By the time 6 p.m. rolls around I am dead tired. After working all day, making dinner, feeding the dog, doing dishes and a loud of laundry or two, I’m just done. Unfortunately, as a working mom that’s really the only time I get to play with my kids during the week. If you’re a stay at home mom I know you have plenty of reasons to be exhausted too, and finding appropriate preschool activities ways to entertain your little ones can be a full time job.
I feel awful about being too tired to play so I’ve come up with a few ways that don’t take a lot out of me or even literally allow me to lay down.
Easy Preschool Activities
1. Hair Dresser
I am usually the client because my daughters loves playing with my long hair. I sit on the couch, she sits in back of me and brushes my hair. She usually attempts to braid it. The brushing feels wonderful at the end of a long day and we still get to connect.
2. Mommy as a Mountain
Lay on the floor on your stomach and let your kids use your body as a mountain. They can roll cars and trucks over you, use you as a snow hill or even really pretend that their characters are climbing a mountain. This is one of my favorite preschool activities since it lets me lay down. 🙂
3. Crayon Face Coloring
When I was little, my dad used to pretend to color my face with crayons. Then I would do it to him too. Obviously, it’s an imagination game since the crayons don’t leave marks. We would get really detained with “coloring” eye brows, hair and rainbow freckles. I taught my daughter this game and she loves it. I can sit on the couch, she sits on my lap and we just take turns. Usually, I end up coloring her face more because it tickles and she likes it. It’s low key enough that you can do it right before bed without having to worry about your kids getting too amped up.
If this isn’t one of your favorite preschool activities, it should be. My daughter loves to play doctor with my husband and I love to let her. You get to sit or lay down while still having a decent conversation with them (because all pre-K doctors have a wonderful, talkative bedside manner) and it makes them happy. Let them work on your arm, your leg, your foot, your knee and lay back and relax. Warning: At some point you will have to be a doctor and you will be on call longer because they will realize being the patient is more fun.
5. Cutting and Gluing
Not the best night time activity, but if you’re a stay at home mom and can deal with little pieces of paper all over in exchange for some quiet then this one is for you. It’s also an activity they can do in your presence but they don’t really need you to do it as long as you’re comfortable with them using those blunt scissors. Basically, give them some paper to cut and tell them to make a mosaic or stained glass window on another piece of paper using the glue. You can even sketch out a design for them to fill in out just let them do whatever. The point is that they’re entertain and you’re a part of it. Bonus that it helps with fine motor skills.
6. The Staring Game
You remember this game from elementary school, right? It’s less awkward when you do it with your own child and you almost always win. Follow the playground rules, whomever blinks first loses. You can sit on the couch, lay on the floor or even in bed side-by-side as long as you’re at the same eye level.
I like puzzles. I like that my daughter is still learning the rules and that it’s a quiet (usually) activity. You can play these with physical puzzles or you can play on a tablet. Either way it’s a low-key activity that’s perfect for some down time before bed or quiet time in the afternoon.
I realize PlayDoh is a double edge sword. Like the paper and glue above, you need to exchange cleanliness for quiet because Play-Doh always makes a mess. If you are a little OCD about the Play-Doh not getting mixed up you will need to let go of that too. The good thing about Play-Doh is it is an activity they can do with or without you right next to them. As long as you’re in the vicinity and you trust them, you can read a book or close your eyes for a little nap. I’m lucky. I can nap for about 20 minutes while my daughter entertains herself. My son…he’s another story. I take my eyes off him for about 15 second and he is trying to scale the fireplace.
This is a good afternoon activity, especially for rainy afternoons. If you don’t build forts frequently then the novelty of this will keep your children busy. I always like to use a table as the base. This way I can put minimal effort into actually making the fort and clean-up is easier. You can then use the chairs to make tunnel systems for the fort.
10. Treasure Hunt
Draw them a map that leads them to “treasure.” It could be toys, it could be a snack or something cools for the Fort above that ends up being the treasure. It doesn’t really matter what it is, they will have a blast looking for it. Just a word of caution, if your kid is easily scared, they may want you to come on the hunt with them. My daughter won’t go into her playroom by herself anymore because she saw a spider. Very frustrating. If this is the case, just make sure your map includes rooms they don’t have any issues with.
