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10 Preschool Table Activities (so you can make supper)

Here are 10 preschool table activities to keep kids busy while you make supper. You know they're going to wreck the house unless you direct that energy!

 

Getting dinner on the table in a timely manner can sometimes be a major feat!

These activities are for the days when you need just 10, 20, even 30 minutes completely (OK – nearly!) interruption free to get it done!

Use each one for a couple days and then move on to another or switch ’em up every day so the kids don’t get bored.

Preschool Table Activities

 

1.  Whiteboard and Dry Erase Markers

I sometimes get in a rut of just handing my preschoolers some paper and pens and telling them to draw. They do enjoy that, but if I use it too often it only lasts about 2 minutes. Somehow a whiteboard and dry erase markers are much more entertaining and can hold their attention for a good half hour.

 

2.  Beads and Pipecleaners

Stringing beads to make jewelry is always great fun, especially for the girls (though my boys have always like it too). Giving them pipe cleaners rather than yarn decreases the spill factor (harder for the beads to come off when the end is dropped) and minimizes the interruptions for tying knots (they can twist the ends themselves). If beads aren’t their thing, then they can always just make things (shapes, letters, people, animals) out of the pipe cleaners!

 

3.  Thinking Putty

Playdough is great but involves too much cleanup right before supper. Thinking Putty is a grown up version of Silly Putty. It is a little pricey, but a lot comes in the large tin; I can divide ours among at least 3 people. It also comes off clothes, rugs and blankets WAY more easily than similar products and is much more durable. (I originally got ours to give one of the kids something to do with his hands while we do some of his lessons.)

 

4.  Color or Draw

I know, I said I use that one too much! Here are a couple ways to switch it up and make it interesting again.

  • Cut card stock into shapes – hearts, circles, eggs, whatever – a new shape somehow sparks the imagination again.
  • Fold a regular piece of paper into quarters – this gives them 8 (front and back) small spaces to in which to draw; more new possibilities!

Preschool Table Activity

 

5.  Small Bin of Legos

This is not the time to dump out the entire family collection! Keep a small collection in a box or bag of some sort and let them use only those pieces at the table.

 

6.  Wikki Stix

Wikki Stix are short pieces of wax coated string that can be shaped into all kinds of things over and over. They come in a variety of colors and offer endless creativity. They’re also nice as a light-weight, no mess, portable activity for car rides. You can also stick them in your bag when you’re heading out to a restaurant or doctor’s office.

 

7.  Cut Out Pictures

Use this idea with caution – you know whether handing your child a pair of scissors is a good idea or not!

Put all the sales flyers and catalogs you get in the mail to good use! Let the kids practice their cutting skills on the pictures. They can put a meal together from a grocery flyer, design an outfit from a clothing catalog, plan a garden with the nursery catalog or just cut out whatever interests them.

Preschool Table Activities

Some kids prefer to work on the floor!

 

8.  Glue Pictures

Save all the cut out pictures, and give the kids some scrap paper (newspaper and old file folders are other options) and a glue stick with their pictures the following day. Just make sure the glue stick is a small one – there may not be any left when they’re finished!

 

9.  Paper Cutter

Not quite ready to let your kids loose with the scissors? Mine have a blast when they’re allowed to use the paper cutter. Scrap paper, envelopes from the mail and backs of old cards all make good practice pieces. Of course I am referring to a paper cutters with a tiny blade that slides between a guide, not the kind used when I was in grade school. Just thinking about those gives me the chills.

 

10.  Help Cut Vegetables

Obviously, only you know whether you can trust your child, and it does require advance training! 

All my kids have loved being allowed to do this. (Maybe I’ll write a post about that someday.) If I have just one child cutting vegetables, I usually have them at the counter with me. When I have more than one working I set them up at the table to give all of us more space. Since its always fun to eat vegetables you cut up yourself,  be sure to give the kids more than you actually need. A crinkle cutter is a fun option for beginning cutters. Start with soft vegetables like zucchini or cucumbers.

Tearing lettuce for a salad is a good option if your child is not ready to use  a knife.

 

So set your kids up with a table activity and get to work on supper.

(‘Cause you know if you don’t direct that energy they’re going to wreck the house!)

