Preschoolers are all energy and curiosity, which is perfect because preschool is all about learning through movement and play. Here are our favorite preschool activities and games that will keep your preschoolers busy, engaged, and learning.
Preschool Activities for Reading
Reading in preschool is about exploring language, letters, and, eventually, words. Create opportunity for young readers and writers to explore on their own, as well as with you, every day.
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1. Read aloud every day
Read-alouds are perfect preschool activities you should do daily. Try reading aloud with the whole group, small groups, and one-on-one. Reading boosts students’ language and prepares them to learn to read and love it. Some of the best picture books were written with preschoolers in mind, including classics like The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, and modern favorites like Everybody in the Red Brick Building by Anne Wynter and Boxitects by Kim Smith.
Here are our favorite books to read with preschoolers.
2. Create a letter parking lot
Create a parking lot with capital letters and write lowercase letters on cars. Students drive the cars to park so that the lowercase and capital letters match.
Learn more: ABC Parking Lot/Pre-K Pages
3. Make a book
Preschoolers will love to read books they write and illustrate. Start on the first day of school by having them make a book all about themselves. Then, record what they learn about anything and everything. At the end of the year, send the books home with students as a memento.
Learn more: Bookmaking/PreKinders
4. Play kick the cup
Write letters on cups, then have students use a ball to knock the cups over. This combination of gross motor and literacy skills is an activity that students can do during literacy centers or recess.
Learn more: Kick the Cup/Fun Learning for Kids
5. Do interactive writing
Use a writing prompt, which could be a question from a book or a general question that you want students to discuss. Then record students’ responses to create a bulletin board or book. Interactive writing—when you model writing students’ contributions—shows students how writing works and that they can be writers.
Learn more: Early Literacy Activities/Fun-a-Day
6. Play syllable Head and Shoulders
Help students practice breaking words into syllables by saying words and tapping their head, shoulders, knees, and toes for each syllable they hear. So, for the word banana, they would tap their head (ba), shoulders (na), and toes (na).
7. Practice rhyming with blocks
Rhyming is a cornerstone of phonemic awareness, a skill kids need to learn to read. Practice rhyming with activities like:
- Put rhyming words on blocks and have students stack the rhyming words together.
- Write rhyming words on the board or draw pictures of rhyming things on the board. You say one word and students use a fly swatter to swat the rhyming word or picture.
- Put images that rhyme in a row on the floor and have students walk along the row, saying the rhyming words as they go.
Learn more: Rhyming Activities/My Teaching Cupboard
8. Mail pretend letters
Provide students with paper, envelopes, and a mailbox and encourage them to write letters to you, each other, or characters they’ve read about.
Learn more: Mailbox Literacy Activity/No Time for Flash Cards
9. Explore an alphabet sensory bin
Fill a sensory bin with letters—form, magnet, paper—and other sensory items, like beans, beads, rice, or corn and have kids explore.
Learn more: Letter Sensory Bin/No Time for Flash Cards
10. Match magnetic letters
Put paper with letters on it on a cookie tray, then have students match letter magnets to the letters on the paper. When students have mastered matching letters, use paper with pictures on it and they can put the letter magnet of the first sound on each picture.
Buy it: Magnetic Letters at Amazon
Learn more: Magnetic Letter Activities/No Time for Flash Cards
Preschool Activities for Math
Preschoolers cover a lot of ground in math, including number sense, graphing, patterns. These activities give them important work in math foundations and let them work independently as mathematicians.
11. Match shapes and colors with blocks
Using the blocks in your block center, trace shapes onto butcher paper. Have students use blocks to match shapes and colors, and combine blocks into new shapes. Create patterns with the blocks and have students extend the patterns beyond the page.
Learn more: Block Shapes and Colors/Hands On As We Grow
12. Count patterns and numbers with bears
Counting bears are a must for every preschool classroom. Use them to teach for a number of preschool activities that focus on sorting, patterns, and number sense.
- Use counting bears (or any colored counters) to create and extend AB, AAB, and ABC patterns.
- With counting bears and number strips, students count out the number of bears to match the number on each card.
- Have students sort the bears by color, size, or another attribute they see.
Buy it: Bear Counters at Amazon
Get it: Number Strips at Fun Learning for Kids
Learn more: Bear Counter Activity/Teaching Mama
13. Sort pom-poms
Create space to sort by color, and have students sort pom-poms. Start with two colors and work up to six. Students are practicing basic classifying and fine motor skills.
Learn more: Pom-Pom Sorting/Teaching Mama
14. Use counting mats
Use play dough and a counting mat for students to practice making numbers and completing 10-frames. As they get more mature, students can use a marker to trace the number and complete the 10-frame.
