The hands on a clock provide an effective speed contrast.

Preschoolers learn to compare and contrast various opposites, including fast and slow. Your preschooler loves to move, so what better way to reinforce the concept than with fast and slow activities that let him demonstrate his understanding. The activities also help you channel his abundant energy into an effective and enjoyable learning experience.


Music tempos vary and they can help children discern the difference between fast and slow. Your preschooler can move her hands or body to the beat of the music or use rhythm instruments to beat out the tempo. Invite some of her friends over and play musical chairs with the kids moving around the chairs in time with the music. Dance with your preschooler at speeds that vary from a fast tempo dance number to a slow waltz.


Your preschooler can exercise at variable speeds. In your backyard or at the park, call out the speed as he hops, crawls, walks, jogs or runs across the grass. He could dribble a basketball or throw a ball at different speeds. Ask him to demonstrate relative speeds such as slow and slower or fast and faster according to whatever his beginning speed was.


Your preschooler doesn’t always need to be the one moving. She can observe the world around her and determine whether an object is moving fast or slow. For example, when you are in the car with her, she can watch the scenery flow by and tell you whether you are driving fast or slow. She can contrast the movement of a clock’s second hand with the minute and hour hands. You can talk about processes that occur very slowly, such as plants growing, seasons changing or water freezing. She can contrast that with faster processes, such as ice melting on a hot day or a rainstorm.


Some animals such as sloths and snails move very slowly and other animals such as cheetahs and hummingbirds move very quickly. Read the story of the tortoise and the hare to your preschooler and ask which animal moved slowly and which moved quickly. You might talk about how the slow tortoise beat the hare. For another option, go to the zoo and watch the animals. Have your preschooler point out which animals can move very fast and which move slowly. Alternatively, he could watch video clips of various animals in their natural habitat and notice that animals often vary speed, depending on the purpose of the movement. He might think of activities where an animal moves as quickly as possible and other times when the animal moves slowly or not at all.