10 Hot and Fun Desert Activities for Preschoolers

| Last Updated: January 31, 2023

Preschoolers can learn a lot from deserts. It teaches them about different animals, like spiders, snakes, and camels; and plants, such as cactus and elephant trees. Topics on deserts also help the little ones understand the weather and how water is important to all living things. 

Teaching preschoolers about deserts can be fun and exciting with the right activities. Desert-themed activities keep children on their toes and ensure the class stays engaged!

Great Desert Activities for Preschoolers

Vocabulary | Communication Skills | Concentration

1. Reading Books About the Desert

Photo credit: booktomato.net

Before giving the class desert-themed activities, introduce what deserts are by reading books focusing on this topic. This is the best way to start your desert-themed lesson plan. 

You can find a variety of books about the desert today, but we highly recommend the following:

Keep your read-aloud sessions as interactive as possible. Involve the children in the story by asking them open-ended questions, letting them identify new words, or encouraging them to clap their hands when they hear a rhyme. 

For other books about deserts, visit booktomato.net.

Sensory Development | Fine Motor Skills | Problem-Solving

2. Desert Sensory Bin

Photo credit: teachingmama.org

After reading books about deserts, discuss a few facts about the desert, like how it lacks water and the common animals and plants found in deserts. Guide them on making this sensory bin, so they can explore what a desert looks like. 

Place the blue tape on the floor of the bin (to represent water) and let the children cover it with sand. Place different desert animal figures, miniature cacti, and rocks inside the bin. 

Once everything is set up, show the class where they can look for water. Encourage them to look under the rocks and cacti and dig until they find the blue tape. You can add other activities, like naming common desert animals and plants. 


  • Blue tape
  • Desert animal figurines
  • Rocks
  • Sand

You can learn more about this activity by visiting teachingmama.org.

Pre-Writing Skills | Identify Letters | Sensory Development

3. Desert Sand Writing Tray

Photo credit: funlearningforkids.com

You don’t need to monitor the class or give tons of instructions with this activity. This requires less preparation but allows the children to have a lot of fun!

To make the writing tray, pour sand into the tray. Make sure the tray has a thin layer of sand, so the children can easily write on it. Next, print the alphabet cards onto cardstock and cut them. Make a cactus on one end of green pipe cleaners and let the children use the other end to write.  

Instruct the class to practice writing letters in the sand or drawing different things. You can also let them use their fingers to write or draw. 


  • Cactus-themed alphabet cards 
  • Sand 
  • Tray 
  • Unsharpened pencil or make a cactus from green pipe cleaners 

Find other sand-themed activities for preschoolers on funlearningforkids.com.

Fine Motor Skills | Spatial Perception | Problem-Solving

4. Preschool Desert-Theme Cubed Pyramid

This fun STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activity teaches children about deserts and everything that goes along with them, like The Great Pyramid. 

Set up the cubed pyramid STEAM station by pouring sand into the bottom of a tray or box lid. Provide wooden cubes and encourage the class to create different pyramid designs. 

Keep the activity interactive by asking questions like:

  • What’s inside the pyramid?
  • What shape is the pyramid?
  • Who do you think built the pyramids? 


  • Sand
  • Tray or box lid
  • Wooden cubes

Visit thekeeperofthememories.com for other insights and inspiration on your next class activity!

Problem-Solving | Patience | Fine Motor Skills

5. Cactus Sculpture

Help children learn more about cacti with this fun and unique activity! This one also encourages the little ones to think out of the box and learn about 3D art. 

Provide cornstarch noodles, paper souffle cups, and toothpicks, and instruct the class to make their own cactus sculptures. Some cacti varieties bloom, so encourage the children to use colored tissue paper to add flowers to their sculptures. 

You can also provide photos of cacti for the class as a reference. Once done, display the artwork in the classroom or have the children bring their creations home! 


  • Colored tissue paper
  • Cornstarch noodles
  • Hot glue
  • Paper souffle cups
  • Toothpicks

Check out thingstoshareandremember.com to learn other cactus-themed activities ideal for preschoolers. 

Problem-Solving | Thinking Skills | Cognitive Development

6. Desert vs. Non-desert Animal Sort

Photo credit: stayathomeeducator.com

This easy-to-prepare activity supplements animal and desert-themed lessons. You can also turn this into a contest — the child who can sort the most animals correctly wins a prize. 

