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Make learning fun with these activities for 5-year-olds

Zariah Kale

Zariah Kale

Zariah is a writer, history nerd, amateur chef and mum of three. When she is not negotiating screen time with one of her two tweens, or falling asleep during movies, you'll find her scouring vintage shops for one-of-a-kind pieces or apologising to friends for the "late reply" over text.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read
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I sit in a corner on my favourite chair and sip my coffee. It’s still hot, which for many parents is nothing short of a miracle. But that’s not the only reason I’m happy. I’m watching my son and his two best friends run around our yard, and I don’t have to ask them to be careful or put away their gadgets.

They’re wearing their paper pirate hats, and paper binoculars as they search the yard for clues I have hidden.

But what’s even better is that while they THINK they are playing, what they are really doing is running around and reading “sight words”. Yes, they’re working together and practicing their sight words.

If this is not a parenting win, I don’t know what is!

The thing is, learning was never meant to be dull or boring. If it is, we’re probably doing it wrong. While some teaching methods still recommend you sit down at a desk and help your child work in an organised space, it is not the only method of teaching and learning.

And if you have 5 year olds who hate sitting still, here’s how you can make learning fun for them. And while some of them do require a little bit more effort from your end, they are absolutely easy and fun, and they also require less screaming.

How do I get my 5-year-old excited about learning?

That’s a great question. Remember how your toddler loved parking his coloured cars in the matching parking lots and ended up learning all his colours? Well, that’s how you do it – by opting for play-based learning. What better way to teach alphabets, numbers, shapes, and colours, and even increase vocabulary than through toys, games, and other hands-on activities?

Another great way to get them involved and grab their attention is through storytime.

Reading to your child is a great way to help them develop their language and communication skills. Story times can help children learn and remember facts, which is one of the reasons why Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one of the best books in the toddler section.

Want to know another favourite with the kids? Bring out the arts and crafts supplies and make a boring lesson fun. The messier the play, the more they love it!

Learning about 3D shapes? Why not get hands-on and make one out of cardboard or pulp? Art projects are always a fun way to learn about anything from shapes to opposites and even the solar system.

What should a 5-year-old know educationally?

At the age of 5, children are typically in kindergarten or preparing for kindergarten. Here are some educational skills and concepts that a 5-year-old may be expected to know:

  • Recognise and write their name.
  • Count to 20 and recognise numbers up to 100.
  • Recognise and write the letters of the alphabet.
  • Recognise and write simple sight words (e.g., “the,” “and,” “is”).
  • Understand basic math concepts such as addition and subtraction.
  • Identify basic shapes and colours.
  • Follow simple instructions and routines.
  • Demonstrate good listening and communication skills.
  • Participate in group activities and work well with others.
  • Show interest in reading, writing, and storytelling.

If this checklist has you worried about your child’s progress, breathe into a bag and relax. It’s important to note that children develop at different rates and may have different strengths and areas of focus.

When offered a choice, my older child would have opted to read a book while my younger child wanted to do nothing with them. It was with him that I learned to get creative and find ways to make learning fun with play-based and hands-on activities.

5 learning activities for a 5-year-old

Go on a pirate adventure 

This one is my favourite. Put on your pirate caps and let them seek their treasure. Draw a map or use simple clues to teach your child concepts like addition, subtraction, and even sight words.

When I play this with my 5-year-old, I make clues that are a mix of math, and language problems.

The instructions use sight words like “the,” “who,” and “he,” followed by easy-to-read words like “tree” and “bee.” When I want to add math, I’ll add clues that require him to use addition and subtraction concepts.

Play pretend and set up a store or cafe 

Does your 5-year-old hate math?

Well, then take out that cardboard box and set up a tiny shop in the corner of your lounge. You can ask him to load up the products, adding price tags and labels.

Print out some dollar bills and drop them in to buy items. You can ask him to count the eggs before he places them in your basket and add up the money that you pay. The best part about this activity is it you can make it harder as your child progresses.

Play around and turn it from a grocery store into a small café. Ask them to design the menu so they can practice their writing skills.

Sensory play bins

Sensory play is a great way to engage a child’s senses and promote their development. Fill a tray with items such as water beads, rice, sand, or shaving cream, and let your child explore and play with the different textures.

This is also a great way to help them increase their vocabulary. You can also use sensory bins to teach your child how to write their numbers and letters. Teach beginning sounds by placing different objects inside and asking them to find one that starts with the “s” sound.

Scavenger hunt

Create a scavenger hunt for your child using clues or pictures. This can be done inside or outside and can be tailored to your child’s interests. For example, if they love animals, you could have them search for pictures of different animals.

It is also great to teach concepts like animals and their babies, animals and their homes etc.

Building and construction

Building and construction activities are great for developing fine motor skills and problem-solving abilities. Provide your child with building blocks or other materials such as cardboard boxes, straws, and tape, and encourage them to create their own structures or designs.

Play and make memories

Not only are these games a great way to make learning fun, but they also make fun memories for you and the kids. I love watching recordings of me and my son doing science experiments and pretending we have our own YouTube channel.

The point of these play based learning activities is not only to learn but also to have fun and develop a love for knowledge.  Encourage your child to ask questions and take risks, be patient and supportive, and avoid putting too much pressure on your child to perform.

Make sure you acknowledge and praise their efforts and progress- and of course, have fun!


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