Health Advice



Ask the Pediatrician: What are some no-cost, screen-free activities to play with my preschooler?

Dr. Suanne Kowal-Connelly, American Academy of Pediatrics on

Published in Health & Fitness

Most parents want to provide more for their children than their parents were able to do for them. But have you ever noticed how kids tend to have fun with things as simple as a cardboard box?

When it comes to play, which is essential to healthy development, simple toys such as blocks, balls, jump-ropes and buckets are often the best kind for kids. In fact, they're more effective in allowing children to be imaginative and creative than more expensive toys that may be out of reach for many parents.

So why not take that cardboard box and play with them? More than any material gift, YOU are the best toy your child will ever receive.

While it may be hard to relax and give yourself over to play, view this time with your child as an adventure. You are not only promoting the many benefits of play, but also getting to know your child better and strengthening the parent-child bond. For starters, your role can actually be quite minimal and the play you undertake can be almost any activity.

Here are a dozen old-school play ideas your preschooler will adore.

1. Duck, duck, goose: Everyone sits in a circle. One child is "it" and goes around the circle tapping everyone on the head while saying, "Duck." At the child's discretion, they tap someone and call out "Goose."


At that moment, the child tapped must jump up and chase the child who was "it" around the circle of kids. If the child who was "it" makes it around the circle and sits down, then they are "safe." If tagged by the "goose," then they are out. Either way, the goose is now "it" and the game resumes. Eventually, only two children are left. The last child left without being tagged wins.

2. London Bridge is falling down: Two children form a bridge by joining hands across from each other. As everyone sings the nursery rhyme, all the children pass under the upstretched arms. When the song ends, the arms are dropped around the child passing through at the time. Then the song changes to, "Take the key and lock her up." Those joining hands can start rocking arms back and forth. Preschoolers delight in being "locked up" and swayed to and fro.

3. Limbo: Bring a broomstick outside and ask two older children or adults hold the ends. Have the children go under the stick without touching it. If the stick is touched, that child is out. After everyone has had a turn, the stick can be gradually lowered in increments. This can be done to music, too, if available.

4. Egg races: Make some hard-boiled eggs and bring them outside with some tablespoons. Have fun telling your preschooler where they have to walk, run, jump, etc., while balancing the egg on the spoon. This promotes balance and dexterity.


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