The ABCs of How to Home Preschool
Welcome to Day Three of the ABCs of How to Home Preschool!
Thank you so much for reading along in this series. It’s a very personal one for me to write. I have already received so many comments, several of which have moved me to tears, and I just want to say thank you so much for your support!!
Before I get to F-J in the series today, I just want to remind you this is really the ABCs of How WE Home Preschool, as there is no definitive guide that can tell you what will work in YOUR home and with YOUR child. This is just what we do and what works for us. Hopefully you can use parts of it, or at least gain some inspiration from it. If you want to home preschool, you can!
There is no way to cover all the ins and outs of our daily lives as home preschoolers, but I’ll do my best to show you through these ABCs a good glimpse into our day-to-day. Feel free to ask questions.
Here are my F-J of How WE Home Preschool
F is for fine motor.
Fine motor skill, according to Wikipedia, is the coordination of small muscle movements which occur in body parts such as the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes.
Fine motor skills are what will one day allow your child to pick up a pencil and write a story. The ability to hold a pencil in a proper grip and move it across a paper in a controlled way doesn’t just happen magically one day when the child reaches a certain age. Neither does the ability to zip a coat or tie one’s shoes. No, it’s a gradual progression that takes place over time and with practice. That’s why the preschool years need to be FILLED to the brim with fine motor skills practice! And the good news is it can be soooo fun!
You can start your child off very early working on fine motor skills. Please always use extreme caution if working with small pieces that could be a choking hazard.
One of the first things you can do to help your child practice is to feed them finger foods as an infant and toddler. Finger foods are some of the first fine motor practice your child will ever get, and it’s great for developing hand eye coordination and a pincer grasp.
Aside from feeding time, some of our first fine motor skills activities (~18 months old) were putting toothpicks through the holes of a toothpick container or cheese shaker, and sticking pipe cleaners into the holes of a colander turned upside down. My kids LOVED both activities a lot. In addition to helping them work on a pincer grasp, it also helps them develop concentration! Ours liked both so much, we kept the activity together and pulled it out whenever they wanted to do it.
We also started the kids out with chunky and peg puzzles around 18 months of age. I bought as many new and used wooden puzzles as I could find because I felt these were an important “toy” to have in our house, not only for their fine motor benefits, but for their benefits to math-related skills. Not wanting to lose puzzle pieces all over the house, I borrowed from Montessori’s ideals: I taught my children to take a puzzle to the area they wanted to work, to carefully take out a piece at a time and set it on the table until all the pieces were removed, then to complete the puzzle, and put it back on the shelf. Yes, it was work for me at the beginning to ensure these rules were always followed (err…at least mostly followed), but 3 years later, we have never lost a puzzle piece! Given that we probably own 75+ puzzles now, I’d say that’s pretty good. My 3 year old can do 12-24 piece borderless puzzles now and my almost 5 year old has just graduated from 48 pieces which he can do easily to 100 piece, which are a bit of a challenge for him, but one that he will stick with until completion.
Another great resource for fine motor skills is Montessori. I read just about every book our library had on the topic and incorporated lots of Montessori’s “practical life” activities into our home. I set up little trays the kids could choose from to work with, filled with activities like pouring water from one small pitcher into another and back again, spooning beans from one bowl to another, and balancing marbles on top of golf tees that had been stuck into Styrofoam. All of the activities we did usually were made from things around the house, but the kids LOVED them and would spend a good deal of time completing them independently.
From around age 2-1/2 with Luke and age 2 with Lilah, we also did the Kumon First Steps workbooks which are fabulous for fine motor and lots of fun, too. I am NOT normally a workbook fan, but I love these! They’re really more of a hands-on activity book. I got each child their own Let’s Color!, Let’s Sticker and Paste!, Let’s Cut Paper!, and Let’s Fold! books. (They are 4-for-3 on Amazon!). We started out doing one or two sheets and worked up to doing a full page from each book in a single sitting. I never let the kids do more than one page per day from each book to keep them interested, and one page a day is really enough “practice” for them at this age. The books lasted us a long while since we didn’t do them every single day, and my two really learned a lot from them. This is also a great way to have your child learn to sit at a table to do work.
Another great way to practice fine motor skills is with building. We have TONS of building toys — wooden blocks, Lego Duplo, Lego, Widgits, MagnaTiles, Zoob, Rok Blocks, and use at least some of them daily.
Starting right before turning 4, my son started doing Lego kits. We started him with ones rated for ages 5-7. The simple ones with us helping used to take around an hour for him to complete. A year later he is doing ones rated for 8-12 almost entirely independently, with only occasional help from us — and his own personal created Lego designs seem to be much more advanced because of his experiences building the Lego kits.
Daily arts and crafts projects are also great for fine motor practice!
Does all this fine motor practice pay off? At the beginning of fall 2012 when we pulled out our jackets for the first time, my 4-1/2 year old surprised me when I asked him if he needed me to zip him up by walking over and showing me he had done it all by himself!