Print cards showing desert and non-desert animals onto cardstock. Write labels on a whiteboard (desert and non-desert) and let the class take turns sorting which animals belong to the desert and which ones do not. 

During the sort, discuss the unique characteristics of each animal and ask the children how they determined where the animals live. Keep them engaged by asking if they’ve already seen these animals in person.


  • Cardstock
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Pictures of desert and non-desert animals

Get more tips and tricks for this activity on stayathomeeducator.com.

Sensory Development | Fine Motor Skills | Creative Play

7. DIY Sand Foam

Photo credit: pagingfunmums.com

Introduce this activity to the class and guide the children in making sand foam using only two ingredients. This sand foam will keep the class busy as they can play with it in different ways. 

To make the sand foam, pour sand into a tub and pour in some shaving foam. Have the children mix as you go until you’re happy with the texture of the foam. 

Next, divide the foam and have the children have fun with it. They can add some plastic dinosaurs for imaginary play, recreate a beach by adding shells, or make a 4WD track. Or just have them slop the foam all over the tub. 


  • Container (best to use clear storage boxes for sensory play)
  • Sand
  • Shaving foam

To learn more about this activity, visit pagingfunmums.com

Fine Motor Skills | Creativity | Hand-Eye Coordination

8. Bubble Wrap Cactus Craft

Photo credit: Messymommacrafts.com

The class will love learning about cacti when you teach them this activity. This preschool-friendly craft is easy to make and uses affordable materials!

Begin by adding a few drops of paint on the bubble wrap and have the children spread the paint using a paintbrush. Instruct them to place the bubble wrap onto a white paper plate and let them press down the bubble wrap. The paper plate should have imprints of the bubbles after.

Guide the children in cutting cacti shapes from the paper plate and have them add the shapes to the bottom of a small terra cotta pot. Show them how to add crinkled tissue paper to the cacti as if they were flowers. 


  • Bubble wrap
  • Glue dots or glue
  • Green, dark green, and yellow paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Paper plates
  • Red, pink tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Small terra cotta pots

Messymommacrafts.com presents a handful of cacti-inspired crafts, so make sure to visit their site today! 

Visual Perception | Gross Motor Control | Hand-Eye Coordination

9. Desert Night Painting

Photo credit: lesliejohnstone.com

This activity allows children to explore the desert night inside the classroom. It’s also a great way to tickle their imagination and creativity as they have to make their artwork. 

Print photos of deserts at night and let the class use them as inspiration. Discuss with the class what plants, animals, and colors are visible at night in the desert. 

Using crayons, star stickers, and watery black paint, instruct the class to paint how they think the desert looks like at night. Encourage them to draw animals, plants, and the night sky. Once done, let each child discuss what they drew. 


  • Cardstock (or other thick paper)
  • Crayons
  • Paintbrush
  • Photos of deserts at night
  • Star stickers
  • Watery black paint

You can find other desert night activities for preschoolers on lesliejohnstone.com.

Problem-Solving | Basic Math Skills | Hand-Eye Coordination

10. Desert Animal Board Game

Photo credit: lifeovercs.com

With this activity, learning about desert animals will become more fun for the children. It’s easy to enjoy, even for preschoolers who still don’t know how to follow a board game. 

Download the game board and print it on cardstock. Print two pages of cards on the white side of scrapbook papers, so they aren’t see-through. Cut out the cards and laminate them for durability.

To play, place all the cards upside-down on the “card draw pile” and have the children place their markers in the “start” space. Choose a player to go first and have them draw a card from the pile. The player will move his marker to the space that matches the number on the card.

If the player lands on a space with an arrow, they have to move to the next space. If they draw a “cactus” card, they will have to move to the closest cactus space. A player must draw a fennec fox card from the pile in order to win. 


  • Cardstock
  • Desert Animal Board Game Printable

Visit lifeovercs.com to access and download the printable. 


By introducing these activities to class, preschoolers will not only show interest in learning about deserts — they’ll eventually love deserts and everything that thrives on it. These activities also enhance many important skills, preparing the little ones for lifelong learning. 

Make it a habit to visit our site to learn other fun, themed activities for preschoolers!

Hi, I'm Amanda! Welcome to Education Outside! Im passionate about educating young minds and helping parents/teachers by providing easy and effective teaching resources. Check out all of my teaching resources on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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