The Best Educational (and Fun!) Daycare Activities to Try

January 18, 2024

Playtime isn’t just about keeping kids busy — it plays an important role in a child’s overall development. Playing is how children learn key social skills, develop muscle dexterity, and practice imagination and creativity. 

Daycare providers can help the children in their care thrive by planning fun activities each day. This way, the kids in your care grow and discover new things daily while experiencing joy. Below, you’ll find ideas for daycare activities for all ages to support the core components of early childhood development. 

Fun and engaging child development-focused daycare activities

Plenty of ways to support kids’ development are tons of fun. If you need some inspiration for daycare activity ideas, here are some suggestions to help you get started. 

Focused daycare activities for fine motor skills

Little ones learn how to use the small muscles in their hands through playtime that focuses on fine motor movement and hand-eye coordination. Fine motor activities thus are important for kids of any age. These are the same skills used when six-month-olds learn to grab objects and when toddlers get a grasp on using sippy cups and spoons. 

Daycare activities such as painting, threading, or playdough sculpting are a great way for students to develop fine motor movement while using their imagination. Here are some fine motor activities to inspire your next lesson plan. 

  • Paper plate crafts: You can find paper plate activities to fit just about any age group. Paint paper plate animals and make your own classroom zoo. If you’re reading a story, have the kids create masks as one of the main characters.

  • Playdough activities: Give students the chance to practice shape recognition by making circles and squares with colorful playdough. The dough is also very easy to make yourself; one recipe only requires cornstarch and hair conditioner. Building a playdough castle or skyscraper is a great way to keep kids occupied on rainy days.

  • Beading activities: Part of fine motor skills development is learning the pincher grasp motion, which is key to using pens and pencils. Threading beads into handmade jewelry teaches kids this motion, and they all get a fun prize to take home and wear with pride. Supervision is extra important with this activity, though, as you want to be aware of potential choking hazards. Beading may be best as an activity for preschool kids.

Daycare activities for gross motor skill development

While fine motor skills focus on small, delicate muscles, gross motor skills are all about using larger muscle groups. Gross motor activities thus help kids build the foundation for running, jumping, and other athletic movements. These games can also be a great way for kids to burn off extra energy in a controlled environment. 

  • Indoor obstacle course: Let kids explore a world of your creation with an indoor obstacle course. You can use soft household objects such as pillows and stuffed animals to create a safe, fun indoor adventure. This is a great chance for kids to practice climbing movements.

  • Dance party: Clear the floor, play some music, and let the kids go bananas. This is a great way to encourage self-expression while getting some healthy physical activity.
  • Simon Says: This classic kids’ game is a great way to get kids moving while they practice listening and following directions. The kids also get the chance to develop communication skills as they take turns playing Simon. 

Sensory introduction daycare activities

Creating sensory activities for kids lets them explore through touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Games that stimulate the senses contribute to a range of developmental achievements, including memory enhancement and creativity. It’s like creating a miniature science experiment that’s fun for kids — and through which they develop problem-solving abilities. 

  • Water beads sensory bin: Use sight and touch with this fun, simple sensory activity that’s great for preschool kids. Water beads grow when you put them in water, which can be exciting for kids to watch as it happens. Once the beads are ready, place them in a small, tabletop plastic bin and let the kids squish them and play to their hearts’ desire. You can even add a few nautical-style toys and turn the activity into an ocean-themed adventure.

  • Scented playdough: Molding playdough is already a great touch sensory activity. You can add additional sensory involvement and make scented playdough with a few drops of essential oils. Let kids flex their problem-solving muscles and make a scent-guessing game out of this activity.

  • Sand sensory bin: Get some play sand or make your own toddler-safe sand with flour and vegetable oil (you can also substitute the flour for cornstarch). Once you fill the bin, kids can explore with their hands, or you can provide tools such as cups and funnels. When kids have the freedom to play around like this, they can observe and learn deductive reasoning. For instance, say they fill a bowl with sand and see that it spills out each time they turn it upside down. That’s a great first step in deductively learning about the concept of gravity. 

Other mentally-stimulating and fun daycare activities

The possibilities for fun kid activities are endless whether you’re hoping to entertain, teach, or all of the above. The below activities don’t require any arts and crafts, yet they’re a hit nonetheless.

  • Scavenger hunt: Creating a scavenger hunt is a great way for kids to build observational skills as they search for each item. You can do this activity entirely inside your daycare center, making it a great activity for all days and times.

  • Reading books: Storytime is a great activity for all ages. You can support language development by reading to children as young as four months old. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to tie in whatever you're reading to another activity. Let’s say it’s Dr. Seuss week. You can follow a lesson about Bartholomew and the Oobleck by letting kids play with a homemade version of the slimy substance.

  • Board games: Age-appropriate board games are a fantastic way to build problem-solving skills. Since kids have to wait their turn and cooperate, board games also help them develop important social skills. 

The best daycare activities help kids have fun, while also supporting their learning & development

If you want to teach children the basics of independent thinking, muscle control, and social cooperation, daycare activities are an important learning tool. As long as you choose age-appropriate activities that are safe, the sky’s the limit with finding great daycare activities for toddlers and preschoolers.

Looking for more fun and engaging daycare activity ideas to try? 

Continue exploring the Wonderschool blog to find tons of fun and educational activities for kids of all ages. You can also find resources for daycare providers to help plan and implement engaging activities for your children.

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