Child Development Activity Ideas For Preschoolers

Summarizes the five areas of development and children and provides a variety of developmentally appropriate activities that fall under each domain.

Are you a parent of a preschooler who is driving you crazy because he or she is bored? Are you a babysitter who would like some activities to try with the little ones in your care? Or maybe you're a child-care worker who is tired of the same classroom routines and would like to try some new things.

It is possible to implement easy, simple activities for preschoolers that are developmentally appropriate. First, however, it is important to understand the domains, or areas, of growth and development. They are: cognitive, language, gross motor, fine motor, and social-emotional.

The cognitive area deals with the development of the brain and thinking skills. Activities that fall under this domain help to enhance a preschooler's mastery of basic skills, such as the alphabet, colors, shapes, and numbers, as well as reasoning skills and the understanding of how the world works.

The language domain covers communication skills. Communication encompasses both receptive and expressive language. Receptive language skills are those skills that allow a preschooler to understand and respond to language spoken to him or her. Expressive language is the ability of the preschooler to communicate wants and needs to others.

The gross motor and fine motor domains both deal with movement. Gross motor skills relate to movements such as walking, jumping, running and hopping. Fine motor skills include movements such as grasping objects with fingers, scribbling and writing, and stacking objects such as blocks.

he social-emotional domain deals with socialization skills such as potty training, learning simple manners such as saying "please", "thank you" and "may I", and understanding and expressing feelings.

Here are some simple activities that are developmentally appropriate for preschoolers from each domain:


- Pick a shape (triangle, circle, square, rectangle) and find objects around the house/classroom with that shape.

- Pick a color of the day. Find objects around the house/classroom that are that color. Go outside and watch for cars and other objects that are that color.

- Sing the alphabet song everyday.

- Sing nursery rhymes and do finger plays such as "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" and encourage your preschooler to try to sing along.

- Sort toys into categories such as big/small, color, or type of toy (cars, trucks, stuffed animals, etc.)

- Practice counting from 1-10

- Read books to your preschooler everyday. Let them help turn the pages, and point out the words and pictures and talk about them.

- Look at a picture book of animals together. Point to each animal, say its name, and make its sound


- Play "What is". Use favorite television show, toy, color, stuffed animal, etc.

- When your preschooler is talking, be patient and give them time to express themselves. If they say part of a word, such as "ju" for "juice", tell them the correct word and encourage them to repeat it.

- Place the names of common objects around the house or classroom, such as door, floor, and wall. Point to the words and say them. Encourage your preschooler to repeat you.

- While driving or walking, point out and say the names of restaurants and stores and encourage your preschooler to repeat you.

- Have your preschooler draw a picture and make up a story about it.

- Make a puppet out of an old sock or a brown paper bag and tell silly stories to your preschooler.

- Point to and name your preschooler's body parts. Encourage them to repeat you.

Gross motor

- Practice walking on tiptoe together.

- Go outside and hop, skip and jump.

- Have short running races in the grass.

- Draw a hopscotch board outside and play together.

- Practice throwing a ball overhand.

- Take turns throwing a ball into an empty wastebasket or box.

- Play classical or other soft music and wave colorful scarves in the air in time to the beat.

- Practice walking up and down stairs together.

- Use old boxes, chairs, and other items to make an obstacle course for your preschooler to navigate.

Fine Motor

- Spread a thin layer of nontoxic glue onto a piece of construction paper. Help your preschooler sprinkle glitter onto the glue. Carefully shake off the excess glitter and let dry to form pretty designs.

- Spread a thin layer of nontoxic glue onto a piece of construction paper. Let your preschooler arrange uncooked pieces of pasta onto the paper to make their own unique design.

- Paint with fruit and vegetables. Cut an apple or potato in half and dip the halves into tempera paint. Let your preschooler press the half onto a piece of white construction paper.

- Give your preschooler paper and large crayons to scribble with.

- Let your preschooler string dried cereal such as fruit loops or cheerios onto a piece of yarn. Tie the ends together to make a necklace.

- Let your preschooler practice stacking towers of blocks or boxes.


- Talk about and practice using words such as "please", "thank you", "may I", and "excuse me".

- Make faces expressing different feelings. Name and talk about each feeling.

- Make up songs about everyday routines. ("This is the way we brush our teeth")

- Help your preschooler to brush his or her teeth.

- Let your preschooler put his or her own clothes on. Help with buttons and shoelaces, if needed.

- Call up a friend or family member and let your preschooler talk on the phone.

- Begin having conversations about stranger awareness.

- Begin teaching your preschooler your telephone number and address.

- Look in the mirror together. Let your preschooler describe him/herself, and describe you.

Finding developmentally appropriate activities for a preschooler does not have to be difficult or expensive. For many more suggestions, check out the local public library, talk with your child's teacher, if they have one, and look for child development resources on the Internet.

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