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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

May Play Ideas for Toddlers & Preschoolers {+ Free Play Calendar}

I'm putting together monthly play activity schedules to make it easy for you to create a month of fun for your kids at home or in the classroom, every month of the year. The May activity calendar focuses on flowers, Mother's Day, butterfly and bug themed ideas for toddlers, preschoolers and school kids. There's also a sneaky Stars Wars craft for May the 4th. The activities include a mix of art and craft, sensory, science and play ideas as well as books to read aloud during the month.

Each activity is explained in detail below, including how you can extend or adjust the activity based on your child's age. You can also download our free interactive May activity calendar pdf with links to instructions for every activity to save for future reference.

Finding Myself Young May play calendar.


This play activity calendar includes activities that can easily be done using items from around your home {or classroom} and you can substitute items to make it suit what you have on hand. If you want to be fully prepared I've set up an Amazon supply list that includes all of the main items needed for every activity during May.

There are no activities listed for weekends as they can be used for free play/family time or to catch up on activities you may have missed during the week. Below you will find detailed explanations of each activity as well as how to modify them for children of different ages and some extension activities you can do if you're looking for additional ideas.

At the bottom of this post you'll also be able to download a copy of the interactive May play calendar PDF which includes direct clickable links to all of the activities featured in this months calendar.

Plants Can't Sit Still {Read Aloud}

Plants Can't Sit Still is a fun and interactive way for children to learn about the life cycle of plants. The book teaches children all the ways plants can move as they grow, even though they don't have feet or fins, or wings. They can still wiggle, squirm, creep and climb. 

Read the story aloud in a group, read the book to your child, have your child read the book to you, or watch the story being read aloud here on YouTube. You can borrow the book from a friend or the library, or get your own copy from Amazon or Amazon AU.

plants can't sit still book cover

Extension Idea:

Plant movements. After reading the book get the children to act out the different types of movements mentioned in the book. This is a great way to exercise their gross motor skills during the day.


Flower Playdough Mats

Download these free printable flower playdough mats so your kids can have lots of fine motor and sensory fun creating different types of flowers out of playdough. You can use the playdough mats with store bought playdoh, or make your own homemade playdough, just make sure you have enough colours to make all the flowers you print out.

free printable flower playdough mats


Blooming Flowers Science Experiment

This blooming flowers science experiment is a really fun way to show kids how flowers unfold as they bloom. All you need is some paper, the free flower template and some water. The experiment uses capillary action between the paper and water to demonstrate how real flowers bloom.

blooming paper flowers science experiment

Additional Ideas:

Simple science experiments. If you kids loved this science experiment, there are lots more easy science experiments for kids here, including more flower and capillary experiments.


May The 4th Star Wars Paper Craft {Bonus Activity}

This activity is a bonus activity included for those families and teachers who choose to celebrate Star Wars Day. May the 4th is recognised as Star Wars Day because it's a play on the franchises popular line may the force be with you.

If your children know some of the Star Wars characters then this star wars droid craft is a great way to use a process art painting activity to celebrate the day. The craft uses watercolours and black glue to create colourful resist art droids.

star wars paper craft for may the 4th


Mama Loves You So {Read Aloud}

Mama Loves You So is a gorgeous board book which describes a mother's love for her child in all different ways with references to nature and animals.

Read the story aloud in a group, read the book to your child, have your child read the book to you, or watch the story being read aloud here on YouTube. You can borrow the book from a friend or the library, or get your own copy from Amazon or Amazon AU.

mama loves you so book cover


I Love You To Pieces Craft

Make a cute Mother's Day gift with this fun torn paper I love you to pieces craft. Print off the free template and then use torn paper pieces in any colours to decorate the heart.

This is a great craft for both physical and cognitive development as it involves tearing paper, gluing and choosing the placement of the pieces to create their design. Tearing paper requires the use of small hand muscles and coordination, strengthening fine motor skills essential for activities like writing. 

I love you to pieces Mother's Day craft.

Extension Idea:

Mother's Day Questionnaire. Write out all the things you love about Mum or Mom with these free printable Mother's Day questionnaires.


Glue & Paint Necklaces

This is possibly the easiest way to make a DIY necklace ever. All you need is a muffin tin, some PVA glue, paint and string. Follow the instructions here to make a DIY glue and paint necklace. The finished result is a fantastic abstract disc necklace.

