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8 Get-Along-Great Games for Preschoolers

How to have fun while learning to play nice

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Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™
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Use these simple activities to teach essential social and emotional skills.
Kids Can Learn While Playing Nice
Little kids are always learning, and playtime is no exception. As they interact with each other during play, young children are building important social skills. Big concepts like communication, conflict resolution, cooperation, and even self-control are baked right into games and activities like these, designed for small groups. So let’s play!

1. Helping Hands: This is like a slo-mo, no-outs version of tag. Give kids a beanbag, a paper plate, or a paper napkin to balance on their heads, and have them walk around the playing area. If the item slips off, they have to freeze. But other players can gently touch frozen ones with their hands to thaw them out and get them back into the game.

What kids learn: cooperation, self-control

2. Balloon Bop: Inflate a beach ball or a Mylar balloon and challenge kids to work together to keep it aloft, either with their hands or by bouncing it on a parachute, a twin-size sheet, or large scarf. (Remember: popped balloon scraps are a choking hazard for kids under age four.)

What kids learn: cooperation, communication, self-control, confidence

3. Block Builders: Bring out a set of wooden blocks and encourage kids to work together to create something awesome. They’ll have to share, take turns, and problem solve as a team in order to build the best structure. Or, instead of blocks, have kids put together a large, age-appropriate jigsaw puzzle.

What kids learn: conflict resolution, cooperation, communication, self-control

4. Monkey See, Monkey Do: This one is super simple and you don’t need any playmates—just you and your child. Plus, you can play while waiting in line, riding the bus, eating breakfast, and more. All you have to do is make a face or a small movement (like tapping the side of your nose with your finger) and have your child copy you. Then switch roles and let her lead the way.

What kids learn: empathy, communication, taking turns

5. Barnyard Buddies: Pick two familiar animals and quietly assign one to each child—so half the group are cows and the other half are chickens, for example. Tell the kids to find their buddies by making the sound their animal would make. Then all the cows can gather together into their own little herd, while the chickens make a flock.

What kids learn: communication, cooperation

6. First Me, Then You: The next time your child suggests an activity—she wants to color or prepare a simple snack, for example—see if you can make it into a turn-taking exercise. It’s best if you choose something that your child knows how to complete but one that can include some variations. If she wants to draw a picture, you might say: “Please get the paper. What comes next?” Then it’s your child’s turn to say, “Please get the crayons. What comes next?” You could say “Choose the first color,” while your child responds with “Draw a house.” Work together until you have a finished work of art!

What kids learn: cooperation, communication, conflict resolution, self-control

7. Color Chain: Have children walk around a room at home, or a safe and familiar place outdoors, then announce a color. The goal is to find something of that color and touch it—or touch a person touching it! If you said “red,” a child could grab onto a red post on the playground. Then she can hold hands with the next person who comes along, and that person holds hands with the one after that. Continue until everyone’s connected in one big chain. Then pick another color and play again.

What kids learn: communication, cooperation 

8. Puppet and Puppeteer: Have kids pair up and designate one as the puppet and one as the puppeteer. The puppeteer gives commands for the puppet to follow, and then they switch. Or, one child can be a robot and the other its “remote control,” telling it to take one step forward, hop to the side, and so on.

What kids learn: communication, self-control, taking turns

See Also: 5 Must-Have Manners Preschoolers Can Master