The Ultimate Guide to Hands-On Lesson Planning

Like most preschoolers, my son is a hands-on learner. He does not like to sit with paper and pencil to learn. He needs to be active and using his hands and/or body in different ways. Many older kids are hands-on learners too! They learn quicker by doing rather than listening, reading or writing. If this sounds like one of your kids, you may want to include more hands-on activities in your lesson plans. This is the Ultimate Guide to Hands-On Lesson Planning which includes a free printable hands-on lesson planner to help you plan hands-on activities for kids!

The Ultimate Guide to Hands-On Lesson Planning for classroom teachers and homeschooling parents! Includes FREE printable hands-on lesson planner! This post may contain affiliate links. 

When planning hands-on lessons for my son I like to think of all the different hand-on learning categories and then fill in various activities within a theme that he might like to do. What are those categories you ask? Keep reading to find out!

Hands-On Learning Categories

To make sure that I am planning lessons and activities that cover all the basics, I’ve created a two-page planner that is broken down into the following categories to help me plan well-rounded lessons. This planner is available for free download at the end of this post. You can print off as many pages as you need or you can use it like I do! Since I really like to follow my son’s interests, I do not plan too far in advance, so I like to laminate my planning pages and use wet-erase markers to plan our activities. That way I am able to reuse the pages. 


Fine Art & Crafts

Including art and crafts in your lesson plans is probably the easiest way to make learning hands-on. A simple search of your topic on Pinterest for crafts will likely give you some ideas. If not, you can always bring out some paint, crayons or other art medium and ask your children to create a picture of what they are learning. Don’t forget to change-up your hands-on lesson plans to include different art techniques from week to week. Other simple fine art and craft techniques include collage, music, drama, pottery, and sculpture.

Below are some ideas organized by subject to help you get started:

HistoryAncient Egyptian Collars with Paper Plates,  Make a Dream Catcher, Historical Silhouette 

MathFibonacci Art Project, Compass Painting

Science–  Chromatography Butterfly Craft, Pendulum Painting, Life Size Body Map


Sensory Activities

Sensory activities are a wonderful way to really dig into a topic, literally. 😉 Oftentimes, I’ll make a sensory bin for Caden to play with and explore a subject on his own. The Insect Sensory Bin that I made a couple of years ago was the perfect way for Caden to playfully learn about different insects! It was engaging to both his tactile and visual senses. And although I usually think of sensory bins when planning sensory activities, play dough and baking are also sensory activities that are packed with learning experiences. 

Here are some sensory activity ideas for the major subjects:

HistoryPanning for Gold, Egyptian Bread Recipe, Westward Expansion Sensory Bin

MathAddition with Play Dough, Kinetic Sand Math, Ladybug Math Game

ScienceMagnetic Discovery Bottle, Water Sensory Science Experiment, What is Blood Made of? Sensory Bin



Store-bought and homemade games are always a fun way for kids to learn! They often involve some reading and strategy, which is great for developing minds! Games can also be played with siblings or friends which adds a social aspect which can be lots of fun too! Online computer games and apps are great for single players! Below are some store-bought and homemade game suggestions for core subjects:

Social Studies- Free Printable History Board Games, Guess Who? President’s Edition, store-bought History and Geography Board Games, History and Geography Apps for Kids

MathMath Board Games, Free Online Math Games and Apps, Tools for Making Math Games

Language ArtsKids Reading Games, Word Dominoes, Spelling Apps for Kids, Jumbo Bananagrams, Boggle


Gross Motor/Movement

Moving while learning helps a lot of kids commit lessons to memory! So why not try to work with the wiggles and allow your kids the freedom to move around while studying! Even better, set up gross motor and movement learning activities! Here are several activities that I’ve found focusing on the core subjects to get you started!

