preschool curriculum activities

Preschool Activity Theme

Outdoor Play

Ideas and suggestions for outdoor preschool activities that develop into early childhood education lesson plans which teachers can use to encourage the gross motor and observation skills of young children. Outdoor activities give preschool children an opportunity to sing a little louder and move in a larger space.  Throughout the year capitalize  on your extra classroom and have fun!

preschool education

Outdoor Play Activity Theme

Outdoor Transparent Painting
Preschool children use both large and fine motor skills and teachers can introduce a new vocabulary word, transparent, during this creative early childhood activity by Susi.

Materials: Long strip of clear plastic (sheet), tempera paints (lots of colors), paint brushes, wire to hold up the plastic sheet, and  a fence.

Description: Let the children help in attaching the plastic to the fence thereby  encouraging participation and the use of large motor skills. Ask the children to paint the 'canvas' with any images they like, or you can provide ideas according to your theme. These murals are an amazing addition to any outside play area.

Outdoor Car Wash
Encourage social skills as preschool children participate in this warm weather water play activity from Betty N.

Materials: Riding cars, sponges, and shallow dishes of soapy water.

Description: During outside time, set up an area where the children can pretend  to be a car wash. Place many shallow bowls containing soap and water outside and give each child a sponge. Promote sharing and cooperation as preschool children work together washing the cars. The children will absolutely love this idea. Before you know it they will be washing all of the outdoor toys and equipment.

Comments: It must be a nice day, warm weather and teacher supervision is  absolutely a MUST at all times.

Outdoor Game: "Hot Potato"
During this gross motor game by Colleen, preschool and kindergarten youngsters use their feet instead of their hands.

Materials: Medium size playground ball.

Description: Put a medium sized ball in the center of a circle along with a child chosen to be 'it'.  The child who is 'it' pushes the ball with his or her feet, trying to get it out of the circle. The other children try to stop the ball with their feet.  Once the ball is out, another leader is chosen.  The ball is called the 'hot potato' and the children will enjoy trying to keep it in the 'oven'.


Outdoor Art Activity  Sheet Painting
Young preschool children use fine motor and color recognition skills as they explore creativity during this early childhood outdoor activity by Angela L.

Materials: Spray bottles, water, liquid tempera paint (variety of colors) and a old sheet.

Description: Fill a spray bottle with half water and half tempera paint.  For  creative outdoor fun, hang an old sheet on a fence or create a clothesline and  have the children spray paint it. 


Game: Hula Hooping
During this preschool physical education activity Isabel C. encourages youngsters to use both fine and gross motor skills. Children also develop problem solving and social skills as they create their own methods of  "hula hooping".

Materials: 6-8 hula hoops (child size) and a large outdoor space.

Description: Allow 6-8 children to use hula hoops in any way that they like, making sure that the hoops are used safely. After the children have used the hula hoops in their own way, the teacher will show them different ways to use the hula.
a) Around the waist - setting it right to your back, then spinning it around with   your body.
b) Make the hula hoop go round and round on the ground.
c) Make hula spin on arm
d) Arrange hula hoops on ground and jump over them
e) Make up your own ideas, such as the activity below.

Comments: The hula hoops are now part of our outdoor games because the children like them so much!


Game: Hop In The Hoops
During this outdoor early childhood activity by Lisa C. children use gross motor skills.

Materials: Different colored hoops, an open area and drum or tambour.

Description: Let the children warm up in an open area.  Give the children different ideas for moving around - walk, hop, skip, run, walk sideways, run, backwards and so on.  Place lots of different colored hoops around the open space. Demonstrate to the children how to walk or run around without touching the hoops.  Intersperse these instructions with 'stand in groups of two in red hoops' or  'three people go into each green hoop' and so on.

Get the children to listen to the next instruction using a tambour, beat the drum or clap your hands, the children stop and listen for the next step. For example, put your hand in a hoop, put your foot in a hoop.  Make it more complex by adding colors and numbers. For example, put one knee in a red hoop, put four fingers in a yellow hoop and so on.

Comments: The children really enjoyed this activity and had lots of fun doing it.


Outdoor Art Activity Outdoor Water Art
Promote fun with color mixing during this outdoor play activity by Christy.

Materials: A spray bottle for each child, watercolors, water, large wall or fence.

