Preschool is such a fun time! It’s a time when your kids still need you, but are starting to venture off on their own a bit more. It’s a time when you can do super fun activities without them thinking it’s “stupid” or “boring.” Making the decision to home preschool just makes it 10 times better because you get to experience it all with them.
Home preschool should be about having fun, discovering interests, and learning the basics in a fun way. With preschool at home, you can tailor to your child’s interests and abilities, so they get the most out of every learning opportunity.
Setting Up Your Home Preschool Area
Setting up your preschool area can be as simple as figuring out which type of activities will be done where. You can set up toys in the living room, messy play in the kitchen, and pretend play in the bedroom. This is how I set up my learning areas. We have toys and pretend play areas downstairs, messy play on the kitchen floor, and art at the table.
You could also have one room designated to preschool. If you do this, I would recommend setting up mini stations. Make sure you have areas designated for certain types of activities. It just helps keep things more organized for you and the kids.
Put out only a handful of toys at a time. I typically recommend putting out about 10 different toys and switch them out every 2 weeks. I take time to plan out which toys will be placed out based on our theme and skills to work on. The same goes for books. I place about 20 books out and switch them up every 2 weeks.
Books are all around our house. I have potty books in the bathroom, kids cook books in the kitchen, and baskets of books in our play areas. When setting up an invitation to play, lay out related books. Some times a kid will be interested in an activity because of the book that was set out with it.
Same goes with writing utensils. Keep pads of paper and pencils in every room of the house. Model using the pad of paper when building a tower by drawing it out first. In the kitchen, model how to write a grocery list. When your kids see you using these writing materials they gain more interest in using them. Preschool is a good time to start journaling. Drawing pictures is journaling and it leads into great conversations about their learning.
Planning Home Preschool
1. Pick a Topic
When you sit down to plan, you should be thinking about what your child is interested in as well as their abilities. You do not need a curriculum with a bunch of standards and expectations. I like to plan activities around themes or books. I typically go about 2-4 weeks on a theme depending on interest levels.
Related: Child-Led Learning: How to Stay Organized with a Wonder Journal
When choosing themes pick topics that your child will be interested in or has recently shown an interest in. If your child has no interest in transportation, then don’t plan it. There’s no use teaching something your child isn’t interested in. It will end in frustration, boredom, or both.
2. Plan Activities
When I begin to plan out activities I start with skills they are struggling with or need more practice in. Be sure to download my preschool skills checklist at the end of the post. Then I try to think of fun ways to practice the skill, but also relate it to the topic. Once I plan out all the major skills I want to hit, then I can fill in with the extra fun activities. These activities still have learning aspects, but are not on my must do list for skills practice.
Related: An Overview of Early Childhood Learning Domains
I try to hit every learning domain at least once during a theme. To make sure I do this, I plan out an activity for each of these “subjects.”
-Literacy (I actually plan a literacy activity every day. This is different from just reading a book.)
-Songs and Fingerplays
I do not recommend setting a plan in stone. You may find an activity your child doesn’t like, so scrap it. You may realize your child isn’t interested in that topic any more…throw it away. Your child might have been really fascinated with the ladybugs outside, but your talking about ocean life…throw in a ladybug activity or two!
Just because you plan around themes, doesn’t mean you have to stick to it 100% of the time. It’s okay to talk about and explore birds when learning about dinosaurs. Be flexible!
3. Make Time for Social Interaction
This point is for both you and your child. Children need to learn how to interact with others besides siblings. Most libraries have story times that have a play time built into it. There are mommy and me classes, preschool book clubs, and home preschool co-ops. Some kids even start sports or music lessons at the age of 4. Get the kids out of the house to interact with others and learn how to be social, build character, and discover who they are.
It’s important for you to get out and be social too! Taking your kid to story time or swimming lessons gives you a chance to talk with other adults, bounce ideas off others, and relax. You are not alone in this home preschool journey, so seek out opportunities to be social with other moms just like you. To get you started, join my community of Tot School and Home Preschool mamas on Facebook.
A Word About Letters, Numbers, Writing, and Reading
It can wait! If your child shows absolutely no interests in letters, numbers, writing, or reading, it’s okay! Don’t force those skills if they are not ready to learn it. Does that mean I can’t casually mention a letter or plan a number activity? Absolutely not! Plan it, do it, but just don’t force it. However, I do think colors and shapes should be mastered in preschool, so I do recommend lots of activities involving colors and shapes.
On the flip side, if you see your child is interested in reading at 2 years old, then teach it. Too young is not a good reason not to teach a subject if they are truly interested in it.
Creating a Home Preschool Schedule
Follow your child! Before creating a schedule, spend a few days observing. Pay attention to their most active times, most focused times, most tired times. Then plan your schedule around that information. Plan outside time when they are most active. Their most focused time should be for school time and most tired times reserve for naps.
Leave room in your schedule for unstructured play time, story time, and snacks. It’s up to you to choose between having school time 3 days a week or every day. Remember learning doesn’t have to stop on non-school days. Learning is always happening, even when we don’t plan specific learning activities. Real life experiences prepare them for life and teach them foundational skills.
When I taught 4th grade, I was surprised at how many kids didn’t know how to tie their shoes or use scissors precisely. It’s because kids these days are pushed into learning objectives and expectations. These foundational skills are no longer important to education, but we tend to forget how important they are to function in life.
Every child and every family is different. One schedule will not work for every body. So take time to observe your kids and create a schedule that works best for your needs.
Make preschool hands on, child led, and fun. Preschool is not the time for worksheets, flashcards, and rote memorization. Children learn best through play, exploration, and real life experiences.
Print & Play Calendar
Simple, low prep activities that can be modified for toddlers and preschoolers on a simple calendar. No more worrying about how to keep the kids entertained. Just print and go!