For more on fine motor skills, see these posts:
- 25 Ideas to Get Your Child Ready to Write
- Fine Motor Practice Suggestions
- More on Fine Motor Practice
- Big Plans for a Little Mosaic Board
- #5 of the Top 5 Most Important Things to Do with Your Toddler/Preschooler
- Meal Planning, Tacos Turned Nachos, and Fine Motor Skills
- Toys and Games for Fine Motor Practice
- Fine Motor: Snowflakes
G is for gross motor.
Gross motor movements “come from large muscle groups and whole body movement.” And it’s definitely another area you’ll want to cover with your preschooler.
It can be dancing, jumping, hopping, skipping, running, or many other movements. Gross motor practice helps your child become more coordinated.
Some ways my children practice gross motor skills: jumping on our indoor trampoline, playing at the playground, riding their bikes and scooters in our neighborhood, playing games on our driveway like hopscotch, and dancing to silly music. We’ve also made a sidewalk chalk track on our driveway to encourage movement before.
From around age 2, we had little pedal-less Radio Flyer bikes for them to ride around in the house. These were great!!
Luke also plays spring and fall soccer since turning 4, and Lilah will also play team soccer once she turns 4. Luke’s first spring season we were happy when he and the other kids were at least running in the right direction. By the first fall season, it was amazing to see how much the teams had progressed, and he even scored a couple of goals! If you are looking for a good first sport for your child, I highly recommend soccer because every person on the field is always active. There’s no standing around waiting for a turn, and mostly it’s just running and occasionally kicking, which most kids can do.
I also signed my kids up for a weekly gymnastics class at a local gym a few months ago. I did this for two reasons. One is that my 3 year old daughter has always had very good motor skills — she could completely dress and undress herself in footie pajamas by age 2 (that is the ultimate challenge, right??), and she has a very strong preference for all things dance and gymnastics. At her age, I figured gym was probably the choice that she would get the most out of, while saving dance for another year or two. So, in short, gym is something she’s really good at and really interested in.
My second reason for signing the kids up is because my nearly 5 year old has always been….well….a bit awkward in his movements. Before his slide-loving sister started dragging him along on her adventures at the playground, he would literally go sit under the slides and tell me it was too hot to play. He was 2!!! Despite my best efforts to work with him at home, he will not even jump off a step that’s a foot high off the ground. We even have a homemade balance beam at home, but he’s never been that interested in practicing. Then enter gym class with a coach and a whole flock of other kids going through the motions, and suddenly he LOVES it! The first day he did the balance beam, he had to do it with his whole body sideways and he still kept falling off. Two months have gone by and I see so much improvement in him! He can do front rolls now, and is beginning to get over his fear of jumping off of things (that aren’t that high to begin with!). It has been great for him! And can you guess what his favorite part of gym class is??? The balance beam.
Here are a few more gross motor ideas:
- Practicing Gross Motor Skills
- #5 of the Top 5 Most Important Things To Do with Your Toddler / Preschooler
H is for healthy habits.
I think it’s important to instill in your young child the healthy habits you’d like them to have for life. Of course, your ideas about what healthy habits to teach your children may vary from mine, but these are some things I have worked to teach my own kids as an example:
*I’ve tried to teach the kids to identify the differences between healthy foods and foods that are less so. The Berenstain Bear’s Too Much Junk Food is an excellent book to use for expounding this topic. We read it just by chance one day and my oldest has since quoted it on many, many occasions, so apparently it packs a real punch against sugary foods in a positive way that resonates, at least for some kids!
*Only eat and drink at the table. It cuts down on excess snacking and limits messes around the house. There are very few exceptions to this practice in our house.
*When we find a particular behavioral area the kids need to work on, sometimes we employ a sticker chart to help get the job done! Recently a goal was for the kids to listen the first time they were told to do something, and so we made sticker charts and they earned a sticker each time they did something without whining, complaining, or having to be asked a second…or third…or fourth time. We pretty much use the sticker charts all the time and just rotate the behavior goals on which we want them to focus.
Other healthy habits we work on that come to mind:
- developing a system for teeth brushing and other morning and night time routines,
- memorizing Bible verses,
- using words to explain feelings instead of screaming and crying,
- sharing with others,
- going to Sunday School,
- general manners.
I is for independence.
Teaching your child to do life skills independently is something I feel very strongly about. Yes, they are children and yes, you are the parent, but that doesn’t mean you should do everything for them in my opinion. You are actually doing them a disservice in many ways by taking away their opportunities to practice skills they need and want to learn. It’s hard to let go, and it often takes MORE time and patience on your part, but it really helps to build their confidence and self-worth, not to mention their skills, and it starts them out in life with good habits. This section very much piggy-backs on the healthy habits section above!
Here are some skills your YOUNG children can be learning and doing from around age 2 and up:
- dressing and undressing themselves,
- here’s how we organize their closets to help them get dressed all by themselves
- putting their dirty clothes in the proper place,
- helping to sort and fold clean laundry (pairing socks and folding dish cloths is a good place to start with little ones)
- putting away their clothes when the laundry is folded (even if it’s just their socks and underwear),
- putting on and taking off their own coats,
- putting on and taking off their own shoes (at least get one pair that your child can do that doesn’t involve laces),
- getting their own shoes when it’s time to go outside,
- putting their shoes in their proper place when they come inside,
- hanging up their coats,
- getting and filling their own cup using a water dispenser
- washing their hands (put stools at the sinks once they are tall enough to reach)
- helping set the table
- drinking from open cups or glasses,
- brushing their teeth (you can have a turn, too, but let them do it themselves some each time).
