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Get Ready for School!

Fast & Easy Games that help little ones

I was talking to a mom getting her child ready for her first day of preschool. She was concerned. "She isn't interested in anything educational. I’ve tried the ABCs and 123s, and she’s just not having any of it.” Here’s the gist of what I said…



Just because a preschooler isn't showing interest in letters and numbers does not mean they are not interested in learning. That's an adult concept of what education is supposed to look like.


Nature’s lesson plan is a personal, follow-your-nose journey with no other agenda than what's fun and fascinating. That's because a three year old's brain is far more receptive to learning from mudpies and monkeybars than the ABCs or 123s right now. Just remember, every minute of every day everything is educational because everything is new to them!


School is a big transition so getting them ready is a big deal. Over the years, we’ve reviewed many “Get Ready for School” lists and the guidance is usually very helpful. (If you don’t already have your list, we recommend checking with your child’s school or pediatrician.)


That said, it’s been our experience these Get Ready for School lists rarely, if ever, include the most effective preparatory tool for early learning… movement.



So, rather than offer you another list, we thought it would be more fun (and educational) to celebrate Get Ready for School time with a month’s worth of fast, fun, active and easy games for you to choose from, all designed using the Kinetic Scope to prepare the body and brain for the day when the ABCs and 123s come into focus.


So go have fun. We think you’ll find mudpies and monkeybars have plenty to teach.

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Sound ‘n Seek

WHY? For young children, good listening skills are less about behavior (good or bad) and more about the abiliity to tune into sounds. The technical term for it is auditory discrimination, a critical foundation for reading, spelling, and of course, becoming a good listener.

LET’S PLAY SOUND ‘N SEEK! Have your child sit in the middle of the floor and close their eyes. Creep around the room quietly and every few seconds make a playful sound (e.g. whistle, clap your hands, or make an animal sound “moooo”). With their eyes still closed, encourage your child to point to the sound. 

RELATED READING... The Age of Distraction: Why Don't Kids Just Listen?

Laundry Day

WHY? Target games help children learn to adjust and change how much muscle strength to use. But more, while they play the brain is developing the ability to adapt its thinking -- an essential foundation for all learning.


LET’S PLAY LAUNDRY DAY! On laundry day (or any day), place a basket on the floor. Using rolled up pairs of socks, attempt to throw the socks in the bucket. For added challenge, move closer or further away from the basket, or try changing hands. 

RELATED READING... Introduction to Control

Up in the Air

WHY? Balloons move slowly giving eyes time to track. This develops strength in eye muscles needed for reading. 


LET’S PLAY UP IN THE AIR! Balloons belong in the air, not on the ground. Blow up a balloon. Tap it up in the air and encourage your child to catch it. Then try having them bat it back up in the air. When they get good at it, stand on either side of a table or the couch and bat it back and forth to each other like a game of volleyball. For added challenge, add more balloons!

RELATED READING... Introduction to The Senses: The Origins of Thinking

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Upside Down Reading

WHY? Different orientations such as positioning the head lower than the body stimulate your child’s sense of balance and helps develop focus and concentration.


LET’S PLAY UPSIDE DOWN READING! Lie on the bed with your child next to you and place the book on the floor. Lean over the edge slightly to lower your head below your body as you read. Read it again, only this time lie on your backs with your heads tilted back over the edge of the bed.

RELATED READING... Introduction to Balance: Developing Courage

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Hang In There!

WHY? Upper body strength is a physical foundation for busy days at school for everything from recess to writing. And more, activities that challenge kids to beat their “personal best” lays the groundwork for positive self-esteem, determination, and perseverance.


LET’S PLAY HANG IN THERE! At the playground, stand behind your child and lift them up to the monkeybars.  Encourage them to grasp the bar and hold on. Ask them if you can remove your support. When they’re ready, let go and count together to see how long they can hang before dropping. Each time you do it, remind them of their personal best and try to beat it.


RELATED READING: Stick-to-it-iveness: Developing Inner Drive

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Clap Along

WHY? Coordinated movement (doing more than one physical thing at once) is helping your child get ready for more complex thinking and creativity by tapping into both sides of the brain.


