Searching "learning activities for kids” on Pinterest is overwhelming.
Immediately, thousands of activities pop up. My head spins as I scroll through all the ideas.
Exhausted, I wonder:
"Will this be suitable for my son?”
“When do I introduce letters to my daughter?”
"Will my child be driving by the time I sort through all these inspirations?"
No wonder this is the NUMBER ONE question I get in my inbox:
How do I choose learning activities for
IMPORTANT: 100% adult supervision is required for all the activities.
In this post, I'm going to answer this question on every parent's mind and share activity ideas and resources for different age groups.
There are two key factors to consider when choosing learning activities for kids:
1) Age of your Child
This is huge factor because the age of your child strongly influences his/her ability and learning needs. The age also gives us critical information about their sensitive periods. Developed by Maria Montessori, sensitive periods refer to periods of time when children are hyper focused in learning certain skills or knowledge and are particularly interested in activities that support the sensitive periods they are in.
Being aware of our children's learning needs and sensitive periods will help us tremendously in choosing the most developmentally appropriate activities for our children.
I have grouped the children’s ages into three groups (babies, toddlers and preschoolers). Under each age group, I shared the appropriate activities to cater to their emerging learning needs and sensitive periods.
Learning Activities for Babies (0 to 1 year old)
Learning through their Senses
From birth, our sweet little babies are already so eager to learn and explore the world! They use their five senses to gather information about how the world works. I'm sure you noticed how your baby is putting everything in his/her mouth. That's just their way of learning through their sense of taste.
To help refine their senses, we want to provide them with plenty of multi-sensory experiences.
This post by Little Lifelong Learners offers many sensory play ideas for young babies 6 months old and younger.
Communication and Language
Babies are absorbing words and yearning to communicate with from day one. They are in the expressive language sensitive period. We can enrich their language experience at home by:
- Talking to your baby as often. This is the best (and simplest) thing we can do for our baby intellectual development.
- Reading to your baby (Check out my favorite books for 2 year olds. I also love this list of board books for babies and young toddlers.)
- Singing to your baby
- Allowing your baby to speak their needs (and not speaking for them)
Related: Find out how you can develop your baby's early literacy skills!
Motor Skills and Movement
From birth, babies are in the movement sensitive period and are intensely interested in developing their fine and gross motor skills. To support our babies in their movement sensitive periods,
- Create a safe environment for your baby to move freely
- Give your baby plenty of opportunities to crawl, pull up and walk.
- Provide safe toys for your baby to handle with their little hands
The Best Activities for 1 Year Olds Activity Pack
This is a free resource with over 35 activities for 1 year olds that I put together for my mailing list subscribers. To grab a copy, sign up for Happy Tot Shelf mailing list and receive this activity pack as a bonus.
In addition, I shared many tips on how to set up activities for 1 year olds.
Learning Activities for Toddlers (1 to 3 years old)
Acquiring and Refining Motor Skills
At around 2 years old, toddlers enter a refining motor skills sensitive period where they are actively working on improving their coordinations and movement.
Some of the new gross motor skills that the toddlers may acquire during this stage include running, jumping, throwing/ catching a ball, climbing etc.
What is the best way for our toddlers to work their big muscles and practise these gross motor skills?
Play at a playground, take a walk at the park, explore the big outdoors!
You will also notice tremendous advancements in your toddler's fine motor skills. These include:
- Picking up small items with their fingers (pincer grip)
- Scooping food into their mouth with a spoon
- Peeling and sticking stickers
- Holding markers and attempting to draw/write
We want to provide lots of opportunities for the children to work on their small muscles so that they can continue to hone their fine motor skills. Here are fun fine motor skill activities to try:
- Pompom Sensory Bag
- Ladybug Color Matching with Dot Stickers
- Snowman Pompom Drop
- 12 Fun Pincer Grasp Activities for Kids
Also, check out my Fine Motor Skills Pinterest board for more ideas!
As they enter the refinement of senses sensitive period at 2 years old, their interest in sensory experiences heightens. Continue to provide the toddlers with lots of sensory experiences. Playdough and sensory bins are amazing ways for children to explore with their senses while having heaps of fun!
Happy Toddler Play Time has put together a list of 21 amazing sensory bins ideas for toddlers and preschoolers.
