Early Learning Activities For Pre-K and Kindergarten


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Playdough Math Skills




Children love playing with playdough and there are so many learning activities that can be done using it. One of the things playdough can be used for is teaching basic math skills. You can do sorting activities ... counting activities .... size discrimination activities ... addition and subtraction activities etc. These can be teacher led or child led activities. We use cookie sheets that were purchased from a dollar store so each child has his/her own work space.

Sticker File Folder Games



You can make fun and inexpensive visual discrimination games by using stickers. I usually get my stickers at Wal-Mart or our local teacher supply store. You need to make sure you have two matching sets of stickers ... one for inside the file folder and one for the loose matching game pieces. Here is a sticker template that you can use to put the stickers inside. The ones that you glue inside the file folder can be printed on regular paper. The ones for the loose matching pieces you can use cardstock paper. The loose pieces should be laminated.

Alphabet and Number Finger Painting



Finger painting is a lot of fun for children ... but it also can be a great learning tool. One of the things we do is give everyone a sheet of fingerpaint paper and a paper plate with finger paint on it. I then call out a letter or number and the children paint what ever letter or number I called out. This activity is great for developing fine motor skills as well.

Pocket Chart Matching



Pocket charts are an essential item in any early childhood environment. There are so many thing you can do with them. One of our favorite activities is Pocket Chart Matching. You will need a pocket chart which you can get from any educational supply store or even Ebay. I make up all different kinds of cards that will fit in the pocket chart such as letters ... colors ... shapes ... numbers ... sight words etc. You will need to make two sets of the cards you are going to use and make sure they are laminated. For younger children I place the first set of cards in the pocket chart and then the children match the second set to the first set by placing the individual cards directly in front of the card it matches in the pocket chart. Older children can place the first set of cards in the pocket chart by themselves and then match the second set to the first set in the pocket chart. The flower alphabet cards (contains both upper and lowercase letters) pictured here can be found on my free printables page.

Letters and Numbers Feely Bag



This is a really fun activity for the children. You will need something to use as a "feely" bag (it should be something the children can not see through) and magnetic letters and numbers. For our feely bag we used the bag that was used to hold the letter tiles from our scrabble game. You can do this game with either letters or numbers but do not put both in the bag. The teacher pours some letters or numbers in the feely bag and the first child comes and puts his/her hand in the bag and picks a letter and holds it in his/her hand inside the feel bag. The child feels the letter with his/her fingers and tries to guess what letter it is. If he/she is right the letter is then removed from the bag and it is the next child's turn. If the child guesses the letter incorrectly the letter stays in the bag and it is the next child's turn. Continue play until each child has had a few turns. For larger groups of student it is better to divide them in to smaller groups so there is not a long wait between turns.

Alphabet Pointers



These are really easy and inexpensive to make and look really cute when they are finshed. We use them for pointing to pocket charts ... words on the word wall ... at circle time .... as a "magic wand" during transitions ... the possibilities are endless.

To make them you will need ... foam alphabet letters (we use the kind children use in the bath tub) ... wood dowels ... a hot glue gun and glue sticks ... paint and paint brushes ... and sequins.

The first thing you need to do is paint the wood dowels and let them dry. Next glue on the alphabet letters using a hot glue gun and let set. They look great just like this but I glued sequins on my "teacher set" that I use. I would not recommend gluing anything on the alphabet letters if they are going to be used by small children. Another thing I did with the alphabet letters is attach a magnet on the back of them and use them on my filing cabinet.


I purchased the foam letters from Wal-Mart for under 4.00 for a set of 26 letters and the wood dowels I got at a craft store for 1.86 for a set of six.

Table Top Pocket Chart



I found these table top pocket charts at Wal-Mart in the back to shool section. They were 6.98 each and they had one for the alphabet and one for numbers. Both sets came with cards that can be used in the pocket charts and of course my printables would work well in them too. There is a storage pocket in the back of the pocket chart to hold the cards and they fold up for easy storage.

ABC Discovery Sand Bottle



This is a really great individual or partner activity and is easy to adapt for younger and older children. There is a wonderful woman by the name of Sally Gilbert who sells packet of items that can be put in the discovery bottles. In each packet there is one item for each letter of the alphabet and a list of what items she has given you. You take an empty one liter bottle and add the alphabet items. You then add enough sand to fill the bottle about half way. For younger children you can tell them the items you want them to find ... for example "flowers" ... they then slowly roll or turn the discovery bottle until they find the flowers. The next level would be to give the children a list with the items on it and they can cross the items out as they find them. For older children you can give them a sheet with just the alphabet letter on and then ask them to find the items that start with each letter. If you are interested in ordering the items that go inside the abc discovery sand bottles please contact Sally Gilbert . The cost is 5.00 per set plus shipping.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Shakers



This is another Sally Gilbert creation. The Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Shakers come fully assembled and are bright and colorful. The children shake the shakers after each page in the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book. The alphabet letters are made out of foam so when the children shake the shakers they are not too loud. The shakers are a great way to get the children involved in story. If you are interested in ordering the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom shakers please contact Sally Gilbert . The cost is 1.00 per shaker plus shipping.