What table activities do your preschoolers like?

 

Shared at: Art of Homemaking Monday, Modest Monday, Tuesday Talk, Coffee and Conversation, Women With Intention, Raising Homemakers, Serving Joyfully, Family Fun Friday, Fellowship Fridays, Thank Goodness Its Monday, All In All and Savoring Saturdays.

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Comments

  1. Abi, I love these and will be testing them out on Ari this week! Thank you for linking up at Women With Intention Wednesdays! 🙂

  2. Great tips, Abi! I’m going to have to find some of that thinking putty. 😉 Thanks for sharing this at Savoring Saturdays!

  3. The Peaceful Haven says:

    Abi…this is great! It has been a while since I have had a toddler but I remember well and I know how helpful this will be to moms of little ones! Thanks for taking the time to post!

  4. I really enjoyed this post. I’ll have to put some into practice, for sure!

  5. What a great list! I love the cutting out pictures idea. My daughter would love it!

    Now, can you make a list for one year old activities. 😉 She is even harder to entertain while trying to get dinner on the table!

    • I’ll have to think back to those younger days a bit! I do remember putting mine in the high chair and tying small toys to yarn that I duct taped to the edge of the tray. Then they can toss things over and reel them back in with the yarn.

  6. Abi you are so awesome! Always a wealth of information and I love that what you share is for “real” life. Thank you for these ideas. And I will be buying that putty!

    • Thanks, Erica. Hope your boys find lots of ways to manipulate the putty. It makes a really great “SNAP!” once they figure out how to form a bubble and pop it :).

  7. Great ideas! Dinnertime is a time I DEFINITELY need to start bringing out “special” games and toys…or else it is the most stressful time of day, lol! I will have to pin this list and remember to use these tricks! 🙂

    • I know what you mean, Summer! Hope your kids enjoy some of these ideas and that you’re inspired to come up with your own ideas as well.

  8. I enjoyed reading your “about page” Abi. I agree, the kitchen is the hub of the home. I like that your blog title is centered around that 🙂 It was fun visiting and I am glad that Coffee and Conversation hosted this!

    • I’ve enjoyed visiting the About pages too, JES. Thanks for taking the time to mention it even though that page doesn’t give the option for comments :).

  9. These are great ideas! I didn’t think about the cutting out pictures activity. I have some leftover magazines ready to be recycled, and they would be great to give to my little ones to make a collage while I cook dinner. They would love that!

    Thank you for sharing your ideas at the weekly linkup at Mom’s Morning Coffee!

  10. Fantastic suggestions! I’m definitely going to try some of these. Pinned already too 🙂

  11. You shared some good ideas here! I also used to have a pretend cooking set which would be brought out during dinner time for toddlers (we would each “cook”. We would each make dinner at the same time. I would also have them set the table while preparing dinner.

    Thanks for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays 🙂

    • The girls love their play kitchen things too and use them a lot during the day. Setting the table is a great way for them to help also.

  12. What great ideas! I love having different activities for my little ones. Thanks for linking with Tues Talk!

    • Thanks, Keri. I like having lists of things to pull ideas from when I can’t think of something new off the top of my head! Variety is good.

  13. I’m looking forward to the days my son doesn’t just see a marker and want to draw on himself 🙂 — but actually a lot of these could be adapted younger. We could do color-wonder markers/paper rather than dry erase, his lacing activities would be a good option as well! Thank you for linking up and sharing these ideas!

    • Markers are still usually a special treat here too – colored pencils and crayons are usually safer options, though their not as inclined to use the dry erase ones on themselves for some reason! The color wonder and lacing shapes are a great idea too.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Inexperienced hands don’t work as quickly as well practiced ones. For the kids, this is not work, it’s play. Play is savored, not rushed. Plan ahead (maybe let them help with prep work early in the day) so you don’t feel hindered by their involvement. The day you have just 30 minutes to get supper on the table is not the time to incorporate their help (until you reach expectation #7!). Those are the times to occupy them with an appropriate table activity instead. […]

  2. […] the table? (I’ll wait while everyone raises their hand.) Joy in My Kitchen has a roundup of 10 preschool table activities that are perfect for the dinner […]

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