Here are my top three picks for entertaining a preschooler.
1) Play Doh. When I used to give Play Doh to my sister's kids, she always just put it away, and never let them use it, because of the mess. For me, that stuff is like gold. It's good for a solid 30-45 minutes of quiet, focused playing. In a pinch, that's time you can use to cook dinner, clean up the house,, or regain your sanity after a rough day. My son only plays with it at the kitchen table, so the mess is minimal. I usually have to sweep afterward, but let's be honest, my kitchen could usually stand to be swept anyway... You can mix it up by letting the kids use scissors or cookie cutters. My son is obsessed with trains, so he usually plays Play Doh with his trains.
2) Shaving cream. In the bath tub, we smear shaving cream on the wall, and draw pictures in it, or spell words with it. You can do the same thing on the kitchen table, or on a cookie sheet on the kitchen table. My son likes to pretend the shaving cream is a "snowdrift," or "mud" for his trains. That $1 can of Barbasol will go a long way.
3) Sand. Last year, we filled up the sandbox, and then the neighborhood cats figured out how to nudge the lid over a little bit, and use it as a litter box. It also quickly became inhabited by ants, and so was useless, and a waste of about $50 worth of sand. This year, I have a new solution. We purchased a 20 pound bag of (awesome blue Crayola brand) sand, and a smallish plastic tote. For a total price of $7.75, we now have a small sandbox, perfect for you guessed it, playing trains in. It's also the right size for a little scavenger hunt, or making a sandcastle. It's portable, so we can take it on the covered porch, and play in it in the rain.
So there you have it. Boredom busting for preschoolers, for about $10 total. It works for me.
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