Pre-K activities, learning games, crafts, and printables


A toy chest for every age group - Extra activities - Educatall

A toy chest for every age group

Just like children, toy chest contents evolve over the years. They must be sorted regularly to eliminate toys that are no longer used and make room for toys that suit children's capacities, toys that will stimulate their development. Toy chests can almost be called tool chests. Their contents represent children's tools and they use them daily to perform their main job: to play.


Read on to discover a few toy/activity/game suggestions that should be in your toy chest depending on the developmental stages of the children in your group. You will also learn how to make the contents of your toy chest even more attractive for children. No one ever said a toy absolutely had to be used a specific way. Each toy that makes its way into your toy chest comes with endless possibilities.


Before I begin, here is a list of things to consider when purchasing toys. I have a unique relationship with toys, namely buying toys. I prefer recycled toys. I also enjoy ignoring the instruction booklets that come with most toys. It is so much more fun to imagine different activities.


Here is a list of tips and tricks to keep in mind.

  • Avoid spending large sums of money on games and toys. Very expensive toys will break over time too. Visit garage sales, flea markets, and thrift shops. You will be amazed by how many low-cost toys you will find.
  • Aim for simplicity. Children enjoy playing with cardboard boxes, balls, paper... There is no need to overthink things.
  • Toys must be non-toxic and washable. Read the manufacturers' recommendations.
  • If you wish to purchase toys that produce sounds, be sure to check how loud they are. They will considerably increase the decibels in your daycare and your ears may end up crying for help.
  • If you have puzzles or board games with missing pieces, do not discard them. Instead, invent new ways to use them.
  • Set game rules and regulations aside. Invent your own and find different ways to play. Call upon children's creativity. They may surprise you!

    Now that I have shared my basic recommendations, let's explore the best toys, games, and activities for each age group. As a bonus, discover how to use material you already have differently.

0-12 months

  • Mobiles. Hang children's favorite toys to create personalized mobiles.
  • Use the many plastic containers you have in your cupboards and let children have fun stacking them.
  • Cut a slit in a cardboard box and encourage children to slide the tops of frozen juice cans through it.
  • Tie a string to different toys (cars, dolls, rattles, etc.). Children will love pulling the toys as they crawl around the daycare (maximum length of each string should be 30 cm).
  • Pudding or Jell-O can be used as paint at this age. Sit children in their high chair and set a large piece of paper on their tray. Let them explore the preparation with their fingers and hands.
  • Fill bins or boxes with fabric scraps or blankets. Children will enjoy filling and emptying the bins or boxes repeatedly. In fact...they will adore this activity.
  • A wooden spoon+a plastic container=a free musical instrument. Children will love tapping their "drum". This activity is great for developing their action-reaction awareness.
  • Stick pictures of the children in your group on the floor. Children will appreciate exploring this personalized photo album as they crawl around the daycare.

12-24 months:

  • Visual and auditory stimulation bottles are easy to make. Simply fill clear plastic bottles with water and add glitter, figurines, food coloring, dry pasta, rice, or sand. Children will love shaking the bottles to create a variety of sounds.
  • Use pictures of the children in your group to create a personalized book. Children will enjoy exploring its pages.
  • Wooden blocks are fun to stack. Stick a picture or illustration on each block face to make this activity even more interesting.
  • Tons of balls. Children will have fun throwing them, tossing them, rolling them, catching them, and making them float in water. Balls offer endless possibilities.
  • Colourful pompoms+clear plastic bottles. Using a pincher grasp, children deposit the pompoms in the bottles and empty the bottles when they are full.
  • Large kitchen tongs can be used to grab balls or blocks and deposit them in a box.
  • When it is hot outside, provide paintbrushes and buckets of water. Invite children to "paint" your asphalt.
  • A ball and a stick. That's all you need to provide children with an excellent gross motor skills activity they are sure to love.

2-3 years:

  • Fill a spray bottle with water and encourage children to use it to water flowers or to wash walls and windows. Provide cloths they can use to wipe away the water and your daycare will be clean in no time. What's more, children will love helping you.
  • Hang a ball from the ceiling, at children's level. They will have fun hitting it, catching it, and swinging it.
  • Set your toy car bin on the floor and use colourful adhesive tape to draw a road network children can roll the cars along.
  • Fill a large bin with lock and key sets. You can use a different color permanent marker to identify the locks and keys that go together for a fun matching game.
  • Provide clothespins and a cardboard box and invite children to arrange the clothespins on the side of the box for an interesting fine motor skills game.
  • Create a simple bowling game using empty plastic bottles and a ball. Children roll the ball to make the bowling pins fall.
  • Let children decorate plastic drinking glasses with stickers. They can stack them, line them up, use them to build pyramids, etc. Children will surely find original ways to use the decorated glasses.
  • Provide scissors and modeling dough. Show children how they can roll the dough to represent snakes and cut them into pieces with the scissors. This activity represents a great way to develop scissor skills.

3-5 years (Pre-K):

  • Board games are great for this age group. Ignore the actual rules and come up with your own.
  • Provide Cheerios cereal and string for an inexpensive lacing activity.
  • Create a scissor skills bin. Simply fill it with magazines, pieces of cardboard, scrap paper, and different types of scissors. Let children cut the contents of the bin as they wish.
  • Gather several small items such as buttons, Cheerios cereal, pompoms, bingo chips, etc. Line them up to create straight lines, zigzags, or to trace oversized letters.
  • Press toys and objects in paint and then on a large piece of paper. Children will love creating prints with these homemade "stencils". If you prefer, they can simply trace the contour of each item on paper using washable markers.

Have fun!

Maude Dubé, Specialized educator



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