Learn more: Free Dough Mats for Counting/Life Over C’s
15. Learn symmetry with LEGO bricks
A LEGO board and a pile of LEGO bricks are a great way to start teaching kids about symmetry. You can start them off with a pattern on one side and have them build the same pattern on the other side. Then have them create their own symmetrical sculptures.
Buy it: LEGO Building Board at Amazon
Learn more: LEGO Symmetry/Fun Learning for Kids
16. Practice geometry with Popsicle sticks
Put out a bin of Popsicle sticks and see what students will make—shapes, patterns, bridges. Point out the lines, angles, and other geometric features that they’re creating.
Learn more: Geometric Shapes/Little Bins for Little Hands
17. Teach numbers with mini eraser 10-frames
Ten-frames teach number sense, and mini erasers are fun. Use your favorite mini erasers or other counters (buttons, pom-poms, little LEGO bricks, Unifix cubes) to teach numbers starting with 0 to 10.
Buy it: Mini Erasers at Amazon
Learn more: Printable Ten-Frames/Fun-a-Day
18. Graph with dinosaurs
Using a graph and markers, students roll the dice 10 times and record which dinosaurs they get on a graph.
Learn more: Dinosaur Graphing Activity/Artsy Momma
Plus, get more graphing activities here.
19. Measure hands and feet
Trace students’ hands and feet, then have them measure them with Unifix cubes. Anything can be a unit of measurement in preschool, as long as it’s standardized. So, add Unifix cubes, Matchbox cars that are the same length, small Duplo blocks, and more to the measuring center.
Learn more: Measuring Activity/Little Bins for Little Hands
20. Compare weights
Provide students with a bucket balance and different things to compare. Which weighs more, dried blueberries or fresh? Corn kernels or sunflower seeds? Toy animals or LEGO bricks?
Buy it: Bucket Balance at Amazon
Learn more: Bucket Balance/Little Bins for Little Hands
Plus, get more math games for preschool here.
Preschool Activities for Social-Emotional Learning
Preschoolers need lots of teaching and support to learn how to make and keep friends, solve problems, and manage the big feelings that come their way.
21. Play friend bingo
Since your preschoolers will come to school likely not knowing anyone, use bingo to help them learn names and routines. Create bingo cards using images from around the school, friends’ faces, and teachers’ faces. Then, play friend bingo by having students put cubes or buttons on the pictures when you name them.
Learn more: Friend Bingo/PreKinders
22. Use your cozy corner
When preschoolers are having big feelings or need a break, a classroom cozy corner is a space to calm down. Once a child is calm, you can talk to them about problem-solving and rejoining the class.
Learn more: Cozy Corner/Preschool Inspirations
23. Toss a get-to-know-you ball
Spend some time getting to know students and helping them learn about each other with a ball toss game. Using a soft ball, throw or roll the ball from student to student. When each child has the ball, they say their name and one favorite thing. Repeat this activity as necessary throughout the year.
Buy it: Soft Soccer Ball at Amazon
24. Make choices with green and red boards
Preschoolers are learning a lot about the impact they have on themselves and others. Reinforce good and bad choices with “red” and “green.” Teach which choices are appropriate and not appropriate for school, then when students have made a red choice, talk them through which green choice they could have done instead.
Learn more: Green and Red Choice Boards/Pocket of Preschool
Preschool Activities for Gross Motor Skills
Use these ideas to help preschoolers develop body awareness, strength, and flexibility, while working on following directions and, of course, having fun.
25. Play with parachutes
Parachute games and activities help preschool students learn how to cooperate and work together. Have students hold on to the parachute and all lift at the same time to create a mushroom. When they stand around the parachute edges and walk in a circle, they can make a merry-go-round. Practice listening by playing fruit salad; give everyone a fruit name (apple, banana, etc.). Then lift the parachute and call out a fruit. The students who are that fruit must run under the parachute to the other side.
Buy it: Parachute at Amazon
Learn more: Parachute Games/Kid Activities
26. Exercise with dice
Roll a number die and a die with an exercise assigned to each side. Have children do the exercise the number of times shown. For indoors, try toe touches, arm flaps, jumping jacks, side-to-side jumps, twists, and star jumps, or choose movements that fit the physical needs of your students.
Learn more: Exercise Dice/Education.com
27. Do body bridge poses
For a fun, core-strengthening, and cooperative task, ask some children to hold poses like hands-and-knees, plank, or Downward Dog while other children drive cars and trucks under the “bridges” those poses create.
Learn more: Body Bridges/The Inspired Tree House
28. Walk on a homemade balance beam
Challenge students to construct homemade balance beams using spare boards. For an indoor option, use large wooden blocks. Can they walk all the way across? Can they go backwards? For students who might find it difficult to balance on a raised surface, use masking tape lines on the carpet or cut pieces of cardboard boxes they can use to make a path.
