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25 simple activities to help prepare your child for preschool

Help your child feel more confident in preschool by practicing these essential skills at home.

preparing child for preschool

When your child was a baby, do you remember feeling slightly anxious about whether or not they were meeting developmental milestones on time? As a therapist mom, it was constantly on my mind. Looking back, I can see how ridiculous I was, but at the same time I can't really blame first-time-mom-therapist me.

Happily, I can report that I've done a 180 in my view of child development (while I certainly still empathize with first-time parent angst). I no longer worry if my child is behind on a skill or struggling with any particular activity that I know is normal for their age range.

Because every child IS uniquely and wonderfully different. So please consider this list of preparation skills for preschool a guideline, and not something to get worried about. Learning is not something that should be forced, but rather encouraged through fun and child-led interest.

With that in mind, below is a list of 25 age-appropriate skills that will help your child feel more confident in preschool. The list includes activities to build skills in all areas, including fine motor skills, self-help, visual motor skills and social/emotional skills.

Having practiced some of these at home, your child will feel more confident in their new preschool environment.


Children can start practicing these skills anywhere from age 2-4. The list below is organized in a way that breaks each skill down from very easy to more advanced in skill level. And don't worry—these are basic activities that won't require any Pinterest-worthy-craftiness. You can practice them all in the comfort of your own home with little to no materials.

My hope is that you and your little one can practice these skills in a pressure free, natural environment that is fun for the both of you. If your child has a hard time with any of these activities, let them know it's okay and pick something else that might be closer to their interest level.

It is just preschool, after all!

Scissor skills + pre-scissor skills

1. Learning how to orient and hold scissors correctly

Before kids learn to cut, this is the first logical step. The prompt I use is "Is your thumb in the small hole?" and/or "Is your thumb on top?" Usually kids who are learning to cut will pronate (turn over) their wrists at first so they need this reminder. Practice 3 times in a row to make sure they have scissor orientation down.

2. Learning how to snip by cutting play dough, cutting straws or small strips of index card paper

This is the fun part! Kids seriously love learning to cut this way. It provides immediate feedback with no stress as far as which way to aim the scissors. Get ready for some tongues to come poking out as it might take some serious concentration. The thicker consistency of these materials gives more proprioceptive feedback and requires less graded control of the scissors.

3. Learning how to cut on a line

While this is the end goal, don't feel pressured to have your child complete this skill if they simply aren't ready. Go back to numbers one and two and have fun! In-hand manipulation of scissors, while using the other hand simultaneously to hold paper AND steering to stay on a line is a very advanced skill.

Coloring, pre-writing + other visual motor skills

4. Identifying basic shapes, colors and letters

Read, read and read some more! You can even practice letter sounds while you're at it.

5. Coloring

Start with having them "fill in" very small objects first (i.e. stars in the sky) then gradually move to larger objects (only use pictures with one solid object and no background, as the background is too distracting for children in this age group).

6. Imitate straight lines horizontally then vertically

I have found that drawing a line and saying "zoom!" (and then inviting your child to imitate you) is the most effective way for kids to learn this skill.

7. Imitate a circle, a cross, a square

After they have mastered the lines, move on to a circle. It's okay to start with just circular motions if that is where they are at, then move onto a circle with a definite end. Next you can try a cross: A cross is very difficult for some, as it requires the brain to cross midline. If they can do all of those things, go ahead and try a square!

8. Connect dots

Have them draw a line from one dot to the next. If that's too easy, try multiple dots in a row or draw a picture with dots. Connecting dots helps to improve visual tracking for pre-reading skills and improves motor planning skills.

9. Trace straight lines then curvy lines

You don't need any fancy tracing books to practice this skill. Just sit alongside them and have them trace on top of your lines. This will improve their visual attention and visual tracking skills.

10. Practice imitating easier vertical letters such as L, E, F, H, T and I

Always work on capital letters first before attempting lower case. Most letters of the alphabet are too difficult for pre-school aged children. Diagonals and curves are the hardest, so start with letters that use straight lines such as those listed above.

11. Practice writing their name

This can mean recognizing and saying the letters in their name, imitating the first letter of their name or even writing the whole name—remember to use capitals! Respect where they are at and don't push them when they're not ready. Try using multi-sensory approaches vs using standard pen and paper, for example, writing their name in a sandbox using their fingers, or using playdough to form the letters of their name.