11. You Be The Baby
My daughter has just started getting into playing house. She usually asks me to be the sister, which doesn’t involve much, but being the baby is best. You can totally get your kids to take care of you this way. She will get me the remote or snacks and sometimes she will even stroke my forehead to try to put me to sleep. This game usually makes me feel like I’m a good mommy because she is so sweet and loving to Baby Mommy.
12. I Spy
My aunt taught my daughter this game this past summer and she is a little obsessed. They were fishing and it kept her busy for about an hour. We usually play this in the car but I’m about to start playing it at home since it is such a great preschool activity. A stationary game where I get to relax sounds much better than a car ride where you have to guess within seconds.
Last week my husband told me that my daughter said her favorite part of the day was coloring with me. It was my favorite part of the day too. My husband had purchased an adult coloring book for me for Christmas and she loves doing it with me and using my “big girl” markers. Coloring is a regular activity in our house, but using my book and special markers make it better for her. I recommend having a special book that you only color with your child so they don’t see it as an everyday thing when you do it with them.
This is not for the faint of heart, but it will keep kids busy for an hour or more. I get my daughter all set up – plastic table cloth over the table, a palette of colors on a paper plate, a cup of water for her brushes and a smock. Then I let her use her creativity to paint whatever she wants. Sometimes I buy wooden letters or characters for her to paint. She is happy with a piece of wood too.
15. Decorating Cookies
It doesn’t have to be Christmas time to make cookies! Make them at other times of the year and keep the kids occupied with decorating them. It took my daughter a half an hour for one cookie sheet over Christmas. She may have inherited some of my perfectionist tendencies, but it’s still fun to watch her create or create with her.
16. Individual Book Time
While my daughter can’t read yet, sometimes she likes to pretend she can and “reads” to herself or recites the story based off her memory. With individual book time, she can read her books and I can read mine. Sometimes I don’t have to actively engage her as long as I’m in the same space as her and doing the same activity. This one doesn’t last very long but I know that once she can read book time will last a little longer and still feel like something we can do together.
Whether you work or stay at home, all these preschool activities can be done with minimal effort on days you feel like you’re dragging. Since it is winter here, I’ve kept these to indoor activities for now. We will have to see what summer brings for us this year since I’ll be staying at home with them.
Do you have some kind of activity you do with your kids when you’re tired? I’d love to hear about it.
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Individual book time and the hair stuff sound ideal! These are all really engaging activities, yet give you time to catch your breath and find a little relaxation time!
I loved this post!! It is so good to have a refresh on ideas when tired.
Definitely pinning for later! My daughter is only 10 months, but still finding activities to keep her busy can be challenging.
Well good luck with that….LOL…they never seem to get tired so I hope you can stay awake long enough
Lots of great ideas. My daughter is past this stage, but I have many great memories from these types of activities.
This is SO needed today. I didn’t sleep at all last night, and all of my kids are home today because of the weather. I’m exhausted and my poor toddler is just looking for something to do!
I have three kids under 6 and am desperate for tips like this! My favorite is I Spy or reading to them in bed. Then I get to cozy up and cuddle them.
These are AWESOME ideas. I don’t have kids of my own, but I often babysit my preschool-aged nieces and godchildren. I have a few medical conditions that leave me wiped out really easily, and it’s hard to keep up with their boundless energy… going to bookmark this for when Auntie’s on deck!
These are all such great ideas. There are more times than not that I just feel like I can not handle it throughout the day.
I love combining all your great ideas with learning … I can close my eyes for a second and kids are busy and learning!
Treasure hunt and you be the baby sound fun! I can’t wait to try these games when I have kids. I like how you can make sure your child is having fun even though you are tired!
These are some really lovely ideas for keeping children busy and having fun without you having to move too much! I don’t have my own kids yet, and am already shattered most evenings, so when I do have some of my own I will definitely be playing some of these games!
Wow This is exactly what i need right now I’m always at home while working but I feel I rally missed my kids, I will bookmark this tips.
Thanks for this list and I SOO needed this right now! With a recent move to London and entertaining a toddler after nap is the worst time of the day by far! Love your blog! 🙂
These are all such great ideas! So many times when parents are exhausted, they just let the kids play on an iPad or phone so they don’t have to deal with them. I love that you still can interact with them with these!
My daughter could sit and do puzzles for hours. They are her favorite. Great ideas!
I totally hear you on being dead by 6pm! That is when my husband gets home, so he usually handles evening entertainment. But, while I am home with the kids all day, we like to do all of these things! We also like UNO and puzzles as a good quiet activity when mama is at the end of her rope 🙂
These are all awesome ideas! Parenting is can be so tough and exhausting, and the kids seem to have endless energy!
