5 Benefits of Small Group Activities for Preschoolers

For preschoolers, small group activities allow them to develop new social and cognitive skills while interacting and working with their peers. They encourage cooperation, conversation, compromise, and problem-solving as young children work together to achieve a shared goal.

If you’re looking for inspiration on types of small group activities to try in your classroom or want to learn more about the benefits of cooperative learning, this guide will provide the answers you need.

What are small group activities?

Small group activities for preschoolers involve children being divided into smaller groups to work on specific skills. Unlike free play, small group learning should have a desired goal and encourage children to provide input and work collaboratively to complete their shared assignments.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommends pairing children into groups of two to four to offer better opportunities for deep learning. One suggestion to make small group learning as successful as possible is to meet with one small group at a time while the other children in your classroom engage in free-time activities. This way, you can ensure every group works together effectively and differentiate learning as needed for children in each group.

Benefits of small group activities in preschool

Small group activities offer several important benefits, both for children and educators.

1. Differentiated learning

Every child in your class will have different strengths, weaknesses, interests, and learning preferences. By working with small groups one at a time, educators can individualize teaching to meet each child’s unique needs and ensure lessons are as effective and engaging as possible.

2. Closer observation

In a classroom of a dozen or more children, it can be difficult for educators to pay close attention to every child during a lesson. By observing children in smaller groups, you can better understand each child’s development and behavior to identify social or academic areas where you can better support them.

3. More developmental growth

While large group lessons offer ways for preschoolers to develop cognitive skills and play-based lessons offer opportunities to practice social skills, small group lessons can provide an opportunity for both. Through small group learning, children can practice conversation and cooperation with their peers and their teacher to complete lessons.

4. Better support for children’s interests

While children can be grouped based on their learning levels, educators can also pair small groups based on their interests. For example, you can use small cars or trains to teach a lesson to one group while using puppets or art supplies with another group. This can keep children invested in lessons and help them enjoy learning even more.

5. Deeper conversations

Through small group learning, you can customize activities to encourage children to ask and answer questions for each other. Allowing children to lead their own conversations (based on a list of open-ended questions you provide) not only encourages them to think more deeply but also allows them to use their imaginations to come up with an appropriate answer.

Small group activities for preschoolers

There are a lot of small group activities you can incorporate in your classroom to help children learn important skills. The most important things to consider are the skills you want the lesson to focus on and how you group children together (whether based on learning levels or shared interests).

Below are a few examples of activities you can try for your small group lessons.


Games are a simple way to make learning fun and cooperative. Games like ‘Simon Says,’ ‘Bingo,’ or ‘I Spy” encourage children to communicate and listen to one another. They also encourage children to decipher and follow instructions based on the rules of the game. And with small groups, it’s easier to ensure everyone follows the rules correctly.

Shared reading

Shared reading is another activity that is enhanced through small group lessons. Not only can you group children by reading and comprehension levels, but small groups also allow you (or the children) to ask questions about the text and engage in deeper conversations about the story and its meaning.

Arts and crafts

Some lessons can get messy. Teaching arts and crafts (like finger painting, creating DIY puzzles, or creating mosaics) in small groups allows educators to oversee the activities better and provide closer help to children when needed.

Oral language and phonics lessons

Working with preschoolers on oral language development is much easier and more effective in small groups. From singing and rhyming to reading aloud or sharing stories, small group-based instruction allows educators to personalize learning to children more effectively to help them develop stronger speech and reading skills.

Small group play

Even in small groups, playtime can be beneficial for young children to develop strong social-emotional skills. It also allows educators to observe children’s interactions with each other to identify which children may need more practice with peer cooperation.

Large group activities for preschoolers

While small group lessons are a way to observe and differentiate learning, some educators don’t have the time or capacity to incorporate multiple small group activities into their lesson plans. However, large group activities can be equally effective in helping preschoolers socialize or learn important concepts.

From literacy-based activities to science experiments to games to arts and crafts, large group activities allow educators to save time and put more effort into single lessons that all children can participate in.

If you’re looking for a way to enhance your large group lessons and your curriculum as a whole, a tool like brightwheel’s lesson plan feature makes lesson planning and observation easier, allowing you to customize standards, create assessments by class or by child, and track learning progress with data-rich reports that you can easily share with families.


While there isn’t one “right way” to teach, small group activities provide preschoolers and educators with unique benefits that aren’t always possible through large group lessons. If you have the time and capacity to personalize your lessons, consider incorporating small groups into your curriculum to help make learning more engaging and effective for all children in your class.