Pretend Play in Preschool: How to Be a Scientist!

Pretend play has a strong link to social and emotional intelligence, language, inquiry and problem solving skills, creative expression, sequential thought processes, and general nurturing skills in preschool.  Through pretend play, preschoolers will begin to move beyond their natural egocentric views and toward the understanding of various roles that others have in our world.  This week the #TeachECE Education Team is offering activities to encourage PRETEND PLAY at home or in the classroom.   We hope your own kids will enjoy becoming SCIENTISTS as we pretend, learn, and, ultimately, apply new knowledge to our everyday world.

Pretend Play in Preschool How to be a ScientistPretend Play in Preschool:  How to Be a Scientist!

The most popular pretend play areas for our kids are, hands-down, the indoor and outdoor science areas!  The areas are well-equipped with lab coats, goggles, clipboards, timers, safety glasses, tweezers, spoons, pots and pans, water, chopsticks, flashlights, magnifying glasses, scales, rulers, and items to explore that usually change weekly.

Each week, we provide simple items that will encourage inquiry and solution-based learning opportunities as our kids pretend play to gain real-world knowledge.  The kids will don their lab coats and goggles for the FUN of pretend play, but little do they realize that as they play, they are building the foundation for a lifetime love of nature, science, and learning.

Outdoor Science Pretend Play CenterSimple Fall Outdoor Science Pretend Play Center:

Some suggested materials:

  • Old pots or pans
  • Rocks
  • Leaves
  • Other nature items (try to provide a variety of textures and smells)
  • Seasonal fruits and/or vegetables
  • Plants or flowers
  • Utensils or Tools (tweezers, tongs, spoons, ladles, chopsticks, measuring tape/rulers)
  • Lab coats
  • Scales
  • Water


What Does a Scientist DoAs the children pretend play, explore what a scientist does.  The kids will develop their own play and assignment of specific roles if playing with peers, but encourage them with open-ended questions to inquire about science center items and to explore the answers independently as they play and make observations.

Pretend play is IMPORTANT play for preschoolers.  With ample opportunities to explore the world around them, preschoolers will gain new knowledge that will extend beyond the classroom or home and outward toward discoveries in the larger community!

For more ideas to ENCOURAGE pretend play with your own children, please visit the activities from the Early Childhood Education Team below:

Bakery Pretend Play Printables for Counting by Life Over C’s
Pretend Play: Amazon Fulfillment Center by Growing Book by Book
Pretend Play Fishing Alphabet Activity by Mom Inspired Life
Detective Pretend Play by Capri + 3
Farmer’s Market Preschool Theme Pretend Play by Learning 2 Walk
Exploring Numbers 0-10 Pretend Garden Meal by Tiny Tots Adventures
DIY Farm Pretend Play Mat by The Educators’ Spin On It





Posted in Back to School for Preschool and PreK, PreK, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Simple Playdough Shapes Building Challenge for Preschoolers!

Knowledge of shapes is one of the earliest educational processes that young kids are exposed to.  Preschoolers use visual information about shapes to discriminate between objects and to learn about the world around them.  This week the Early Childhood Education Team is offering playful learning suggestions for helping young kids learn about SHAPES.  The playdough shapes building challenge below will not only help preschoolers observe and compare various shapes, but it will challenge them to integrate basic shape knowledge into a hands-on activity that encourages critical thinking skills.

Playdough ShapesPlaydough SHAPES Building Challenge for Preschoolers!

Playdough Shape Building Challenge Objectives: To encourage kids to use critical thinking skills and individual creativity to construct basic shapes with playdough.  Skills presented in the building challenge:

  • Estimation
  • Same/Different
  • Fine Motor
  • Visual Measurement
  • Number concepts for creation of the shapes
  • Relationships between the shapes
  • Planning and design that exhibits early attempts at engineering
  • Sensory (Tactile and Visual)
  • Connections with familiar and new shape knowledge
  • Creative Expression
  • Inquiry and Problem solving

BUILDING INQUIRY: What basic shapes can the children create using ONLY playdough?

The shapes building challenge can be modified for kids of various ages through the addition of more complex shapes, polygons, cylinders/cones/spheres, or creating towers from basic shapes. Rolling, squeezing, squishing, and molding playdough into various shapes is a FUN way to offer opportunities for the development of fine motor skills and knowledge of shapes through inquiry and solution-based learning!