Now, these are not just things you can TELL your child to do. They all must be TAUGHT.
To speak to a couple of those, I’ll start with shoes. My kids each have a shoe basket in the downstairs. When it’s time to go out, they each go to their basket, pick out their shoes, put them on, and we go out. When we come home, they immediately take off their shoes and put them in their shoe basket. I haven’t seen shoes on the wrong feet in well over a year, and that’s saying a lot considering they are only 3 and 4. Not to mention, this is a big stress off of you as the parent to not have to put on kids’ shoes and take off kids’ shoes every time you leave the house!!
Same with coats. The kids have a coat rack they can reach. They put their coats on when it’s time to go out and they hang them up when we come back inside.
My children also drink from open cups…glass ones, in fact…and have done so since they were 18 months old. I don’t think one has ever been broken.
I carefully chose glasses that were appropriately sized for their little hands and thick-walled. You can read about what we have used here. It’s not a choice everyone will be comfortable with, but it’s worked well for us. My children know to be careful with them because they’ve seen Mommy drop a thing or two in the kitchen before (gah!), so they know what would happen if they aren’t careful. The positive here is that if we are away from home, I never have to worry about bringing along special cups or worrying that my children will break someone’s glasses…because it’s what they’re already used to using. Plastic or even the little paper “bathroom” cups are always an option here, too.
You might worry some of the independent tasks I listed above could be dangerous — like letting a child wash their own hands at the sink; they might get burned! It is my opinion that a child who can sneak their way to a sink they aren’t supposed to use for a little secret play time is much more likely to get burned than a child who has been taught which handle is for hot water and which is for cold water and the “proper procedure” for how to wash her hands there. Same with drinking from an open glass. A child who has been taught how to drink from a glass and how to keep it away from the edge of the table is much less likely to break it than a child who gets their hands on a parents’ glass when Mommy or Daddy isn’t looking and runs with it so it doesn’t get taken away. In the end, YOU know YOUR child best so make YOUR best judgement on these things… We all want to keep our kids safe!
J is for journey out.
I included journey out for two reasons. For one, just because you are going to HOME preschool doesn’t mean you need to stay at HOME all the time! Get out! Go somewhere! Leave the safety of your four walls and have some fun. And for two, it’s good for your little ones to get out and see how the world works…and socialize. It’s good for you, too.
My suggestion is at least one outing per week. On the other hand, you don’t want to overdo it either. Find a good balance that works for your family.
For us, there are lots of free places we can go: the library, parks, playgrounds, nature trails, and museums.
If we don’t mind spending a little money, we have even more options: indoor bounce house places, kids and science museums, the zoo, aquariums, the Imax or movie theater.
Sometimes we just go outside in our yard or walk around our neighborhood. We do lots of nature walks.
Play dates with friends, neighbors, or cousins are great. You might even find some cool meetup groups in your area. We also take the kids to Sunday School and/or church, gym class, soccer games for Luke, Lowe’s Build & Grow clinics, and restaurants. Pretty much any where we go, the kids go!
I do think providing your child with some play time with other kids similar in age is important, but just remember “socializing” doesn’t have to be just with other kids. Socializing means “to make fit for companionship with others; to convert or adapt to the needs of society.” Even trips to the mall or grocery store will teach children about social norms, and how to talk and interact with people. You might even try letting your child order their own food the next time you’re at a restaurant, or answer the, “Paper or plastic?” question for you at the grocery store.
There are lots of opportunities for teaching, learning, and socializing wherever you go!
Here’s a post with 30 places to take your preschooler to jump start you with some ideas.
P.S. If you read this through to the end, I have to say I’m very impressed! I started writing and the words just flowed. It ended up being more of a novella than a blog post, so my apologies to those who like things short and sweet. At least there are picture letters for you skimmers!
- Being a Hands on Mom from hands on : as we grow
- Connecting with your Kids from One Perfect Day
- Family Field Trips with Kids from Edventures with Kids
- Fun Healthy Snacks for Kids from Juggling with Kids
- Kids Party Ideas from Mama Pea Pod
- Mama Survival from The Dizzy Mom
- Organized Home from Mamas Like Me
- Printables from Mama Miss
- Raising Boys from Boy Mama Teacher Mama
- Raising Eco-Friendly Kids from Kitchen Counter Chronicles
- Raising Girls from Mess for Less
- Raising a Healthy Kid from Living Life Intentionally
- Raising a Thinking Child from The Outlaw Mom
- Raising Toddlers from Home Learning Journey
- Raising a World Citizen from All Done Monkey
- Simply Celebrating Holidays as a Family from Inspired by Family Magazine
- Teaching Kids about Money from Carrots are Orange
- The Family Dinner Table from Connecting Family & Seoul
- Trying A New Experience with Your Children from 52 Brand New
- Values for Children from True Aim Education
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