Hand + grasp development

12. Practice holding crayon/marker correctly

Keep in mind, a tripod grasp isn't expected to emerge until age 3.5-4. It is natural and OKAY for them to use alternative grasps at first. In fact, there is a very natural progression of grasp. You can try my tried and true "point, pick and flip" trick to teach proper grasp. Have them point the writing utensil at themselves, use thumb and index to "pick" it up near the tip, then flip the back end of the crayon into their web-space and there you have it: a tripod grasp!

13. Writing/coloring/drawing on a horizontal surface (window, chalkboard or easel)

The angle and position that this places the arm in is going to help develop stability of the shoulder, wrist and forearm. We call this "proximal stability." A stable base is necessary in order for small, fine motor movements of the hand to develop.

14. Use small or broken crayons/chalk to facilitate proper grasp

This is one of my favorite ways to help strengthen the fingers that make up a tripod grasp (the index, middle and thumb). Since there is very little to hang on to, using broken crayons forces these three fingers to do all the work. (Credit due to Handwriting Without Tears for this concept.)

15. Clothespin activities

Clothespins strengthen the three fingers that make up the tripod grasp, which also strengthens the muscles of the thumb space and helps develop proper hand arch. Use clothespins to attach to literally anything—a string, a piece of paper, a shirt.

16. Tong activities

You can use the tongs from your kitchen and have your child practice squeezing them together to pick up literally anything! I promise your kiddos are going to love this one. Some easy household items you can use are: cotton balls, toy cars, ice cubes, markers or crayons. Just put them into a pile and grab some bowls or a muffin tray for them to use as a target drop. This is going to strengthen so many muscles of the hand and arm and promote an age appropriate grasp.

17. Playdough

Playdough is great work all around for strengthening the hands. I like it most for developing the arches of the hand, especially when rolling into snakes or small balls against the palm. You can do so much with playdough—roll it into a snake and then pinch along the length of it, place small toothpicks into it for a birthday cake, spell out their name, etc.

Social/emotional skills

18. Take turns

How else will your child learn how to take turns if you aren't practicing this skill with them at home? Ask them for a turn using their prized toy, or play a simple board game that involves reciprocal turn taking (Go-Fish, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Don't Break the Ice or Candyland are classic examples).

19. Clean up and put away

When they are finished playing with all those toy cars or dolls, have them clean them up before choosing a new toy.

20. Sit and finish an activity in its entirety

Generally speaking, pre-school aged children should be able to sit down for at least 5 minutes to complete a preferred task, whether that's finishing a puzzle, coloring a picture or building a structure with blocks or Legos.

21. Learn how to ask for help

This is so important. If they aren't learning to ask for help at home, then they won't be able to ask their teacher for help when they need it.

22. Make eye contact

It is important to teach children how to make eye contact when they are speaking to someone or saying hello. It tells the person who is being spoken to, and it also shows respect and tells the other person you are paying attention to them.

Self-help skills

23. Practice taking off and putting on shoes + pulling down and pulling up pants

They will need to put shoes on and off occasionally at school. They will need to know how to pull pants up and down by their knee level so they can use the potty.

24. Practice using a spoon and fork

25. Practice washing their hands

Break it down into simple steps:

Step 1: get soap
Step 2: rub hands together
Step 3: rinse hands
Step 4: turn off faucet
Step 5: dry hands

Originally published by Ashley Thurn on helpinghandot.com.

Here are some products we love to get started:

Dough Parlour play dough

Dough Parlour play dough

Created by a mama and preschool teacher, Dough Parlour's play dough is the best we've ever found. The premium-quality, fruity-scented modeling dough is made from 100% non-toxic ingredients, is 100% biodegradable and is handcrafted in Canada. (And we want to play with it as much as our kids!)

$22

Wise Elk fishing game

Wise Elk fishing game

Simple but engaging, this magnetic fishing game is a great way to develop focus and patience and learn how to take turns.

$20

Boundless Blooms guided exercises + mantras for kids 

 Boundless Blooms guided exercises and mantras for kids

This colorful deck of cards is actually an effective tool for helping young kids develop emotional intelligence and resiliency. A solid foundation in these skills makes the transition to preschool just a bit smoother.

$30

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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