A construction theme builds on preschoolers' fascination with big machinery, but it also comes with major learning potential. The theme works in every aspect of the preschool classroom, from literature to science. Preschoolers can explore the use of tools, practice math skills, construct their own structures, improve their literacy skills and get creative with construction-themed crafts. Turn your classroom into a construction zone to inspire your preschoolers' imaginations as they learn.
Construction materials and tools can double as learning materials in a preschool classroom when closely supervised by an adult. Gather different sizes of screwdrivers, nuts and bolts. Other tools without sharp points, such as tape measures, rulers and rubber mallets also work. Discuss how each tool works and how it is used. You can also use the materials for foundational math skills, such as sorting and patterning. Let the kids sort the items based on size. Use a balance scale to explore the weight of different tools. You can also have the kids create patterns with the materials. They might make a bolt-nut-bolt pattern, for example.
A few additions to existing preschool learning centers can turn them into construction-themed activities. Fill the sensory table with sand. The kids can build roads and push the sand around with toy construction vehicles. The dramatic play area becomes a construction play feature with the addition of safety vests, handheld construction signs, hard hats, orange cones and toy tools. Add construction-themed books to the reading corner. Options include "The Toolbox" by Anne Rockwell, "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" by Virginia L. Burton, "A Carpenter" by Tana Hoban and "Construction Zone" by Tana Hoban.
Art projects encourage creativity and engage the fine motor skills of the preschoolers. A simple craft project is to use shapes cut from construction paper to create construction vehicles. To make a dump truck, the kids might use circles for wheels, a small rectangle for the cab and a large rectangle for the back of the truck. Another option is to use tools to paint. Dip the end of a toy hammer in paint and pound it on the paper, or use paint rollers to make artwork. Sandpaper is another option to use in artwork. Have the kids draw on the sandpaper with crayons for a tactile art experience.
Building activities let the kids take on the role of the construction worker. You likely already have different types of building blocks in the classroom, which help preschoolers develop motor skills and encourage creativity. Create different block structures and photograph the creations. Draw blueprints of the block structures to show the kids the type of blocks and where to place them to recreate the structure. This gives the kids practice at following directions in a visual way that doesn't require reading. If you have large cardboard blocks in your classroom, build a structure near the wall. Put blue painter's tape on the wall for each block. The kids can match the blocks to the paint outlines to recreate the structure. You can also use other materials for building, including egg cartons, empty cereal boxes and plastic cups. Let the kids test out different stacking methods to encourage critical thinking skills.