Hands-On Preschool Activities Based on Child Development

As an occupational therapist, I love to work with preschoolers. Here, you will find hands-on preschool activities designed to promote child development, learning, and engagement through messy play, multisensory learning, and developmentally appropriate activities for young kids. Whether you need ideas for early intervention, preschool ideas for the home learning space, or movement based ideas, this space has you covered!

This is a collection of all of our Preschool Learning and Play activities for kids aged 2 and a half to 5 (and Pre-K).

The preschool years are a season of growth and development in every skill area.  Language, fine motor, gross motor, self-care, behavior, humor, direction-following, creativity, and social-emotional areas are all blossoming with tremendous growth during the preschool years.  It is so much fun to see the changes that preschoolers go through in each of these areas.  They truly develop into their own person.  Play is essential for development in the child.  It is my hope that these activities will inspire fun and creative play and learning with you and your special Preschooler!

Preschool Activities and Child Development

During the preschool years, children are developing in astounding ways. From language to motor skills, the preschool years mean children go from very needy individuals to children that are ready to move on to kindergarten! 

You’ll want to get a better handle on child development by reading many of our development resources

So what kind of activities do preschoolers need?

Preschool aged kids need play!

It’s through play that all learning happens, and in the 2-5 age range especially, play is the driving force behind child development, learning, and skill building.

Play offers the opportunity to develop so many skills in preschoolers:

  • literacy
  • math skills
  • social emotional learning
  • self-confidence
  • creativity
  • communication
  • self-care skills
  • sensory exploration
  • physical motor skills (gross motor, fine motor, balance, coordination, etc.
  • fine motor tool use: crayons, pencils, scissors, etc.
  • self-regulation
  • attention, organization, focus
  • direction-following
  • so much more!

It’s hands-on activities, founded in child development, and the tasks that are appropriate for this age, in play, that help children develop skills!

This is a collection of all of our Preschool Learning and Play activities for kids aged 2 and a half to 5 (and Pre-K).  We love creating, crafting, and playing with preschool-aged kids.  It’s a season of growth and development in every skill area.  Language, fine motor, gross motor, self-care, behavior, humor, direction-following, creativity, and social-emotional areas are all blossoming with tremendous growth during the preschool years.

It is so much fun to see the changes that preschoolers go through in each of these areas.  They truly develop into their own person.  Play is essential for development in the child.  It is my hope that these activities will inspire fun and creative play and learning with you and your special Preschooler!

Preschool Crafts for learning and play

Preschool Crafts

Crafts with kids can get a bad rap.  Some may say that crafts stifle creativity; that kids are not able to express themselves when they are given a definite end-product that they are to replicate.  There is definitely a need for process-oriented free craft time without a specific end-result.  

Process art has it’s benefits for kids, and we definitely create a lot of creative painting art.  

Crafts with a product-oriented end result have a very different point for kids. Crafts provide kids with a specific end-result when tasks are done.  You can assess tool use, direction-following, hand dominance, visual perceptual processing, fine motor strength, sensory discrimination, and so many more areas by completing a craft with children.  

Sure, you can assess these areas in a non-craft setting, but the assessment results may take much longer to achieve.  Children are proud of the crafts they make. They gain self-confidence by completing a task to MAKE something.  

These Preschool crafts are perfect for fun or assessment of skill area.  Have fun crafting and enjoy your time creating with your child!  

Art Activities for Preschoolers

Art activities for young children have the potential for messy play that develops the senses. Children are proud of the art projects they make, and art activities can be a creative way to expand on language, self-confidence, motor skill development, and sensory exploration.  They gain self-confidence by completing a task to MAKE something.


Preschool Sensory Exploration Play

Preschool children learn through their senses.  What better way to invite a child to learn than through exploring the senses.  

The wonderful thing about sensory play and learning is that almost any learning objective can be achieved through the senses.  What a wonderful classroom or home environment a child will have when they are given the opportunity to discover and explore with the senses.

Preschool sensory play and exploratory learning


Preschool Building Blocks and Tools

Blocks develop fine motor skills and visual motor skills. Using blocks also develop visual motor skills, core strength, eye-hand coordination and much more.

Preschool building blocks and building tools for learning and play

In preschool, using blocks is a powerful tool! These block activities for preschoolers help children to develop so many skills.

Children learn and develop with block and building activities.  Engineering, pattern development, size awareness, visual perceptual integration, and fine motor skills will flourish while playing with blocks and building materials.  

Preschool children build their skill areas through play with blocks and building tools.  


Preschool Color Learning

In preschool, children learn colors! Color sorting, making patterns, and coloring are all part of the ages 2-5. This resource on how to teach coloring skills is helpful for young children to develop greater fine motor skills, to color with a crayon, and the visual motor skills to color in lines.

Activities that Teach colors to children are fun ways to learn!

Preschool color recognition and identification activities for preschoolers.

  Preschool children will love these color identification and color sorting activities.  

Preschool Math Activities

During the preschool years, math skills occur through play. By counting, sorting, and creating patterns right in the play experience, young children are developing skills they need for later years. 

Activities like the ones listed below can help kids build skills such as:

  • Sorting skills
  • Counting skills
  • Weights
  • Measurements
  • Size awareness
  • Shape awareness

These are math activities that my kids have loved when they were in Preschool and Pre-K.  You will want to follow along on our Playful Math Pinterest board for more playful math ideas.    

Literacy Activities for Preschoolers

During the preschool years, there is a huge leap in literacy development. And, when you add a hands-on component, children have the ability to learn through play. 

Hands-on literacy activities for preschoolers can help kids to rhyme with finger and movement rhyme games. Ideas can use movement and music, and teach the alphabet. Literacy begins at this young age and compounds through the school-age years in the way of phonetic understanding of letters as a building block for literacy and reading.

It is possible to give preschool aged children the best start to their education with simple learning activities that build a love for learning from the start, using hands-on activities that are founded in age-appropriateness, but also help to develop strong hands, bodies, self-confidence, social emotional learning, creativity, problem solving and many other areas…all while helping children to recognize the letters in their name, understand and learn the alphabet, and begin a foundation for education.

  • Engaging literacy activities offer a chance for preschoolers to practice letter recognition.
  • Hands-on play allows kids to practice the alphabet.
  • Movement and music can help children to learn rhyming and cadence in reading and literacy.
  • Letter recognition activities offer the opportunity to develop visual and motor skills needed for writing letters (when they are developmentally ready to write letters, AFTER preschool age)

We’ve got lots of playful ideas for letter identification, letter learning, letter order, and letter formation for preschool aged children.

 Alphabet Activities in Preschool

Preschool is the perfect time to teach the alphabet. This building block of literacy is so important for reading skills and literacy. In preschool, teaching the alphabet song is key. So too is letter discrimination, recognizing different letters, and playing with letters.  

We’ve got lots of playful ideas for letter identification, letter learning, letter order, and letter formation for preschool aged children.  Be sure to follow along on our Alphabet Play Pinterest Board.

Preschool Books and Activities 

We love to create activities, crafts, and fun based on Preschool books.  You can find all of our creative book extension ideas here.  Some of our favorite Preschool books and activities that we’ve done:

Preschool Fine Motor Activities:

In preschool years, fine motor development grows and develops by great strides. From scooping and pouring, to coloring and scissor use, fine motor skills develop. With tool use like scissor skills and clothing management, these areas are refined. Try the following fine motor activities in preschool:

Preschool Christmas Activities

Christmas ideas for preschool are fun! Try some of these to develop skills through play during the holidays:

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.