Discover fun games, crafts, and printables for three- and four-year-olds to celebrate Columbus Day activities. Provide students with the basics of the holiday or use the activities provided as a starting point for lessons.
Activities that are themed help kids learn the facts in an engaging and challenging way. Please click the worksheet image you want to download, then select the download icon. Once the printable is on your computer, save it for future use or print it.
Columbus Day Ship Search
Christopher Columbus set sail with three ships named the Ni*a, Pinta, and Santa Maria on his maiden voyage to find a faster route to Asia. Preschoolers must identify each ship among three impostors in this worksheet.
Columbus Day ship search activity
Introduce children to the concepts of maps, geography and problem-solving with this challenging maze.
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.
- 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:
- Hide all items around the room before children enter.
- Place the box on a table and gather all children around the table.
- 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.
- The teacher calls out one object and the amount needed of that item. For example, she will start by saying “We need one telescope.”
- 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.
- The group wins the game when they find all supplies and place them in the box.
Adapt the activity to an individual competition by giving each child a box and hiding multiples of each item around the room. To eliminate one student finding all the items, each student must guard the ‘ship’ on one round.
When Christopher Columbus reached land, he thought it was Asia. Kids learn about the importance of directions in this fun game.
- A large space with places to hide
- Choose one child to be the explorer. Have that child close his eyes and turn his back.
- Silently, choose one child to be the ‘target.’
- 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.”
- The explorer makes guesses on who the target is by asking “Did I find the right way?”
- After each guess, call out a new clue.
- When the explorer finds the target, the activity is over. Choose a new explorer and play again.
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.
- 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:
- 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.
- Walk to your next stopping point. Stop and allow each child time to draw a shape or picture to represent the new location.
- Once the landmark is drawn, children connect the two landmarks by drawing a line from the first shape to the second.
- 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.
- A water table or large, waterproof tub
- 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:
- 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.
- Each child chooses two different boat bottom materials, one they believe will sink and one they believe will float.
- Supply each child with two toothpicks and up to eight glue dots.
- After choosing two pre-cut square sails, kids thread the toothpick through both holes to make a standing sail.
- 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.
- 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.
Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present the following teaching tips.
Do you have any activities lined up for Columbus Day? Here are a few fun games and activities that will keep your students engaged in learning about this historic date.
- Book of Privileges
Have your students create a class or individual “Book of Privileges.” Columbus’ Book of Privileges outlined the rewards and privileges he received from Isabel and Fernando of Spain as a result of his exploration. Students can capture what they have accomplished so far this school year and the rewards or privileges they have received as a result.
- Scavenger Hunt
Columbus and his crew needed a lot of supplies to be able to survive the journey to the Americas. Make a list of necessities that students would need on a long boat trip and hide them around the classroom. The student or group who finds the most objects wins!
- Discover It Game
This game allows students to become a famous explorer for a day. Students create their own “puzzle board” using black and colored felt, cardboard, scissors and markers, then ask other students to put their puzzle together.
This activity would be ideal for grades 6-12. Divide the class into two groups: one team would represent Columbus and his crew of 90 men and the other would represent the scientists who believed that making the trip would be fatal to the explorers. Both teams will debate points to create a discussion about the earth, its shape, and the threat to Native American people already settled.
- Columbus Log Book
Columbus kept many records of his voyages. Have students write a log book or diary of what Columbus might have seen or experienced on his journey. Encourage students to be creative!
- Should I Stay or Should I Go?
This activity from BrainPOPJR lets students imagine that they are sailors in 1492. They are asked to accompany Columbus on his first journey to Asia. Would they go on this dangerous and exciting journey? Why or why not?
Discover some new Columbus Day activities for kids as you read this article. As the saying goes, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in the year 1492. He made it to the New World with his ships the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
Columbus Day has been celebrated in the United States for over two centuries. President Benjamin Harrison dedicated October 12 as Columbus Day to commerate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas.
Celebrate Columbus Day with the following games and crafts.
See who’s the better explorer when you race boats, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, to the New World.
Give the gift of the world to the explorer in your life.
Be Christopher Columbus for a day and test your skills of observation and discovery.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus left Spain, racing to find the New World. See how fast you can get there when you play the game in the next section.