Learning for Pre-Schoolers

Is your child missing school? Or are you looking for more activities to keep them engaged at home? You’re in luck! Kathleen Rutledge, the Coordinator of our Learning Ladder Center, has compiled a list of activities that align with the Creative Curriculum!

Social-Emotional Development

  • Discuss photos of people showing various emotions. Encourage older preschoolers to create stories about the source of the person’s feelings. Guide them to come up with appropriate ways the person might respond to the situation.
  • Provide child-sized cleaning materials such as sponges, mops, brooms and dustpans so children can assist with meaningful household cleaning.
  • Create a calendar for your preschooler to record their healthy behaviors during the week. Review at the end of the week and determine which habits need more attention.
  • Allow plenty of time to let children take responsibility for their self-care routine.
  • Provide only as much help as necessary for children to accomplish tasks, such as put socks on your child’s toes and then encourage them to pull them up the rest of the way.
  • Encourage your child to help set the table, hanging up clothes and cleaning their toys up.
  • Engage your child in informal conversations about your life and theirs. Listen attentively while they speak.
  • Label your own feelings as you share experiences from your life and how you felt. Talk about things that make you happy, sad or excited. Explain how you expressed your emotions.
  • Encourage your child to watch for and record, through drawings or writing, the special cooperative acts of others in the family. Keep them in a special place and before the day is over, read them aloud together.

Physical Development

  • Invite your child to walk slowly, quickly, sideways, or backwards while playing together in the yard or inside your house.
  • Use movement activities to enhance stories, such as a wild rumpus in Where the Wild Things Are or act out Going on a Bear Hunt.
  • Set up an obstacle course to practice: hopping, skipping, running, over and under…
  • Involve your child in a game where they have to start, stop and change directions quickly, such as hopscotch.
  • Place a piece of masking tape or brightly colored yarn on the floor and have your child practice balancing by walking on it. Remember to explain to your child that holding their arms out will help to steady them.
  • Encourage your child to practice walking with a bean bag on different parts of their body, on their head, shoulder, elbow or under their chin…
  • Play catch with your preschooler using small soft balls, beach balls, yarn balls, or bean bags.
  • Let your child string beads or noodles on a pipe cleaner.

Language Development

  • Play a directions game with your child. Start with having them follow just one direction, when they can do that move on to giving them two directions at a time before having them do the actions. Once they have mastered that, move on to three directions given at a time before they start doing the actions. These directions should be unrelated to one another such as: “What does a cow say and then scratch your knee” or “Clap your hands, tell me your favorite color and then jump 2 times”
  • Tell stories without using books. Tell your child about something that happened in another time or place. Such as something that happened a couple of months ago. Encourage your child to tell you a story also.
  • Introduce your child to less common words through books, songs and conversations.
  • Play language games with your child. Make up sentences (some that make sense and some that don’t) have your child indicate whether it is “sense” or “nonsense”. If it is “nonsense”, ask your child to try and tell you why.
  • Model appropriate conversation skills with your child. With: taking turns, eye contact, speech volume, and using polite words.
  • Try to maintain conversations with your child for extended exchanges. Respond with open-ended questions. Try to get your child to tell you more about a topic.

Cognitive Development

  • Support your child’s spontaneous interests. Such as when you are out in the yard and they see an interesting bug or a picture in a book that you are reading.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions. Instead of giving them the answer, say “Let’s find out” and help them investigate.
  • Play games that support your child’s curiosity and internal motivation. A game such as “mystery bag” is an example. Hide an object in a bag and give verbal clues about its identity. Let your child feel, describe and guess what it is before looking at it.
  • Encourage your child’s imagination by finding images in clouds and puddles.
  • Ask open-ended questions such as, “What do you think would happen if you…?, What else could you do with…, Can you think of another way to…?”
  • Encourage your child to think of multiple ways to create something with the same materials.
  • Involve your child in “Remember when…” games and discussions. Ask your child about events/trips that you went on and see how much they can remember.
  • Encourage your child to represent events in multiple ways. They can make a book of photos from the event or draw a picture of what they remember, they can reenact the event with their toys.
  • Give your child enough time to think and make connections before expecting an answer.
  • Play memory games such as, “What’s missing”. Display a few objects, when your child is not looking remove one and have your child tell you what is missing.
  • Play games like, “What do they have in common?” Show your child pictures of various animals, people, and/or objects and have them tell you what ways the pictures are alike.
  • Sort and classify with your child. When cleaning up after playing, suggest picking up a certain color at a time or pick up all toys with wheels or toys that can be linked together…
  • As your child is sorting objects, name the categories and point out how the objects are similar.
  • Provide your child with opportunities to arrange collections into groups by using various rules that you and your child make together.
  • Encourage your child to make their own props to use in play or to support their learning.