Learn more: Balance Beams/Hands On As We Grow
29. Cross the river
Arrange floor spots in a line that snakes across your classroom. Invite children to be “ants” who have to cross a “river of hot chocolate” by stepping on “marshmallows.” Have them hold hands in a line and work together to get across. Vary the activity by moving some marshmallows closer or farther apart, so children have to use different tactics.
Buy it: Poly Spots and Adventure, Play, Peace by Nancy MacPhee Bower at Amazon
30. Spend time in Savasana
Yoga is a way for students to slow down, move their body in different ways, and stretch. Use videos like Cosmic Kids Yoga or books about yoga to lead students through yoga sequences.
Learn more: Toddler Yoga/Yo Re Mi Kids
31. Play Yogi Benders
Another yoga idea: Call out two body parts and tell students that only those two parts can touch the ground. Try “one foot and one hand,” “two knees and two elbows,” “one bottom and one finger,” or “two knees and one head.” For an adapted version, have two or three students share a large exercise ball and work together to try to hold the ball still using certain body parts.
Buy it: Yoga for Children by Lisa Flynn at Amazon
32. Play Hula-Hoop Islands
Place Hula-Hoops around your classroom. Play music and ask children to move around the hoops. When the music stops, they must stand inside a hoop. Take away a hoop each time you stop the music. In the end, how many preschoolers can fit inside one hoop?
Learn more: Hula-Hoop Islands/Outdoor Movement Project
33. Do Hula-Hoop movements
Set up a line of four to six Hula-Hoops across the floor of your classroom. Have students wait behind the first hoop, then call out directions for how to move through the hoops. Try bunny-hopping, giant-stepping, tiptoeing, or scurrying like mice. Play music with different tempos to encourage students to move at different speeds.
Learn more: Hula-Hoop Games/Learn Play Imagine
34. Play Land, Sea, and Air
Designate one area to be the “land” and one area to be the “sea” using your rug and floor tiles or masking tape. Students must hurry to the correct area when you call out “land!” or “sea!” and jump as high as they can when you call “air!” Keep students laughing with surprise commands like “earthquake!” and “tornado!”
Learn more: Land Sea Air Game/What Do We Do All Day?
35. Do indoor relay races
Stuck inside because of the weather? Set up an impromptu relay race. Ask students to carry bean bags or other objects on different body parts across the room. Or try this partner relay activity in which two children must work together to hold a ball between themselves.
Learn more: Wacky Relay/The Inspired Treehouse
36. Play indoor tennis
Get some wiggles out and spark some laughs by setting up this “tennis” game with balloons and fly swatters. Students can try to pass balloons back and forth or work together to swat balloons into a bin, cardboard box, or across a masking tape line. For an adapted version, use large traffic cones as stands for the balloons.
Learn more: Balloon Tennis Activity/Little Bins for Little Hands
Preschool Activities for Fine Motor Skills
Preschool is all about working those pincer fingers, the small muscles in the hands that kids will use to write later on. This means activities are more about squeezing, pinching, grasping, and releasing than holding a pencil and writing.
37. Paint with pom-poms
At the painting station, pom-poms make a great tool. Have students pick them up with their fingers and paint, or create a pom-pom brush by using a clothespin or tweezers to pick up a pom-pom and dab it around. Let students make their own painting or give them tracing pages to “trace” with paint.
Learn more: Paint With Pom-Poms/Fantastic Fun and Learning
38. Squeeze tweezers
Tweezers or tongs are a staple in many early childhood classrooms. They’re great for strengthening pincer muscles, and they’re versatile. You can get them in any size, from large tongs to small tweezers, which works for all kinds of hands. Some ways to use tweezers:
- Sort objects into piles or bins by color (pom-poms, beads, etc.).
- Give students a pile of seeds or beans and have them sort them by type.
- Have students use tweezers to place objects (pom-poms, marshmallows, cotton balls) on a line or letter.
- Put a pile of yarn in a bin (not tangled) and have students pull out the “spaghetti” piece by piece.
- Have students use tongs and colored beads or pom-poms to cover designs.
- Using a Connect 4 game, have students play or fill the game using tongs.
Buy it: Learning Tongs at Amazon
Learn more: Ways To Play With Tongs/Mama OT
39. Write with shaving cream
A tray and shaving cream are all you need. Put a dab of shaving cream on each tray and have students spread it out. Then, they can write letters, numbers, and shapes and “erase” it each time. Add food coloring to the shaving cream to match a theme or mix it up.
Learn more: Shaving Cream Writing/Gift of Curiosity
40. Pinch water droppers
Water droppers (or pipettes) are another way for kids to use their pincer grasp and strengthen eye-hand coordination as they pick up the water and transfer it from one place to another. One center idea: Put out a cup of water, a water dropper, and a bunch of bottle caps. Students transfer the water from the cup to the bottle caps.
