After we wrap up the holidays I love settling in to some of our favorite winter themes. This collection of January preschool activities includes an idea for each weekday during the month. It’s full of fun things to do with kids at home or in the classroom. Use it yourself, or send a copy to parents so they have a little inspiration for hands-on fun and learning.
Read about the activities below. Then download your own free printable January activity calendar so you already have a full month of activities at your fingertips. The free download includes links to each post so you can click through online for more information, and you can also print it out to use as a quick reference.
We’re also always creating new activity ideas, and I know you want to stay up to date on those was well. In addition to an introduction to the activities originally included in the free printable calendar, I also add new activities we create related to each theme so you’ll have more options to choose from. Those are listed below each week’s original activity suggestions but are not reflected in the free printable calendar.
For some themes we have full theme planning guides and printable lesson plans. If those are available for a particular theme, there are also links to those resources included with the related weekly theme.
January Preschool Activity Themes
For our January preschool activities we’re exploring the following topics:
Week 1: Hot Cocoa & Marshmallows
Week 2: Snowmen
Week 3: Snowflakes
Week 4: Penguins
Week 5: Fine Motor Skills
Note: The free printable does not include dates. Simply pick and choose which theme you want to do for each week in January.
Week 1: Hot Cocoa & Marshmallows
For this week grab a bag of mini marshmallows.
Try these low-prep activity ideas…
1) MARSHMALLOW COUNTING: Grab a hot cocoa mug and a number cube. Have your child roll the cube and add that many marshmallows to the mug. Keep rolling and adding until the mug is filled. If your child is ready count all the marshmallows in the mug at the end for an added challenge.
2) MARSHMALLOW BUILDING: Grab some flat toothpicks and have your child use marshmallows and toothpicks to build. Leave it open-ended and let them create anything they’d like or add some focus by building letters, numbers, or shapes.
3) MICROWAVE MARSHMALLOWS: Ask your child to predict what will happen if we heat up a marshmallow. Then test it out. Put the marshmallow on a plate in the microwave for a few seconds and watch closely. Discuss what happens first and then after the microwave is turned off. If you have large marshmallows compare the difference between the two.
4) MARSHMALLOW ART: Toward the end of the week grab some paper, glue and your marshmallows. Invite your child to make a picture by gluing marshmallows to the page.
Hot Cocoa Activities from the Free Printable January Activity Calendar
Marshmallow Five Senses-Little scientists love exploring everyday objects and foods. Grab some jumbo marshmallows and see what kind of observations you can make by using the five senses.
Hot Chocolate SURPRISE science-You know those activities you do that your kids talk about FOREVER?! This is one of them! Every winter when the temps drop and we start making hot cocoa more regularly, one of my kids will say, “Remember that time when you tricked us and made the hot cocoa erupt?!”
I sure do! I’d have to say it was one of my finer parenting wins. And the belly laughs that came after the surprise still ring in my ears. This is a fun twist on classic baking soda and vinegar reactions, so if you’ve got hot cocoa and those two items in your pantry you just might be able to try this today!
Hot Cocoa Slime-Are your kids crazy for slime too? All I have to do is say the word “slime” and my kids come running to get in on the action.
We took our love of slime and gave it a winter twist by mixing up a little marshmallow and hot cocoa slime! We mixed in actual hot cocoa powder to give it a chocolatey scent…no taste testing allowed, so watch little ones closely.
The mini marshmallow bits were also a hit…the kids loved squishing them through the slime. The combination of the two textures was an awesome sensory experience!
Marshmallow Colors Math & Science-Simple science investigations are perfect for early learners. This was an extension of a previous activity we did during our marshmallow theme. (Remember to use kids’ questions and observations as a springboard for even more learning!)
For this investigation you’ll need colorful mini marshmallows. Kids will investigate what happens to water after colored marshmallows are dissolved in it. Along the way you can also incorporate sorting and counting!
Marshmallow Letter Building-Marshmallows and flat toothpicks make excellent building materials. And creating with them is also wonderful for fine motor development. Here we’re using them to build letters, but the possibilities are endless! You can also make numbers, your child’s name, shapes…even large open-ended structures. Follow your child’s lead and see what he or she comes up with!
