Through outdoor play, children learn about risks and challenges

1 Movement

Movement involves free play, during which children get time to run, skip, throw, catch, gallop, jump, hop, bend, balance, walk, climb, hang etc. Guided movement activities are also great and can be planned by adults with a specific purpose in mind. Here are some examples:

  • Obstacle courses
  • Balancing Beams
  • Throwing and catching games
  • Hopscotch, Leapfrog etc

2 Music

Music involves activities such as:

  • Learning simple rhymes and poems
  • Singing songs
  • Playing with musical instruments (especially home-made ones)
  • Discovering sound through body percussion
  • Dancing and rhythmic moving – which also develops gross motor skills

Music is not just about learning to sing and play instruments. Through music, children improve their vocabulary, memory, cognitive abilities, listening skills, auditory processing skills, rhythm and many, many more things. Many of these skills are needed to be able to learn to read.

Children are naturally drawn to music and enjoy it without the self-consciousness that many adults develop when singing and dancing.

3 Creative Art

Which child doesn’t love art? Most children want to draw, paint and be creative every day.
They should have exposure to many different activities and mediums:

  • Drawing with wax crayons, pencils, pens, chalk etc
  • Painting – including finger painting, bubble painting, painting with brushes and sponges etc
  • Box construction – such as building things out of waste materials
  • Cutting, tearing, pasting and collaging

4 Reading and Discussions

Reading is a vital activity that must be fit into every parent’s schedule, every single day. Parents should read to children in order to develop many skills.

It is also a great time to stimulate higher-order thinking skills and get your children involved in a discussion that is sure to develop critical thinking and vocabulary.

Through outdoor play, children learn about risks and challenges

5 Play

I’ve left the best for last. Although the four activities listed above are still part of play, I thought I’d list this separately just to mention the various types of play children engage in. During play, children are learning non-stop! Here are some types of play:

  • Fantasy and dress-up play
  • Physical play
  • Structured games with rules, such as Duck, Duck, Goose
  • Memory games and card games
  • Construction play (e.g. building with blocks or lego)
  • Sensory play
  • Fine-motor play activities such as puzzles, peg boards and threading beads

Know that if your children are coming home from pre-school filthy from head to toe, with drawings that don’t resemble anything vaguely recognisable and happily singing a tune, they are probably getting a very good education.

Does your child come home with beautiful artworks that the teachers have guided? Or lots of coloured in worksheets? Hmmm, I would think twice about that environment.

As a teacher, I can guarantee you that spending a few years engaging in creative play with your children is going to set them up a thousand times better than all the “educational programmes” you can join.

Don’t you ever wonder why you hear about so many children who struggle with reading or maths and many that need occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy etc?

The main culprit is that today’s children don’t play enough so they don’t develop the proper foundational skills – cognitive, gross-motor, fine-motor, visual discrimination, auditory etc. No fancy computer programmes can fix that.

Here is a quick look at learning numbers and letters


A child may count to 100 but they are not necessarily mature enough to have any concept of what those numbers actually represent.

They learn the value of numbers in the sandpit, for example. When they fill up a cup of sand and turn it over, then fill another and turn it over next to the previous one, they are learning concepts such as two items or one more.

The more they play and discover, the more concepts they learn – they compare numbers, make patterns and experiment with sizes.

They may be able to rattle off the numbers out loud, but they are not really learning true mathematical skills. Those numbers become important when all the skills are in place and they are then able to conceptualise what the numbers actually mean.


In order for your child to recognise the sounds in letters, they need to develop their auditory processing skills through play. Nursery rhymes, poems and songs serve more of a purpose than just entertainment and fun!

Then, learning to write requires developing gross-motor skills through movement and play. Fine-motor skills are then developed which enable a child to hold a pencil, control it and form letters carefully.

These pre-skills cannot be rushed and pushed aside.

The last level is being able to recognise the letters and the sounds they represent when combined, and putting them together into meaningful words and sentences to be read.

Therefore, is it necessary for children to be writing, adding numbers and reading in preschool? Absolutely not.

The preschool years are for play. Very intentional play. During these years, all the most important foundations are being laid down and the skills needed for formal education are being put in place. Rush this stage, and your children will experience many problems going through school.

What then are the activities that little children should be engaging in every day?

Most activities do not involve worksheets, workbooks or any formal work and they can be categorised loosely into about 5 different types of activities. They are all centred around play and they are the activities that all good preschools have built into their daily programs.

If you are looking for activities to do at home with your child, as long as they fit into one of the following categories, you will know they are age-appropriate and your child is learning a lot from them.