Letters, Numbers, Shapes and Colors
2 years old and up, children are recognizing different letters, numbers, shapes and
ColorMatching with Duplo Blocks
- Letter Matching in a Playdough Box
- Dot Marker Ice Cream Cones
- Giant Dot to Dot Activity
- Erase the Letters/ Numbers
- Sticker Counting Houses
More learning activities for toddlers:
- Again, check out my list of easy and fun activities for 1 year olds.
- I love this list of 40+ no prep activities for toddlers from Busy Toddler.
- Check out this list of art activities for toddlers from the The Artful Parent.
- This is an useful post on the development milestones for toddlers (1 to 3 years old).
Learning Activities for Preschoolers (3 to 6 years old)
In addition to sensory and motor skill experiences, the preschoolers are developmentally ready to learn handwriting, reading and mathematical skills.
This does not mean that you throw them pen and paper to write or math problems to solve right away!
This is the time where we want to help our Preschoolers build the basic writing, reading and math skills.
For example, we want continue to provide opportunities for preschoolers to knead play dough because this strengthens their hands and prepare their hands for advanced motor skills like writing and cutting.
Related: Try these multi-sensory ways to learn letter formation!
Remember this: make learning experiences as hands-on and fun as possible – these are the best ways for children to learn!
Handwriting Activities for Preschoolers
The writing sensitive period begin around the time when preschoolers learn their letters and numbers and are fascinated to produce them on paper.
- Pre K Pages shared many great tips to teach preschoolers how to write.
- Here are more ideas for preschoolers to practice writing from my Pre-writing/Writing Pinterest Board.
Reading Tips for Preschoolers
At around age 3 to 5 years old, children start to take interest in reading. Here are some resources to support their reading sensitive period:
- Playdough to Plato wrote an amazing guide to teaching kids how to read.
- This Reading Mama shared many great tips for teaching letters and letter sounds.
Teaching Preschoolers Mathematics
From age 4, children enter the sensitive period of mathematics. We want to provide plenty of meaningful concrete learning experiences to build a strong numeracy foundation early.
- Use these fun activities to practise subitizing with your child.
- Enhance your child's spatial reasoning skills with fun games and activities.
- Try this fun, hands-on measurement activity
- Learn about symmetry with Duplo building blocks
- Teaching Mama has a helpful post on teaching Math to preschoolers.
- Check out these 40+ math and literacy activities for preschoolers from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.
Don't forget about the art experiences to encourage their aesthetics and creative expressions. Explore primary and secondary colours with this Handprint Colour Mixing Activity. Or try these 20 + fun process art projects to do with your preschoolers from Buggy and Buddy.
Bonus: Join my mailing list and download this free guide: 9 Simple Ways to Spark a Love of Learning in your Children. Get this guide now>>
2) Your Child's Interests
This second factor almost always guarantees successful and engaging learning activities for children.
Follow your child’s interest!
If your child is going through a cutting frenzy, create opportunities for him/her to practice the cutting over and over again. Repetition is the foundation of learning for children and is necessary for children to fully master any skills or languages.
If you notice your toddler putting small objects into containers, she is likely in the fine motor skill sensitive period. During this time, toddlers are particularly interested in fine motor skill activities. Provide her with more of such experiences to help her refine her hand-eye coordination and work her small finger muscles.
If your child is obsessed with dragons, ride on his/her interest and set up some dragon theme activities! When we tap on that natural curiosity the children have for things that interest them, learning becomes natural and teaching becomes effortless.
Here are two incredibly useful resources for planning
- I have gathered many amazing learning ideas on Happy Tot Shelf Pinterest, all arranged according to themes and learning skills. Pick a theme or skill that your child is interested in and look up my Pinterest for ideas.
- Our past themed learning shelves are archived for you. Each post is a summary of all the learning activities we do for each theme and categorized into two age groups, toddler and preschooler.
What if a child is not interested in a learning activity?
Here are some things you can do:
- Wait a couple of weeks before re-introducing the same activity again.
- Change an element in the activity. For example, if your child does not like a dot painting activity, switch the dot paint markers for dot stickers and try again. Here’s an example of
a sameactivity and 3 different ways to introduce it to my toddler.
- Leave the activity on the learning shelf and wait for your child to pick up the activity on his/her own.
- Scrap this activity entirely and try to introduce the skill/concept with another activity.
Every child is different and they will pick up skills and knowledge whenever they are ready. Spend some time observing your children as they play and interact with their environment and people. From their interactions, you can pick up many clues about heir interests, natural development and sensitive periods.
Follow your children and let them guide you as you plan his/her next home learning activity!
Happy learning at home!
Pin this guide to your children's activities board!
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