Week 2: Snowman
1) BUILD A SNOWMAN: If you have snow, head outside (or bring a small bin of snow inside) and see what you can create. If you don’t have snow, use play dough, blocks, marshmallows or whatever you have on hand to see what kind of snowman you can create.
2) MAKE A TORN PAPER SNOWMAN: Tearing paper is great fine motor practice. Have kids tear bits of white scrap paper. Then use blue or black paper as the background and have kids glue on their bits to make a snowman. Decorate with additional features.
3) SNOWMAN WRITING: Get kids thinking about what it would be like to be a snowman. (Read Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner if you have it.) Draw and write about one thing your child thinks snowmen do at night while we’re sleeping.
Snowman Activities from the Free Printable January Activity Calendar
Snowman Art-Using different materials to paint is such an enriching experience for kids. They can experiment with making different designs and patterns, and it encourages them to think a bit outside the box. In this snowman art project we used one of our favorite art techniques, PAINTING WITH POM POMS. It’s perfect for little ones working on those fine motor muscles, and even big kids love seeing the designs they can make with the pom poms.
Melting Snowman Science-While it may not be practical to build a snowman indoors, you can bring some of the sensory fun inside with this icy snowman decorating activity. Then turn it into a science investigation to see how quickly you can make your snowman melt.
Indoor Snowman Pretend Play– For this activity we’re bringing the snowman play indoors again with this easy snowman decorating play set . Kids can have fun decorating their own indoor snowman OVER and OVER again…without all the cold! It’s also great for helping little ones:
- practice fine motor skills
- learn about facial features and body parts
- develop oral vocabulary
Counting Snowballs-This activity is perfect as a busy bag. Busy bags can be a very convenient way to incorporate some hands-on learning time…and you can take them on the go! Inside this snowman counting busy bag your little ones can dive into a lot of different learning opportunities.
Snow Play Dough Invitation-Play dough invitations are a staple around here! I love them because they take just a few minutes to set up but lead to TONS and TONS of play and learning. They’re also great for mixed age groups. All kids will interact with the materials in their own unique way.
Snowman Preschool Lesson Plans
Week 3: Snowflakes
1) Q-TIP SNOWFLAKES: Grab some cotton swabs. Cut some of them into smaller bits. Set out the bits and some whole cotton swabs with paper and glue. Let kids create their own snowflake art.
2) BE A SNOWFLAKE: Little ones LOVE to pretend. This week pretend to be a snowflake. Have them FLUTTER around slowly like a snowflake gliding through the air. Then pretend the wind has picked up as a snowstorm rolls in and have kids SWIRL wildly in the wind. As spring approaches have them MELT into the ground. Not only is this FUN. It’s also great for movement and an opportunity to discuss rich vocabulary words. As an added touch you could also play some classical music to go along with the activity.
3) SNOWFLAKE SCAVENGER HUNT: Use paper snowflakes or manipulatives you have (keep a mental note of how many you’ve hidden so you know whether you find them all). Hide them around the room for kids to find. Once they think they’ve got them all, work together to count the set and make sure no snowflakes were lost. (This one seems SO simple, but my kids will beg to do these easy scavenger hunts OVER and OVER again!)
Snowflake Activities from the Free Printable January Activity Calendar
Snowflake Art & Math Reader-We love combining a variety of learning skills into one activity. With this free printable kids get to create art, practice counting, and work on reading. Now that’s a win!
Craft Stick Snowflake Art & Math-With just a handful of popsicle sticks kids can have fun creating their own snowflake art and practicing symmetry.
Snowball Water Play-Where we live it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever have a real snow day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t create our own fun with snowflakes and snowballs. Whether you live in a warmer climate like us or just want a fun indoor winter activity for your little ones, this snowy water play is a hit with toddlers and preschoolers.
Snowflake Blotto Art-Blotto art projects fascinate kids (and adults too!). Each one is unique, and opening up the new design each time is always a fun surprise.
Snowflake Segmentation-Developing phonemic awareness is a crucial component to later reading and writing success, but don’t worry. Many early childhood activities like singing songs, reciting nursery rhymes and more help kids with these important skills. There’s a full continuum of phonological and phonemic awareness skills that kids progress through. Use our free printable snowflake segmentation mats and these steps to practice with your kids one on one or in a small group.