LET’S PLAY CLAP ALONG! Classic games are classic for a reason. Stand or sit facing each other and show your child how to create simple clapping patterns. Clap your hands, knees, each other’s hands, etc. As soon as they have a handle on the game, turn it over to them to create the claps.

RELATED READING... Introduction to Coordination

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Hot & Cold

WHY? Understanding the language of direction is necessary when writing. If we ask a child to start writing on the left side of the page, understanding the left side of their body makes it an easier concept to grasp and follow the instruction.

PLAY HOT & COLD. ​ Hide a toy and send your child on a hunt to find it. Give them verbal cues when they get closer or farther away. Repeat the words over and over. “You’re getting close. Closer. Closer.” Or “Look higher. Look lower, To your left, etc.” Once they get the idea of the game, introduce ”hot” and cold,” just like we’d played when we were kids! 

RELATED READING... Righty or Lefty?

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Tiger Tuesday

WHY? Imaginative play puts children in charge of their world, expanding their range of movement, ideas, problem solving and emotional engagement while playing different roles. In that way, they often do things they didn't know they could do!

LET’S PLAY TIGER TUESDAY! Introduce the idea of becoming a favorite animal for the day. (We chose a tiger for this example.) Together, imagine a day in the life of a tiger from breakfast to bedtime. Discuss how a tiger walks, runs, jumps, washes its paws, brushes its teeth. Then see how far their imagination (and yours) will take them. Roarrrrrrr!

RELATED READING... Count the Giggles

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On a Roll!

WHY? Rolling develops your child’s sense of balance which underpins just about everything they’ll need to do in school.

LET’S PLAY ON A ROLL! Lie on the floor at opposite ends of the room. Roll to towards each other to meet in the middle. Help your child to roll over you then continue to roll to the other side of the room. Repeat rolling the other way! To add challenge, try pencil rolling (rolling with their hands above your head).

RELATED READING... Why Can't Kids Just Sit Still?

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Narrow Arrow

WHY? Math is more than knowing your numbers. Games that physicalize early math concepts (more/less, long/short, narrow/wide, etc.) make them easier to understand.

LET’S PLAY NARROW ARROW! Using a skipping rope, make an arrow (>)on the floor. Show your child how to step or jump over the pointy end of the arrow. Work your way along taking wider steps/jumps as they go. Now go back the other way. As they play, talk about the difference between narrow and wide


RELATED READING... What Cardboard Boxes Teach Kids: Spatial Awareness

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Scissor Search

WHY? Visual discrimination is the ability to sort visual information, a critical, cognitive foundation for identifying letters and words. 

LET’S PLAY SCISSORS SEARCH! Using old magazines and children’s scissors, together choose a theme (for instance, round things, red things, hot things, etc.). Search through magazines and have your child cut out things that belong to your theme. Cutting out the pictures physicalizes the learning for them. If time permits, glue your cut outs on a page to see them all together

RELATED READING... The Senses: Where Critical Thinking Begins

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Crabby Crab

WHY? Moving the body in new and unusual ways develops the muscles and the coordination needed to control them.


LET’S PLAY CRABBY CRAB! Sit on the floor and raise up your bottom. Now take a crab walk on your hands and feet, walking forward, backwards, and sideways. Once they get the hang of it, put a toy at one end of the room. Encourage them to retrieve it, place the toy on their tummy and crab-walk it back to you.

RELATED READING... Introduction to Power

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Sandbox Search

WHY? The senses helps little ones discover similarities and differences, the first inkling of cognitive analysis and reasoning.

LET’S PLAY SANDBOX SEARCH! In the sandbox or at the beach, have your child gather 3-4 small treasures. Lay them out on the sand, picking them up one at a time and naming them. Then have your child turn their back while you hide the treasures in the sand. Now, name one of the treasures and have them go sand box hunting! If you don’t have a sandbox or beach nearby, you can play this in the bathtub or sink with lots of soapy water to hide the treasures.

RELATED READING... Respect the Mess

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Fancy Footwork

WHY? Kids want to take a walk in our shoes. So let them. But don’t just walk. Dance! When we dance we connect physically and emotionally, which helps them learn how to connect with others.

