28 Fun and Educational Preschool Activities for Kids
September 20, 2023
Playtime is an important part of every child’s development. It’s not just about having fun — it’s how kids learn all the building blocks they’ll need after preschool.
There are tons of activities preschool teachers can plan to help little ones develop a range of important skills. Read ahead for a guide to choosing the right preschool activities for your class, with examples that are entertaining and educational.
Choosing Preschool Activities that Help Support Learning and Development
There are so many great activities through which kids can play and learn at the same time. Before you pick one for your day’s lesson plan, consider the skills you want to focus on. Fun and educational kid activities generally fall into one of the below categories.
Science activities. Give your preschoolers their first introduction to the scientific method as they learn how the world around them works. Whether they’re studying nature or basic chemistry, kids often love to form and test their own hypotheses.
Playdough activities. The sky’s the limit when it comes to learning activities that involve playdough. Kids can use their imagination to craft entire scenes while developing their fine motor skills.
Motor activities. Teach kids hand-eye coordination with fine motor activities, or get them up and moving to teach gross motor skills.
Math activities. Learning to count and recognize patterns in preschool is foundational for future math education. Give your preschoolers a head start with games that make numbers fun.
Early literacy activities. Set your preschoolers up for lifelong educational success and teach them to love reading and writing from their earliest days. Literacy activities help kids learn to read, understand what words mean, and tell their own stories.
Sensory activities. Learning activities that focus on the five senses power memory development, problem-solving, and creativity. Give kids the chance to experiment and investigate through sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell (or more than one).
28 Preschool Activity Ideas that are both Fun and Educational
Science Based Activities
Make a volcano erupt. Teach kids about chemical reactions and natural systems in a fun, safe way. Build a volcano base out of clay, sand, or papier mache. Your “lava” will go in a jar inside the volcano base. When you’re ready for it to erupt, mix baking soda and vinegar together in the jar and let kids see how cause and effect works. You can add red or orange food coloring to the vinegar to make it extra exciting.
Build a tower out of marshmallows and toothpicks. Let your preschoolers play junior architects for the day and learn to work together. Have them use marshmallows to connect toothpicks into a design of their own. This activity is a great chance for kids to learn the basics of how large objects stay put. Plus it gives them the opportunity to problem-solve if the tower doesn’t hold up on the first try.
Make slime. Get a two-for-one science and sensory activity with homemade slime. There are simple recipes you can follow using ingredients such as glue and water or with baking soda and shaving cream for “fluffy” slime. Use food coloring or glitter to make your slime bright and colorful, and let kids observe the properties that make it elastic. As with any structured activity, this is a great chance for kids to practice following instructions.
Grow crystals. Teach kids the excitement of scientific observation as you watch homemade crystals grow throughout the week. You can find recipes that use simple ingredients such as salt and vinegar, or you can make candy crystals with sugar, water, and food coloring. After mixing the sugar solution, tie a string around your crystal “seed” and then suspend it upside down in the jar. Your preschoolers will learn to be patient and watch as the crystals grow over the next few days.
Explore different types of rocks and minerals. The earth is full of rocks and minerals, and letting kids study them up close is a great way to learn about them. You can make it a field trip and take kids on a nature walk to collect their rocks. When they return, help them identify the rocks as they study each stone’s color, shape, and texture.
Hands on Playdough Activities
Make playdough shapes. Sculpting with playdough has been a beloved pastime for children throughout generations. You can make playdough yourself with easy recipes based on cornstarch and hair conditioner. Use your playdough to teach kids to follow instructions — ask them to create simple shapes such as circles or squares to develop their shape recognition. Alternatively, have them create their favorite shape in their favorite color and let their creativity roam free.
Create playdough scenes. Let kids practice their storytelling and fine motor skills through building settings such as construction sites. The kids can also have fun creating playdough animals for their own farm or zoo. Have each child build their own setting, or make it a whole class project where everyone creates their favorite animal.
Learn about letters and numbers. Teach kids to recognize and create numbers and letters with playdough mats. Counting and alphabet mats feature a number or letter that little ones use as a guide to shape their playdough. It’s a great way to work on fine motor skills and letter or number formation before the kids learn to hold pencils.
Activities for Motor Development
Play Simon Says. This classic game teaches kids how to listen, cooperate with one another, and get up and move. Have your preschoolers take turns playing Simon as they come up with different fun moves for everyone else to mimic. If they do a move that Simon didn’t say, they’re out — and can practice good sportsmanship while they wait for the game to finish.
