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Hands-on Activities with Young Children

Updated on August 2, 2018
JoannaBlackburn profile image

Joanna Blackburn has 15 years of hands-on teaching experience. She enjoys researching and writing about ways to help children learn.

Hands-on Activities for Young Children

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I have permission to use his photo.
I have permission to use his photo.
I have permission to use his photo. | Source

Look Closer at the Above Photo

What do you see in the above photo? It's not just a boy sitting at a table. It is a boy playing with cornstarch and baby oil. This is an activity that will keep their imagination flowing. Some of the children would go get cars or dishes and use them in different ways with the cornstarch and baby oil.

In this article, I will show different ways of using hands-on activities to let your child show their abilities and creativeness.

Dinosaur Land

This activity was a favorite among my students.
This activity was a favorite among my students. | Source

Dinosaur Land Step by Step set up Instructions

Steps to set it up
1. Bring from home, leaves, dirt, branches and rocks
2. Get a plastic table cloth
3. Make a big empty spot in the classroom
4. Have the children put the table clothe on the floor.
5. Place rocks on the corners
6. Scatter the supplies all over the tablecloth
7. Have children get dinosaurs, cars, blocks, other plastic toys
8. You sit down and start playing
9. Wait, don't make the children join you
10. They will join you

How to come up with a hands-on Inclusive activity

Chose activities that meet individual student needs. To do this, make sure you have done checklist and observations on the children in your care. Think about one child who needs help learning a skill. Now think about what interest him/her the most. Take that interest and find a way to use it as a group activity.
Wait, not done yet, keep reading.
Now do that with two other children. Then combine the three together and make a hands-on activity that you are willing to do with them. The messier the better. [The children will love cleaning up the mess]



Inclusive

Inclusive learning is something that becomes the normal. Inclusive teaching becomes a habit.

With everything you read and learn, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want the child/children to learn?
  • Why should the children learn this skill?
  • How should children learn this skill?

Then take what is important to these questions and make it your own.

I will explain this later on in this article.

Teachers Role in Play Learning

  • Make learning real.
  • Use hands-on
  • Integrate other subjects.
  • Be fully involved.

Increase participation willingly

Engagement Strategies
2 minute active interaction
Interacting with children during play
Ask children what they want to learn
Be silly with the children

Embrace their creativity as part of the learning process. Don't worry if it don't go as you have planned. What is important is that they enjoy it.

Ask Children What They Want To Learn About

Through out the day, ask different children what they would like to know more about. Write down what each child says and who said it. At this point don't rely on your memory.

At the end of the day, look at the list and see how many different topics you have on that list. How many can you combine together? Now for each combination, think of one key element.

Example: bears, pigs, birds. Now what do they have in common? Footprints. Can an activity be made from this?

Now take a variety of supplies from each of your ideas and put those items on the table.

Example: dirt, glue, paper, crayons, etc.

Now step back and watch the children. This will help you see what they are interested in playing with. It will show you their creative side. Now sit down with them and start putting different things together on a piece of paper. Ask the child next too you, "What are you making?" "I'm making a ..."

Make sure to write down how this went and what you learned.

Interacting with children during play

The best time to interact is during center time. So, before center time, set out an activity in each center.

Example: In Dramatic Play set the table up for a tea party, put dress up clothes on the chairs and food on the table.

During center time, visit each center while the children are playing. Start naming what they are playing with. [hey, is that a hat your wearing]

Then ask what they are playing. [don't be surprised by what they answer, act like its normal.]

If they can't answer, say something like "Oh, your having a tea party, Can I join you?" Children love this.

Bringing it all together

Now I will show you what it will look like and then give you an activity I used in the classroom that kept their interest for awhile.

Example of your paperwork:

First child: Really likes playing in the Science center, with the dinosaurs.

Second child: Likes Home Living and feeding the stuffed animals.

Third child: Likes Home Living by bringing toys from others center in for the dolls to play with.

Now your turn, think about an activity that involves all the senses and messy hands-on. What did you come up with?

2 Minute Active Interaction

Now, take two minutes or so, and play what they are playing. Pretend your a kid again. This helps children learn social skills and the words they need to interact with other children.

Example--Block Center--Two children are building towers, and their is a car close by.

Sit down, pick up the car, and start driving it around. Then say something like this, "I want to drive my car across the river, but there is no bridge." Before they respond, start humming and building a bridge.

Try this and see what happens. I know it sounds silly, but children can and do connect on this level.

Be Silly

If the children see you being silly, then they will be more willing to try new stuff. By silly I mean, play dress-up, read a book with a strange voice while holding a bear, use a small animal and have it ride around on a car smaller than it is.

Cookie Monster and the Elf

Me and my daughter showing our silly side.
Me and my daughter showing our silly side. | Source

Teachers Role

  • Identify strengths and needs of the children in your care.
  • Guide the children's progress forward.
  • Provide experiences and activities

By following your heart, your classroom will be inclusive without thinking about it. How? Because you have figured out what each child's needs are and your providing what they need.

By teaching this way, you are teaching children how to:

  • Cooperate with others
  • Make choices
  • Use words to communicate needs
  • build their friends self-image
  • build their own self-esteem

You are teaching them how to function in the real world.

Making it your own

Don't make them join any activity, let them make the decision to join you.


If they make the decision on their own, they will participate more. The more you test this, the better the result. Don't expect overnight success. Once they know you are letting them decide, they will pick time with you.

The more you test this the more comfortable you will become with it. I know as grown ups we are programmed to be mature, but as a teacher your allowed to have fun.

Keep track of the things you try and what actually happened. At the end of the month review all of your little notes. Then you will see how your classroom has changed into an inclusive classroom.

One Final Note

Think about what you have read and learned.

Think about the child your trying to help.

Answer these questions honestly:

What do you expect the child to be able to do?

How do you think this activity will help this child?

I understand how hard it is to be a preschool teacher. Most of the time you take your work home, just so you can come up with something new to try. My goal is to make it where you don't have to take your work home, just save the activities and use them.

My next article will include other hands-on activities.

© 2017 Joanna Blackburn

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