Are you planning on teaching preschool at home, but you’re not really sure how to get started? In this post, you’ll find five easy ways to get started homeschooling your preschooler.
Teaching preschool at home is not as hard as you may think. It can definitely feel overwhelming whether your preschooler is your first or your fifth. What skills do they need to know? How should you teach them? Do I need to run to the local teacher store and deplete my savings in it?
The answer to that last question is NO by the way! Homeschooling your preschooler doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you’ve already been teaching them and may not have even realized it! Continue reading below to find out the best and easiest ways to start teaching your preschooler.
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This post is the first in a series on teaching your preschooler at home. Below you’ll find the posts for the rest of the series. As they are published, I’ll link to them so you can easily find everything you need. Be sure to pin or bookmark this post so that you can refer back to it as needed! Continue reading all the way to the end as I have a helpful get started guide that will help as you begin your homeschool preschool journey.
Teaching Preschool at Home Series
- Begin Teaching Preschool at Home in 5 Easy Ways (this post)
- How to Teach Preschool Skills Your Child Needs to Know
- 11 Really Helpful Supplies for Teaching Preschool at Home
- How to Create a Relaxed Routine for Teaching Preschool at Home
- How to Easily Plan Your Homeschool Preschool Year
Getting Ready to Homeschool Preschool
When you think your preschooler is ready to begin school, you may wonder how to transition from playing all day to schoolwork. Since kids learn best through play, it’s actually a very easy transition to make. Below I share five simple steps that will guide you into creating a more focused and educational playtime that slowly and naturally transitions you and your child into more of a homeschool preschool setting.
You may notice as you read that I’m not sharing ways to get your preschooler to sit and focus on workbooks and flashcards. Yes, we do have those at home and use them sparingly when desired. But they are definitely not the focus of our preschool time.
I believe that preschool is a time to work on the skills necessary to read and write. It’s a time to work on fine and gross motor skills, learning about the world around them, and developing a love of learning. So below you’ll find ways to develop those skills and get your child excited to learn.
5 Simple Steps to Begin Teaching Preschool at Home
- Real life experiences
- Educational toys and play
- Hands-on learning activities
- Outdoor learning experiences
- Read, read, read
1. Real Life Experiences Make Teaching Preschool at Home Easy
The first way to begin teaching your preschooler is through your everyday life experiences. Not only will they love spending time with you, but they’ll be learning skills like math, science, vocabulary and following directions. One of the earliest ways kids learn is through observation, and what better person to observe than you?!
Take time to talk to your child about the activity. If you’re grocery shopping, help them choose items by describing them and talk about where the food comes from. When doing laundry, have them sort colors, match socks, or fold towels. Let your preschooler pull up a chair to the counter while you bake muffins or cookies together. Yes, it may take longer, but it’s worth it.
Ideas for Real Life Learning Experiences
- Getting dressed: how to choose clothing for the weather, how to use a button or zipper
- Grocery shopping: let them choose a fruit or vegetable to try, discuss how food gets to the store
- Nature walks: notice the signs of plant and animal life, talk about seasons
- Folding laundry: how to sort colors, match socks, fold a shirt or towel
- Helping in the kitchen: let kids stir or add premeasured ingredients, let them cut with a child-safe plastic knife
- Helping with other chores: show kids how to pick up toys correctly, dust, or make their bed
- Weeding/watering the garden: let them help plant, water, and weed
Take the time to talk to your preschooler each day about your activities. Give them a chance to ask questions or make their own observations for the answers. My son loves to see the weather forecast each morning. When I pull it up, he’ll notice the signs for sunny and cloudy, rainy or windy. We look at the temperature and discuss which clothing is comfortable in that weather. He is now able to make his own observations and relate them to his world.
2. Educational Toys Allow Preschoolers to Learn through Play
A second way to begin teaching your preschooler is through educational toys. Young children also learn through play, so having educational toys around is important. They help with fine motor and language development, among other skills. Educational toys are also good activities to keep your toddlers and preschoolers busy while you teach older kids.
Good Educational Toys for Preschoolers
- Age appropriate puzzles
- Preschool games
- Play kitchen
- Barn and farm animals
- Building blocks
- Toy cars
- Silk scarves
One of my favorite brands for quality educational toys that are not super expensive is Melissa and Doug. We’ve had many of their puzzles and toys for quite a few years and they have held up nicely. Your little one can use these toys in independent play, or you could gently teach concepts through play with them. For instance, if your child is playing with farm animals, you could ask what colors certain animals are or have your little one sort them by size or color or count them.
Your child most likely is going to have toys around the house. Usually more than you’d like thanks to well-meaning relatives! You might as well make these toys educational so your preschooler learns through play.
3. How to Teach Preschool at Home with Hands-On Learning Activities
Along with having educational toys at home, having hands-on learning activities available is also helpful. Activities like coloring pages, cutting and pasting crafts, playdough, sensory bins, and manipulatives for colors and numbers can aid your preschooler in developing the fine motor skills needed for writing and math concepts like sorting, one-to-one correspondence and counting. Having hands-on learning activities ready to go also helps when you’re homeschooling multiple ages of kids. Your preschooler can sit at the table with everyone else and “do work” like the big kids.