Paint Cans With Magnetic Letters and Numbers



These are simple to set up yet lots of fun for the kids. I purchased empty paint cans (new and unused) from the paint supply section at Menards (Home Depot and Lowes should have them too). The cans were around 2.50 each. I then put magnet letters in some cans and magnetic numbers in others. The cans come with a lid which is nice for labeling and storing each can. The children can take the cans out and just free-play with the letter and numbers by putting them on the cans in any order they wish. I like to sit with each child and go through the letters and numbers that they have placed on the cans and have them identify as many as they can. Children can find the letters to their names and and put their names on the can. I also have cans that have word cards placed inside them that the children can take out along with the letters and then make the words on the can that match the ones on the cards. I have cans that have cards on it with different numbers of objects and the children need to count the objects on the card and place the correct number magnet on the can. There are many acitivities you can do with paint cans and magnetic letters and numbers ... use your imagination and have fun!!

Finger Painting Bags



This is a great activity for children develop fine motor skills and practice drawing or writing in paint without the mess. You will need sandwhich size zip lock bags (the kind that you snap together ... not the zipper kind) and finger paint. Open zip lock bags and put between 1/2 to 1/3 cup of finger paint in each bag. Lay bag flat and smooth finger paint flat in bag (this pushes the air out).... making sure not to get too close to the opening of the bag. Close zip lock bag making sure that it is close all the way across the top. Children use their finger to draw and write on the top of the bag. They can erase what they made by smoothing out the fingerpaint in the bag. Be sure to tell the children that the bags are not to be opened otherwise the finger paint will come out of the bag.

Shaving Cream Writing



This activity is a little messy but clean up is really easy. For this activity I purchased cookie sheets and shaving cream from our local dollar store. Everyone had their own cookie sheet. I put a mound of shaving cream on each tray and let the children smooth the shaving cream all over the cookie sheet. They love the feeling of the shaving cream (be sure to tell the children not to touch their face or put mouth with their hands once they have shaving cream on them) and I let them free play with it for a while. Later the children each took turns calling out a letter ... number ... shape .... word ... that they wanted everyone to write in the shaving cream.

Muffin Tin Sorting Trays



Muffin tins make great sorting trays. You can buy them in either six or twelve muffin cups per tray. For this activity I purchased foam sheets that came in a package of forty sheets with thirteen different colors. I found them in the craft section at Wal-Mart and the brand is Creative Hands. I purchased the foam sheets package for less than five dollars. I cut out a circle that was large enough to fill the bottom of each tray (a different color for each muffin space). I then cut twent-five small squares of each color that was in the tray. The colored squares were mixed up and the children put the squares into the tin with the same matching color. After we were done the foam pieces were put into a zip lock bag. Other variations on the sorting tray include writing a number on the circle that goes into each muffin space and then the children would put the correct number of foam squares in each space. You could also write numbers on the foam squares and put them in the space with the same number on the circle. This could be done with letters and sight words as well.

Mini Discovery Bottles


I found these mini water bottles at my local grocery store.
They can be made into any kind of discovery bottles.

Magnetic Discovery Bottle

Ocean Discovery Bottle

Slow Motion Confetti Discovery Bottle

Discovery bottles are perfect for science centers ... free play ... and quite times. They are very easy to make and provide hands-on learning opportunities. I use the mini bottles because they are smaller and the children seem to handle them better than the larger ones.

To make the magnetic bottle I put magentic counters in the bottle (you can use any magnetic item that will fit into the bottle). The children use a magnetic wand around to move the magnetic pieces around inside the bottle.

To make the ocean bottle I filled the bottle with half water and half baby oil. I then added 5 drops of blue food coloring. The water and oil stay separate in the bottle giving the liquid an ocean wave effect when the bottle is tipped sided to side.


To make the slow motion confetti bottle I filled the one fourth of the bottle with confetti and filled the rest of the bottle with clear corn syrup. The confetti pieces move very slowly through the bottle.

No matter what items you put in your discovery bottles you will need to seal the bottle caps so that children can not open them. I recommend using a hot glue (low setting).

Letter and Number Lacing Tags


This is a great activity that is easy and inexpensive to make. These lacing tags are perfect for developing fine motor skills as well and letter and number identifcation and sequencing skilsl. You will need colored cardstock paper (any craft store sells the paper as well as Wal-Mart). You will also need letter and number stickers or paper shapes (these can be found in the scrapbooking section of any craft store ... they are letters and numbers that are already cut out that you will need to apply glue stick to).

