Most preschoolers are fascinated by elevators. What's not to love? You press the glowing buttons and you're magically transported to another place. Use that fascination as a springboard for crafts that double as learning activities for your tot. These crafts encourage imaginative play where your preschooler gets to pretend she's visiting her favorite places.
Making a panel of elevator buttons helps bring playtime to life. Hide the panel in a closet or glue it in a large cardboard box to help your preschooler imagine she's actually in an elevator. Cut a piece of cardboard into a large rectangle, about 12 by 18 inches. Ask your preschooler to help you glue 1-inch googly eyes, found at most craft stores, in rows on the cardboard. Help her put large numbered stickers on the googly eyes to make them look like elevator buttons. To really incite that squeal of joy, paint the cardboard with glow-in-the-dark paint before gluing on the eyes--when she closes the door, she can still see the panel. While you're playing elevator, ask her questions about numbers such as "What number comes after two?" or "Can you count to 10 while you push the buttons?" This helps her learn her numbers while having fun.
Make a working elevator for your preschooler's dolls or superheroes to take a ride in. Get a shoebox-sized cardboard box and an old cardboard orange juice container. Rinse the container and cut off the bottom half. Poke a hole on each side and tie some string to the container bottom, then connect the strings above the new "basket." Cut a hole in the bottom of the box and near the top of the box to act as doors, then lower the basket down into the box. Make sure the string is long enough to come out the top of the box. Help your preschooler choose toys to place in the basket and pull them up to the top door.
Help build your child's sense of direction by creating an elevator out of felt. Let her pick the colors she wants for her elevator. Use a large rectangle of felt, about the size of a regular sheet of paper, and cut a second piece in half. Cut that piece in half again so you have two doors. Glue the outside edges of the doors to the background felt. Cut out brightly colored buttons and several arrows out of felt, then place self-adhesive hook-and-loop fasteners on the back. Number the buttons with markers. Ask your child, "Which direction is the elevator going?" and help her turn the arrows the right direction above the elevator. You could also ask her "What floor are we going to?" then have her put the correct button inside the elevator doors. Help her cut a few people shapes out of felt so she can move them in and out of the elevator.
Start an imaginary journey with your preschooler using an elevator to transport you to marvelous places. Take turns drawing pictures of the places you see when the elevator doors open. Draw the inside of the elevator around the perimeter of several sheets of paper, including numbered buttons and arrows. Say, "Draw me a picture of what we would see if the doors opened at the zoo." She might draw her favorite animal, such as an elephant, or she might make up her own animal. Ask her to fill in a button to say what floor you're on and an arrow to say whether you're moving up or down--or left or right, for more creative play. Draw some pictures yourself, making them silly to keep her engaged in the craft. Choose crazy locations as well as real ones, such as what you might see in a giant's refrigerator or if you went to a planet where everything was upside down.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.