EYFS Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Over the last week, I have had several requests for EYFS (Early Years) activities for toddlers and preschoolers to help parents during school closures. I hope these ideas help but be mindful that at this time children are unsettled from everything, even if they don’t understand it. With this in mind, make sure not to overwhelm yourselves!
These activities are mostly for children approximately aged 2-6, but they can be adapted for older or younger children. This is not a comprehensive list so I will continue to add to it. There are links to posts so you can get full details on the activities. This includes what you need, questions to ask, and benefits to children. If you are trying to work while also teaching your kids, try to choose open-ended activities (in BOLD). Children will be able to learn and explore in many different ways with some independence.
Outdoor Activities- EYFS Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Exploring and playing outdoors is important for children’s health, wellbeing and development in all areas (Kemple et al., 2016; Godbey, 2009). Giving children time to explore and play outside is important for their development. Below are some further ideas for exploring nature with children.
- Go on walks, hikes and bike rides
- Go on a colour hunt – Children can find things in nature that go with different colours of the rainbow. You could even bring a colour wheel or colour chart so children can match objects to it.
- Go on a Minibeast (insect) hunt- What minibeasts can you find? How many? Where did you find the different minibeasts?
- Go on a season hunt- Children can find objects that are common in the season (e.g. scavenger hunt).
- Go on a shape hunt- Find 2D or 3D shapes in the environment. You may want to bring some shape examples so children can compare them.
- Make a nature collage- Children may collect things they find on their walk and later use it to make a collage. Alternatively, they can do something like this – Outdoor Nature Art Activity- Miniature Nature Collages.
- Get children to order objects that they find by length – Shortest to Longest- Ordering Leaves by Length. Children could also practice measuring things they find in nature with a ruler or measuring tape. They might want to measure how tall a plant is or measure the circumference of a tree.
- Children can paint and print pictures using things (such as leaves) that they find on a walk. See here for an example – Leaf Printing- Leaf Art for Children.
- Children can use sticks to make pictures, patterns, play games like tic tac toe or make shapes. They can do this by drawing with them in the dirt or laying them out to create lines and shapes. See Shapes with Sticks – Learning Outdoors through Play for more ideas and benefits.
Easy learning and play activities for in your garden/yard
*Some of these activities can be messy in which case I would recommend old clothes and/or a puddle suit.
- Children can ‘paint’ with water on different surfaces. See my post here for inspiration- Mark Making EYFS – Rock Water Painting.
- Children can do large paintings on a tuff spot.
- These are some sensory and messy play ideas. In addition to old clothes and a puddle suit, you will likely need a tray or tuff spot. Some fun sensory activities include: Frozen Shaving Cream Foam Paint Recipe for Kids, painting with toy cars, or playing with coloured rice, coloured chickpeas or oats, etc.
- Children can explore chemical reactions and develop scientific thinking skills with some of these experiments: Colorful Baking Soda and Vinegar Experiment for Kids, Explosive Baking Soda and Vinegar Experiment for Kids, Color pH Baking Soda and Vinegar Science Experiment, and Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar Experiment.
- Water play – Give children some different containers (old plastic bottles, pots and pans, watering can, etc.) and water. You could also add in different things such as soap bubbles, cut up plants, old tea or herbs to make potions.
- Make a mud kitchen in your garden – This is a lovely open-ended activity that also provides many learning opportunities. This doesn’t need to be elaborate. Giving children some old pots, soil, water and/or plants to cut up will work. See here for inspiration- Outdoor Mud Kitchen Ideas.
- Children can paint on a tuff spot (or large tray). It doesn’t get mucky like paper so children can keep painting for a long time.
- Make a bird feeder – Pinecone Birdfeeders for Outdoor Learning in Preschool or How to Make a Bird Feeder without Peanut Butter (Suet Cake).
- Have children use scissors to trim/cut plants in the garden. You will need to show them which ones are alright to cut. This is great for building strength and scissor skills.
