Life with a preschooler is fun, silly and exciting; but it can also be busy, overwhelming and chaotic. Listed here is a collection of tips, time savers, and techniques that will make you feel more prepared to add a little learning to your playtime!
#1 perception is everything
Take a box of blocks and spread it out on a shelf, sorted by shape, size and color. You might be surprised what ideas come to your little ones when they can see what they have to work with. Do you have a tea set collecting dust? Put it on its own little table; add a lacy napkin or cute table cloth and some little plastic cookies. Your tea set is suddenly a tea party. Be creative, see what toys haven’t been played with and find a new spin before they hit the yard sale!
#2 That’s not how my Mom does it.
In order to expose your children to every possible learning experience, it is enivitable that at some point you will have to do something you don’t do well. For me it’s math and science. For some it may be cooking, singing, storytelling or art. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be perfect to make a differene. Have you ever heard someone say, “That’s not how my Mom does it.” Maybe you’ve said it yourself. I know when I think of the experiences my Mom provided us, critisim is the farthest thing from my thoughts. I feel proud, lucky and mostly inspired. That is because it doesn’t matter if something is done poorly, or even wrong; if it is done with love.
So put on a smile, sing out of tune, add on your fingers, and bake flat cookies. Someone will remember them as the best experiences they could have had! You’re a MOMMY, that makes you perfect. . .in the most important eyes.
#3 Hang it up
Little M makes a MESS when she paints, when she is done there is usually paint on her nose, her elbows and yes sometimes on her toes. There is always paint on the back of the paper. Of course when I would set the papers out to dry they would stick to whatever they were resting on. I can’t remember if it was me, or my brilliant Mom, who came up with this idea. Whoever it was, its too good not to pass on! I started collecting pant hangers from the store, you know the ones you throw away when you get home. I just clip the art to the hanger and hang it outside. Ta da a free and easy drying rack! In the picture I used an adult hanger, but I find the children size comes in really handy as well.
#4 the library is your best friend
Have you visited your local library lately? Our library has a great website. It stretches county wide and includes over 30 libraries. When you know what your kids are excited about or what ideas you want to explore with them, you can search by subject or a specific title. Once you find the books you’d like to borrow, you can put them on hold and within a couple of weeks they are ready to be checked out. Our library’s website even emails aready to be checked out alert! As long as you return all of your books on time, it is a wonderful (FREE) way to expose your kids to a wide variety of literature.
#5 let the messy art begin
The main problem with store bought smocks is that they only cover a small area and when kids get creative the last thing they should be worried about is where they set their hands!
Boys shirts are also the right size, Little M’s smock right now is a hand me down from her brother. If you are ready to get out the paint but don’t have any old shirts you can find one for under $1 at a yard sale or thrift shop.
#6 process wins over product every time
The difference between adults and kids is that while our goal is a neat, tidy and pretty finished piece; their goal is to experience the activity to its fullest. So bite your tongue when the perfect painting of a red and blue flower is suddenly covered with a dark brown blob. If you can find it in yourself to let go of your idea of a finished masterpiece, you might just discover a great time to add a little child directed lesson on color mixing.
I knew it wouldn’t take long for me to snap a perfect example for this one. Little M likes to paint every inch of every piece of paper she uses, front and back. Today we were stamping the letter C, and she had the most beautiful circles surrounding her C.
Not even 3 minutes went by after I took that picture and she had turned it into this:
I knew it would happen, it does every time, and yet I still had to pause for a brief moment. Should I stop her so this letter C can hang neatly next to the bubbled B and the dot dog D? What would be so wrong with telling her it’s time to stop? When she finished, held up her paper and smiled proudly. . . I knew the answer. She met the letter C the best way she could; smothering, feeling, and experiencing it completely.
#7 open ended questions
You may have noticed that I add questions to each of the activities. Most of those questions are open ended. An open ended question is one that has no right answer (more importantly, no wrong answer) and requires kids to think. “I see you’re building a track; can you tell me about this area?” “Why do you think the illustrator decided to make this picture green?” “That girl looks so sad. What might have happened to make her so sad? What might cheer her up?”
Open ended questions are important because they force kids to give more than a yes or no answer. With a simple question they are building listening skills (to give a full answer you have to actually hear the question), thinking skills, and language skill.
#8 learning to read starts with story time
I’m sure you have heard how important it is to read to your kids when they’re little. With very little effort, you can make story time an even greater learning experience.
– Drag your finger below the words as you read them. This gives your little one the sense that the story comes from the words. That you are actually reading words, not just making up your own story.
–Stall on a word once in a while and really sound it out. No need to make a big production about why you are doing it, your little one will be soaking up your actions.
–Engage your kid with questions, while you are reading. Ask what they think will happen next, ask why they think the author chose to end the book the way he did.
–Point out parts of the book while you are reading. I always start at the title page and read both the author’s and illustrator’s names. You can also note the binding, the cover, page numbers and dedication.
– Practice reading comprehension by quizzing your little one after a book. I usually close the book in my lap and then look at Big or Little M. I’ll ask questions about what the characters were wearing. What happened just before an important part of the story. If they can remember a specific number of items on a certain page. They always surprise me at the details they pick up, I think they pay close attention because they know I’m going to ask. Of course once they answer give them back the book and have them check to see if they were right!