What are some good free play activities for preschoolers? Well, that really depends on your definition of free play. For me, free play is completely child driven so my role as a teacher is to set up the environment and provide the tools for free play and stay out of it unless invited in. That might not be your definition of free play in preschool though. Maybe what you are thinking about is what I call free choice or center time. A time when I have strategically set up opportunities to learn specific skills in addition to allowing my students to also enjoy free play. In my PreK classroom, we have three blocks of time devoted to free play. One is roughly 40 minutes long, the second is outside and around 30 minutes, and the last is before lunch and is usually closer to 15. At those times children direct themselves in the environment my co-teacher and I have created. I see free play at preschool as a buffet, my job is to offer good choices but it’s my student’s job to make the choices. Here are some of the free play activities for preschoolers I use and my students love. It was so hard trying to narrow this list down – I have so many more free-play ideas for preschool. If you want to see it all in real time, check out my Instagram feed!
What are some great free play activities for preschoolers?
The best answer to that is activities that they get engaged in. With that in mind, I like testing out tons of ideas to see what is a good fit for my students. This list of free choice ideas is the result of that. All these photos are from my classroom snapped quickly on my iPhone. I do this when students are engaged to remind myself to use the idea again, or for assessment purposes – but the quality is not always the highest!
Free Play Activities For Preschoolers That Promote Literacy Development
All these photos are from my classroom snapped quickly on my iPhone. I do this when students are engaged to remind myself to use the idea again, or for assessment purposes – but the quality is not always the highest!
- Lowercase letter punch – you can make your own or grab this printable one from me here! This is not just a literacy activity but also for developing hand strength.
- Building names on the light table.
- Simply drawing, I know it’s simple and it’s effective. Invite your students by making the setup engaging.
- Eggshell sensory writing tray. See how to make it here.
- Name clip and match. This is so easy to do just write out your students’ names on a sentence strip and on clothespins. Match ’em up. For more name activities check out this post.
- Lacing with letter beads
- Stamping with letter stamps.
- Feed the hungry koala, my students LOVED this, it was one of their favorite free play activities for preschoolers! Print it out for free here.
- Name letter hunt – print out the upper or lowercase game board for it here.
- Letter cookie cutters and playdough
- Acrylic letter color sorting on the light table.
- Building names with letter magnets.
- Upper and lowercase letter matching clip cards
- Letter magnet match on the magnet board ( you can do it on cookie sheets too).
- X and Os on mini chalkboards. I made that chalkboard and you can too, here are the instructions!
- Letter hunt discovery bottle.
What are Some Good Free Choice Pretend Play Activities For Preschool?
Pretend play during free play time at preschool is always a hit. Here are a few ideas for your preschool classroom.
- Wildlife Rescue – SOme stuffed animals, some food bowls, a vet kit, and a dog crate or two are all you need to stimulate the future conservationists in your students.
- Library – I have all you need for this setup here!
- Post office, you guys this was the BIGGEST hit! Some packages, trays for sorting mail, a grocery cart turned into a mail cart, and envelopes. Your students will love this.
- Bakery. Cookie sheets, a play oven, some play food, and a hungry belly are a must for this simple setup.
Free Choice Art Projects for Preschool
The best free choice art is making sure your students have access to materials at will. After that I’d say my second favorite are easels and paint, and then these simple art projects for preschool.
- Hot glue and watercolor leaves or around valentine’s day do hearts instead.
- Hole punch hearts
- Shape dinosaurs
- Q-tip painted pumpkins, but we have also done stars, watermelons, and snowflakes.
Easy Preschool Math Center Ideas
- Ten frame cards with mini erasers.
- Measuring with unifix cubes.
- Unifix cube matching mats
- Flower count and bead.
- Peg cards
- Patterning with art daubbers
- Shape mosaic sticky window
- Roll and add monster eyes!
- Mini eraser sort and count with silly props like this witch finger.
- Number punching
- Weighing people figurines and unifix cubes. How many cubes does it take to make it balanced?
- Simple number line puzzles.
Ideas for Preschool STEM at Free Choice
- Matching animals to their x-rays
- Magnet bottles – see how I made mine here.
- Exploring volcanic rocks under a microscope.
- Melting baking soda hearts with vinegar.
- Building towers and using wind to knock them down – see the full lesson plan for this here.
- Marble runs!
- Lego challenges – can you build it the same way?
- Pebble towers on the light table.
Free Choice Sensory Play
- Moonsand and astronaut play
- Shaving cream and cut pool noodles or foam blocks.
- Dinosaur dig with paint brushes
- Water beads – we sorted them by color too!
Fine Motor Activities for Preschool
- Letter match and lacing with letter beads.
- Adding small items to playdough – gems, little Christmas lights etc…
- Golf tee color match and hammer rainbow!
- Pete the Cat-inspired button bracelets.
These are by no means all your options for free play activities but I hope you found some new ideas you can use. I have another great list of preschool free-choice activities here!