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. Include these options in your daily schedule to engage fine motor, gross motor and creative skills.
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Early learning activities can be provided with simple tools, including items you have around the house or in the craft box. Everyday materials can be recycled or re-imagined for kids crafts and activities.
The activities in this post are meant to provide optimum fun and learning with the least amount of setup and cleanup possible. These are the activities with basically one step setups, and no further steps or instructions for kids to engage with the materials.
You may already be familiar with activities like 'sink or float' water play and color sorting with pompoms.
While most of the activities in this post are intended for indoor play, some may be adapted for outdoor environments.
Use these simple ideas to help support child-led play with hands-on exploration and discovery.
Easy preschool activities
Meaningful activities can be as simple as sorting and counting pompoms or bowling with recycled containers.
The activities in this post are intended to be mostly child-led, supporting independent play when possible. Simply set out the materials and allow kids time to explore and experiment. The amount of independence allowed will depend on age and skill levels of the children in your care.
Divided tray activities
Set out a divided tray, such as a produce container or a muffin pan, along with items for sorting: buttons, blocks, small toys.
Pompoms are a colorful option, easy to handle and store, and fun to squeeze too!
Related: Marble and pompoms in the sensory bin
Provide a divided tray with an eye dropper for a science activity . Add water to each section of the tray. Put a few drops of different colors of food coloring in two of the sections. Kids can explore transferring water and color mixing with the eye dropper.
Have fun creating new games with recyclables. This game uses a plastic tray from the deli or bakery department.
Place a marble inside each 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.
Magnetic letters activity
Set out magnetic letters with a compatible surface such as a cookie sheet. You can even use the refrigerator door as your magnetic 'board'.
Kids don't have to make actual words. Engaging with the letters - making patterns and 'words' - will lead into identifying and naming the letters. You can help kids begin with spelling names or other words as they are ready and show interest.
Related: Discovery bottle with letters of the alphabet
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. If coffee cans are not an option, substitute a laundry basket, waste basket, or cardboard box.
A clean coffee can can be used in many different ways, including storage for small toys and a drum with wooden spoon drumsticks (below).
Related: Ring toss game
Place a coffee can and two wooden spoons together and let the music begin!
Add movement and dancing to the play for some gross motor fun.
Play dough activities
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 with the play dough and see what kids imagine!
Related: Play Dough Pinterest Board
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.
Cutting paper is included in many kids crafts. 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.
Related: Fine Motor Pinterest Board
Process art activities
Self-adhesive stickers of any kind provide easy 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 shapes 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.
Use 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, a length of string to hang up a butterfly.
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.
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.
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.
Look for more ideas on our Preschool Toolkit Pinterest boards.