Introduction for students:   Review basic shapes the children have had introduced or are learning:  circles, triangles, squares, rectangles are good shapes to begin with.  Challenge the children to use playdough only to create any shape(s) they know.  The children will ask questions about how to make the shapes.  Try to guide the children with open-ended questions that will allow them to think about the shape they wish to create and make a plan for the design with only the playdough.

Playdough Shape Building Challenge for Preschoolers

It is exciting to observe kids engaged in planning, building, making visual “measurements”, and formulating ideas about various shape designs!

Playdough Shapes Building Challenge - Octogon and Triangle

In the photo above,  kids chose to create an 8-sided octagon and a 3-sided triangle from rolled pieces of playdough.

Playdough Shapes Building Challenge Circle Strategies


To create circles, the kids tried various designs. Some of the children rolled a long playdough worm and then attached the ends.  Other children chose to roll small balls and flatten with their hands.  One group “pieced together” a large circle comprised of other small playdough balls.

It’s amazing the observe young children thinking and creating.  This challenge was FUN for the kids, but they gained some important problem solving skills that they will carry with them as they grow and learn about shapes!

For even MORE ways to play with SHAPES in Early Childhood, please visit the activity suggestions from the #TeachECE team below:

Shiny Showy Shapes Alliteration Fun by Growing Book by Book

Roll and Cover The Shapes Alphabet Activity by Mom Inspired Life

Shapes Preschool Theme Sand Writing Tray by Learning 2 Walk

Mixing Shapes with Our Bodies – Group Activity by Capri + 3

Shape Sensory Squish Bag by Still Playing School

Shape I Spy for Preschoolers: Free Printable by Life Over C’s

Exploring Shapes with Yarn by Tiny Tots Adventures

Playdough Shapes Building Challenge for Preschoolers by The Preschool Toolbox Blog

DIY Shapes Puzzle by Munchkins and Moms

Preschool Shape Hunt Activities by Fun-A-Day



Posted in Fine Motor Skills for Tiny Fingers, PreK, Preschool and Kindergarten Skills | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Preschool Science: Exploring Eye Colors in Families!

If you are new here, WELCOME!  Each Wednesday throughout the year, we’ll share playful learning suggestions from the #TeachECE Early Childhood Team.  This week’s activities are centered around a FAMILY theme for young kids!  Come play to learn with us as we explore eye colors in preschool!

Preschool Science_Exploring Eye Colors in Families and Friends

Family of 3 – Mom has blue eyes – child and father have similar eye colors

EYE COLORS IN FAMILIES:  Preschool Science Explorations

Background Information for Parents and Teachers:  For many years human eye color charts were used to predict what eye colors children would have based upon the eye colors of the parents.  Brown eyes were thought to be dominant over blue and green eyes; green eyes were dominant over blue.  We now know that the genetics of eye color tends to be more complex than simple genetics would indicate.  There are many shades of eye colors – children can also have eyes with two different colors.  For our purposes with preschool children, we will concentrate on explorations with three basic eye color types:  blue, brown, and green.

The Eyes in My Family Printable Book for PreschoolEye Color Explorations for Preschoolers

MY OWN EYES: Family Eye Colors

Invite the children to explorations by passing around a hand mirror and asking the kids to look at their own eyes.  Ask the children if they know what color of eyes they have.  Some preschoolers are aware of their own eye color, but others are not.  Invite the children to share whether they think their eyes are blue, brown, or green.  Some children may have been told they have hazel eyes or more than one eye color.  Show the children the eye color cards (linked above) and ask them to point to the eye color card that best represents their own.

Eye Colors Explorations in Preschool

Matching Eye Color Game:  For a game to play, print several copies of the colored eyes.  Laminate the eyes for durability and have the kids place the cards face down on a table.  The kids should turn over 2 cards at a time to see if they find a matching pair of colored eyes.  If they do not find a pair, the cards are turned face down again and play continues to the next child.  All pairs should be kept until all the matching eye color cards have been located.

THE EYES IN MY FAMILY:  The Eyes in My Family

Invite the children to look at parents and siblings to see what eye colors run in their immediate family.  If possible, ask parents to send a family photograph that shows the eye color of each family member.  Preschoolers can then color one eye from the printable for every family member.   Print “The Eyes in My Family” booklet (linked above) and invite the kids to draw each member of their family.  On the first line provided, assist the children in writing the names of family members.  On the second line of each page, have the children color and glue the eye color card (print Eye Colors in Families and School) that corresponds the eye color of that family member.