- Ice play – Have children collect natural objects to freeze with water in a large mould (like a bunt cake mould). Children can then play with it. You can see these as an example- Learn About the Properties of Ice and Water – N’ice Flower Surprise and Toy Ice Rescue.
- Build tents or forts– Use things such as old blankets, picnic rugs, old sheets, or old saris for the main part of the tent. Children can hold up the materials with a combination of pegs (preferably beach towel pegs), ropes, chairs, boxes, string, etc. They can do this inside and outside.
- Loose parts play -Children can use a range of natural and found objects such as rocks, sticks, seeds, and whatever else they can find in the garden to use in their play. This is open-ended so children may create soups, use it for ‘money’ in their shop, or create artwork. They may make collages or transient art. Children can also use toys like Grapats for this, but natural objects are free! 🙂 You may want to read more on loose parts play here: Find Out What is Loose Parts Play and Benefits of Loose Parts Play.
Sidewalk / Pavement – EYFS Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Draw and write with sidewalk chalk
- Practice letters outside- Letter Formation for Preschoolers – Teaching Writing Outside
- Practice writing numbers with water on the sidewalk or rocks – Mark Making EYFS – Rock Water Painting or Practicing Writing Numbers 1 – 10: Rock Water Painting
- Hopscotch- Children can make their own hopscotch game. Older children can make their game using numbers counting in 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, etc.
- Make a pictography to count and sort, leaves, rocks, flowers or other objects.
Gardening Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Plant bulbs or grow some in glass jars so that children can see the full structure – The Best Gardening Bulbs for Kids. Children may also want to dissect flowers and bulbs to learn about their structure.
- Grow plants from cuttings. Both indoor plants and outdoor plants for the garden can be propigated like this. See my post- Top Tips for Propagating Plants in Water or Soil. There are also some tips for how to grow plants from food scraps.
- Start growing some plants to eat in your garden. To start, see- Growing Tomatoes with Children.
- Make some flower bombs. See how to do this here – Sowing & Spreading Wild Flowers with Seed Bombs.
- Read books together.
- Practice writing letters, name and/or high-frequency words or challenging words (for older children). Children can trace words, use magnets to write them, or write them in salt or sand. They can also try practising with the look, cover, write technique.
- Practice scissor cutting- Give children scraps of paper to cut or drawings (such as mask templates) to cup out.
- Play with playdough. See my Pumpkin Spice Playdough Recipe, Corn Flour Conditioner Playdough. Children can play with this fairly independently and for a sustained period if given things like rollers, cutters and craft pieces to add into their play.
- Make salt dough beads for threading and making jewellery. See my post on How to Make Salt Dough Beads with Children.
- Do some STEM-based art- Get some inspiration from my post – Valentines STEM Art Projects for Toddlers and Kids.
- Set up a writing/art centre: set up a table with a space with children’s colouring pencils and pens, paper, notebooks, colouring books, scraps of paper, zig-zag books, piece of paper books (origami), scissors, stickers, glue etc. This way children can access and use these things independently.
- It is easy to feel cut off from your friends and family while self isolating. Drawing pictures, writing letters and postcards is a great way to keep in touch with loved ones. It is also a great way to get children to write if it is something they are normally reluctant to do.
Learning Activities for the Beach (or a small sand tray)
- Allow children to make designs and pictures / transient art with natural objects – Land Art- Outdoor Nature Art for Children.
- Draw and practice writing in the sand.
- Build sandcastles (damp sand play). Using sticks, rocks, shells and more can extend children’s play.
- Explore tide pools.
Godbey, Geoffrey (May 6, 2009). Outdoor Recreation, Health, and Wellness: Understanding and Enhancing the Relationship. RFF Discussion Paper No. 09-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1408694 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1408694
Kristen M. Kemple, JiHyun Oh, Elizabeth Kenney & Tina Smith-Bonahue (2016). The Power of Outdoor Play and Play in Natural Environments, Childhood Education, 92:6, 446-454, DOI: 10.1080/00094056.2016.1251793