The arrival of August means that the start of another school year is fast approaching. Whether you’re a caretaker, teacher, or parent, you can help prepare children for back to school with these fun and educational end-of-summer learning games and activities.

1. Dance in the Sky

The first of two dramatic play activities for preschoolers featured in this list gives children a chance to observe and imitate different ways birds fly.

Materials:

  • Bird cutouts
  • Bird puppet or stuffed animal or cutout of a bird

What to Do:

  1. Call attention to the movements of birds. Ask the children to think of some words to describe how the birds move. Are they hopping, running, soaring, flapping their wings, going fast or slow, moving in a straight line, or making circles in the sky?
  2. Briefly introduce the words gliding and soaring, and demonstrate the meaning of each using a puppet, stuffed animal, or cutout of a bird.
  3. Give the children cutouts of birds and have them glide and soar from one place to another.
  4. Encourage the children to share ideas about how the birds might feel, what they might see, and what they might hear as they glide and soar.

Additional Suggestions:

  • Invite the children to pretend to be birds and to imitate different ways in which birds move.
  • Have the children dance with scarves as they imitate the movements of bees, butterflies, fish, and even some mammals, such as deer and dolphins.
  • Display pictures of birds in flight.

Source: Learning Is in Bloom

2. Water Sense and Cents: Surface Tension

Try this activity to find out how many drops of water fit onto all kinds of coins! It’s a great example of using water play activities to incorporate science and math concepts.

Materials:

  • Pipette
  • Penny
  • Paper towel
  • Small container of water
  • Nickels, dimes, quarters
  • Paper or whiteboard
  • Markers

What to Do:

  1. Hold up a penny and wonder aloud, “How much water do you think a penny could hold on its surface?” With the children, determine the problem statement: How many drops of water will a penny hold?
  2. Ask each child to make a hypothesis or guess: How many drops do you predict the penny will hold?
  3. Create a data table on a piece of paper or on the whiteboard. In a T chart, list penny, nickel, dime, and quarter in the left-hand column. The right-hand column is where you will record the number of drops each type of coin can hold.
  4. Place a penny with the head side up on a paper towel. (Using the same side of the penny eliminates the variable of the different crevices.)
  5. Fill a dropper with water.
  6. Drop the water one drop at a time on the penny, and count how many drops the penny holds.
  7. When the surface breaks, record on a data table how many drops the penny held.
  8. Repeat the experiment for the other coins.

Additional Suggestions:

Create a bar graph of your results, and let the children help fill in the boxes. The graph provides visual support for the math concepts, so count the shaded boxes in each column with the children. Ask questions such as which has more and which has fewer.

Source: Hands-On Science and Math

3. Rolling Downhill

Block play activities can help children learn about a variety of science concepts. The activity below gives children the opportunity to create ramps of different heights and predict how marbles will be affected by the different angles of the ramps.

Materials:

What to Do:

  1. Ask the children if any of them ride a bike, trike, or scooter. Ask them if they go faster moving uphill or downhill. Why do they think this happens?
  2. In an area with lots of floor space, provide the children with wood molding, blocks, and marbles. Let them play with the marbles for a little while.
  3. Encourage them to set up the molding as ramps, using the blocks to vary the height.
  4. Ask them to predict how the height of the ramp will affect the speed of the marble.
  5. Let them test their predictions. Talk with them about what they observe.
  6. Have them compare their designs and outcomes with one another. For older children, they can collect data on how fast or how far their marble travels on ramps of different heights.

Source: Science: Not Just for Scientists!

4. To Tell a Story

The second of two dramatic play activities for preschoolers featured in this list gives children an opportunity to participate in a dramatic performance of a nature-related story they develop.

What to Do:

  1. Choose a nature-related theme children can identify with, such as a bird with a broken wing or a duckling that gets separated from its mother.
  2. Ask the children for ideas for a story built around this theme.
  3. Explain that most stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Work with the children to decide what happens at the beginning, middle, and end of the story you’re developing.
  4. Identify with the children what characters should be in the story and what the setting should be.
  5. Have the children suggest what props they could use in acting out this story, and then work with them in making and/or collecting these props.
  6. Have the children perform the play based on the story they developed.

Additional Suggestions:

Work with the children on how to use body language to dramatize different emotions. Encourage them to show how different animals might express such emotions as fear, excitement, anger, joy, and so on.

Source: Learning Is in Bloom

5. Exploring Google

Want to teach the children in your care how to use search engines in a fun and safe way? Here are some cool technology activities for kids to help them explore Google.

Materials:

What to Do:

  1. Type the word askew in the Google search line. This search is one of many playful hidden treasures (programmers call them Easter eggs) hidden inside Google. It makes your screen tilt to one side. Another fun trick is to type do a barrel roll and watch the screen flip around.
  2. Search your own first and last name, first in quotes and then without quotes, to illustrate the power of searching for an exact string.
  3. Use Image mode (http://images.google.com/), and find your own backyard.
  4. Play with Google Earth (http://www.google.com/earth) and Google Moon (http://www.google.com/moon).
  5. Explore the Google Doodles (http://www.google.com/doodles/), which offer more than 2,000 playful or history-inspired renditions of the Google logo.
  6. Search with your voice. Click on the microphone icon in the search window and say “flip a coin.”
  7. Translate something from one language to another using Google Translate (http://www.translate.google.com).

Source: Buckleitner’s Guide to Using Tablets with Young Children

6. Fence Weaving

Art activities for children often take place indoors, but the fun weaving activity featured below allows children to explore art outdoors.

Materials:

  • Chain-link fence (plastic mesh or a volleyball net will work if you don’t have a fence)
  • Weaving materials—strips of fabric, ribbons, yarn, rope or twine, long grasses, twigs, crepe paper, caution tape, paper strips

What to Do:

  1. Show the children some examples of weaving, such as baskets and rag rugs. Point out the over-and-under pattern of the strips of fabric or grasses.
  2. Show the children how to weave materials in and out through the openings in the fence.
  3. Give the children a variety of materials to work with, and let them spread out along the fence and create their own designs.
  4. When the children are finished weaving, look at their creations together. What color, patterns, and details do they notice?

Additional Suggestions:

This activity can lead naturally into a simple social studies lesson about how people around the world create weavings, or a natural history lesson about birds and their nests.

Source: Let’s Take It Outside!

Be sure to check out the articles in the School Readiness category of our Insights and Inspirations section for additional tips on preparing students for back to school. We also have some great deals available in our back-to-school sale!