Preschool Activities with Easy Setups
Activities with simple setups can provide hands-on fun and learning for preschoolers. Try these ideas that use everyday household or craft items to make setup and cleanup fast and easy.
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What's in your toolkit today?
Do you want to provide a fun learning activity, but lack time or supplies to deliver?
Early learning in everyday play doesn't need complex projects to be valuable. It doesn't need fancy or expensive materials either.
The activities in this post are meant to provide optimum fun and learning with the least amount of setup and cleanup possible. And using basic items you have around the house.
They are basically one step setups, with few (if any) instructions on how to proceed.
- Simply set out the materials and allow kids time to explore and experiment.
You can easily re-imagine or recycle basic household items and craft supplies for kids activities.
Present these ideas as invitations to play, to support child-led play with hands-on exploration and discovery.
Easy preschool activities
Activities such as 'sink or float' water play and color sorting with pompoms are primarily child-led and open-ended.
They support independent play with parental guidance and interaction. The amount of independence allowed will depend on age and skill levels of the children.
The activities in this post extend this model of hands-on, child-led play.
Include these options in your daily schedule to engage fine motor, gross motor and creative skills.
Note: While most of the activities in this post are intended for indoor play, some may be adapted for outdoor environments.
1. Divided Tray Activities
A divided tray such as a produce container or a muffin pan is perfect for sorting small parts.
Pompoms are a colorful option, easy to handle and store, and fun to squeeze too!
You can also provide buttons, blocks, or small toys.
Related: Sorting Jar Lids
Add water to each section of the tray.
Put a few drops of different colors of food coloring in opposite sections.
Transfer water with a dropper to mix colors.
This game upcycles a ribbed plastic tray from the deli or bakery department.
Place a marble inside one or more divided section.
Hold the tray in two hands and roll the marbles around inside the circles.
- The raised edges keep the marbles inside the circles.
Can you hop a marble from one lane into another without dropping it out of the tray?
2. Magnetic Letters Activities
Use magnetic letters with a compatible surface such as a cookie sheet.
- You can even use the refrigerator door as your magnetic 'board'.
Engaging with the letters - making patterns and 'words' - will lead into identifying and naming the letters.
Help kids begin to spell their names or other words as they are ready and show interest.
Match magnetic letters to letters on cereal boxes or other printed material.
Sort letters by color. Make a graph and count the letters of each color.
Make your own discovery bottle with letters of the alphabet.
3. Coffee Can Activities
Game of Toss
A recycled coffee can and a soft toy or bean bag can used for a game of toss.
- Use one or more cans depending on availability.
- Substitute a laundry basket, waste basket, or cardboard box for the coffee cans.
More: A clean coffee can can also be used storage for small toys.
Related: Ring toss game
Use a coffee can as a drum.
Tap the top of the can with wooden spoons and let the music begin!
You'll get a different sound by tapping on the bottom of the can.
- Add movement and dancing to the play for some gross motor fun.
4. Play Dough Activities
Play Dough Fun
Play dough is fun on its own, but you can add unique objects to spark imagination and add interest to the play.
Play can be inspired with any small items such as marker tops, craft sticks, small wooden clothes pegs.
Try setting jar lids or a rolling pin with the play dough and see what kids imagine!
The props don't have to be elaborate - the simpler the better for imagination to take over.
Place a pair of scissors next to some play dough. Kids will benefit from sensory and fine motor experiences as they use the materials.
Cutting play dough is a simple but effective activity for helping to build fine motor development.
Related: Play Dough Pinterest Board
5. Scissors Activities
Support scissor skills by providing just paper and scissors for a simple fine motor creative activity.
Try setting out unusual materials such muffin liners, paper shape cutouts, or different textures of paper (cardboard, sandpaper, greeting cards) to offer unique experiences.
Practice cutting lines on paper to make a fringe.
Related: Fine Motor Pinterest Board
6. Process Art Activities
Set out a few stickers and construction paper for kids to explore.
Younger kids may need help removing the sticky backs on some stickers. Add markers and crayons to the play if preferred.
Related: Process Art Pinterest Board
Set out paper cutouts to spark creative play.
Use a simple pattern such as a butterfly, a snowman, a house. A shape or pattern can sometimes provide inspiration without having to give instructions or guidance.
Provide markers or crayons or a combination of both. Keep supplies to a minimum.
Add materials as needed or requested by your young artist - a stick to make a butterfly puppet, craft eyes for a snowman.
Related: Paper Shapes Art Activity
7. Water Play
Sink and Float
Set out a small basin of water and small objects or toys that can sink or float.
Kids can sort objects and splash in the water. This activity is great for engaging language and math skills.
Painting with Water
Use a small basin of water for a painting activity.
Provide a piece of cardboard to use as your canvas and a paintbrush for dipping into the water. A foam brush works well for spreading water on the canvas.
For more creative painting, dip a wooden block or sponge in the water and use as a paint stamp.
Add a sponge or two to the water for squeezing.
Squeeze water from one container into another.
I hope you are inspired by these suggestions. They are intended to spark ideas for creative but simple hands-on play, with support for independent play.
Grab as many as you have time for today!
Have fun creating new games with recyclables.
Look for more ideas on our Preschool Toolkit Pinterest boards.