These are such great ideas! I remember how my younger sister was always asking y mom to play with her – but sometimes you really need to come out with the solution as adults can get tired!
I will have to share this with my daughter on those days she is worn out.
I am totally sending this to my sister-in-law. She has two toddlers and she’s pregnant with the third and she is constantly tired. I think some of these things will help her with some new ideas to do with them.
I didn’t know anyone else did the crayon face coloring! haha, we do that too! Love this list! 🙂
I am the crafting mom. I am all about crafts, we literally have our own “michael’s store” in our school room. SO I just head to a shelf and we create
I am the crafting mom. I am all about crafts, we literally have our own “michael’s store” in our school room. SO I just head to a shelf and we create to our hearts content.
These sound like some wonderful tips to help keep your child occupied when you are feeling a bit frazzled. I’ll have to pass this onto friends!
I love these. Mommy as a mountain was one of my kids favorites when they were little. They got to play, and I got to lay!
oh my gosh where was this last weekend ha i def love these ideas esp having some one on one book time which my kids love to do!
Fabulous ideas. I know when I was tired, I’d bring out the crayons and coloring books. Or Play Doh would help too. My kids were usually good with their toys for about 30 minutes.
Wonderful activity ideas! Entertaining preschoolers is hard enough, but doing it while tired can sometimes seem next to impossible.
Play doh has been a life-saver! It does make a mess, but it’s worth it because it keeps them occupied for at least 30 mins
These are such good ideas! Having a few of these activities ready is going to be super helpful. I always enjoyed things like decorating cookies too.
I really enjoyed reading this post. These are wonderful tips. Baking cookies and enjoying them after always worked in my home.
Oh man it seems that toddlers have more energy then we can ever have! These are awesome tips!
Such creative ideas, you are totally a super mom! I always loved to baked cookies with my mom when I was little 🙂
These are some great ideas for days that you’re tired but need to keep a kiddo entertained! My granddaughter loves playing doctor.
These are such great ideas! It is so important to find positive ways to interact with our kids, even when we are just too tired to do anything.
I love my kids to do hands-on type of activities! I think the gluing, cutting, and Play-Dough are some of our faves!
These are such fantastic ideas for tired nephew and niece baby sitters too (like me, haha)!! Saving for reference.
I’m so familiar with all of these activities. I play them even when I don’t realize I am playing them.
I think these are all such great ideas. There are so many on here that my daughter still do too. We love many of these activities.
These are such great ideas! My toddler definitely has more energy than me most days lol!
These are fabulous ideas, and so many of them! Wish I could steal a few for work 😉
These are fun ideas to keep in mind! I love the idea of building a fort!
These are definitely great ideas for the tired parent. I love joining my kids in coloring. In fact I have an adult coloring book I use and they like to get their coloring books out as well and join me.
These are all wonderful ideas! I do a few of them with my busy little toddler. She loves playdoh time and painting time with Mommy.
These are all such great activities. My favorite was hair dresser when my daughter was young. I love having my hair played with. It is so relaxing.
Ha! I totally related to this post and my daughter is 33! I particularly loved Mommy Mountain and The Staring Game!
I think I’m going to use some of these for when my kiddos are home and I’m dead tired. Which is all the time lol
I know these moments when I really need a break! Thank you very much for these awesome ideas that I will use for sure!
Coloring or painting was always what we chose to go with when my kids were antsy or I was too tired.
Yes, crafting keeps the kids busy and they get to be creative. We need breaks too, we do so much.
I typically do Mommy as a Mountain often, but not always by choice ?These are great, pinning for later!
puzzles kept my son busy when he was younger.. my daughter – crafts was and still is the way to go
My daughter loves to play with my hair too. I’ll be sitting on the couch working on my laptop, she climbs up on the back on my shoulders and plays with my hair.
Loving the fort idea lol. I used to have my little sister put lotion on my back and draw
I wish I had seen this 3 years ago. Now I don’t need this. I will share it to my friend who has pre-schooler.
I love these ideas! Especially treasure hunting
These are really great ideas! I LOVE letting my daughter playing with my hair.
I can definitely relate to being dead tired and having two toddlers in my house that just want a lot to do! Thanks for sharing these – perfect for all those rainy or winter days!