Description: Fill each water bottle with a different color watercolor, mixed  with water. Outdoor, on a large wall or fence, let children spray and watch  what happens as colors mix.  Dries quickly and washes off easily.

Treasure Hunt
Use this early childhood education activity by Susie M. to encourage group cooperation, problem solving, following directions, thinking and reasoning.

Materials: Small plastic gold coins, inexpensive beaded necklaces, small rings,  play money, and a treasure box decorated by the children. A map made by the  teacher for the children to follow.  Inexpensive treasures that can be found in any party store.

Description: The teacher must first hide the treasure filled box in a good  hiding place in the yard. Next, the teacher will prepare a creative map for the  children to follow, i.e. outside, start at the tree in the bike area. Look up and find another clue. The second clue might have a rhyme or just say now walk twenty five steps until you come to the playhouse, etc. Finally when the kids come to the place where the treasure is buried or hidden, they will open it and take turns sharing the treasure inside.  It's great fun and always a success!


Outdoor Idea Balloon Bats
Promote group cooperation with an outdoor activity after the completion of these teacher made balloon bats by Susan C.

Materials: For each bat:
 One metal coat hanger, nylons and masking tape.

1.  Bend the hanger to form a diamond or circle shape.
2.  Twist the hook of the hanger to form a closed handle.
3.  Place the nylon over the coat hanger to form, securing it to the handle with masking tape.

Science: Making Volcanos
Preschoolers discover what happens when baking soda and vinegar are mixed during the early childhood education activity from Shanell W.

Materials: Baking soda, vinegar, red food coloring, play sand or dirt.

Description: Teachers can introduce the concept of volcanos at a group gathering.  First read a book on the subject, and then ask the children what they know about volcanos. Then you can tell the children that you are going to make your very own volcano in the sand. When they are outside, have the kids form a volcano with sand or dirt, leaving a hole in the top for the materials. Then add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1/2 cup of vinegar (depending on the size of the volcano). For best results, add red food coloring to the vinegar before you pour it. The kids will be amazed when they see what happens next!

Comments: The kids love this outdoor activity!


Follow up making volcanos by talking about the forces of nature during this preschool activity by Viya S.

Materials: Books about various activities in the world, such as  tornadoes, glaciers, avalanche, volcanos, thunder, floods etc.

Description: Before we start this topic we look through different  pictures. We talk about volcanos in North and Central America and what happens when a volcano erupts. After that we make a volcano from clay, soda, food color and a little vinegar. The next day children draw volcanos. When we did this activity some children gave ideas about stopping volcanic eruptions.  A few children drew ladders and fireman on top of the ladder spraying water on the volcano. One child said that only God can stop volcanos from erupting.

Comments: Children understand that the world is very different and that we have to help each other. That there are different people who look after all this and they help us by informing us about these activities in nature.


Bulletin Board: "Underground Theme"
Youngsters use observation and creative skills as they help create a science bulletin board during this preschool curriculum activity by S.T.

Materials: Brown craft paper to cover a small bulletin board, chalk, glue, sand, twigs, and leaves. Simple drawings of animals, insects and things that are underground.

Description: To introduce "Underground" to my preschoolers, I read many poems and books over a 3 day period.  During morning centers we lay out simple drawings of a fox, squirrel, worms, mice, spiders, ants and other critters.  The students color what interests them most and then cut them out.  We take a  nature hike to gather leaves, tiny pebbles, twigs, etc. When we return students choose what "underground" animals etc. that they want to illustrate.

My assistant and I had drawn trees roots, multiple burrows and an ant hill on the brown kraft paper.  The students then glued the animals, spiders, ants, worms and food (sunflower seeds) to the paper.  I then use chalk to add accents and glued sand on for texture.

The Creepy Crawlers Theme is in the Rainbow Resource Room.


Outside Animals
Barbara encourages preschoolers to use gross motor skills during this early childhood activity.

Materials: Open space to run, hop and slither.

Description: Once you have talked about animals go outside and have children stand in a line facing the way you will run. Then explain that they will go down and come back as an animal.  Tell youngsters an animal and see if they know how it gets from one place to another.  If they don't know help them. Ex: bunny - hops, tiger - on all fours, and snakes - slithers.
Take a look at the Animal Theme


Transition Activity: Line Up!
Young children will be able to line up quietly during this preschool activity by Gloria S.

Description: When it is time for children to line up to go outside, sing this song.  You can make up your own tune. Name 4 children at a time.