Pouring the glue and paint is great fine motor practice for kids as they have to squeeze hard to make it come out. Older kids will also be able to thread the necklace string themselves. This is not only a fun craft activity to do with the kids, they also make great Mother's Day presents too.

necklaces made from glue and paint


Mother's Day Colouring Bookmarks

Make another easy Mother's Day gift by printing off these free printable Mother's Day bookmarks then colouring them in with pencils, crayons or pens.

I designed 3 different simple Mother's Day bookmarks using items such as flowers and hearts so they'll appeal to most Mum's. I also deliberately used the phrase Happy Mother's Day on 2 bookmarks and I love you to pieces on the last one so they can be used by children in any country whether they have a Mum or Mom, and they can be used for Grandma or Nanna as well.

free printable Mother's Day bookmark templates.


Mother's Day Colouring Card

This free printable Mother's Day card is a great way for children to get creative and make mum something special for Mother's Day, no matter their age. Simply print off the free template and let the kids decorate it and you'll have a special sentimental card for mum or grandma.

I made my Mother's Day card design purposely black and white only, with lots of different smaller images, so children can make their mark on the card by colouring in all the elements with whatever colours they choose. The flowers, hearts, leaves and rainbows I've included are very simple so they're easy for younger kids to colour in as well as older kids.
free printable mothers day card template

Alternative Idea:

Other Mother's Day cards. If you prefer to make a card with your children, rather than use a printable design, there are plenty of other ideas in our list of Mother's Day cards kids can make.


Paper Plate Butterfly Life Cycle

Another fun way for children to visually learn the butterfly life cycle is to make this butterfly paper plate craft. Using a paper plate, pom poms and tissue paper kids can recreate all the different stages of the butterfly life cycle in order.

If you're doing this craft with younger children you will need to label the stages for them, however they should still be able to make the eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. You may also want to substitute the white Sixlets for white mini pom poms so nobody is tempted to taste test the eggs.

butterfly life cycle paper plate craft

Extension Idea:

Life Cycle Sensory Bin. If you want to make learning the butterfly lifecycle more interactive for children you can get monarch butterfly lifecycle figurines and create a sensory bin with real or fake leaves to mimic their real habitat.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar {Read Aloud}

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of the most famous children's books of all time. The story follows the journey of a caterpillar from hatching through to his transformation into a butterfly, and all the food he eats along the way.

Read the story aloud in a group, read the book to your child, have your child read the book to you, or watch the animated story here on YouTube. You can borrow the book from a friend or the library, or get your own copy from Amazon or Amazon AU.

the very hungry caterpillar book cover

Extension Idea:

Real Caterpillars. If your children want to see the butterfly lifecycle in real life, you can get your own caterpillars from Insect Lore and watch their metamorphosis into butterflies in real time. You can get the Insect Lore kit in Australia here. Please note the entire transformation will take a few weeks.


Coffee Filter Butterflies

Kids can create their own beautiful butterflies by making these easy coffee filter butterfliesCoffee filters are a great art material as they absorb watercolour paint and create beautiful colour blends when you add more than one colour. You can always use plain, or coloured clothes pegs if you don't have any glitter clothes pegs.

This craft is a great way to build hand strength and find motor skills and children use their paintbrush, cut and twist the coffee filter and clip on the peg. Toddlers may require some assistance.

coffee filter butterfly craft


Butterfly Sensory Bin

You can put together a really simple butterfly sensory bin for imaginary play using sensory rice {or another sensory base}, butterflies and flowers. If you use fake flowers you can then save them for other activities. I also recommend plastic butterflies as you can use them for messy sensory play as well.

Sensory bins are a great way to expose children to different textures and provide lots of visual and tactile sensory experiences as they play with the items. They're also great for fostering imaginary play, language development and social skills {especially when used in groups}.

butterfly sensory bin with flowers


Handprint Butterflies

These handprint butterflies are a fun craft activity and also sensory experience as children get to put their hands into the paint. Make your butterflies any colour you like and use the free butterfly body template to assemble it together like a butterfly.

butterfly handprint craft


Butterfly Life Cycle Sensory Bottles

Make these simple yet effective butterfly life cycle sensory bottles using empty plastic bottles and coloured pasta. You'll need small pasta shells, spiral pasta, bow tie pasta and large pasta shells to represent the different stages in the life cycle. These bottles are so easy to put together children can help to make them too.

butterfly life cycle sensory bottles using pasta.