LET’S PLAY FANCY FOOTWORK! Pick a song you both love. Have your child balance on your feet while you dance. Try it with them facing you and then facing outward. Move slowly at first then pick up the beat as you add different steps to challenge their balance, coordination, and connection with you!

RELATED READING... Parents Make the Best Playmates

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Spin & Spell

WHY? The more children are exposed to language in context to a physical experience, the easier it is to acquire the vocabulary they’ll need to start school and eventually begin reading and writing. 

LET’S PLAY SPIN & SPELL! Start by choosing the Spin & Spell word together. Whenever they hear the word they need to spin around once and spell the word. Set the time for the game – 10 minutes, an hour, a morning, or even all day. Practice a couple of times, wait a bit, and say the word to see how they do. 


RELATED READING... Developing Language.

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Memory Tunnel

WHY? Learning to follow instructions in order helps develop their short term auditory sequential memory, which is needed for math, spelling and reading.


LET’S PLAY MEMORY TUNNEL! Set up a play tunnel. If you don’t have one, line up several chairs for them to crawl through. Place several favorite toys inside the tunnel. Ask your child to retrieve the treasures in a specific order. For instance, can you find the ball, the spoon, and the apple? Note: help their memory by asking them to repeat what they need to retrieve before entering the tunnel

RELATED READING... Apple is for A: How Young Children Learn

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Tidy Up Time

WHY? Simple tasks turn into creative challenges when you add a playful twist. 


LET’S PLAY TIDY UP TIME! When playtime is done, work together to pick up their toys. But here’s the twist, your hands can’t touch the toys! Suggest an idea to get them started (e.g. use elbows, knees or feet, find a spoon or spatula, or work together – but remember, no hands for either of you!). Once they get the idea, encourage them discover their own solutions. 


RELATED READING... Happy Endings: How to End the Fun without the Fuss. 

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Hop Around the Clock

WHY? Learning to tell time begins with understanding the concept of sequencing. Physicalizing new concepts helps young minds absorb them more easily. 

LET’S PLAY HOP AROUND THE CLOCK! Draw a clockface on the pavement and together write in the numbers. Take turns calling out numbers. Starting at 12, hop or step around the clock until you get to the number, counting outloud as you go. Freeze on your number and announce the time: ”The time is 10 o’clock!”

RELATED READING... Introduction to Control


WHY? Learning how much force to use when pushing play dough into shapes helps kids learn how to adjust their muscle strength when pushing a pencil on the page when writing. So why restrict the play to the hands?

LET’S PLAY SQUISH-SQUASH! When using playdough, use different parts of the body to manipulate it. Start with the hands, of course, but then try the elbows, knees, feet, wrists, chin. You might even try squishing it in pairs – elbow to elbow; wrist to wrist etc. This helps your child understand how the muscles groups in their body differ in strength.

RELATED READING... The Seven Senses: Managing Movement


WHY? Crawling is a superfood for developing the midlines (coordination), but once kids start walking, quite often they don’t want to crawl any more. Encouraging them with games that offer challenging crawling movements is a great way to fuel both body and brain development.

LET’S PLAY FRONTOSAURUS-BACKOSAURUS! Get on all fours with your child facing each other. Have your child put their hands on yours. Now pretend to be a two-headed Frontosaurus-Backosaurus. Crawl forwards and backwards together holding hands. And don’t forget to roarrrrrr!

RELATED READING... Meet the Midlines

Chair Tunnel

WHY? Children bump into things a lot, mostly because they don’t fully understand the size and shape of their own body. They learn by comparing and contrasting themselves to spaces of different sizes and shapes. In turn, this helps them understand spatial relationships, important for pre-math and writing development.

LET’S PLAY CHAIR TUNNEL! Set up dining room chairs all in a row. Encourage your child to crawl through the chair legs without moving the chairs. Throw a blanket over the top of the chairs to create even more challenge.

RELATED READING... What Cardboard Boxes Teach Kids

Time Me!

WHY? Moving through time helps children better understand time and the concept of duration. What is a minute if you haven’t moved through it?


LET’S PLAY TIME ME! Next time they have energy to burn, choose a high-energy movement like jumping, hopping, or dancing, and set the timer. Don’t stop until the timer rings!

