As we are spending time at home more, I have never been so thankful for my stash of preschool creative supplies! Many of my friends have been asking me for an easy list of go-to items to have on hand for their children to use in open-ended, stimulating ways. I figured it could be helpful for others to have this list as well during this time, so I wanted to compile it in one place. This list is basic, and there are certainly plenty of other amazing materials to add to your home stash; I wanted to create a foundational starting point (outside of the basics we all have already, such as crayons, chalk, markers, glue, etc.) Please don’t feel it necessary to purchase everything on this list; I just wanted to give a decent variety for entertaining preschoolers at home!
We’re going to start with the dollar store. You can find these things at a regular grocery store as well, but I like to head to Dollar Tree first to see where I can save some money!
Supply List for Entertaining Preschoolers at Home
Clear Hair Gel
This one seems weird, but hear me out! Hair gel makes for a great sensory activity. Put it in a Ziploc bag (I also get my Ziploc baggies at Dollar Tree) and tape it to the table or a window for children to explore. I love to use hair gel in a baggie on the window when exploring colors: I use food coloring and create two primary colors of hair gel that will mix into a secondary color when explored within the bag. I put both gel colors in the bag, and let my kiddo explore what happens as she squishes and manipulates it! Sometimes I will also just leave the hair gel clear and add a random material in like pom balls or little animal figurines.
Foil can be used as a sensory additive or in many different art activities! You never quite know how you’ll end up using it, so it’s a good one to have on hand to grab for as needed. Our favorite way to use foil is for painting on or with; sometimes it’s fun to just change up the materials a bit and paint on foil instead of paper.
We love using coffee filters for painting, especially with watercolors, or by using an eyedropper and food coloring! Use a pipe cleaner to gather the filter in the middle to create a butterfly.
Epsom salt is a good one to have on hand for science experiments, art activities, and sensory activities. I use Epsom salt a lot in our winter art projects because it makes for a fun representation of ice/snow.
These are another good one to have on hand because you never know how you’ll use them! It’s amazing how painting with a cotton ball/swab can make the whole painting activity feel brand new and exciting.
I highly recommend getting any containers from the dollar store. They have tons of different sizes and types and they’re only $1. It’s great to have different containers on hand for sorting activities and/or sensory activities! The simple action of taking things out and putting them back in is a favorite toddler and preschool pastime.
Seasonal Play Pieces
Almost all of the seasonal materials we have come from the dollar store. They tend to have pretty good options for each holiday and season. Some examples include: Halloween themed erasers (I put these in sensory bins/bottles), spring faux flowers, Valentine’s Day heart vase filler pieces, faux autumn leaves and hay, Christmas themed cookie cutters (for play dough), etc. You never know what fun seasonal items you’ll find, and it’s so fun to watch your kids explore all the open-ended ways in which they can use the materials! I save all seasonal items and put them in labeled baggies for each month of the year so I can grab each month’s bag and reuse the pieces from year to year.
I tend to make my own tissue paper squares for collages from dollar store tissue paper that I find in the gift-wrapping section!
These are pretty self-explanatory and great to have on hand! We love to use watercolors on coffee filters! I’ve found watercolor sets from the dollar stores, craft stores, Amazon, and most grocery stores.
The rest of my favorite go-to items for entertaining preschoolers at home come from the grocery store, craft stores, and/or Amazon.
Whenever I’m stuck while putting together a sensory bin, dried beans or dried rice are my default filler. You can pair dried rice and/or dried beans with just about any other materials and tools to make an engaging sensory bin. Also, both items are so much fun for scooping and pouring!
These are a mess-free, fun alternative to markers.
Contact paper is a MUST in this house! We use this for collages all the time! Flip it upside down (sticky side up), provide tissue paper squares, feathers, etc. and let the child go to town. So fun, minimal clean-up, and very engaging.
Great collage project material, especially in the fall around turkey time! We’ve also used feathers for a fine-motor activity around Thanksgiving, where we stick the feathers in the holes of a colander. This one was a hit!
If you’ve never experienced Kinetic Sand before, you’re in for a treat! Kinetic Sand is moldable yet also flows freely, and it sticks to itself. It makes for easy clean up and never dries out. There’s nothing else like it! I tend to grab it at Michael’s and/or Amazon.
Water beads are used on a regular weekly basis around here. They make for a fun sensory bin additive! You can also put them in a Ziploc bag or tube for the younger ones to explore without being tempted to put them into their mouths. I love ordering big packs of multicolored water beads from Amazon (a sizable pack is usually around $10.) You can also find them at most craft stores in the floral department and/or the kid activities section!
Rainbow Scratch Pad
I ordered these on a whim during quarantine mostly because I wanted to draw with them myself! I remember using these as a kid and loving them, so I thought my daughter might love them too. I was right. She’s been walking all over the house with her scratch pad and is amazed by all the vibrant colors! Getting to change up her drawing medium has given her a newfound curiosity! I also found these on Amazon.
I hope this compilation has sparked your creativity and helps you feel a little bit more prepared for the upcoming months. When in doubt, keep it simple, and reach for what you know is engaging for your kids! On the flip side, don’t be afraid to try new things or add something new to an already-favorite, because you never know what activity will spark some newfound curiosity in them! You’ve got this!
For some quick tips on putting together sensory bins for your littles, see my guide here.
What are your favorite supplies for entertaining preschoolers at home?