Types of free play activities

Types of free play activities

Set up stations with different activities each day for children to choose from during free play time.
Children also need enough time to become fully engaged and try more than one activity, plan for about two
hours of play.

Fantasy Play

Introduces fantasy play by playing alongside children to initiate and stimulate play at the start of free play.

  • Ensure gender equality in types of props, clothes, items
  • Mirror (shatter-proof) is accessible
  • Adult clothes (men and woman) are made available
  • Sufficient toys are provided

Why is this important?

  • Reinforces maths
  • Reinforces life skills
  • Language development
  • Encourages appropriate social play
  • Offers opportunity to problem solves
  • Opportunity to mimic “adult” activities


Dolls, prams, blankets, kitchenware, stools, tables, empty containers, empty grocery boxes, telephones, keyboards, calculators, cash register, play food, stationary (envelopes, pens, paper), dress up clothes, cots, cars, stethoscope, syringe (no needle), empty medicine boxes/containers, hats, coats, shoes, bags, cases, child size broom and mop, books, address/phone books, table cloths, flashlights, newspaper, junk mail, big boxes, dolls house furniture, bandages, clipboards

Construction/Block Area

Encourage imaginative play by:

  • Suggesting construction e.g. build a bridge
  • Adding mats and small figures, small cars, trains etc. to the blocks
  • Providing a plan to build
  • Demarcate the block area – use the carpet
  • Engage with children in the block area and enhance mathematic concepts in block area (e.g. shape names, positional vocabulary, size words etc.)

Why is this important?

  • Encourages imaginative play
  • Encourages problem solving
  • Allows for technology experimentation
  • Promotes sharing
  • Reinforces maths


Assortment of blocks – size, texture, make, shape, figurines, small cars, trains, planes, demarcated area, flat surface, plan to build to, diagrams to copy

Educational games

Game has to be taught or demonstrated

  • Game is played with the children
  • Game is adapted according to ability
  • Pieces are checked before being packed away
  • Box and instructions are kept safe
  • New game is introduced each week
  • Puzzles packed out daily

Why is this important?

  • Taking turns
  • Following rules
  • Encourages team playing
  • Reinforces specific skills matching
  • Opportunity to experience winning or loosing
  • Encourages imaginative play
  • Encourages problem solving
  • Allows for technology experimentation
  • Promotes sharing
  • Reinforces maths


Open ended toys – Lego, felt boards, collectables, nuts and bolts, cooperative games – board games, self-correcting games – shape sorters, puzzles, maths games – matching, sorting, snakes and ladders, language games – feely bags, classifying


  • Different objects added to the clay to play with each day
  • Different types of clay to be placed out  (salt, clay, mud, clay with texture)
  • Place mat is provided to work on
  • Clay is packed away in a container that can seal
  • Engage with the children at the clay table

 Demonstrate the following actions to the children:

  • roll a ball
  • press clay flat with palm of hand
  • roll clay flat with rolling pin
  • pinch clay
  • make geometric shapes

Why is this important?

  • Therapeutic
  • Opportunity to feel successful – never breaks or is wrong
  • Strengthens hands
  • Develops fine motor control
  • Texture rich activity


Different clays – colour, texture, cookie cutters, clay boards, rolling pins, kitchen utensils, masher, scissors, string,
bobbles, beads, feathers, sticks

Pre-writing/free drawing

Use different kinds of writing instrument daily

  • A different variety of papers (different sizes, textures, shapes, colours per day) 
  • Copying print from the environment has to be encouraged
  • Provide stencils, objects to trace around etc. to keep children interested
  • Children practice writing their names on a daily basis (GRADE R ONLY)
  • Engage with the children at the writing table

Why is this important?

  • Practice “writing”
  • Develops correct pencil grip
  • Strengthens hands
  • Letter and name recognition
  • Incidental reading and writing
  • Encourages concentration


Paper – different size, colour, texture, writing tools – pens, crayons, chalk, ink, stencils, print to copy – names, newspapers, letters, number

Book Corner

Books are displayed standing up right

  • Make at least 5 books available
  • Provide cushions or mat to sit on
  • Create rules on how to handle and look after books and share with children
  • Books are handled correctly by the children 
  • Variety of books, magazines, photo albums, self-made books 
  • Look for books that are multi-cultural
  • Engage with children in the book area

Why is this important?

  • Nurtures a love for reading
  • Encourages discussions – language development
  • Incidental reading
  • Name and letter recognition
  • Quiet activity – can be on my own
  • Reinforces the importance of books


Books, magazines, newspapers, homemade books, photo albums with comfortable seating, sufficient light 

Art and Craft

  • Encourage children to write their own name on their art (later in
    Grade R year)
  • A variety of activities are done as the main activity: painting, drawing,
    clay, cut/tear and folding, pasting, threading, box construction,
  • No photocopied pictures are to be used
  • Children’s drawings have to be coloured in
  • Minimum size paper is A4
  • Engage with children at the art table

Why is this important?

  • Reinforces maths and language
  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Encourages experimenting – mixing colours
  • Develops an understanding of how things can be used pencil sharpening can be a texture on a picture
  • Encourages creativity
  • Reinforces pencil grip
  • Develops specific skills like cutting


Paper (different size, colour, texture), cardboard, newspaper, crinkle paper, plastic, stencils, paint, khoki’s, pencils, pens, crayons, glitter pens, shells, twigs, leaves, stones, ink, stamps, straws, string, paint brushes, scissors, feathers, bobbles, beads, ribbon, pipe cleaners, rice, sawdust, sand, chalk boards, scrap material, polystyrene, egg boxes, empty tubs, seeds, buttons, feathers, bottle tops, egg shells, cellophane, pencil sharpening’s, ice cream sticks, dry pasta, wool, used dry tea bags, pastels, cork, foam, glue (Bostic, cold glue), Prestik, toilet rolls, cotton wool, lace, tin foil, confetti

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