Columbus Day Activities for Preschoolers

little learner

Celebrate Columbus Day with fun games, crafts and printables made for three- and four-year-olds. Start by explaining the basic facts of the holiday or use the provided activities as a launch point for lessons.

Free Worksheets

Themed activity pages help kids learn the facts in an engaging and challenging way. Click on the image of the worksheet you want, then choose the download icon. Once the printable is on your computer, save it for future use or print it. If you have problems opening, downloading, or saving the worksheets see this guide.

Columbus Day Ship Search

On his maiden voyage to find a faster route to Asia, Christopher Columbus set sail with three ships called the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. This worksheet challenges preschoolers to identify each ship among three impostors.

Columbis Day Ship Search
Columbus Day ship search activity

Voyage Maze

Introduce children to the concepts of maps, geography and problem-solving with this challenging maze.

Columbus Day Voyage Maze
Voyage maze

Classroom Games

Capture the active nature of preschoolers and the adventurous spirit of Christopher Columbus with exciting games.

Prepare for Voyage

This group game challenges your students to use their memory and observation skills to find items needed for an imaginary voyage across the sea.

You'll need:

girl in cardboard box
  • A large room with places to conceal objects
  • One telescope (or paper towel tube)
  • Two maps
  • Three directional compasses
  • Four small boxes of crackers
  • Five small bottles of water
  • A box big enough to hold all the items listed

To play the game:

  1. Hide all items around the room before children enter.
  2. Place the box on a table and gather all children around the table.
  3. Explain the rules of the game. Prepare for Voyage is a group game where you all will work together to find the supplies needed for a trip across the sea.
  4. The teacher calls out one object and the amount needed of that item. For example, she will start by saying "We need one telescope."
  5. All students walk around the room looking for only the item named by the teacher. If a student finds the correct object, he brings it to the table and places it in the box.
  6. The group wins the game when they find all supplies and place them in the box.

To eliminate the possibility of one student finding all the items, each child who finds an item sits out one round by guarding the 'ship.' Adapt the game to an individual competition by providing each child with his own box and hiding the right number of multiples around the room for each item.

Which Way?

When Christopher Columbus reached land, he thought it was Asia. Kids learn about the importance of directions in this fun game.

You'll need:

boys playing with box
  • A large space with places to hide

To Play:

  1. Choose one child to be the explorer. Have that child close his eyes and turn his back.
  2. Silently, choose one child to be the 'target.'
  3. Then, have the explorer turn around. Give one hint about who the target person is such as, "Find the right way by following the person in a blue shirt."
  4. The explorer makes guesses on who the target is by asking "Did I find the right way?"
  5. After each guess, call out a new clue.
  6. When the explorer finds the target, the activity is over. Choose a new explorer and play again.

Learning Activities

Noncompetitive activities are perfect for this age group as there won't be any hurt feelings.

Map the Route

Children learn about making maps and planning travel routes in this simple active craft.

You'll need:

hands holding map
  • A clipboard or hard, portable writing surface for each child
  • A blank piece of paper for each child
  • A crayon or colored pencil for each child
  • A preplanned walking route in your classroom, school, or town: Based on your specific group and regulations, plan a small walking route you can take together. Look for three to four places to stop, being sure to include a few landmarks like the library or a tree. This can be a specific route to different stations in your classroom or a short walk around the block.

Head out on your adventure:

  1. Choose a starting point for your journey. Each child draws a shape or picture to represent the starting place in a top corner of their paper while at the starting point.
  2. Walk to your next stopping point. Stop and allow each child time to draw a shape or picture to represent the new location.
  3. Once the landmark is drawn, children connect the two landmarks by drawing a line from the first shape to the second.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have reached your starting location.

For children unable to draw shapes or lines, use stickers to represent landmarks and bingo daubers to make the lines.

Sink or Float Boats

Combine crafts and science as you help children understand some of the challenges Columbus and his crew faced in choosing boats to sail across the ocean.

You'll need:

walnut ship
  • A water table or large, waterproof tub
  • Toothpicks
  • Glue dots (clay or wax work too)
  • Colored paper
  • Various boat bottom materials such as walnut shells, pool noodle slices, sponges, rocks, jar lids, bottle caps, poker chips and egg carton sections

To start the activity:

  1. Fill the water table or tub with enough water to float the boats. Cut colored paper into small square shapes slightly shorter than a toothpick with one small hole near the middle top and one small hole near the bottom center.
  2. Each child chooses two different boat bottom materials, one they believe will sink and one they believe will float.
  3. Supply each child with two toothpicks and up to eight glue dots.
  4. After choosing two pre-cut square sails, kids thread the toothpick through both holes to make a standing sail.
  5. Next, children attach the toothpick sail to their selected boat bottom. If it is a porous object like the pool noodle, they can simply stick it into the material. If it is nonporous, try stacking glue dots on the boat bottom material and stick the toothpick into the top of the glue dot stack. Clay or wax works in place of glue dots.
  6. Once all boats are complete, children try to float them in the water. Discuss which materials make the best boats.

The Joy of Discovery

Part of Christopher Columbus' legacy stems from his bravery, intuition and willingness to try something new. Help preschoolers hone these qualities with exciting activities related to voyage and discovery.

Columbus Day Activities for Preschoolers