When and how to homeschool your preschool-aged child is very much a personal choice. Even though it is a personal decision, many parents wonder what to do with their preschoolers academically. Are their young kids learning enough? Will they be prepared for their elementary years?
The truth is, you are likely already teaching your preschoolers everything they need to know by just playing, reading, and interacting with them on a daily basis.
If you have a preschooler, you may know exactly how you want to approach education readiness with them. You might also be on the other end of the spectrum and be at a complete loss for how or what you want to do, or you might be somewhere in between and just be wondering if you are doing enough. No matter where you currently see yourself, I have compiled a short list of ideas to consider for your preschoolers.
Encourage Imaginative Play
Imaginative play, make-believe—most kids do this pretty early on. It is a great thing, and we, as parents, should encourage it. You may not know it, but children learn so much by imagining and acting things out.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) defines this as, “an activity that is intrinsically motivated, entails active engagement, and results in joyful discovery. Play is voluntary and often has no extrinsic goals; it is fun and often spontaneous.”
There are many advantages to this type of play. Since this play is typically open-ended, children can bond with their parents, peers, or other playmates socially while learning how to communicate. Engaging in this healthy type of play with others, especially parents, can help to do things like lower anxiety, express feelings, and help with reasoning skills.
One positive to imaginative play is that you don’t have to spend money to do it. You can use anything in your home—boxes, kitchen utensils or pots, coats, costumes, etc. A box can become an oven, a car, or a house. Anything that you want to use is fair game when imagining.
Try to set some time aside to interact with your child in this way, set up playdates with other children, and allow your child to play and imagine with their toys. You may notice an increase in language, and you might also notice that they begin acting out something you have read or discussed.
Sometimes imagining may need a jump start, so here are a few ideas on how to do that.
Teach Life Skills
As already mentioned, your preschool-aged child is already learning more than you know. They soak up everything and are often referred to as “little sponges.” They can begin to learn vital life skills by observing, watching, and joining you.
Life skills are important to learn at any age. They can be obtained by teaching your child things like how to follow the rules that have been established in the home as well as outside of the home. Doing this teaches kids self-discipline and will help prepare them to make healthier choices as they continue to grow.
Work with your child on how to take turns and interact with others. You can simply explain what to do and then model the behavior. Children this age learn so much by observing and then doing.
Another important way to teach these skills to your preschooler is by giving them household tasks to complete. This can be as easy as having them clean up their own messes or assigning daily age-appropriate chores. These jobs will begin to build independence and responsibility in your child.
This is such a brief overview of how learning life skills can positively impact your child. If you like this idea, here are a few resources to think about while planning this out for your child.
Work on Motor Skills
Motor skills are very important for children to learn, and they develop these skills all the time, from babies learning to hold their head up to learning to walk, learning how to string beads, button shirts, and so on. In order for the “so on” to ensue, preschoolers need to be given time to move.
A variety of movements are best. Big movements can include things like climbing, jumping, kicking, hopping, etc. Go to the park, play outside at your home, and sometimes stay in. These movements can be done anywhere that you deem appropriate. Work on pushing and pulling items and throwing balls. You don’t have to do sports, but these big movements can also help a child develop interests in such things.
Small movements are also important and can help with those pesky buttons or zippers on shirts and coats. Play with play dough, string beads, and stack blocks. You can do crafts together. Let your child practice cutting and pasting objects, and just be creative. If you are on the go, practice clapping hands or try snapping fingers while in the car.
To learn more about some awesome activities to try, check out these links.
All of the things mentioned prior to this section will help prepare your child for academics. However, many people still feel like that is not enough, and that is totally okay. Some kids want to learn more “school” stuff, and some parents may want to teach their child letters, numbers, how to spell and write their names, etc. This is valuable information, and only you, as their parents, know when the appropriate time to do this type of teaching is and how to go about it.
This type of learning might take place by simply reading and showing the letters and letter sounds to your child. Flashcards also work great for this type of learning. You can count different objects, let your child trace letters, numbers, shapes, and their names. Some children love workbooks, which normally include what has been mentioned as well as things like cutting and pasting, following directions, and more.
Some preschoolers have older siblings, and they want to “do school” like their siblings. If that is the case, your child may love a small time of semi-structured work. However, that is a family and child choice and should also be age-appropriate for a child who has not yet begun their elementary years.
Here are some great resources and ideas for some parent-led play that specifically targets elementary readiness goals.
There is no clear-cut way to homeschool your preschooler. That is part of what makes it fun. Enjoy these last couple of years with your child before they are in elementary school, and there are more learning goals that you might want to adhere to. As a homeschooler, you always have options and are able to have fun, but these are the years that you can fully take advantage of all that playing while learning with your child.