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FUN ACTIVITIES CAN ADD ZEST TO THE LIVES OF PRESCHOOLERS

Maybe your preschoolers are feeling lost in the shuffle while the big kids are wrapped up in back-to-school excitement and activities. Here are some special, fun things you can do with the little tykes.

- Make a pint-size homework center. Use a large, sturdy cardboard box for a desk and set it up by the kitchen or family room. Remove the top flaps of the box or fold them inside the box, and place the box on its side. Scoot a small chair in front of the open end. Let your child paint or draw designs on the box, then cover empty frozen juice cans with colorful, adhesive-backed paper to hold pens, markers and child-safe scissors. Tuck scrap paper, construction paper and old magazines in a shoe box. For extra fun, stop at an office-supply store and purchase inexpensive items to make the homework center special.When it's time for older siblings to do their homework, your preschooler can also get an "assignment" done.

- Go to a nearby park for a picnic lunch together. Pack it like a school lunch with individually wrapped items and a thermos bottle and a straw. Bring a treat for your dog if he tags along.

- Read a story to your child. When you finish, ask your child to draw a new jacket cover for the book using his or her own ideas.

- Plant tulip bulbs in the garden.

- Go for a nature walk and gather many different kinds of leaves. When you get home, spread them out on the kitchen table. Cut a plain, brown paper grocery bag and lay it flat. Make crayon rubbings of the leaves and use the pretty paper for gift wrap.

- On another walk, encourage your child to find something small enough to put in a pocket. At dinnertime, the child can tell a story about the item to the whole family.

Donna Erickson's new book, "More Prime Time Activities with Kids," is now available in bookstores. To order by mail, please send a check for $12.95 plus $2 shipping and handling (total $14.95) to Donna Erickson, P.O. Box 16188, Minneapolis, MN 55416.