Stand up (child's name),
Stand up (child's name),
Stand up (child's name),
Stand up (child's name)
Reach up very high, reach up to the sky,
Turn around and go line up.

Lots of transition songs and rhymes are in Transition Times and the 
Transition Activity Theme is in the Rainbow Resource Room.


Nature Walk & Collage
Vickie S. contributes this science and art activity that encourages preschool children's  "Language development through group participation, questions, speculation and conversation."

1. Paper Bags (enough for each child),   2. A place to walk that is rich in nature.   3. Paper   4. glue   5. crayons  (and other tools for creativity that the children desire).

Go on a nature walk. Allow the children to pick  up objects from nature such as rocks, bark, grass, leaves, flowers, nuts etc., and put them into their bags to take back to the class. 

As you walk along encourage children to talk about what they see and hear in nature. Allow them to observe and ask questions. When you return set out the art tools and let them create a collage of their nature walk.

Comments: This activity was used during  "BUG" week. The children also were allowed to find bugs to take back to the room. At the end of the week we talked about respecting nature and we released the bugs back to their homes.

Look for the Creepy Crawlers Theme in the Rainbow Resource Room


Blocks: Create a Neighborhood Map
During this early childhood lesson plan preschool children begin outdoor and then continue indoor as they use creative thinking, problem solving and spatial awareness skills.

You will need:
Unit or table blocks, colored or masking tape, construction paper and trashable materials such as tubes, egg cartons, small boxes and containers.  Also, experience chart paper, markers and a local map (optional).

Outside: Teachers and preschool children take a walk together around the neighborhood.  Look carefully at the buildings closest to yours.  Then notice important roads / streets and other buildings nearby.  When you come back inside, record the children's observations and descriptions on an experience chart.

Inside: With a small group of youngsters talk about maps and, if you can, locate where your building is on a local map.  Mark where you took your walk with a red marker and then explain that together you are going to make you own neighborhood "map" out of blocks.

Teachers provide preschool children with construction paper and tape and help them make a "floor" for the map.  Use tape to make the roads / streets, green paper for yards and parks etc.  Next talk about what buildings to include.  This works best when you start with your building and then move to buildings further away.  Use the trashable items to create the structures.  Keep in mind that accuracy is not the most important thing.  The process young children work through is the key.  Youngsters learn from the  cooperative experience of interpreting real life into block forms.

Extension:  After the map is complete take another outdoor walk and again look carefully at the buildings.  When you return to the classroom ask children to consider ways they would like to change and improve the neighborhood.  Ask, "What can we add to our map?  What do you think would make our neighborhood more fun and attractive?"

As youngsters brainstorm, chart their suggestions.  Encourage them to use their imaginations.  But before you make any improvements take a picture of the "old" neighborhood map.  After making improvements with the trashable materials, take a picture of the "new" neighborhood.  Use the pictures to help children dictate a story about the experience.

Story time suggestions:

The House With The Red Roof 
 by William Wise
The Little House  by Virginia Burton


Rock Collecting
This outdoor preschool activity encourages observation, language development and seriation skills then extends into an art activity.

You will need:
Sturdy bags for collecting, egg cartons, tempera paint, paint brushes, small containers of water, newspaper, clear nail polish (optional).

Teachers begin by explaining to preschool children that they will be looking for rocks to collect during an outdoor walk in the park etc.  While outside talk with children about the shapes, sizes and colors of the rocks they find. Help the children compare the sizes, textures, colors and shapes of the rocks and stones.

Classroom: Teachers help small groups of children wash and dry the rocks.  Then sort them into piles according ot size, color, shape or texture.  Create a rook collection by using egg cartons  to store and display the rocks and stones according to size etc.

Extension: Paint rocks with tempera, older preschoolers may wish to paint faces, etc. on their rocks and/or make them shine by permitting the paint to dry and then brushing on clear nail polish.  Try selecting a favorite rock to use as a "Talking Stone" as described in the Multicultural Theme activities.

Nature Rubbing Books
You will need:  Lightweight paper (recycled copy paper works well), old crayons without the wrappers.

Encourage preschool children to place paper over outdoor objects and areas (ex. sidewalks, tree trunks, grass, exterior of buildings, fences etc.) and rub with crayons.  Have young children arrange the rubbings in order from smoothest to roughest.  Label each rubbing with the proper source and bind together to create books.

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