I really started “working” with the kids on preschool type activities when Luke was about 2-1/2 years old. He just turned 4 in February and Lilah is now 2-1/2. I have changed the logistics of what we do and how we do it a zillion times already, but I’ll give you the basic methods behind my madness.
Step #1: Set daily goals - see the post here
Step #2: Space the activities
Once I’ve decided what I want to accomplish, I space the activities I’m going to do with the kids throughout our day.
I do this for several reasons:
- Little kids have short attention spans
- I want to give myself ample time to set up before and clean up after activities
- I don’t want to “entertain” my children all the time; I want them to learn to keep themselves occupied and have plenty of time for play because I think that’s equally (and sometimes even more) important
In my last post on this topic, I told you that 3 of my daily goals are usually incorporating a book reading time, doing some sort of art/craft/fine-motor activity, and then doing some sort of “together activity.” We do other learning things during the day, too, but these are 3 things that I know will require my full attention and thus I need to “make time” for them.
To better explain how I space our activities, let me tell you a little about them.
We often do our book reading time right before or after breakfast (usually sometime between 8-10am). I fondly call our reading sessions “book marathons” — this is a time other than bedtime when we read for 10 minutes to an hour plus, depending on everyone’s interest level and attention. Since we’ve done this pretty much since birth, both kids will sit and listen to books for a really long period of time. This is undoubtedly the MOST important part of our (home) preschool day, in my opinion. I won’t get into all the specifics here about why reading is SO beneficial, but if you only have time for ONE thing with your child daily, let it be reading.
During our book marathons, we read library books, Five in a Row books, holiday/seasonal books, books I select from our collection, books the kids want to read, picture books, and/or chapter books. Sometimes I theme them, sometimes they’re a random and eclectic mix. Usually we’ll keep a collection of books handy for a week or two, rereading our favorites many, many times.
I try to ensure that the majority of what we read is what I’d call “quality” literature. I find that as an adult, repeated readings of quality literature are much easier to stomach and even enjoy since the text and illustrations are so thoughtful and well-done. I’ve read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Caps for Sale to my children hundreds of times and I still don’t even cringe when I see the covers. On the other hand, the Ratatouille book based on the movie from the library that the kids HAD TO HAVE nearly drove me insane–it wasn’t a story but rather a summary of a story. Somehow I got away with only having to read it once, which I count as no small miracle! Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they liked it…and I do let them choose their own books, but if you surround children with well-written books, my experience is that over time, they’ll start to choose those most of the time, over books thrown together to make money by riding the coat-tails of some current fad. Okay, to get off of this soap box…in my opinion, any reading you do with your child is good, and if it’s a high quality text, then that just makes it better for them AND for you.
Our art, craft, or fine-motor activity we normally do around 11 am. This gives me time after reading to plan out what to do and get set up, and it gives me time to clean up afterwards and still have plenty of time before I need to prep lunch around noon. Our projects normally take anywhere from 10-30 minutes, with average probably taking around 15. I keep our art cabinet well-stocked and fairly organized, so quite often I just open it up, stare into the abyss for a few moments, and then throw an idea together on the spot. That, or I browse Pinterest for a minute or two beforehand.
I don’t think art has to be extravagant…it’s more about the process than the product and many days our art time just consists of a piece of paper and some type of medium for the children to explore. We also do the First Steps Kumon books during this time some days, or some sort of Montessori-inspired fine motor activity.
Our “together activity” we normally do after nap time, usually somewhere between 3:30-5:30 pm. We might go for a nature walk in our neighborhood, go to a local park, walk to the playground, play in our yard, build a city out of blocks in the living room, or play a game — but whatever it is, we all do it together. Luke doesn’t always nap, but once everyone is awake and has had a snack, that’s when we normally do our “together activity.” We typically spend 30 minutes to 2 hours on whatever activity we choose.
So, to sum it up, here’s a rough outline:
- 9:00 am – Goal #1 Book Marathon (10 min – 1 hour +)
- 11:00 am – Goal #2 Art/Craft/Fine Motor Activity (10 – 30 min)
- 3:30 pm – Goal #3 “Together Activity” (30 min – 2 hours)
In my next “Our (Home) Preschool Day” post, I’ll tell you how I fill in the rest of our day around the 3 main activities.
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