Preschool Social Studies Activities and Resources

Michele Meleen
Contributor: Terry Hurley
two girls reading map together

Social studies is the study of how people relate to one another, their environment and to the world they live in. When a child enters a preschool classroom, it is generally their first time interacting with a community outside the family unit and home. Social studies learning takes place in the classroom in many ways, without necessarily involving a structured social studies activity for preschoolers.

Free Printable Preschool Social Studies Lessons

Lessons in social studies don't have to be complicated for preschoolers. You can use basic handouts and worksheets to introduce and reinforce topics. To download and print the activity sheets, click on the image. Use the Adobe Guide if you have any issues accessing the printables.

Spot the Ocean Helpers Activity

One of the ways all living things relate to each other is through helping. Some plants, animals, and people help others because they want to and some help others to get something in return. Learning the many ways to help someone gives kids ideas on how to relate to others in useful and positive ways. This simple worksheet asks kids to look at the ocean scene and circle eight examples of helping others within the picture.

  • Supplement the activity by reading books about how different animals help each other in the wild.
  • Then take a little field trip around your town or school to look for live examples of people helping people.
  • Discuss the feelings kids get when they help others and have them brainstorm ways they can help people in their lives.

My Traditions Worksheet

Every kid participates in traditions at home, school, church, or other locations they frequently visit. Use this worksheet to discuss the meanings of the words past, present, and future as an introduction to history. A tradition is a belief or action passed down through generations or that takes place at the same time each year.

  • Kids can choose any one tradition they can think of from holidays to bedtime rituals.
  • They circle and fill in the appropriate words at the top of the page then draw images of what the tradition looks like in their past, present, and future.
  • This can be a classroom activity where you discuss school traditions like graduating to Kindergarten or a homework activity that encourages family interaction and a look at family history.

Winter Civics Matching Activity

Teaching civics is all about showing the rights and duties of being a citizen, or part of a larger group. This simple matching activity gives preschoolers a look at civics in terms of winter safety.

  • Kids will need to match each of the snow-covered locations with the tools that will keep it safe.
  • Take the activity a step further and practice some of these actions in your classroom, outside your school, or at home.
  • Kids can practice getting on their own winter gear or learn proper shoveling techniques to keep their body safe.

Simple Social Studies Activities for Preschoolers

Preschool teachers expand the classroom social studies learning experience by helping children gain an understanding of their neighborhood through stories, games, guest speakers, and class trips. There are many activities and preschool social studies lesson plans that are both interesting and fun to help build preschoolers skills that are suitable for a classroom or home school setting.

Make a Map of Where You Are

A creative and fun activity to help develop spatial thinking, also known as geographical thinking, involves basic mapping skills.

  • Have the children draw or paint their physical surroundings such as their classroom, playground or neighborhood.
  • As they reproduce their world on paper using paint or crayons, have a group discussion about map direction and how things are represented on their papers.
  • Explain how their drawings stand for actual things and how they relate to one another in their actual surroundings.

Celebrate Other Cultures

Learning about people from other countries and how they live is an important aspect of social studies. Explore the music, food, dress, and art of different cultures with your preschoolers.

  • Celebrate holidays around the world with foods and costumes.
  • Commit to sampling new food from a different country every week.
  • Read a story about a child from a different culture and discuss the cultural differences.

Learn to Read People

Combine the fine motor development skills of cutting and gluing into a social studies lesson by having children cut and paste images of people from magazines.

  • Let each child pick one image to cut out and paste on a piece of paper. Then they can each tell the group why they choose the picture and how they think the people in the picture are feeling.
  • Assign each child a type of environment, like a desert or tundra, then have them create a collage that shows people and houses you might find in this type of climate.
  • Have each child choose an emotion. They must cut out as many different faces they can that show that emotion and paste them to their paper. Classmates can guess what emotion each represents.

Form New Friendships

Kindness and generosity are skills that develop throughout life. Give your preschooler opportunities to forge new friendships with people who are different from them through field trips and other collaborative activities.

  • Start a pen pal program with kids from another school district nearby or even an older classroom or a special needs classroom in your school. The kids can draw pictures for each other on a regular basis.
  • Recruit mentors from your middle or high school or even a local senior citizens group who visit your class for lunch or reading stories regularly.
  • Look for opportunities to connect with support staff at your school such as helping the custodial staff every Friday with a specific project. At home, you can do the same thing with neighbors or local businesses.

Social Studies Topics for Preschool

Social studies topics for younger children can include lessons on civics, economics, history, and geography. Start on a local scale then work your way up to global topics.

  • The formation of friendship and bonds with other children
  • Learning how the decision-making process works in a group setting
  • Development of social skills and personal responsibility
  • Learning to share and deal with their emotions
  • Accepting the differences between people
  • Learning community responsibility and a sense of community pride
  • Learning the names of continents, oceans, and countries
  • Understanding different geographical terms

Social Studies Books for Preschoolers

Girl holding globe above head

Teacher resource guides, instructional aid books, and children's books are great to use with young children. These may help you come up with your own ideas for social studies activities for preschool.

Teacher Resource Guides and Instructional Aids

You don't need to be a world traveler or history buff to start planning social studies lessons thanks to the many available teacher resource books.

  • Social Studies for the Preschool/Primary Child by Carol Seefeldt takes you through lesson planning based children's developmental levels and includes topics such as developing citizenship and the study of time.
  • For a comprehensive guide to teaching this subject to younger children, try Social Studies for Children: A Guide to Basic Instruction by Jesus Garcia and John U. Michaels. It covers a wide variety of more in-depth topics from gender equality to diversity.

Social Studies Picture Books for Preschoolers

Picture books are one of the best places to find social studies lessons kids can relate to.

  • Classic picture book series like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George use the unique instance of an unusual animal trying to live with people to teach lessons about community, family, and manners.
  • Children's publisher Lee & Low Books features 30 different collections of social studies books appropriate for kids in Pre-K to Grade 2. Most of their collections pertain to specific cultures like their Mexico Cultures Collection or the Hmong Culture Collection so kids can explore different cultures through picture books.
  • Richard Scarry's books like Cars and Trucks and Things That Go show silly images of things you might see or that might go wrong in a busy town. Kids will love the wacky illustrations, but the books also show the importance of things like following traffic signs as the cast of crazy animals travel across the fictional world.

Making Social Studies for Preschoolers Fun

As preschoolers grow and learn about the world around them, their preschool social studies lessons and experiences help to form a solid base for future learning. Coming up with ways to make social studies lessons for preschool fun and interesting can help children be excited and engaged in what they are learning.

Preschool Social Studies Activities and Resources