To make the tags you will need to cut the colored cardstock paper in to small squares or rectangles big enough for the letter or number stickers or cut outs to fit on. Put on one letter or number per card stock piece and laminate. Make sure you leave about 1/2 inch free above each tag when laminating... you will use this space to punch the holes in. Cut out tags leaving enough room (about 1/2 inch of clear lamination) ... punch two holes above each tag (see picture above).

Children can lace the cards in any order they wish or they can lace them in alphabetical and numerical order.

Musical Instruments



Music is an important part of any early childhood program. Making your own musical instruments can be fun and inexpensive. We made tambourines .... rain shakers ... and rhythm sticks to be used during certain music and movement activities as well as free play.

Rhythm Sticks: I purchased wood dowels from Wal-Mart for 94 cents each (you can get them in craft stores as well). The dowels are three feet in length and come in various circumferences .... I recommend the 1/2 inch size. I cut the dowels to 13 inches in length and sanded the ends so that they were smooth and then painted the dowels with various colors of acrylic paint.

Tambourines: I purchased Hefty Serve 'n' Store Interlocking Large Plates (they are not paper but rather a plastic type material). A package of 16 plates cost around 2.36 at Wal-Mart. You will also need jingle bells (found in the craft section). I put six jingle bells in one of the plates and then put glue around the edge of the plate. I took another plate and turned it upside down and pressed it onto the other plate. The plates themselves fit together really nice. I let the glue dry and then carefully punched wholes around the edge of the plate and tied ribbons on to the plate. I also painted the plate top and bottom with acrylic paint.

Rain Shakers: You will need empty pringles cans that have been wiped out with paper towels. You will also need rice and dried beans (I used a 12 bean soup mix bag that has different sizes of beans in it). I poured a little of the bean mix in the pringles can and then added a little rice. I replaced the cover of the can and held on to both ends while turning the can up an down and added more rice until the can made the sound that I wanted. I then cut a piece of tin foil a little bit larger than the opening of the can and glued it over the can opening and then glued the can cover over the tin foil. I covered the can in construction paper and decorated it.

One of our favorite things to do with these instruments is to have the children choose which instrument they want to used and then sit down in a circle. I choose my instrument and bang or shake a certain number of times and have the children repeat what I just did. We do this as a group as well as with the children having individual turns in the circle. The children also like to create their own band and march around the room playing their instruments.

Counting Jars


Counting Jars are a great way to build math skills. These again are very easy and inexpensive to make. You will need empty clean baby food jars (I used the Gerber jars with the toddler hot dogs with them because they had less of a design on them.)

You can fill the jars with any interesting objects for the children to count. Some of the things we use are colored paper clips .... candy .... marbles ... foam squares ... beads ... buttons ... cereal ... dried beans ... marbles etc. Using different colors of the same object also helps children distinguish between the different number of objects in the jar.

You can have the jars sitting on an interest table for children to explore independently or you can work with them on counting the objects. You can create graphs for the jars ... you can have the children write the correct number of objects in each jar ... you can have the children arrange the jars from the least amount of objects to the most amount of objects etc. There are many things that counting jars can be used for. Use your imagination and have fun!!

Play Dough Alphabet Cards



These play dough alphabet cards are great for building letter recognition and fine motor skills development. We put the alphabet cards on a cookie sheet and let the children fill the letters in with play dough any way they wish. Most of the children make balls or "snakes" out of the play dough to put inside the letters. Click here to download the play dough alphabet cards.

Play Dough Counting Cards



These play dough counting cards are great for building math skills and developing fine motor skills. We put the counting cards on a cookie sheet and the children make small play dough balls to put on the counting cards. Click here to download the black and white version and here to download the colored version.

Photograph Fun



Children love looking at photgraphs of themselves and using photos in the early childhood environment can help build self-esteem and a sense of community. Three of our most popular photograph activities include self-image dolls ... stick puppets ... and matching games.

Self-Image Dolls: These are a lot of fun for the children to make. You will need cardstock paper, a photo of each child's face, fabric, yarn, glue and scissors. I took a sheet of cardstock and cut out a basic body shape for each child. The children then decorate the body by cutting fabric out and gluing it on the body for clothes. Children also glue their face on the head and add yarn for hair. We have hung these up around the room and on the bulletin board. These are also great for the front of the classroom door.

Stick Puppets: You will need a photo of each child, craft sticks, glue and scissors. Cut out photos of children and glue on craft sticks. We use these for puppet shows, attendance, and center markers.

Matching Games: This is a very popular activity. You will need two copies of each photo. We glue one set of photos on a file folder or mat. Children match the photos.

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