but luckily there are lots of kids activities you can do to help prepare your child.

Meeghan Karle Mousaw, a mother of five and the founder of Sight and Sound Reading, says that pre-k should be all about learning while having fun. "The thing I love about preschool is really anything can be turned into a learning experience. Preschoolers soak things up like a sponge."

Get your child prepared to thrive with these 14 preschool activities:

1. Make spaghetti letters

Cooking is a great place to start, since it teaches kids to follow directions. Make some spaghetti and form letters of the alphabet out of the spaghetti strands, using the directions from Sight and Sound Reading. This way you can teach them while getting them fed!

2. Categorize everything

After grocery shopping, sort items into categories such as produce, canned goods and boxed items. While setting the table or unloading the dishwasher, a preschooler can group utensils (nothing sharp), cups, bowls and plates.

3. Play Simon Says

Barbara E. Harvey, an early childhood and parenting expert and author of "Journeys Through Parenthood," suggests playing "Simon Says" with your preschooler, since "a large part of going to preschool and eventually kindergarten is listening and following directions." Get tips for silly and funny commands from Activities for Children and Teens.

4. Explore same and different

The Measured Mom has printable worksheets to help your child pick out which item is different in a row of stuff. With four levels of difficulty, this activity can grow with your child.

5. Have fun with laundry

Have your child help you sort and match whites, colors and darks, or sort and match socks or items by color. This repetitive task helps kids with identifying patterns and colors.

6. Ask "How do you feel?"

Harvey suggests that parents download a feelings chart of emoticons, put them on magnets and have your child put one on the fridge to express how they are feeling before talking about it. "Being able to express emotions and give a verbal explanation is important. Children who can verbally express feelings use appropriate behaviors in the classroom." 

7. Build sensory bin

Kids love to get their hands into things, and The Stay-at-Home Mom Survival Guide's sensory bin of oatmeal and salt is the perfect way to hide little toys or cars for them to find. This fosters a sense of exploration and hand-eye coordination.

8. Color pages

Coloring is one of the classic pre-k activities, so purchase a coloring book or find free printable pages at sites like Crayola. Encouraging your child to stay within the lines develops fine motor control. When your child chooses a crayon, ask her which color it is and teach her if she doesn't know.

9. Search for signs

Take a walk or drive and have your child look for signs that start with different letters. You can write out the alphabet or part of the alphabet and have him point to the letters he sees and match it to his sheet of letters.

10. Practice using scissors

Whoa, preschoolers and scissors? Yes! Find a pair of preschool-safe scissors and give kids a ball of play-dough to experiment with, as shown on the Kids Activities blog. This helps build fine motor strength and control.

11. Learn the five senses

Show your child several objects, then put one into a tube sock while hiding the rest. Have the child feel it and figure out by touch what it is. Same for smell — have her close her eyes and smell something and tell you what it is. Explain the five senses while doing this.

12. Help with his coat

Lay down your child's coat with the outside part touching the floor and the top of the coat facing your child, as Teach Preschool suggests. From there, a child can then put on his own coat by slipping his arms into the sleeve holes and then flipping it over his head. The teachers will love you for teaching this skill.

13. Give three-step directions

Sure, your child can follow a one-step direction, but a three-step direction is more challenging. Make it a silly game by saying, "Get your teddy bear, get a tissue and have him blow his nose."

14. Make a balance beam

The blog Hands On as We Grow has directions for making a kid-safe "balance beam" in your backyard. See if your child can hop or step only on the path you set, which helps to develop large muscle control and balance.

Read next: 20 free toddler apps (without hidden in-app purchases!) worth downloading

Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys including a set of identical twins. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications. Her parenting links can be found on her Modern Mothering website.

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