  • Read to your child from a variety of genres. Picture books, poetry, chapter books and informational books.
  • Encourage your child to play with words and come up with their own rhymes. Play games that focus on rhyming. Such as: have your child fill in the blank, “The cat wore a ______. He slept on a ______. He played with a _______.”
  • Play games that focus on the beginning sound. Have your child think of words that begin with the same sound as their first name, their siblings name, the pet’s name…
  • Read alphabet books. Talk about the letters, their shapes, and the names of the pictured objects that begin with that letter.
  • Point out the title, author, and illustrator as you read books with your child.
  • Talk about concepts about books when you read to your child. Talk about where the writing starts and which way to proceed when reading.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to talk about the book before and after you read. Encourage your child to ask questions and to make predictions.
  • Introduce new words from the books that you are reading.
  • Support story retelling by taking turns telling parts of the story.
  • Provide repeated readings of the same book so children can focus on different aspects of the book each time.
  • Provide ample time, materials and space for your child to write during the day, indoors and outdoors.
  • Encourage your child to write meaningful words on their drawings and cards that they make.


  • Provide material for your child to count and compare. Such as; caps, buttons, beans…. Use words like more, most, less, fewer, least, same as, or equal.
  • Take time during the day to ask your child “How many…” questions. Such as;how many cups are on the counter, how many crayons are you using…
  • Have your child look for shapes around your house.
  • Discuss the features of shapes. Corners, straight edges, curved edges…
  • Model and encourage the use of positional words.
  • Create a map of your neighborhood with your child to help them think spatially.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to measure during the day. They can use paper strips, rulers, blocks,…to measure with.
  • Cook with your child. Let them help measure the ingredients out.
  • Point out patterns during the day. Encourage your child to find patterns also.
  • Create a pattern and encourage your child to extend it.

Science and Technology

  • Observe things in the environment with your child. Ask your child to notice how: a plant grows, a fish swims in their tank, do the birds like the food in their feeder or on the ground… Help your child make a chart for their observations.
  • Support your child’s scientific inquiry with words such as; observe, hypothesize, predict and estimate. Talk with your child about their thoughts. Ask open ended questions.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to care for a living thing. Talk about what living things need to grow and stay healthy.
  • Go on nature walks and look for living things. Bring binoculars and magnifying glasses for your child to use.
  • Use correct terminology when discussing living things; Plants: germinate, sprout, bud, or stalk Animals: habitat, camouflage, herbivore, antennae or predator.
  • Talk about animal behaviors. Have your child pretend to be their favorite animal.
  • Offer magnifying glasses, something to record their verbal observations on, or a camera to take pictures of their observations as they explore nature.
  • Encourage your child to try different tools to accomplish a task.

Social Studies

  • Talk about your family traditions with your child.
  • Start talking to your child about their full name, address and phone number.
  • Have your child write a book about themselves. “My Family”, “Things I Like to do”, “Foods I Like to Eat”, “Places in my Neighborhood”
  • Talk with your child about the work that different people do in their community. Talk about the work that happens in different buildings that they see.
  • Read books on different cultures.
  • Talk about other places that your child has been; the beach, the city, a farm, apple orchard…

The Arts

  • Allow your child to create with clay or play doh, wood, mixed media, fabric…
  • Provide material for your child to draw, paint, sketch, color…
  • Provide opportunities for your child to cut different types of material
  • Ask open ended questions about your child’s creations.
  • Include music and movement during the day. Allow your child to express themselves using ribbons, scarves, blankets..
  • Involve your child in making their own musical instrument.
  • Encourage your child to make up new lyrics to familiar songs or create their own song.
  • Play a movement game with your child. Encourage your child to move like a: elephant, a kite, falling leaves, a windstorm…
  • Use words with your child to describe how they move in space: fast, slow, heavy, light. Where their bodies move; forward, backward, low, middle, high, straight, curved.
  • Invite your child to act out familiar stories.
  • Let your child play dress up.