37 Ways to Stay Sane at Home with Your Preschooler. You’ll Love #11, an old-school favorite!

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I’ve come to the conclusion lately that I’m just not cut out to be a preschool teacher. It requires so much energy! So much engagement! So much creativity!

Somehow I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

However, for this stage in my life, I have a preschool-aged child who loves any kind of activity I come up with, and the delight in her eyes motivates me to keep finding ideas.

I ascribe wholeheartedly to the notion that children learn in the school of life, meaning that most kids don’t need preschool to teach them anything. Learning activities do have multiple benefits, though, and I value these:

  • Keeping me away from my computer or phone (I mean, let’s be honest here…)
  • Entertaining the preschooler without screen time
  • Teaching basic life skills, like how to wash a dish, water a plant, hold a crayon, use scissors, measure a cup of flour, and so on (this is a very Montessori approach, in addition to being, like, true)
  • Instilling an appreciation for music, art, books, and nature
  • Training up a child in the way she should go (Proverbs 22:6)

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So what does “homeschool preschool” look like for us?  in my 2014 goals, I pledged to use my 17-month-old’s morning nap time as my school time with my three-year-old. So most weekdays from 9 to 11am, Lena and I do one or several small activities together.

Most activities don’t last more than 15 minutes at at time, and some last five, and some are duds. I’m developing a repertoire of ideas, though, as well as a small stash of craft supplies. That way it’s easy to rotate toys, games, books, and arts & crafts throughout the week, adding a new activity every week or so.

I’ve especially enjoyed these resources (and want to give them credit before I go any farther!):

A lot of these wonderful blogs have Facebook pages, and I “liked” them in order to get photos and inspiration for crafty activities in my newsfeed. It’s an easy way to keep the creative juices flowing.

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Here are most of the activities and games we rotate during the week:

Arts and Crafts

1.  Coloring together: we like this giant Bible story coloring book and these markers and high-quality crayons

2.  Stickers on coloring pages/construction paper

3.  Glitter glue on construction paper

4.  Painting: watercolors, finger paints, washable paints

5.  Making necklaces by painting penne pasta and stringing it onto yarn/elastic cord

6.  Paper chains: great for working with scissors, tape, and patterns

7.  Creating artwork of some kind to send to family or friends, even something as simple as painting watercolors inside store-bought “thank you” cards to personalize them

8.  Blowing homemade bubbles (lots of easy recipes here!)

9.  Scrubbing coins in a vinegar/water solution to make them shiny

10.  Pom-poms stuck onto glue that spells out her name

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In the Kitchen

11.  Play dough: we’re old-fashioned around here and don’t buy Play-Doh. Lena and I make ours from scratch with this simple recipe. You’ve got everything you need in your kitchen, it takes 10 minutes, and it’s so rewarding to see your own play dough come together!

12.  Baking together, especially these cookies “because Daddy loves them”

13.  Making pretend meals in her play kitchen

14.  Tea parties with her wonderful tea set

15.  Washing the tea party dishes in a big mixing bowl with a small piece of sponge

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Interactive Toys & Games

16.  Block towers: we love our Father Goose blocks for babies, our colorful wooden ones for general play, and KAPLA blocks for more advanced structures

17.  Playing “doctor” with her baby doll and doctor kit

18.  A wooden game to teach weight and balance

19.  Sewing on children’s sewing cards

20.  Invisible ink coloring book

21.  Jumbo puzzles, especially this one

22.  Wooden farm set (although I wish we’d gotten the circus set because it’s so unique!)

23.  Spelling and reading with wooden fridge magnets or letter stickers

24.  Yikerz, a game of magnets that’s ridiculously fun for adults too!

25.  See & Spell wooden puzzle

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Personal Care

26.  Cutting her nails and watching a YouTube video, usually one about trains or animals

27.  Using the contents of my toiletry bag (lotion, lip chap, toothbrush, etc.) on me, and then me on her

28.  Doing her hair and telling her a story

29.  For a very special treat, painting her toenails

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The Grab Bag

30.  Reading together: she usually chooses a stack of books right after I put Gil down for his nap, and then we read those before starting other activities

31.  Reading practice, mostly with these beginning reader books

32.  Cleaning: she will clean windows/dust surfaces with a vinegar-and-water spray bottle and paper towel while I do heavier cleaning

33.  Listening to music: we’ve had this folksy children’s CD on repeat lately

34.  Tossing homemade bean bags into a basket

35.  Imagination games: “Simon Says” or “Red Light/Green Light” or “Follow the Leader” or “Hotter/Colder”

36.  Playing “school” by singing our ABCs, counting to 20, jumping jacks, etc.

37.  Watering our plants with a watering can

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Of course, in all honesty, there are many days when “Mama’s got to work” and so cleaning, laundry, making phone calls, or something else comes before these learning activities. I think this alone time — ie. “getting bored” — is equally valuable for her because she learns to use her imagination, play by herself, and do many of these same activities on her own.

