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30 Best Holiday Game Ideas for Pre-Schoolers

Pre-School Children

Most children learn best when they are doing something for a real purpose and because they want to, so playing games is an easy way to support their learning. Here are some great suggestions for activities and games you can do at home or while travelling over the school holidays.


Speaking and listening

  1. Play "I spy".
  2. Share fiction books together and develop your child's ability to predict the stories by asking what they think happens next.
  3. Make a book, puppet or a board game based on the story.  For example, a game based on the "Snakes and ladders" game using characters from your story, perhaps dinosaurs... If you land on his head, you move on between one and ten spaces or if you land on his tail you move back between one and ten spaces.
  4. Share reference books together about your child's favourite sport or interest. Look at the maps, information on posters, menus in a restaurant etc and talk about them. Read the information to your child and point to it as you read. They will perhaps point out letters they recognise.
  5. Look at two objects and ask your child to describe what is different about the objects and what is similar. This is hard to do so at first, so ask them to state just one difference and one similarity. As they get the idea, challenge their thinking by asking them to list two, then three differences etc.
  6. Say a rhyming string e.g. mat, cat, hat, bat, sat.   Or ... pin, bin, win, fin.  Make a rhyming string word wheel with two cardboard circles. Make one circle larger and place the smaller one on top of the larger one. Link them together in the centre with a paper fastener. Write " at " on the inner circle and the initial letters on the outer circle e.g. m, c, s, b. As your child turns the circle ask them to segment and blend each word.
  7. Play "Kim's game" to help develop memory skills. Place five objects on a tray, cover them up and your child must name all the objects. Take one object away and ask your child which object is missing. Increase the number of objects as they become more proficient.
  8. Play "I went to market " .... And I bought a ... Toy car. The next person plays and says " I went to market and I bought a toy car and an ice cream. To make it harder, ask everyone to think of something to buy which begins with the initial letter of their name.


  1. Give your child a highlighter pen or felt pen and ask them to highlight or circle a certain letter in a newspaper or magazine. Ask them to cut out the larger letters from headlines in the newspaper or magazines and make words by sticking them together, for example can they find letters to make their name?
  2. Segment short words for them by sounding the letters and ask them to blend the sounds to make the word e.g. c-a-t blended  together is "cat”.
  3. Use cards with letters on to make their name or some words. Help them to arrange the letters in alphabetical order, place them in the shape of a rainbow so they are in one curved line. Ask them to point to the letter which comes after d or before g etc.
  4. Look at carrier bags and ask the children to name the store. Can they see any letters they recognise?


  1. Write, draw, and colour using pencil crayons, wax crayons, felt pens, chalks. Make rainbow letters ... You write a large letter and ask your child to go over the letter using lots of different colours.
  2. Find some large pieces of paper such as the back of some wallpaper or just use a small piece of paper. Ask your child to draw as they listen to some music. Let them draw to a quiet slow piece and then a faster louder piece and compare the patterns they make. You can do this with many people, all using different colours.
  3. Make patterns or letters or trace a path using your fingers. For example, writing and drawing in sand on a beach or sand in a tray, sand paper, a tray of water, writing on the rough surface of a carpet, the smooth surface of wood or soft fabrics.
  4. Develop and strengthen the hand muscles by using Lego, making jigsaws, and playing with dough. Make salt dough with your child by mixing flour with half the quantity of salt e.g. two cups of flour to one cup of salt. Mix with a drop of cooking oil to stop the dough cracking and stir in some water. If it is too wet, add more flour. If it is too dry add more water. Roll the dough and form letters or make animals, pictures etc.  The dough will keep in a plastic box or a plastic bag or you can bake it on a low temperature until it is dried out. You could make a play shop or play cafe, by making pretend cakes, sausage rolls etc. and let your child paint the items to make them look e.g. red jam in some jam tarts.
  5. Give them an empty washing up liquid bottle filled with water to "write" by squirting the water. Give them large paint brushes and a tub of water to use outside.



  1. Look for numbers in the environment such as car number plates, house numbers, numbers on lampposts etc.
  2. Use a pack of playing cards (if you don’t have these, make some number cards) and play memory game by placing five pairs of cards face down and turning two over. You keep the cards if you turn a pair and have another go.
  3. Play "doubles" by showing double one (one finger on one hand and one finger on another) place in them side by side and say, " double one is two". Then show double three, double two etc.
  4. Ask your child to show you three fingers, seven fingers etc. Can they show you seven in different ways e.g. two on one hand and five on another, three on one hand and four on another (number facts or bonds?)
  5. Show your child a number on a card and ask them to show you that number with their fingers. Ask them to show you one more than three, one more than four etc. Then ask them to show you one less than five, one less than nine etc.
  6. Make a number sentence e.g. 5 + 3 = 8 and then make up a "story" about this number sentence. For example, " I had five marbles and my friend gave me another three marbles, so I now have eight marbles altogether.   


  1. Look for two dimensional flat shapes such as circles, squares etc. in tile patterns, pictures etc.
  2. Describe three dimensional solid shapes using mathematical language ... Will it roll or slide, can you touch the straight sides, the corners, the curved sides. Building blocks are good but everyday packaging such as a Smarties box (hexagonal prism) or a Toblerone (triangular prism) a Pringles box (cylinder) an oxo cube or a cereal box (cuboid).


  1. Use empty boxes to make a play shop.
  2. Buy something in a real shop, using real coins.
  3. Sort out a pile of coins, placing all the one penny coins together, all the two penny coins etc. make a line of one hundred pennies. Use positional language to compare a row of ten one penny coins with a row of ten two penny coins... Which row is longer, which is shorter?


  1. Russian wooden stacking dolls lined up together are wonderful to help understand size...which is the tallest / shortest, how many dolls are shorter than this one? How many a taller than this one etc.
  2. Tell the story of Goldilocks and the three bears... All the mathematical size vocabulary is there... The bowls... Wide, widest, narrow, the spoons .... long, short, longest. The chairs .... tall, short, medium sized, middle sized.

A wonderful website to try is   

You will see lots of ideas for games to play for all the phases of the children's phonic development. Also on the same website IXL Maths Practice has lots of ideas too.

Have fun!

Joy Stephens

Edenhurst Nursery

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