5 Simple Steps to “Preschool” at Home {With Three Under Four!}

I’m usually pretty hesitant to put any “how to” post out there because it’s tough to consider myself an expert on much of anything. I’m just trying to do the best I can most days. But if I look around, the evidence clearly shows from my somewhat organized kid masterpieces {it’s a work in progress, friends} that I have a bit of a grasp on learning and crafting at home with my little people. So I’m just here to share how we manage. It’s not perfect, and we definitely don’t do as much as we used to. But I’m grateful for the time we spend with each other in learning, in creating, in play.

This summer I cut myself some slack. There’s that whole welcoming a newborn dynamic after all. However, I knew that I still wanting to provide some structure and a bit of learning to our days. I decided on weekly themes. This made planning a bit easier for me as I could narrow down my Pinterest search, and I could also tailor learning to the kiddos’ interests and thus draw their attention away from the toys and television for a bit. Our latest themed week, thanks to a certain Disney movie release, was affectionately deemed “Planes Week.”  Let’s use the photo below as our guide to easily learning with your preschoolers and toddlers at home, whether one morning, one day, or a whole week {or as it turns out two!}.

5 Simple Steps to Preschool At Home

 1. Find Your Muse

You just might be one of the creative types that wakes daily with brilliant activities for your kids, but if you are like I am, you need some inspiration. We are so lucky to have resources right at our fingertips.  While some frown upon Pinterest as forcing undue pressure on moms everywhere, I think it’s fantastic.  I can jump on and get a recipe for dinner, a dessert to bring to a friend’s house over the weekend, and {more importantly for our purposes} a whole slew of activities to fit our learning goals. From more complicated crafts to book lists to easy letter and handprint activities, you are covered in one quick search. From there you can find sites that fit your family’s style. I’m fairly certain that there is only one activity listed on the picture above that was my own, and several ideas were older pins that I simply recalled for this week.

A few of my favorites, you ask?

2. Make A Plan

Finding time in an already hectic day {and often night} can be tough. I try to sneak moments when I can. A few Pinterest scans during early morning feedings and a Sunday afternoon with pen and paper to lay out a loose game plan, and we are good to go.  If I’m gathering materials or drawing part of the activity while trying to actually do the activity, I find attention is lost quickly or I lose my patience somewhere in the process.  {I mean, come on, don’t they know said activity will be amazing!?!} Having some sort of learning activity also helps me break up what can sometimes be a long day!

Keep in mind two things ::

  • Consider a variety of areas of development, and do what works for you.  For our “Planes Week” I wanted to sneak in some writing practice for sure, and anything else was just summer fun. I always have something {if not multiple} things to read. And if I don’t manage to hit music, fine motor, gross motor, or language development with a particular “unit,” I know we can focus on it at another time.
  • Consider your schedule. Which children will be participating, and in what capacity? There are some activities that I enjoy doing with Wyatt while the little ones nap. I’ve even let him skip naps or quiet time to do some big kid activities.  It’s also been refreshing for me to watch Wyatt and John attack activities or tasks in their own ways, and I get a reminder to let each one express his creativity and learn as he can.

3. Stock Up

Pinterest can supply you with plenty of lists of craft supplies, many of which can be found at a local dollar store. I do manage to keep the basics on hand. We typically have paint, construction paper, glue, popsicle sticks, googly eyes, buttons, perhaps some foam sheets. On the other hand, I’m a firm believer in hoarding. Yes, just call me Jenn, storer of empty toilet paper/paper towel rolls, and keeper of egg cartons, bottle caps, and straws. In the marshmallow activity written on list above, we grabbed dried cherries with tongs from a bucket full of marshmallows and dropped them inside paper towel “trees” balanced in an egg carton “forest.”  Use what you’ve got! And for us Louisiana folks, this includes crawfish trays — so many uses!

4.  Use Your Resources

In addition to using what’s on hand, use what’s around. We check out books from the library and visit {when we can with three kids} the library programs. We’ve met with our moms group for craft and service project play dates.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just grab some friends and make some memories together. Consider hosting  a simple outing at your home or at a local park. Read a book, create something simple, and let the kids enjoy each other’s company.

And use yourself! Sing silly songs; create, draw, write, and read, right along with your littles. Enjoy them right now where they are and who they are, and you will find your cup filling up as well.

5. Be Flexible/Just Do It {Or Don’t!}

Because we have such great resources in blogs, Pinterest, Facebook as I mentioned above, I could plan and perfect all day just how any learning should go down around here. The ideas seem endless, and surely we need to do them all, right? Right?

Nope. Not going to happen.

But whether activities and/or crafts go according to plan, I’m always grateful that we gave it a shot.

Unless I’m not. And this is where my own growth as a parent comes in. A sweet {and so very wise} friend of mine mentioned in a conversation about patience once that if the activity is going to cause frustration or voice raising, it’s not worth doing. I completely agree, and sometimes my stubborn heart wants to forge forward and make that airplane out of celery, peanut butter, and graham crackers while in the meantime my middle guy is pleading for my attention to just go ahead and get him a normal snack. It’s not worth losing my patience with him.

We made play doh in addition to our list above. While Abram napped, Wyatt and I measured and mixed while John, well, he concocted an escape route for all the flour I poured in his tray to play with.  With a deep breath and a laugh, I had to high five myself that indeed he had some sort of learning, sensory experience of his own.

planesweek.jpg

We create while still in jammies and use what’s on hand. We spend just minutes each day doing “preschool” at home, but I take comfort knowing I am providing playful learning opportunities for my children, and after the planning, coloring, reading, and more, I know it really boils down to time given to the sweet faces hanging out with me each day.

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Jenn is an English teacher turned stay at home mom to boys Wyatt {2010}, John {2013}, and Abram {2014}. South Louisiana born and raised, North Louisiana educated, and Texas “polished,” she has found Houston to be home with her husband for the past ten years. After infertility struggles, in 2010 she traded in A Tale of Two Cities for Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and has since been busy discovering ways to learn while playing, maintaining a semi-scheduled family life, and integrating both Texas and Louisiana culture into her family. Besides making memories with her boys full time, she enjoys reading, running, crafting, cooking, and football. Y’all stop by When In Doubt, Add More Salt to read more about family adventures with the boys and Jenn’s thoughts on hot summers and Pinterest pin attempts, and her love/hate relationship with March Madness brackets.

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