I hear this question quite a bit from homeschool moms and others. Even Moms who are planning on sending their little ones to school some day, are still wondering what they can do to prepare their children for kindergarten. It is a fact that small children do learn from play, but the “play” that you allow them to do can vary. Some parents opt for “free play” in which their children just play with whichever of their toys they desire. Some parents are looking for something a little more structured. What I propose is a mixture between these two extremes.
The first thing you need to do to “homeschool” your preschooler is to gather some items that you can use to store all of the materials you want to use with your child. I suggest several small plastic totes, with snap-on lids be your first purchase. The clear ones are the best, as you can easily see which totes hold which items. Then, start gathering some materials to use.
Here is a list of items you may want to gather (PS: Most are low cost or free!!!) to Homeschool your preschooler:
- Coloring Books (or free coloring sheets from the Internet)
- Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils, Watercolor Paints, and Paintbrushes
- Scissors Glue or Glue Sticks
- Yarn or shoelaces
- A Variety of Beads (plastic or foam) or Macaroni
- Flash Cards (store bought or home-made – letters of the alphabet, numbers 0-10, colors, shapes, names of family members and pets – make sure there are pictures on them if possible)
- Paper (Copy paper, Construction Paper, blank newspaper print, etc…)
- Things to count (beads, beans, unifix cubes, buttons, blocks, etc…)
- Stapler and staples Gardening materials (seeds, soil, and cups)
- Lots of books to read together
- Materials for making musical instruments (beads, bells, elastic, bathroom tissue cardboard rolls, wax paper, rubber bands, paper plates, etc…)
Okay, so now you have all your materials gathered and sorted into the plastic containers. Now, here is what you do next.
Put the boxes somewhere where your child can see them, but cannot get into them all on her own. When she sees them, she is probably going to be REALLY interested. So, take a box down and sit down with your preschooler. Let your child choose something out of the box (this is where the “free play” comes in). Rather than saying, “we are going to color” or “we are going to lace beads today,” which is often not effective with a preschooler, you let the child choose the activity and then you guide him or her.
For example, if your child chooses the shoelace and wants to play with it, let him explore it first. He may want to tie it in a knot, or wrap it around his finger – let him do it for a minute or so. Then, pull out the beads and say, “I wonder what we could do with that shoelace and these beads.” Then let your child explore the beads for a little while. If he figures out how to lace them onto the shoelace, wonderful!!! But, if not, then you take your own shoelace from the box and start beading one. If he is interested in it, let him go to town (well for as long as his attention span allows him to). Then, when he is done doing that, help him put those things away and see what he would like to do next. Let your preschooler take the lead on this and you will learn what he likes and does not like, what he can do and cannot do.
By doing these things with your children, you are getting to know them as thinkers and learners, rather than just kids. Then, you may think of some other things that you might want to do with your child, so add them to the box and allow him to “discover” all the fun things mommy has in her boxes. It will be lots of fun for both of you and you both will enjoy the time together!
To help you get started, here are some additional ideas of activities that you can do with your boxes of supplies and your preschooler. This list is by no means complete. It is meant just to get you and your child started on having fun learning together. As I mentioned earlier, if an idea hits you or you see something online that looks like fun to do with your preschooler, add it to the box. Soon, you both will be having a blast!!!! So, now it is time to get started, gather those materials, surprise your little one with them, and have a great time together. Before you know it, your child will be surprising you with all the new things he or she has learned. Have fun!!! I know you will, because learning is fun – and the best part is teaching your child all these new things, while he doesn’t even know he is learning. Learn to play with your child and play to learn!
Starter ideas for homeschooling your preschooler:
|Coloring: Coloring is great for practicing color identification and honing fine motor skills.|
|Tracing: Draw straight, squiggly and zigzag lines on a piece of paper and have your youngster trace them. It helps to develop those motor skills necessary for handwriting.|
|Cutting: Take the tracing paper from above and have them cut out their lines. This is great practice.|
|Bead or Macaroni Lacing: Lacing activities are fun and help with fine motor muscle development. You can use foam beads, hard beads, colored macaroni, buttons, etc… and a shoelace or piece or yarn (with covered ends) for this. Children can practice patterning as well.|
|Flash Cards: There are tons of flash card sets out there, many of which can be found at dollar stores (or, you can make them at home). Even if small children cannot use them as directed on the package, they are useful for picture identification or matching games.|
|Rainbow Writing: Choose a letter to work with for the day. Write the letter on a piece of paper and have them trace the letter several times, using a different color each time. This is extra fun when they practice writing their names. This is great for older children to practice new spelling words, too! You can even add pictures of things that begin with that letter each day for extra cutting and gluing practice.|
|Letter Identification: Choose a letter of the day. After you name things that begin with that letter, teach your child the sound (or sounds) the letter makes. Then, use a newspaper or sales flyer and have your child circle the letter of the day every time they see it.|
|1-1 Correspondence, Sorting, & Graphing: Use plastic chips, beans, jelly beans, gummy bears, or whatever you can find. Lay them out on the table, napkin, or placemat. Start with small numbers, less than 10 and work your way up. Have your child count the items, then sort them. After sorting, have your child tell you how each group is the same. Then, count them again. After sorting, you could even glue them on a piece of paper and make a picture graph. When they are ready, you could teach them addition and subtraction in this way as well.|
|Letter Books: Letter books are easy and fun to make! Just choose one letter and inside the book have pictures with the words that go with them related to the letter. (For example: On the cover, write the letter Aa; on the next page, write Aa is for apple and have a picture of an apple – make as many or as few pages as you like for each letter). When small kids read these books, they feel like they are reading for real. A real self-esteem booster!|
|Gardening: Planting seeds and watching them grow and change is a great way to introduce little ones to Science. They love helping. Plus, while they are helping, they are learning what plants need to grow!|
|Mazes: Some small children love these! By completing mazes, they are actually learning the skills they need to eventually start writing their letters and numbers. Plus it helps them understand beginning and end and problem solve when they get to a line they cannot cross. Fun and educational!!!|
|Reading: Little ones love being read to. Take time to snuggle and read to your child every day if you can. Also, older children may like to read to their younger siblings, too. Good practice for the older ones, while the little ones are watching, listening and learning from the example of the older child.|
|Rhythm: Make small instruments, like: an elastic circle with bells tied to it, bathroom tissue paper tubes with macaroni sealed inside, paper plate tambourines. Then, play some fun kids’ music and let your kids practice playing their instruments and dancing to the beat. This is fun for older children as well as younger ones.|
Copyright © Alicia Tucker, Moms of Faith, All Rights Reserved
About the Author: Alicia Tucker is a prayer warrior for Moms of Faith forums and a columnist for Moms of Faith as well. She is also a home school mom of 3 children, after having worked in public schools in NJ and SC for over 10 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Sociology, as well as a Master’s degree in Education with a specialization in Curriculum and Technology.