Are preschool schedules, curriculums and preschool milestones on your mind? Me too. And Coronavirus isn’t going anywhere… Let’s talk about our preschoolers.
This year, so many parents will have to make so many very hard choices. About lots of things.
One of those hard things will be about schooling and daycare. Some of us will keep our kids home from the schools (friends, teachers and subjects) that they love, others of us will send our children to school whether we like it or not due to all sorts of circumstances. Those choices in themselves might mean a parent giving up a job/career, stepping back from other commitments, or taking a financial hit hard enough to move in with relatives or sell other processions.
Whether your children stay home with you or head back into some resemblance of a classroom – all of us will worry about one thing or another. If it isn’t the concerns about the lack of formal education, structure, and impactful social environments, it will be about physical health and mental wellness (theirs, ours, everyones!).
Some of us will be creative in creating small learning bubbles with friends or neighbors, some will be lucky enough to hire tutors, but and more often, parents will go it alone – challenging themselves to running a household, while teaching (entertaining and caring for) their children and trying to keep a job and/or sanity at the same time. It’s going to be a lot. A lot, a lot.
Our family is embracing for the stay-home route. We are going to keep W from his real year of preschool. I get it, that really isn’t a big deal compared to the millions of other kids that will be missing very formative schooling years. But it is significant for us, at the stage we are at right now.
This past year W attended as the youngest kid in the class – we enrolled him early in anticipation he would actually be there two years. We had been looking for a social outlet for him, but most importantly, a way to help him develop his speech and hit some other milestones. Truly, it worked wonders and he loved, loved, loved, his part-time (three half-days a week) participation at our neighborhood pre-school. We will be so sad to not have him be in a real school this upcoming year, but I am fully aware how very blessed we have it to be able to keep him home. And, not to mention his age (missing pre-school is WAY easier than missing any other grade, by far, I get it).
As I start to think about prepping for a year of preschool at home, I am thinking about the milestones, curriculum, social dynamics and other developmental aspects that will be missing at school. I have been researching the skills and milestones he should be hitting, and how we will try to incorporate learning into our everyday, making it more fun and (hopefully) easier on all of us.
I would be fully lying if I say that I’ll be spending 6 hours a day Monday-Friday devoted to his pre-schooling. I think that would be way beyond what most people could, would, can do during a pandemic or not. Hats off to all the real homeschooling moms out there, but I am not one of them.
Instead of going the focused all-in route Monday-Friday, we are going to go an ‘all life’ method, incorporating books, games, visuals, songs, videos (yes, I said videos), toys and conversations around the key milestones and skills of a preschoolers every single day, in our everyday lives in hopes it makes the process more fluid and simple.
Addressing the real question is what I want to get at this year – what do kids learn or improve upon at preschool and/or during their pre-school year? Well, a bunch.
First of all, they learn to be away from their parents/home/family which is basically the complete opposite of what is going to happen for W in 2020 (thanks to COVID-19) so we are quickly skipping past this bullet point and on to others.
Preschoolers Focus On:
- Numbers, Counting & Pre-Math Skills
- The Alphabet
- Basic Shapes
- Imaginative & Cooperative Play
- Fine and Gross Motor Skills (see this list here)
- Social Skills and Independence (see this list here)
- Sense of Responsibility (see this list here)
- Listening/Comprehension (see this list here)
- Other Social/Language/Critical thinking Milestones (see this list here)
To hit the list above well, I included a bunch of toys, games, books, and puzzles you can easily include in your everyday life/play space. I’d encourage you to share with friends and neighbors to cut down on the investment, but realize that isn’t possible for everyone. There are TONS of songs, games, videos and arts and crafts to go along with these – I’ll get into some of those another time! For now, this is just about “stocking your house” with preschool appropriate learning, as best you can!
For such a great, great post about decision making for your family during this super challenging time, visit this article “Grandparents & Day Care” by Professor Emily Oster.
Numbers, Counting & Pre-Math Skills
Getting ready for Kindergarten means preparing for math! Counting and recognizing numbers is a big milestone in the age range 2-4 years old. Here are a bunch of toys, games, puzzles and books that make practicing numbers more like fun and less like work that you can incorporate into your every day play.
Interactive Math Learning Toys
- Interactive Poster for Kids to Learn Letters, Numbers, Shapes, Colors, Spelling, with Games, Quizzes and Music
- LeapFrog Number Lovin’ Oven
- LeapFrog 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch
- Templeton Educational Counting & Sorting Bears Kit
- Count Your Chickens Game
- Aitbay Cool Math Game, Frog Balance Counting Toys
- 1-2-3 Froggies Counting & Color Matching
- The Purple Cow Learning to Count – A Numbers Matching Puzzle
- Counting Puzzle
- Melissa & Doug Number Puzzle
- One Gorilla: A Counting Book
- Numbers! Board Book
- When I Am Big (A counting book from 1 to 25)
- Count the Dinosaurs!: A Fun Picture Puzzle Book
- Goodnight, Numbers
- 100 Curious Things to Count
- Tabbed Board Books: My First Numbers
- 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo
- One Fox: A Counting Book
Number Workbooks/Tracing (which also helps with motor skills of holding crayons or markers!)