Social StudiesBuild a Flag Relay Race 

MathLife Size Coordinate Graphing, Color and Shape River

Language ArtsOutdoor Alphabet Track, Sight Word Cup Crash

ScienceGross Motor Moon Phases, Rocket Hopscotch: Learning about Planets


The Ultimate Guide to Hands-On Lesson Planning

Fine Motor

Fine motor activities are important for developing hand coordination and strength, a prerequisite for handwriting. If your young children can’t or won’t pick up a pencil, try working some fine motor activities into their lessons. Some fun supplies to have on hand for working on fine motor skills is play dough, toothpicks, and tweezers. I’ve also co-authored a book filled with fun fine motor activities for young children ages one to five called 99 Fine Motor Ideas.

Here are some inspiring ideas for including fine motor activities in your main lessons:

Social Studies Excavating Ancient Egyptian Treasures, Pegboard Practice States & Capitals, Playdough Battleground

MathFine Motor Math Tray, LEGO Fraction Games, Geoboard Activity Pack

ScienceMarshmallow Constellations, DIY Wind Car, Animal Habitat Sort


Tinker & Experiment

This category is for STEM activities, specifically building (engineering) and science experiments. These are wonderful opportunities for kids to learn through trial and error. This type of learning can’t really be learned without a hands-on approach. Below are some awesome ideas to get you started tinkering and experimenting with your kids!

HistoryAncient Egypt Activities, The Great Wall of China Activity, Catapult Project

ScienceHow to Make a Lemon Battery, Homemade Thermometer, Edible Rock Cycle for Kids



Manipulatives are most commonly used for teaching math in a hands-on way, but have you ever thought to use manipulatives to teach reading and writing?  There are many products and supplies that can be used as manipulatives for teaching language arts. Check out the ideas below for inspirations!

Math Clothespin Easy Addition, LEGO Math Activities,  Pipe Cleaners and Beads Math Activities

Language ArtsSpelling Stones, Scrabble Spelling, Magnetic Alphabet Build-a-Word, Magnetic Poetry Kit



This category is for field trips and nature walks. These types of hands-on activities are important because it gives kids the opportunity to learn from experts and experience a new place as well as explore and observe the nature around them. Below are some ideas to get you started organized by core subject.

Social StudiesLearning Map Skills on Vacation, Virtual Field Trips Around the World, Frontiersmen & Nature Tracking

ScienceField Trip: How Maple Syrup is Made, Zoo Field Trip Animal Reports 

Math Learning at the Grocery Store, Go on a Shape Walk

Language ArtsLiterary Virtual Field Trips, How to Start a Nature Journal


Literature Activities

Activities inspired by books are such a fun way to learn about a topic! We loving doing book-inspired activities, crafts and sensory bins here! It’s one of the main ways my son enjoys listening to stories and is a great way to help develop a love of reading in your children! You can take almost any book, fiction and non-fiction and create a memorable activity from it! Check out our landing page of book-inspired activities for some awesome ideas!  Plus more great ideas for specific subjects below:

Social StudiesLittle House Homeschooling, How to Teach Geography with Books

ScienceTinkering Station for Young Engineers, Science Activities based on Children’s Books

MathTen Black Dots Math Activities, Pete the Cat Button Math Activities, Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi Activity


FREE Printable Hands-On Lesson Planner

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9 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Hands-On Lesson Planning”

  1. Hi Samantha,

    Thank you for listing my 13 Free History Board games in your roundup.

    Love your Ultimate List. Great info and will be pinning and sharing!!

    Thanks for hosting this link up too!!

  2. Anne says:

    Awesome post! Definitely storing this as a tool for when I’m in need of ideas. Thanks for sharing my Kinetic Sand Math, too.

    1. Samantha says:

      Thank you Anne! And you’re welcome! 🙂

  3. Hi Samantha!
    Happy to find your blog! So many useful articles.
    We are linking for the first time our Science leaving activity.

    Thank you for hosting 🙂

    1. Samantha says:

      Great! Happy to have you joining us this month! 🙂

  4. TwoPlusCute says:

    I did not add to the link up but saved it in my favorites. It will be so very useful for me and my daughter.

    1. Samantha says:

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Samantha! This is a great resource for lesson planning! Pinning for summer. 🙂 Thanks for linking up with the Laugh and Learn linky!

    1. Samantha says:

      Thanks so much Selena!

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