The photo below is one of my recent favorites of Lena amusing herself: waiting for her daddy to come home from a week long trip. As soon as I announced he had landed at the airport, she went outside and waited quietly for 45 minutes until he came up the driveway and into her arms.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list, and so I’d love to hear any ideas you have in the comments! Did you do many of these activities as a child? What are some favorite preschool learning activities in your house?

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19 Responses to 37 Ways to Stay Sane at Home with Your Preschooler. You’ll Love #11, an old-school favorite!

  1. Poppy June 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    A faithful mom, carefully nurturing those treasures of love given to her and passing them on to the next generation. Wonderful.

    • Becca June 23, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      Thank you to the best father in the world!

  2. Meredith June 23, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    I love all these ideas! We do many of these things already, but I think I might plan to do everything on your list this summer in a more deliberate way–just for the fun of it! For me, it’s always the matter of planning and preparing for an activity that becomes the stumbling block. Because if it takes me too long to lay out the supplies my toddlers are off and running with something else, and likely making mess, pulling out the laptop, or annoying each other. I especially love the arts and crafts ideas. I bought glitter at Valentine’s Day but haven’t been brave enough to let them use it yet. Ha! Glitter glue would be a smarter move. :)

    • Becca June 23, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

      The glitter glue has definitely been a hit. ;) And maybe it would give you more structure with Roscoe being so little, too! Do you think you have more ideas because of your Montessori preschool influence? I feel like that would be a gift!

  3. Marmee June 24, 2014 at 2:33 am #

    YOU. are. amazing!

    • Becca June 24, 2014 at 8:21 am #

      I am inspired by the best!

  4. Katie | The Surly Housewife June 24, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    Great list and what a great mama!! Do you plan to homeschool the kids once you get back to the states? If you have said before, I must have missed it ;) I love the idea of using your toiletry bag. My kids would love that!! I also totally support the idea of kids getting bored so they use their imaginations. Works wonders for my kids.

    • Becca June 24, 2014 at 8:24 am #

      Katie, good question! Elliott and I were both homeschooled for some part of our K-12 education, so we have a soft spot for homeschooling, but we also loved our public school experiences. In the end, we’ve just decided to evaluate every year and every place we move and make the best decision we can as our children, homes, and circumstances change.

      Selfishly, I would love to do 5th Grade Science and read those 7th Grade books (Johnny Tremain!) again and share those joys with my children, but that isn’t the best reason to homeschool, I guess. ;)

      • Diane June 24, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

        Ah! Homeschooling… We just started up our summer schedule yesterday. It’s been eight years since we started and I remember saying that we will take it one year at a time and see how it goes. Now, four kids later we are still learning, exploring, and being challenged together in our daily learning. Homeschooling is so much more then academic books – it’s life lessons and teachable moments that my kids would never get in “school”. I love being the one who spends the most time with them and I love that they know they can talk to me and my husband about everything. I almost think I am learning more than they are. Not only do I get a second academic education but I also get insights into who I am – some good and some not so good! So all this to say, I think I have the best job in the whole world, imparting into and shaping the next generation. It’s not easy but it’s simple… Here is a great quote “If you don’t know what to do, do what is in front of you, and you will know what to do”. Try it!

      • Katie | The Surly Housewife June 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

        That sounds like an great plan! Every place you will be will be a little different. I know California’s homeschool laws are a little complicated but what better place to learn than sunny Cali! 5th grade was my favorite too. Like you, I’m not cut out to be a preK teacher. I can’t wait for my kids to get a little older. But for now I will take the Impromptu fashion shows and endless Lego sessions :)

  5. Anne June 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Wonderful ideas. I always love a spritz of shaving cream in a gallon size Baggie. Zip it closed. Spread the cream out. Kids love writing letters or words on it.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

      Wow, so easy, and I have both those things (shaving cream, baggies) in my almost-packed up house right now. Thank you for the idea!

  6. Alise G June 29, 2014 at 5:17 am #

    I don’t think I can thank you enough for posting this list! :) I am looking forward to my own daughters getting old enough to be involved in these activities with equal parts excitement and trepidation. haha And I adore that picture of Lena and her painted hands, what a sweet moment!

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

      You’re so welcome! It’s still a work in progress around here, and I won’t deny that I often feel trepidation myself. :P

  7. Andrea @ TLWH July 2, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    There are so many fantastic ideas here! I’ve been struggling so much with staying at home with my two year old lately. The days seem so long and I really struggle to find things for her to do, but if I’m being honest it’s mostly due to my lack of planning. I’ve been trying to get my act together though and plan some things for her to do at least three days out of the week. This list will be really helpful!

    Are you planning on homeschooling past preschool?

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

      Good question! We’re not sure about homeschooling yet. Elliott and I were both homeschooled for some (or all, in my case) of K-12, but we loved our public school experiences too (for me, just university). We’ve decided to evaluate each year based on where we live, what our options are, and what are kids’ needs are, and just make the best decisions we can for our family. Should be fun!

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