Playdough for Hands-On Learning
One of my favorite hands-on activities for toddlers and preschoolers is playdough. Manipulating playdough is a fantastic way to build muscle strength in your preschooler’s hands, the same muscles they’ll use for writing. Having good hand strength will help your child have better handwriting and not tire as easily when writing.
For years I’ve made my own playdough at home. Homemade playdough lasts quite awhile & is very easy to make. The smell is SO much better than store bought too! Preschoolers can use playdough on its own with rolling tools or with stampers, cookie cutters, or playdough mats.
Playdough mats are available for lots of skills—some are good for forming letters or numbers or for counting or just making shapes. You can grab a free alphabet set of playdough mats from All about Learning. Laminating these mats is best so you can reuse them, and then you can also use dry erase markers on them as well.
A fun, interactive way to introduce classical music to your preschooler is through Clap for Classics! music courses. These are ideal for children ages 0-8 and range from single courses to a monthly membership that can include a weekly live class. Find out more and sign up for a free 5 Under 5 Musical Play Series to give it a try!
Sensory bins are other great activities to have around for preschoolers. I usually have four filled and ready for play that we rotate through. You can keep them really simple with dried beans or rice and a measuring scoop. Or you may want to dye rice or chickpeas or use colored beans to create themed baskets, like green for grass to use with in an insect sensory bin along with some plastic insects. Adding small objects to pick up with tweezers and put in a container like a bowl or ice cube tray is perfect for developing fine motor skills needed for writing.
Skills Preschoolers Will Learn through Hands-On Learning Activities
- Recognizing letters when the activity relates to letters, such as an alphabet playdough mat, letter tracing sheets, or an alphabet sensory bin.
- Identifying numbers, shapes, colors, position, and simple patterns through related sensory bins, playdough, and activity sheets.
- Sorting, classifying, and comparing objects works well with manipulatives like counting bears.
- Cutting, tracing, and drawing basic shapes using activity sheets.
- Fine motor skills, especially through sensory bins and playdough activities.
4. Take the Learning Outdoors
A fourth way to teach your preschooler at home is by taking the learning outdoors. Preschoolers are very curious about the world around them. Nature study is a wonderful way to learn more about the plants and animals we see. Help them learn about nature through nature walks around your neighborhood or local park and observing what you find. Bring a magnifying glass out to look at small items more closely.
You could staple a few pages together to create a nature journal for your preschooler. Take it with you on your walks and have them draw what they find.
I’ve found the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum extremely helpful for nature study ideas. It has weekly nature topics to study along with related books and activities. It’s an amazing value, especially considering you can reuse it each year, learning more about the topics as your children grow.
Being outside also allows for more room to work on large motor skill development. Running, climbing, jumping, throwing and kicking balls…those are all skills your preschooler should be developing. And they are such fun to work on!
Go outside with a ball and play a game. Draw a hopscotch board on the driveway or sidewalk with sidewalk chalk. Create a small obstacle course in your yard or local park, running around trees or jumping over a log. You can add in additional skills practice when the games involve letters, numbers, colors, or shapes.
5. Using Literature to Teach Preschool at Home
A final way to teach your preschooler at home is through literature. Read to your child every day. All kinds of books: fiction, non-fiction, picture books, and short chapter books. Reading to your child helps develop listening skills, memory retention, vocabulary and language skills. Plus it helps your child with pre-reading skills of knowing how to hold a book, knowing to read left to right, and that letters make up words that help us communicate.
Be sure to have plenty of books to read around the house. You can get them on your own, ask for them as gifts, or make going to the library a habit. Keep seasonal books out in a basket for your child to look through on their own during the day. This makes a natural transition to a morning basket when your preschooler is older. You may even catch your child “reading” ones you’ve read aloud before. Alphabet picture books are a great way to introduce the alphabet.
It’s fun to just read aloud and enjoy a good book together, but we also enjoy doing related activities after reading a book. The Before Five in a Row curriculum is wonderful for ideas on activities we can do to extend learning through the books we read. The guides start as early as two years old and continue up to age twelve. This is a very gentle way to start more formal preschool learning.
Ideas for Literature Activities to Teach Skills
- Amazing Picture Books to Teach Colors
- Introducing Measurement with Dr. Seuss’ The Foot Book
- Using Ten Apples Up on Top to Teach Counting
How to Apply these Steps to Teach Specific Skills
After reading through these five simple steps for beginning preschool, you may be thinking that they are too easy. How will kids actually learn just playing with toys and hearing you read books? I can give personal experience that you can indeed teach your toddlers or preschoolers through these easy methods. If you’d like specific ideas for teaching certain skills, you can find more information in the following posts:
Preschool at Home Quick Start Guide
To help you get started teaching preschool at home, I’ve created a Preschool at Home quick start guide. This guide includes over forty ideas for preschool themes, as well as planning pages to plan your activities and books by week and month. It’s a perfect way to get ready to preschool at home.
You can see that beginning to teach preschool at home isn’t hard. Have plenty of hands-on activities and books and get outside to enjoy nature. Let your preschooler help you around the house and definitely encourage learning through play with educational toys. Obviously these aren’t the only ways to homeschool preschool, and they aren’t the only ways I use or have used, but they are a wonderful start to help you ease into preschool at home. They are also great ways to get your preschooler excited to learn and to see that learning is fun!