RELATED READING... Learning Off Energy: Developing Inner Drive

My First Dodgeball

WHY? The classic game of dodgeball is rich in developmental aspects. As they play, kids are exploring rhythm and timing, anticipation and prediction, agility, action/reaction, stamina, endurance, and the joys and hardships of unpredictability. 


LET’S PLAY MY FIRST DODGEBALL! Young children are accustom to trying to catch or trap balls rolled towards them so take a few minutes to show them how to play by having them roll the ball to you. Using a large ball take turns rolling the ball along the ground trying to hit the feet of the dodger. The dodger needs to avoid being touched by the ball by jumping over it or stepping out of its way.

RELATED READING... Why Hopscotch Works

Itsy Bitty Back & Forth

WHY? Musical games help children sharpen their listening skills and understanding of the concept of time. 


LET’S PLAY ITSY BITSY BACK & FORTH! Sing the itsy bitsy spider song together (or any familiar simple song). Then sing the song, one word each at a time back and forth. If you have more people, the game gets more challenging and much more fun! 


RELATED READING... Developing Language

Me Puzzle

WHY? Learning about their body helps them control their movements and become less clumsy when moving round the classroom.

LET’S PLAY ME PUZZLE! Print a photo of your child and glue it onto cardboard. Turn it over and have your child cut up the picture into 6-8 pieces. Turn over the pieces and puzzle it back together. As they play with the Me Puzzle, have them point to the different parts of their body.


Duck Walk

WHY? Using muscles in different ways insures their body is developing holistically.


LET’S PLAY DUCK WALK! This one’s easier for kids than it is for us, but if you can, give it a try with them! Crouch down and hold your knees or ankles. Then take a walk. And don’t forget to quack!


RELATED READING... You Can't Run Uphill Indoors

Walk the Line

WHY? Challenging children’s balance helps develop physical confidence, especially when trying new things. This is where the courageous learner is born.

LET’S PLAY WALK THE LINE! Next time you are walking along the street, find a curbing or lines on the sidewalk for your child to walk along. Encourage them to walk with aeroplane arms at first, then lower their arms for extra challenge. And for even more fine, trying walking backwards, sideways, fast, or slow.


RELATED READING... Introduction to Balance

Back to Back

WHY? Exploring how hard to push on things helps children discover the physics of our world. In school, this sense of their own strength helps them control their movements in everything from writing to recess.

LET’S PLAY BACK TO BACK! Two children sit back-to-back with their knees bent and feet on the floor. (Be sure their hands are off the floor.) Now, have them push against each other until they stand up. Then sit back down the same way.

RELATED READING... Nutritious Play

Wacky Balance

WHY? Learning to physically problem solve will help them learn to think outside of the box. 


LET’S PLAY WACKY BALANCE! Use all different parts of the body to challenge their balance and control. Demonstrate different funny poses and see if they can work it out. Start simply (e.g., touch your toes) and work up to more and more complex movements. For instance, get on all fours and lift one knee. Then lift one knee and hand. Sit and lift your legs without flopping over. Don’t forget to explore the sides of the body, crossing their legs and arms, using their elbows, knees, ankles, fists, wrists, fingers, anything you can think of. The wackier the better!

RELATED READING... Meet the Midlines

Egg & Spoon

WHY? When kids play games that encourage them to keep on trying until they succeed they start to build belief in themselves and a drive that gets them over the line! 


LET’S PLAY EGG & SPOON! Put some cushions, cardboard boxes and other obstacles on the floor for your child to step over or move around while carrying a small ball or a hard boiled egg on a spoon. If the ball drops before getting to the end, go back to the beginning and try again! 


RELATED READING... Introduction to Power

Upside Down Kisses

WHY? Turning upside down is nature’s way of developing children’s sense of balance, which helps center and steady them as they move through their world.


LET’S PLAY UPSIDE DOWN KISSES! A game for the two of you. Find as many ways as you can to give each other kisses upside down! Lie on the floor in opposite directions. XO Lie on the couch upside down. XO Hang from the monkeybars upside down. XO Hold them upside down. XOXOXO


An at a glance guide.


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