- Preschool Numbers Workbook
- My First Learn to Write Workbook (Numbers)
- Wipe Clean Workbook: Numbers 1-50 (Wipe Clean Learning Books)
- Numbers & Letters Magnetic Board
Visuals around the house
Basic shapes are the foundations of later learning in geometry and are part of pre-math skills. They also end up being a big part of strategic thinking, spatial understanding and more!
- My First Shapes Book
- My Turn to Learn Shapes Board Book
- Shapes Book
- Color/Shape Flashcards
- Wooden Dreamworks Puzzle
- Simple Shapes Puzzle
- Interactive Elephant Shapes Game
- Barn Shape sorter
- Wooden Shape Sorter
- Shape Sorter House Game
Learning to identify colors is a super fun step in creativity for toddlers! It is a great way to help develop language. Colors can easily be a fun activity together – you can simply name colors you see walking around the neighborhood, or point out bright colors in any book you read together. “I see something….” is SO easy! Games, puzzles, flashcards and simply using colors (paint, markers, paper, play dough) is a great way to explore them together.
- Color & Shapes Egg Game
- Crayons & Coloring Books (like this cute one!)
- Colorful Washable Markers
- Washable Paint
- Assorted color construction paper
- My First Colors Board Book
- Colors! Board Book
Learning the alphabet is all about language and reading readiness! Learning the ABCs song is the first step of many in learning about letters – their sounds, shapes, and how they interact with other letters! Learning about letters can take many forms like corresponding the first letter of words to letters of the alphabet (“ya know what Elephant starts with? E!”). Alphabet games, puzzles, books, toys, workbook tracing, and simply reading together will all go a long way in reading readiness.
- Hide & Seek Alphabet Pop-Up – 50 Shapes Colors Letters Numbers
- Wooden Magnetic Fishing Game, Fine Motor Skill Toy ABC Alphabet Color Sorting Puzzle
- Numbers and Alphabets Flash Cards Set – ABC Wooden Letters and Numbers Animal Cardboard Matching Puzzle
- Alphabet Fishing
- ABC for Me: ABC What Can She Be?: Girls can be anything they want to be, from A to Z
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
- Search and Find Alphabet
- Sleepy Little Alphabet
- Dr. Seuss ABCs
- LeapFrog Dino’s Delightful Day Alphabet Book
- Interactive Alphabet Book
- VTech Alphabet Interactive Apple
Imaginative & Cooperative Play
These days, good preschool programs go with a play-based learning approach. Playing IS learning, afterall. Imaginative and cooperative play is an integral part of early childhood development – however – during a pandemic where social interaction is so limited this one can be hard peer-to-peer. Although imagination play can be super boring for parents and hard to get behind as an adult, if you can stomach it, try to be a part of your child’s imaginative play a bit each day. This type of play can help him or her build a sense of self, develop imagination, practice and explore problem solving, and improve upon budding social skills.
Costumes and other props can be super fun in imaginative play.
- Doctor Kit
- Kitchen Play
- Play Tools
- Pretend Phones and Smartphones
- Pretend Shops
- Housekeeping Play
- Dress-up and Costume Play
- Garden Play
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills can be practiced easily during these formative pre-school years! They are often practiced through arts and crafts and through sensory play. Kids of this age are fine tuning their pincer grip and finger strength and it’s so important that they do! They are A MILLION blogs on preschool arts and crafts and sensory play so I won’t get deep on those here. For some super simple games/toys to have around the house check out these:
- Wooden Lacing Apple Threading Toys Wood Block Puzzle
- Beehive Clamping Game
- Mixed Fine Motor Busy Board
- Large Bead Threading
- Wipe Clean Tracing/Pen Control
- Peacock Sorting Set
Gross Motor Skills
Preschoolers want and need to be active. It’s in their nature! Well, most of them but not all. Active play and lots of movement, including outdoor activities and singing and dancing, climbing, running are all strongly encouraged! Basically, recess. Developing their gross motor skills and coordination at this age are important, so let them stretch out and get moving!
- Climbing / Or this
- Indoor stepping stones
- Ring Toss
- Balance Logs
- Go outside!
Social Skills & Independence
Well, we are in a pandemic so, whatever on this one for now. If you happen to be lucky enough to share a pandemic social distancing bubble with a very small, close group of family members – that may help!
Variety of Learning Games for All Around Great Time Spent
- Toddler Learning Flashcards
- STEM engineering for preschoolers
- Learning Owl
- STEM Gears Set
- Super Gears Learning
- LeapFrog LeapPad Ultimate Ready for School Tablet
- LeapFrog LeapStart Interactive Learning System, Green
- Geometric Wooden Puzzles
- Construction Paper
- Drawing/art paper
- Play Dough and accessories
- Paint brushes and washable paints (smocks!)
- Art Easel
For more on toddlers and preschoolers, visit my other posts:
- 5 Awesome Toys for Tots You Can Find on Amazon Right Now
- Our Favorite Toys Based on the Montessori Method
- 5 Easy, Fun Ways to Bond with Your Kids Outside this Summer
- “Best” Screen Time for Little Ones
- 10+ Great Summer Outdoor Toys & Games On Amazon Now
- Delicious, Healthy Popsicle Recipes for Kids
- Opening Up Our ‘Bubbles’ to Grandparents & Caregivers