I am a member of a Facebook group of local parents and often find myself enjoying the conversations that this group of creative and passionate women engage in. Recently, a mom brought a question to the group that I thought was a great topic. She isn’t able to send her child to preschool this year but wondered how to prepare her child for kindergarten while still taking care of all of the things that need her attention each day, including a younger child. I began to ponder how she could take some of the fun things we do in preschool and bring them home for her child. I came up with a few ideas that we can all bring into our homes because even kids that are in school can have fun learning with our families!
Dear Fellow Mom,
Please do your child and yourself a favor and keep the fun in learning. Use the things you know your child loves to do and connect them with what your child needs to know. I’ll give you some ideas to get you started but be creative! You are a great mom. You can do this!
Kids love time with a parent, so use that time for one thing that impacts your child’s learning the most-READING! Read to your child whenever you can fit it in. If you walk into our preschool classrooms, you will see books everywhere! There are teachers reading to the group, kids in the reading corner curled up with a favorite story and teachers reading one on one with kids. At home, there are many ways to help your child become a reader. Please read our previous post on that topic: Help Your Child Love to Read.
Don’t worry about worksheets or special books. To help your child learn math, count with her when you already have to count. When you are washing potatoes for supper, have her count them with you as you wash them. Better yet, grab a step stool, fill the sink and let her wash and count while you do other things. Kids can learn about math as you go about the day. When you are putting away groceries say things like, “I have two boxes of mac and cheese in the cupboard but I’m putting these two new ones in. How many do we have now?” Then let her count the boxes. Ask her to help you measure as you cook and then give her the measuring cups to play with and practice her skills in the sink or in a bucket of rice. Let her draw shapes and eventually numbers and letters in a light layer of flour or rice on a cookie sheet. Play board games! This is a lot more fun than “drilling” her to learn to write and will probably occupy her time for hours.
Playdough builds fine motor skills and kids will naturally start to make shapes and even letters when you make it fun for them. Sometimes parents want to sit a child down and force them to do worksheets. For most kids, this isn’t developmentally appropriate or motivating. Help your child love learning and the rest will come. I have watched it happen hundreds of times!
Use motivators that you have at home. If she loves to play outside, have her practice tying her shoes before you head out. Count together as you push the swing. Have her practice skipping as she plays. Encourage and smile. Kids love to make their parents happy.
Let your child play kitchen, store or restaurant. You can use items you have at home and make play money out of plain paper. Let your child use cans from your cupboard. You don’t need anything fancy! Your child can practice writing letters and drawing shapes by making their own recipes, shopping lists and receipts. They can write you notes or letters and if you write back you can help her read it. It isn’t important that what your child writes at first is legible or even using real letters. That comes with time and exposure to print. If you show your child your shopping list and how you write it, she may even want to make her own list to mark off at the store. Let her illustrate her own stories and help her write the book to go with it to show to other people.
Science is an easy at home topic too! Talk about the weather, talk about the world around you, talk about what animals need and how we grow. Your child will learn a lot in kindergarten but you can get her excited now. Our preschool classrooms have plants and our field trips are to places like the pumpkin patch, library, and even local businesses to help kids understand our world.
Another staple in the preschool day is music. There are songs that include the days of the week, the sounds letters make and other educational topics as well as some that are just plain fun! Many are tunes you already know (Row, Row, Row Your Boat) with different words so you easily learn them and teach your child. If you do a simple web search, you will find songs on hundreds of topics. Pick a couple of favorites.
As kids get older, their skills grow and we can do different things with them. For example, where my daughter used to play with measuring cups and help me as I baked, she can now bake from a recipe and even double or triple a recipe on her own.
I know you are busy, so I’ll stop with the ideas for now. But, incase you get stumped, I’ll try to keep some new ideas flowing on our Pinterest account. You can email me at Learning@LssSD.org and I can add some ideas from our amazing preschool teachers. They love what they do and they are the best in the world! They are not good just because they are well educated and experienced. They are amazing because they love the kids and care deeply. Relax. You’ve got this! You love your child and that is what matters most. Learning should be fun!
Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services