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Preschool play day: Games that encourage development

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, trav...

Play time!

Teach your kids from an early age that learning can be fun!

children playing games outside

Your preschooler’s brain is growing fast and absorbing things like a sponge! Now is the time to help your child learn and develop skills that will help him or her for life. This doesn’t mean you have to sit down at the table with your faces in books -- get up and play! These games are designed to help your preschoolers learn, but they'll never know it. They'll just know they're having a blast!

Simon Says

Ask any mom her biggest obstacle when dealing with a preschooler and most will start spouting off about listening and following directions (and if you’ve ever had a preschooler, you know that these are, without a doubt, two very different things). Simon Says is a game that tackles both in a fun way. You can play it with just one child or many, but if you have more than a few participants, start by having them form a line. The parent or adult should be Simon and give the kids directions (such as touch your toes, jump up and down, walk in a circle, etc.). If you start the phrase by saying “Simon says,” they have to do it, but if you don’t say “Simon says,” they should stand still. Once they get the hang of it, start adding multiple actions to each turn (pat you head then turn around). For older children, those who don’t follow directions or move without “Simon’s” direction should be out, but this rule shouldn’t apply for preschoolers. This game teaches them to listen carefully and to follow directions, as well as help with larger actions like jumping and body part recognition.

Find the 15 Best board games for family game nights >>

I Spy

I Spy is a great game that you can play absolutely anywhere. Take turns spotting objects and describing them, then wait while the other person tries to find the object and name it. A typical exchange would sound like, “I spy with my little eye, something red that’s good to eat” and all the other players take turns guessing. The player that guesses correctly gets to be the next spy. Play at home, in the car, in the doctor’s office, in line at the grocery store. It’s a great way to pass the time. In its basic form, I Spy teaches patience and taking turns, since you have to wait your turn to guess. You can adjust it for anything else you’re working on, such as rhyming or numbers (look for objects that rhyme and numbers of things that are the same color).

6 Classic games your child will love >>

The Feelings Game

You won’t get your kids to act the way you want them to until they start to understand empathy and realize how their actions affect others. The Feelings Game is a good way to get started. Tell your child a negative feeling (sad, mad, shy, scared, sick, nervous) and have him or her make a face that reflects that feeling. Have your child come up with a story about why he or she’s feeling that way and let the other players come up with ways to make him or her feel better.

Check out online games for toddlers >>

Hot and Cold

If you can teach your preschoolers how to work as a team, you’re giving them a skill theycan use for life. Hot and Cold is a fun way to get a group of kids to work together. Start by picking an object to hide. Anything works -- a ball, a block, a doll, etc. Send the “Finder” player out of the room and then hide the object. When they come back in, tell the finder to start looking and have the players tell him or her if she or he’s “Hot” (close) or "Cold" (far). Once the finder finds the object, pick another player to be the finder.

Quick Tip

Make the rules for your games and stick to them! It's an important way for kids to learn structure and the importance of following the rules.

More fun for preschoolers from SheKnows

Counting games for preschoolers
Letter games for preschoolers
10 Things our kids' preschool teachers want us to know

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