Head and Tails Insects {Read Aloud}

As you flip through the pages of this book there are clues to guess what the next bug is. Children will learn interesting facts about the different types of bugs, including what they look like, where they live and special characteristics they have to camouflage themselves.

Read the story aloud in a group, read the book to your child, have your child read the book to you, or watch the story read aloud here on YouTube. You can borrow the book from a friend or the library, or get your own copy from Amazon or Amazon AU.

heads and tails insects book cover


Insect Sensory Bin

This insect sensory bin is a great way for children to explore different insects without having to find or touch real insects. Add in a magnifying glass so kids can really see the details of each bug up close. 

The addition of sensory spaghetti provides a slimy, but not wet sensory experience which children don't usually get to explore. This one may get messy though once the kids squish and scrunch the spaghetti.

insect sensory bin with spaghetti


DIY Bug Hotel

Use an empty cardboard box, pieces of cardboard and toilet paper rolls or cardboard tubes to create a DIY bug hotel. Add in some bits and pieces from nature like leaves, sticks, bark and pinecones. The kids can use the bug hotel inside with plastic bugs for imaginary play, or leave it outside to attract some real creepy crawlies. 

If you're leaving it outside make sure you put it undercover when it rains so it doesn't disintegrate. You can find more recycled crafts to make with cardboard tubes here.

diy cardboard bug hotel

Extension Idea:

Bug Hotel Book. If your children are keen to learn more about bug hotels and how they can attract different bugs, read the book Bug Hotel {or watch it being read aloud here}.


Bee Life Cycle Craft

Explore the life cycle of a bee with this fun bee paper plate craft using paper, pom poms and cotton balls. Creating the eggs, larva, pupa and adult bee are all great ways for children to use their fine motor skills as they scrunch the paper and decorate the bee.

Toddlers will need assistance with drawing the hexagon background and labelling the stages. They may also need help assembling the adult bee together with glue.

bee life cycle paper plate craft


Dragonfly Craft

These twig dragonflies are a great nature craft combining different natural and craft materials and they can be used for imaginary play once they're finished. Just like the butterfly craft earlier in the month, these dragonflies use coffee filters and watercolours to create the colourful wings. Combine them with a twig, twine and a gem to create the dragonflies head, thorax, abdomen and wings.

dragonfly nature craft


Bug Playdough Mats

Kids can build their own bugs with these free bug playdough mats. There are 4 different designs you can download including a snail, leaf, spider and bee. You can laminate them or use them in dry erase pocket sheets to make them reusable. They can also be used with various loose parts and washable markers.

free printable bug playdough mats.

Additional Idea:

More Bug Playdough Mats. If the kids loved these playdough mats then you can my full set of bug playdough mats which includes additional mats featuring 2 butterflies, 2 beetles, an earthworm, ladybug, dragonfly, slug, caterpillar and an ant hill.


Bugs in Mud

If the thought of your children touching real bugs creeps you out {yep, totally me} then let them dig for bugs in the mud using this fun chocolate playdough mud. They can dig and squish the mud until their hearts are content and after rescuing the bugs they can make fun imprints into the playdough too.

Plastic bugs in playdough mud.


Fingerprint Bug Jar

Create a colourful jar full of bugs with this simple fingerprint painting craft. Download the free printable bug jar and use bright coloured finger paint to add dots into the jar then add details with pen to turn them into different types of bugs once the paint is dry.

This is a fun way for kids to pretend they've caught lots of different creepy crawlies without actually catching or harming any real insects and bugs.

bug jar fingerprint craft.


Handprint Lady Bug Craft

Create an adorable handprint lady bug craft using some coloured paper and tissue paper and add the spots with black paint. Younger children may need some help tracing their hands and cutting out the paper.

Handprint lady bug craft



Click the download now button below to download the interactive PDF file. Each image on the PDF calendar can be clicked to go directly to the instructions for the individual activity.

Please note that this activity calendar PDF is for personal or classroom use only and may not be shared, electronically uploaded or sold on any platform. If you would like to share or feature the calendar in a blog post please link back to this post directly.

may 2024 play calendar for toddlers and preschoolers.

download pdf here


may play activity calendar for toddlers and preschoolers

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