Play red light, green light. This is a great way for kids to practice following simple instructions while burning off energy. You or one of your preschoolers can lead the group, calling “green light” for everyone to move forward and “red light” to halt. If someone is still moving after you say red light, they go back to the starting line.
Play duck, duck, goose. Who doesn’t love this time-honored game? It’s a great chance for kids to practice waiting their turn as they sit in a circle while another preschooler goes around. When the “goose” is finally chosen, that kid gets to test their reflexes, jumping up as fast as possible to gently tag the other child.
Play follow the leader. Similar to Simon Says, this is a motor activity where kids work to copy the movements of the group leader. Let everyone take turns playing leader, with the rest of the class lined up behind them, copying everything the leader does. If they miss a move, they’re out, and the last one standing at the end of the line is the winner.
Play parachute games. Another favorite activity passed down through the generations, parachute day is always a great day at school, and there are endless options for parachute games. Have everyone hold the parachute and walk in circles to make a merry-go-round. Alternatively, play cat and mouse — one child can be the cat while everyone else helps one preschooler crawl around (the mouse) and hide under the parachute.
Math and Memory Recall Preschool Activities
Sort objects by size, color, or shape. Show your preschoolers how to count and organize groups of objects together. You can use pom poms or blocks and have kids arrange them by color, size, shape, or any other common property.
Play counting games. There are so many ways for your preschoolers to practice counting. Tie this to a lesson about the seasons or nature and let your preschoolers count leaves or flower petals. You can also create a mathematical scavenger hunt and hide numbered objects around the classroom.
Play matching games. A big part of preschool math involves learning to recognize shapes, patterns, and sizes. Matching games are great practice for all of the above. To play these games, create a shape mat with corresponding blocks so the kids learn the logic of shape recognition. You can also mix up different colors of socks and have kids sort through the pile til they find a matching pair.
Play math board games. Plenty of age-appropriate board and tabletop games, such as number bingo, involve counting and matching. Games such as the Jumbo Counting Bear Game or Count Your Chickens are made for kids ages three to five.
Use math manipulatives. Objects such as blocks and beads are a great way to give kids hands-on experience seeing that math is part of everyday life. Introduce them to simple geometry with patterned blocks and let them learn which shapes fit together.
Early Literacy Activities
Play alphabet bingo. Just like number bingo, this classic game is a great letter activity for learning how to listen and take direction. As kids check to see whether you called a letter on their bingo card, they learn to memorize the alphabet in a fun way.
Read stories to children. Storytime is an important part of language development and a great way to introduce new concepts about the world. Read stories that are silly or that teach valuable lessons, such as sharing and the importance of being kind to others.
Sing songs and nursery rhymes. Kids learn through repetition, and singing together as a class is a great way to activate their memory. Plus, learning concepts such as rhythm can power long-term language development.
Play letter recognition and word games. Activities that boost vocabulary and letter recognition can also increase focus and problem-solving. You can play classic games such as “I Spy,” teaching kids to carefully observe the words around them. Alternatively, you can make simple word searches for all the kids to enjoy. You can also create a “letter parking lot” where kids drive toy cars with lowercase letters into the corresponding capital-letter parking space.
Play name games. There are so many fun games you can play inspired by your preschoolers’ names. Have them spell their name in blocks or any other objects with letters, or create puzzles with their names. You can do these same activities with easy, familiar words, such as “cat” or “dog.”
Introductory Sensory Activities
Make a sensory bin. Use materials such as rice and beans or homemade sand for a fun sensory bin activity. This tactile activity is a great way for kids to explore using sight and sound. You can even add a few toys and let the kids go hunting for buried treasure.
Play with sand and water. Put water and sand on a play table outside, and give your preschoolers tools such as buckets and shovels. They can make sand castles or play paleontologist and go digging for dinosaurs.
Play with different textures. Kids can use their sense of touch to observe different textures with objects such as cotton balls. You can use textures for activities such as sensory memory games, or you can play a guessing game. In this game, have your preschoolers feel different objects that they can’t see. They’ll have to figure out what the objects are through tactile observation only.
Play with different scents. Invigorate your preschoolers’ sense of smell with scented items. It can be a ton of fun to explore different herbs and spices, and you can have the kids guess the smells.
Make noise. Use musical instruments, noisemakers, or homemade shaker toys to activate your preschoolers’ sense of sound. Create a musical sensory bin, then have the kids choose their own instruments and go wild.