Snowflake Preschool Lesson Plans
Week 4: Penguins
1) WADDLE LIKE A PENGUIN: Watch a short video clip about penguin movement. Then spend some time waddling like a penguin. Make it more fun by doing a freeze game to music. Waddle while the music is playing. Then freeze when the music stops.
2) THINK & WRITE: Make a list of things your child already knows about penguins to activate prior knowledge. Then write down a few questions to learn about this week. Find nonfiction books (Penguin book list available on Fantastic Fun and Learning) or watch some YouTube videos to see what you can learn along the way.
3) EAT FISH LIKE A PENGUIN: Okay, we won’t really eat raw fish unless you’re little ones like sushi, but have a little fun with goldfish snack crackers or eat fish for dinner one night this week.
Penguin Activities from the Free Printable January Activity Calendar
Penguin Small World-This simple penguin sensory play salt tray was so easy to put together, and the kids loved making it “snow” for the penguins.
Penguin Snack-Sometimes we like to play with our food! Often we can incorporate a little learning along the way, and it’s can be a great way to get kids to try new foods. Since both of my girls looooove black olives, I decided we’d make our own penguin snack one afternoon during our penguin theme. They turned out so cute and really tasty!
Penguin Hop Counting & Sensory Play-This quick and easy penguin hop counting game is great for helping toddlers and preschoolers practice counting and one to one correspondence. And the added fun of ice and water makes it a wonderful sensory bin to play with too.
Penguin Math-Pretend play and math can often go hand in hand with little ones. We made these recycled penguin crafts out of old coffee creamer bottles, and after the kids played with them independently for a while I introduced a few different math activities.
Do the Penguin Dance-Movement is an essential part of early childhood learning and development. We try to incorporate fun songs, action rhymes, finger plays and more into our day. Not only do kids learn a lot from them, they’re FUN too! You can make up your own dance, or pick a fun one to dance along to on YouTube.
Week 5: Fine Motor Skills
1) GO TO THE PLAYGROUND: Wait?! Didn’t I say we were working on fine motor muscles…the teeny tiny ones that help kids learn to write? Yep! But did you know that core strength and upper body strength ultimately support fine motor development and writing as well? It’s true! So toss the tracing sheets and head to the playground this week…focus on climbing activities, monkey bars, throwing balls, and balance…anything that builds shoulder strength and the core.
2) SET UP A CUTTING BOX: We love to keep old bits of scrap paper for scissor projects. You can use old wrapping paper, construction paper, magazine pages, etc. Set out some paper (or your whole cutting box) and scissors and let little ones cut freely. No pressure to stay on the lines or cut out a perfect creation…just cutting for fun. You’ll be surprised how much they enjoy this! If your child would like to, use the scrap bits to make collage art when you’re finished.
3) PUT OUT THE PLAY DOUGH: All the squishing, rolling, and molding that is required to manipulate play dough is fantastic for exercising those fine motor muscles. Add in some loose parts to extend the play possibilities. If you need a little inspiration, check out our Play Dough Invitations for Every Month of the Year post.
Fine Motor Activities from the Free Printable January Activity Calendar
Bottle Cap Fine Motor Play-This bottle cap fine motor activity is one of our favorite low prep activities to pull out when we need a quick boredom buster.
Q-Tip Fine Motor Play-Sometimes you just need something to keep little hands busy for a few minutes. That’s how this activity became a staple in our house.
Play Dough Writing Tray-There are SO many hands-on ways to practice writing without tracing sheets. This play dough writing tray is one of them! All you need is some play dough and a few objects that you can use for writing (real sticks, skewers with the tips trimmed slightly, dowels, and wands are all terrific options).
Q-Tip Painting-Grab a few cotton swabs and some paints and use them in another way today for art. Painting with real paint brushes and other creative painting tools is another excellent way to work those fine motor muscles.
Fine Motor Color Matching-We always find great tools for learning and play at Dollar Tree. These rainbow colored pill cases are so much fun for little tinkerers who love twisting caps on and off.
Add in some rainbow pom poms and you have an engaging color matching activity that also excercises those fine motor muscles. Set it out on a tot tray at home, or toss it in your purse to use as a busy bag boredom buster when you’re out and about.
Additional Fine Motor Resources
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