It’s the beginning of a new school year, and preschool teachers are thinking about how to make this the best year yet. As you think about daily scheduling, take a moment to reflect on the activities you ran in the classroom last year.
A few awesome activities will certainly come to mind, which you will want to facilitate again. But, maybe there were a few others that didn’t go as successful as you had hoped. If you are looking for fresh ideas that will maximize learning and development, consider implementing small group activities into your daily schedule.
By splitting up your class into groups of five to six children, you can set up various “stations” throughout the classroom, which groups rotate through. Small group activities are extremely beneficial to early childhood learning and development.
Preschool aged children are still in the process of developing social and cognitive skills, and often have an easier time in a small group setting where there is less stimulation and the opportunity to get more attention from peers and teachers. As they play and engage with other children, they develop skills like cooperation and sharing while socializing and developing their own interests – all important areas to work on before Kindergarten comes around.
6 Small Group Activities for Preschoolers
1. Fine Motor Skills with Scissors
The development of fine motor skills is very important for preschoolers. Fine motor skills involve the use of small muscles that control the hand, fingers, and thumb which helps children perform important daily tasks like feeding themselves, buttoning and zipping clothes, drawing, holding toys, and more.
Allow children to practice their fine motor skills by drawing lines and shapes on paper – then, make copies to pass around. Children can use safety scissors to cut across the lines to the best of their ability.
Another fun option? Download our free small group Shape Cutting and Puzzle activity sheet. Children will first cut out the puzzle pieces using safety scissors. Then, they’ll work as a team to put the puzzle together to reveal a shape, animal, or another object.
2. Cooperative Drawing
This activity involves children sitting around a small table, each with their own piece of paper and one marker. Each child writes their name on the paper and then turns the paper over, so the blank side is up.
Instruct the group to begin drawing whatever is in their imagination for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, each child will pass their paper to the left where the next child will begin drawing for 30 seconds on the new paper.
Continue rotating until the paper is back to their original owners. The children will be pleasantly surprised by how their creations turned out. Each child was able to have their own interpretation of what the drawing was supposed to be when they received a new piece of paper, strengthening their creative expression.
3. Dramatic Play
Pretend play is an important part of early childhood development as it allows children to learn by using their imagination and putting their ideas into action. As children engage with one another, social skills are developed. They’ll create unique dialogues with one another and pick up on the basics of successful communication.
Of course, young preschoolers will need some direction on where to start, so it’s a good idea to come up with a theme: Suggest zoo animals, the movie theater, an amusement park, or even a garden shop. Once a theme is established, let them run with the idea and observe the creativity as it develops.
Blocks are a staple in every well-equipped preschool classroom, and it’s no wonder why. Playing with blocks, though it seems simple, is an activity that’s packed with an abundance of benefits for developing children.
Not only does building and balancing blocks require fine motor skills – it also enhances a child’s problem-solving abilities and mathematics skills, not to mention creativity. Blocks can even increase feelings of self-esteem and success when children work together to proudly shows off their “creations.”
To encourage building and play with blocks in a small group setting, experiment with asking children to pick up a block one at a time and take turns placing it in a circle. Use Jenga as your inspiration: Encourage children to place their blocks carefully on top of one another to avoid knocking over their imaginative structure.
5. Board Games
Small groups are ideal for introducing simple board games like Candyland or Chutes and Ladders. These classic board games have a lot to offer as they are not only a lot of fun but help with developing problem-solving skills and the opportunity to both win and lose - something that children will have to experience throughout grade school and beyond.
6. Matching Numbers and Objects
This activity introduces problem-solving in a small group setting. Download and print out our free Numeral Matching activity sheet or replicate it with your own drawings on giant-sized poster board. Then, cut out each collection of objects and each of the numbers, giving either a number or a collection of objects to each child.
Standing in a circle, ask the children holding a number to find their “partner” – whoever is holding the cut-out with the same number of objects. For example, the child holding the number five will try to find the child holding the print-out of five strawberries. Then, you can incorporate simple math problems, like asking how many pieces of fruit you can count if another child joins the first.
Numeral matching encourages children to become comfortable with numbers and counting and work together as a group to solve simple math problems. It also helps them build their communication skills and visual recognition when figuring out who their correct ‘partner’ is.
As the new school year begins to gain momentum and you are developing new curriculum, consider implementing small group activities into your daily schedule. You may be surprised by how much more outgoing some of the quieter children become and how a small, inclusive environment can make it easier for children to explore their own strengths and interests, as well as speak up, make friends, and feel a sense of belonging.
Learn more about how Procare’s preschool solutions can help improve activity management.