Buy it: Water Droppers at Amazon
Learn more: Water Play With Eye Droppers/Learning 4 Kids
41. Cut and cook
Preschoolers love to learn how to do everyday activities with real tools. Teach students how to safely use a knife to cut up soft, manageable fruit, like bananas. Then, use the bananas for snack time or a recipe.
Here’s a recipe for banana pudding.
Learn more: Slicing Skills/PreKinders
42. Make a mosaic
Cut-up squares of paper and a blank paper canvas provide another versatile way for students to practice pincer grasp and get creative. Provide cut-up paper squares for students to use to make a mosaic design, or have students cut paper into squares before they make their mosaic. Give students ideas for how to craft their mosaic, or let them do their own thing.
Learn more: Mosaic Pattern Art/Hands On As We Grow
43. Cut and Paste
Being able to use scissors is a skill that will serve kids well when they’re in kindergarten and beyond. Give your preschoolers lots of practice using scissors with tasks that ask them simply to cut, not necessarily on a line or with precision. For example, put pages from a magazine at a center and have students cut them any way they choose. They may cut out images or just cut the pages to shreds. For students who are learning to use scissors, loop scissors are a good starting place.
Buy it: Safety Scissors and Loop Scissors at Amazon
44. Try finger plays
Finger plays are beneficial for so many reasons. Once you have a favorite finger play, change it up so that students are using their thumbs, forefingers, and pinkies to act it out. Here’s a favorite finger play:
45. Hide-and-find items in modeling clay
Add small items to your modeling-clay station to encourage hide-and-find exploration. All that squeezing and pushing is great for fine motor development, as well as persistence.
Learn more: Play Dough Activity/What Do We Do All Day?
46. Add water beads to the sensory table
Mix up the water play table with water beads. Playing with animal toys and other fine motor toys in the water beads adds a sensory experience. (Note: Do not use water beads if any students still put things in their mouths as these should not be eaten.)
Buy it: Water Beads at Amazon
Learn more: What To Do With Water Beads/Artful Parent
47. Play finger soccer
Have pairs or small groups play “finger soccer” on the rug, using only their index and middle fingers as “feet” to move a small ball. You can even make felt jerseys!
Learn more: Finger Soccer/Your Kids OT
48. Feed a monster
Create a “monster mouth” out of a flip-top container and ask students to use clothespins or large tweezers to pick up puffballs or other small items to “feed” the monster. They won’t want to get their fingers nibbled!
Learn more: Feed a Monster/Therapy Fun Zone
49. Hang the laundry
String up a clothesline in your pretend play area and have students use clothespins to hang a doll’s laundry to “dry.” If you’re short on space, set up a tray clothesline like the one illustrated above.
Learn more: Hang Laundry Activity/PreKinders
50. Make snowballs or peas in a bowl with clay
These two preschool activities are perfect for mixing pretend play with fine motor skills practice. First, gather a collection of plastic animals and tell students they are preparing for a BIG snowball fight. Then show students how to roll small balls of modeling clay in between their thumbs, middle fingers, and index fingers and make a stockpile for each animal. Or set out a bowl and spoon and ask students to roll “peas” to make a bowl of pea soup.
Learn more: Playdough Snowball Fight/OT Mom Learning Activities
Preschool Activities for Science
Preschoolers are curious about the world and how it works. Science activities teach them how to ask questions, what happens in a process, and how to form and test hypotheses.
Check out these preschool science experiments.
51. Make bubbles
Are you looking for preschool activities for kids who love bubbles? Try making your own bubbles using dish soap and water and see how big you can make the bubbles, or how long bubbles will last before they pop.
Learn more: Make Giant Bubbles/Make and Takes
52. Do a penny boat challenge
One way to teach creating hypotheses is to build aluminum foil boats and test which sink and which float. Which boats do students think will float? How many pennies will it take to sink each ship?
53. Color flowers
Study how plants work with a classic experiment. Put white flowers (carnations, roses, and tulips all work) into cups, each filled with a different food coloring and water. Over the next few days, watch how the flowers change. Be sure to leave one cup without food coloring as a comparison.
Learn more: Color-Changing Flowers/Fun Learning for Kids
54. Make a water wall
Use everything from plastic bottles to toilet paper rolls along an outside wall or any vertical surface to create a water wall.
Learn more: Water Wall/Happy Hooligans
55. Make a rain cloud in a jar
During your unit on weather, or any time you want a cool experiment, create a cloud in a jar.
56. Raise and release butterflies
There so many different butterfly activities that are perfect for preschool students. In the spring, read about butterflies and raise your own. Then plan a party to release them.
Buy it: Butterfly Kit at Amazon
Get even more ideas with Tips and Tricks for Teaching Preschool.
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