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)
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!):
- My mom, who taught me from birth to 12th Grade. I can hear voice in my head as I do the same things with Lena that she did with me 25 years ago.
- This fabulous, ingenious, inexpensive little book: The Preschooler’s Busy Book (which, incidentally, was a gift from my mom)
- How We Montessori
- Steady Mom
- Toddler Approved
- No Time for Flash Cards
- Play at Home Mom
- In Lieu of Preschool
- Creative with Kids
- Teach Preschool
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.
Here are most of the activities and games we rotate during the week:
Arts and Crafts
2. Stickers on coloring pages/construction paper
3. Glitter glue on construction paper
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
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
Interactive Toys & Games
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
24. Yikerz, a game of magnets that’s ridiculously fun for adults too!
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
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
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.
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?