Invite each child to color in one eye (on the printable linked above – Eye Colors in Families and School) to represent their own eye color.  Classmates or friends should also color in one eye that corresponds to their own eye color.  Make a class graph or a pie chart to indicate how many eyes of each color are represented by classmates or other friends.

Name Those Eyes Preschool ExplorationNAME THOSE EYES – PRESCHOOL GAME

Crop a digital photo of each child to only show the eyes.  Print each photo and laminate for durability.   Hole punch the corner of the eye cards and thread onto a binder ring or key ring.  Show the children the cards and ask if they can guess what child/family member the eyes belong to.  It’s a fun game to play with kids!  Ask parents, too, if they can recognize their own child by EYES alone!

For MORE ways to play and learn with a FAMILY theme in Early Childhood, please take a moment to visit the suggestions below!

My Family’s Ages Tally Marks by Still Playing School

Grandparent Interviews by Capri + 3

Families Around the World Display by Fun-a-Day

Family Roles Bracelets by Tiny Tots Adventures

“My Family” Sensory Bin by Munchkins and Moms

Family Names Alphabet Activity by Mom Inspired Life

My Family Theme Preschool Scrapbook by Learning 2 Walk

My Family Beginning Sounds Book by Growing Book by Book

Posted in 5 Senses Theme Activities, PreK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Dissolving Teddy Bears – Simple Preschool Science!

Every Wednesday throughout the year, the #TeachECE Early Childhood Education Team offers playful learning activity suggestions centered around a weekly theme.  This week, we’ll share suggestions for use with a TEDDY BEAR theme!  Those cute and cuddly bears provide wonderful inspiration for learning and explorations at home or in the classroom.  Purchase a box of teddy bear cookies (or make your own at home) and come discover the wonders of simple preschool science with us!

Dissolving Teddy Bears Science for PreschoolThe Dissolving Teddy Bears – Simple Preschool Science!

Materials needed:

  • Teddy Bear cookies (homemade or commercial teddy bear cookies)
  • Bowl or other small container
  • Milk
  • Paper to chart students’ guesses
  • Markers OR crayons
  • Timer or stopwatch.

Explain to the students that you are going to explore how long it takes teddy bear cookies to transform from a solid and dissolve (melt) in a container of milk.

The Dissolving Teddy Bear Preschool Science ExperimentHave each child make a prediction as to how long it will take the teddy bear cookies to dissolve.  Chart the responses/guesses from the children on a separate sheet of paper.

Place the cookie(s) in a container of milk and start a timer.  Have the children observe and gently feel the cookies as they begin to dissolve.  Explore the following questions with your kids or students:

  • What happens to the cookie(s) when they begin to absorb the milk?
  • What does the cookie feel like when it is starting to dissolve?  Explore descriptive words with the children as they discuss what the cookie feels like (example:  mushy, soft, squishy, grainy, etc.).

Exploring Dissolving Teddy Bear Cookies for Preschool ScienceStop the timer when the cookie is dissolved (or mostly dissolved) and see if any of the children had a guess that was relatively close.

For younger children, do the activity several times and discuss the concept of “passing” time. Be sure to invite the children to explore the stopwatch or timer and discuss how it works. Compare the timer to the hands (or digital display) on a clock, a watch, or a stopwatch at home or in the classroom.  It is fun to explore how different timers work.

Extension idea for older children:  Place the students’ guesses in order from shortest to longest time.

For young children:  arrange the students’ guesses by seconds or by placing all guesses under one minute in one category, 1-2 minute guesses in a second category, 2-3 minute guesses in a third category, and so on.

Extension idea: Use different types of liquids to see if it has an effect on how fast or slow the teddy bear cookies will melt. Other suggested liquids could include: chocolate vs. white milk, cold water vs. hot water, juice, or hot chocolate.

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Teddy Bear Books for PreschoolTEDDY BEAR BOOKS

These Teddy Bear books are some of our own kids favorites!  They make a great addition to the classroom or home library.

LOST! by David McPhail

The Teddy Bear by David McPhail

The Legend of the Teddy Bear by Frank Murphy

My Friend Bear (Eddy and the Bear) by Jez Alborough

For MORE great ways to play and learn with a TEDDY BEAR theme, please visit the other #TeachECE suggestions below:


Posted in PreK, Preschool and Kindergarten Skills, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments