If you have a preschool age kids, you probably feel the push to give them a “head start” by putting them in preschool. These days, culture pressures parents into thinking that their kids will be behind academically if they don’t enroll them in some kind of preschool program before Kindergarten. I disagree with this kind of thinking. More and more mothers are finding that delaying formal education has so many long term benefits for young children . If you would like to nourish your preschooler with a childhood AT HOME, here are 5 Important Routines for a Homeschool Preschool.
Video: 5 Important Routines for a Homeschool Preschool
I am surprised by how many people ask what to do for homeschooling preschool. Have we forgotten the fundamentals of childhood? Playing in puddles, inventing imaginary worlds, cuddling for a story, slow mornings? When moms ask what to do for homeschooling preschool or when I hear that a mom feels her child “needs” to go to preschool, I am a little stumped. What I want to say is, “Can’t they just play?” Don’t cut their childhood short! Read about the 10 REASONS WHY HOME IS BETTER THAN PRESCHOOL.
Here are 5 fundamentals of what we have tried to give each of our kids at preschool age.
(If it helps you, these 5 elements form an acronym: WORQE (pronounced “work”): Work time, Outside time, Read aloud time, Quiet time, and Exploration time.)
#1 Work Time
When preschoolers wake up, they need something to DO! I learned this lesson quickly when my 2nd son was preschool age. He started a habit of waking up in the mornings before me. When I would come out into the kitchen, the room would be in chaos, everything pulled out of drawers, tubs of plasticware dumped. One morning, when I walked out, he was eating butter under the table. I quickly realized that I needed to make some changes. He needed SOMETHING TO DO!
I changed it up by teaching him to stay in his room quietly in the morning until a reasonable hour. (This was before the red light, yellow light, green light clocks were popular. That would have been handy!) Then I made a visible chart of things for him to do as soon as he woke up.
This is my preschooler’s morning checklist. Every morning, they know to work on these things before they come out for breakfast. It takes practice and many days and weeks for them to get good at it, (um, actually my teenagers still can’t pull it off some days, ha!), but they know that this is what they are supposed to do first thing every morning. This was the visual list I gave my son. It is what I have expected with each of our preschoolers after him.
- Make bed.
- Get dressed.
- Brush teeth.
Age Appropriate Chores
Later in the day, it is helpful to give them age appropriate chores. A morning and evening chore might be a good way to introduce a daily rhythm. This is a perfect age for kids to begin learning adult life skills. In fact, most preschoolers are always asking, “Can I help cook dinner? Can I vacuum?” Whatever it is you are doing at the time, they want to help. Additionally, kids feel pride when they can contribute to the basic needs of the household.
Give them age appropriate chores and help them learn how to do each one. A visual chart with pictures is a great reminder for them since they can’t read, but can begin to see their work visually. It also helps them to see all the different jobs they are able to do on their own!
Here are age appropriate chores we have our preschoolers do.
- Sort silverware
- Empty dishwasher (I pull out all knives or sharp objects beforehand. They don’t need to necessarily put things away. Even stacking clean dishes on the counter is helpful.)
- Sort and match socks
- Empty small wastebaskets
- Sweep a room
- Dust (Give them a baby wipe and let them wipe the walls and furniture.)
#2 Outside Time
Adults learn most information through the means of words. Preschool age children, however, are at the developmental level where so much of what they learn, they learn through their five senses. They put things in their mouth. They notice everything, the little details. They dawdle because they are observing everything around them for the first time. Where can you find more stimulus to engage the five senses than outside? Spending long hours outside in fresh air is so important for preschoolers because there is more outside to engage all their senses.
A good rule of thumb I’ve tried to follow is this. In coldest weather, try to get outside every day, even if its only for 15 minutes. In nice weather, go outside as soon as the morning breakfast and chores are done. Then keep going out regularly throughout the day. Although I do like to go out WITH my kids. Don’t let this hinder them. It’s OK for them to go out on their own and play for periods of time.
#3 Read Aloud Time
Never underestimate the value of reading quality books to your preschool child. Reading to preschoolers expands their vocabulary from the 1000 common words to a vast number of interesting words. Reading aloud to them also conditions them to enjoy books. When they snuggle beside you for a special moment of going to imaginary places, that bonding moment will be their association with reading.
