Updated: Mar 12
Explore FREE & Low Cost Spring/Summer Activities With Your Preschooler
BY DENISE SHIELDS
We all want the best activities for our preschoolers — but can we agree on the definition of “best” in this case?
I think so!
Here are the top criteria, from my experience, for best activity ideas for preschool children ages 3-5:
● Educational and memorable
● Fun and engaging
● No or low cost
● Low preparation
● Easy to adapt to a child’s skill level
With these in mind — granted, a whole lot to package into any single given activity — the next natural question is: Are there really many choices for our preschoolers that check all these boxes?
Again, I think so!
First, let’s briefly explore why the above criteria are so critical for our preschoolers.
Educational and memorable
Activities for children don’t all have to be “education heavy,” but even at age 3-5, our little ones can learn and remember plenty of information.
When children are enrolled in at least one year of pre-primary education, they are more likely to build the critical skills they need to succeed in school (and in life!) going forward, according to UNICEF. And, as a parent, of course you want the best for your children.
So supplementing their formal education or starting their lifelong love of learning can start naturally with activities at home. We all know it can be a challenge to keep preschoolers busy every day, so why not offer them activities that are both educational and memorable? This can only benefit them.
Fun and engaging
Sometimes we may feel like we “trick” children into learning by making education fun — but that is a good thing!
Activities that are fun and engaging offer many benefits for preschoolers. We all know that children love to play and, in addition, play is a great way for them to learn both at home and at school, education experts noted to U.S. News & World Report in a 2021 article.
Stephanie Jones, professor of early childhood development at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, told the magazine that play promotes curiosity, exploration, and creativity. It also lets them practice executive function and self-regulation skills such as paying attention, remembering and updating information, and inhibiting their impulses.
Karen Aronian, an educator and parenting expert in New York, told the magazine: “In play, children are practicing the roles and skill sets of their burgeoning literacy inventiveness and interconnectedness.”
That may sound like a lot of big words to say that playing and having fun can be educational, but it’s no less true!
No or low cost
No matter what your economic status may be, you don’t want to break the family budget when offering activities for your preschoolers. But you want educational and fun things for the children to do, and those typically cost money.
“Leisure time doesn’t have to mean a luxe price tag,” according to an article from Parents. “There are plenty of family-friendly activities, from travel on a budget to entertainment close to home, that will let you stretch your spending.”
Activities for older children often can mean thousands of dollars in a family budget, Parents reports. But, to most of us, the ideal educational activities are low or no cost, particularly for our children ages 3-5.
Whether your preschooler is your first child or second or third, you are like most parents: busy all the time! Of course you put a priority on the time you spend with your children and on their education and well-being.
But you don’t have to be a stay-at-home parent or stay up a lot of late nights to prepare every educational activity for your youngsters. From little trips into your community to both indoor and outdoor adventures right at home, there are lots of activities that will help your little ones learn while having fun and keeping you away from racking up big bills.
Read on for plenty of ideas for activities that will benefit preschoolers AND your budget!
Easy to adapt to a child’s skill level
Common sense tells us that not every activity is right for every child. We’re talking about the preschool level here, but even among all children ages 3-5, there are different skill and learning levels.
Still, when we want the best for our children, we want activities that fit all the above criteria and also apply to almost any child, no matter what their individual pace of learning. “One size fits all” just doesn’t always hold true.
So the best activities for preschoolers are adaptable to your child’s unique characteristics and personality.
Now, with all these criteria for the “best” activities in mind, here are some great spring and summer adventures for your preschoolers!
Spring/summer favorite activities
Here are some examples of best activities for preschoolers that are ideal in spring and summertime.
● How water travels through leaves
All you need is a glass, a leaf, and colored water for this learning moment, allowing your child to observe how liquid moves through plants.
● Get started birding
Help your child build a bird book with a free printable download. You and your child can record birds in your backyard and neighborhood during walks. The download offers space for illustrations and details, too.
● Torn paper flowers
Construction paper, card stock, and glue sticks are the supplies that will help your preschoolers create any kind of flower they can see or imagine. This is from Katie, a longtime preschool teacher, child development research junkie and mom of three, whose site of Preschool Inspirations shares lots of ideas for learning activities.
● Numbers and counting
All you need is chalk and a sunny summer day to go outside for this activity. Write numbers on brick or concrete with the chalk, and pair those with jumping, spinning, and other fun movements.
● Ice and lemon water play
Let your children have fun with water play and practice their fine motor skills, too. In this activity, all you need are lemons and a few common household items, and before you know it, your little ones will be experiencing all kinds of textures and tastes while they play (and learn!).
Here are some sites online with tips for spring/summer preschool activities that will fit any budget:
This publication/site aims “to provide accurate, reliable, credible, engaging, and balanced information” for parents.
Mom to 3 boys and former public school teacher Angela offers this website with hands-on learning activities for toddlers and preschoolers.
Using this site to share play-based learning activities, mom-of-two Tammi is passionate about teaching the littlest ones and boosting them mentally and emotionally.
Former teacher and current parent Chelsey shares crafts, science, and more on this site.
Mother of three Louise, a mother of three and early education teacher, uses her creativity to offer art, craft, and activity ideas for children.
● Preschool.org You should believe founder Joy Anderson when she says “we've put together the best schedule, activities, curriculum and assessments for you to prepare them for kinder! I was blown away by the wealth of information on her site.
Now go have fun!
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I’m sure you’ll agree there really are all kinds of spring and summer activities for preschoolers that will fit the top criteria for low or no cost best options for your children.
Let’s help our kids learn and have fun, and get them a great start in their learning lives. They are our most precious resource, after all.
Take your newfound knowledge and natural enthusiasm, leave the wallet behind, and go have fun while your kids learn to love learning!
About the Author
Denise Shields is a preschool teacher from Virginia. When she had to close her preschool in 2020 due to COVID restrictions, Denise brought her preschool program online to offer a virtual experience to young children. She has worked with preschool children for 26 years, with 13 years as a preschool teacher. She is the owner and founder of both Creative Kids Preschool in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the free virtual preschool program called Creative Kids Virtual Preschool, which helped thousands of families educate their young preschoolers during the COVID-19 pandemic.