Hands-on learning for young children

Using hands-on activities in early childhood is a great way to link new concepts to ideas that children already understand. The Hands-On Activities database provides activities that are hands-on and ready-to-do in a variety of early childhood settings.

School is back in session and many early childhood educators are looking for fun, hands-on activities they can use in their classrooms that will keep their learners engaged and learning. Hands-on learning is a great way to teach new skills that build on what children already know, but it can be difficult to keep activities interactive and fun while still teaching important concepts that build a strong foundation for future learning.

Children are more likely to develop skills when they are having fun, but also when the skills have meaning for them; hands-on learning aims to provide for both of these characteristics of learning. With all the information that is available on the Internet, it can be difficult to find high-quality activities that are easy to implement with existing plans and curricula, however, a new searchable online database from eXtension makes including hands-on activities easy for early childhood educators, parents and grandparents.

The eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care hands-on activities database lists activities that are hands-on, ready-to-do and designed to help young children of all ages learn, develop and flourish. The activities can be used in any type of early childhood settings including classrooms and family child-care homes. They easily fit into existing lesson plans or they can be used as stand-alone activities.

Early childhood care providers can search the database in three ways:

  • Search for activities that meet your specific needs
  • View a list of all the activities
  • Browse individual activities to see what catches your eye

Each activity sheet includes all the information needed to conduct the activity. There are age ranges for the activity, a “What’s needed” section of supplies and materials, a “What to do” section that gives specific instructions on doing the activity and a section that tells what the children will learn by doing the activity. The database covers topic areas that include:

  • Art
  • Dramatic play
  • Eye-hand coordination and small motor skills
  • Health and safety
  • Holidays and celebrations
  • Language and literacy
  • Math
  • Music
  • Movement and physical activity
  • Nutrition and cooking
  • Outdoor play
  • Science and nature
  • Social-emotional health
  • Sensory learning
  • Social/group interaction
  • Technology
  • Writing

Activities include science projects, art projects, games, dancing, pretend play and much more. The activities are designed to help young children of all different ages expand their learning and are all written by early childhood staff who work in Extension services around the United States. The hands-on activities are easy-to-use and ready-to-implement for early childhood educators. Activities are constantly being added to the database so there is always something new for educators to add to their toolbox.

To view a sample science activity sheet, see “Crystal Bubbles,” which can be found in the hands-on activities database.

For additional ideas and resources to support early childhood education, visit the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care website.

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