What books should your read to your preschooler? Don’t read just any books to your kids. Scrap the twaddly, latest popular cartoon books. Choose quality, life-giving, imaginative books. Wondering how to find good books for your preschoolers library? Read What is a Living Book Anyway?
Here are some of our favorite booklists.
Sarah Mackenzie’s Read Aloud Revival Booklist
Don’t forget to include nursery rhymes! Why do children love nursery rhymes and simple songs? Because when you can’t read something, your mind is looking for some form of stimulation. Repeating the same sounds and rhythms is your reading. They are building a repertoire. What happens when a child hears nursery rhymes every day? They will repeat them throughout the day. Actually, when you teach a child nursery rhymes, you will hear, “Again! Do another one!”
Children love to hear the same phrases over and over so that they can remember them and do them on their own. Many nursery rhymes have been put to song. If you can sing some of them and add motions, your preschooler will relish this time with you. You will be folding laundry and hearing them in the next room saying, “this little piggy went wee wee wee aaaaaall the way home!” with delight.
How Many Books Should You Read?
How many books should you read to a child? That also varies with seasons. When I had all young children, we would read picture book after picture book until we got through a pile. In our home of 11 presently, the dynamics have changed. The need for mental stimulation from my preschoolers is less. My older kids often read to our preschoolers for fun. Additionally, our preschool age kids hear conversation throughout the day because of so many people talking! Because we homeschool, often this daily conversation includes educational topics that the kids are studying during the school day. So, depending on the dynamics of your family, the number of books you read may look differently. Currently, I try to read two picture books to my preschoolers before their quiet time. These is manageable and I think it meets their needs as well.
#4 Quiet time
It might take some time and effort, but training your preschooler to have a quiet time is very important. This will be a time for them to relax and for mom to get a little break. You can have them stay in their bedroom or on the sofa with books. Setting a visible timer is especially helpful for this age. As the time goes by, they like to see how much time is left.
Some preschoolers still need a nap occasionally. Others will not nap, but the time alone in the quiet will give their brains time to rest and awaken their imagination. Often during quiet time, I can hear my preschooler acting out one of the stories I just read to him.
How long should a preschool quiet time be? That depends on you and your child. Anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours might be appropriate. Start with 15 minute increments and work your way up to a time that works well for you and your child.
The only two rules I have for my preschoolers are these.
- It must be quiet (a whisper).
- Stay in your designated spot.
#5 Exploration Time (Play!)
Give your preschoolers plenty of time to play. Provide raw materials for them to use. This will furnish their imagination for hours.
- Wooden blocks
- Lincoln logs
- Balls, basketball hoop or racket
- Hot Wheels and tracks
- Dress Up Costumes
- Play dough
- Thomas trains and tracks
- Scissors and paper OR stickers and paper
- Lacing Cards
- Sorting games
- Age-Appropriate Games: Memory or Old Maid, Bananagrams (to make tile pictures, not words and to familiarize them with letters), Dominoes, Spot it, Pattern Blocks
- Crayons, Markers, Paint, Colored Pencils
In addition to play at home, take them out to interesting places to explore the world around them. The library, grocery store, bank, post office, these are all interesting experiences for young children. Additionally, parks, parades, fairs, local events and age-appropriate museums spark their curiosity. Just be careful not to go out too much! Guard your quiet time at home.
Preschoolers and the Dynamics of the Family
Keep in mind that the needs of a preschooler change depending on the needs and seasons of the family. When my oldest was preschool age, we had only two children. The house was quiet which made the days longer. I was looking for things to keep my preschooler busy, so I planned a few outings a week to help break up our days.
These days, however, with 9 kids, the dynamics of our home are quite different. We are a busy household. Keeping up with the schedule and activities of a family of eleven is exhausting…for everyone, including preschoolers. I am no longer looking for things to get my preschoolers involved in. Instead, my focus for my preschool age children has shifted to guarding their home time, quiet time, our one-on-one time, and slow mornings. That being said, depending on what season your family may be in right now, the needs of your preschooler may vary.
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If you want to give your preschooler the gift of a slow, unhurried childhood with plenty of time for play and learning that is developmentally appropriate, you absolutely can do it at home! If these tips were helpful for you, leave a comment to let me know how you have been encouraged! I love hearing from other moms!
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Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!