I know that I have a lot of readers with younger kids. I thought I would try to start writing a new weekly series to highlight some of the things we used to do when the kids were between 2 and 5-years old or so.
It can be difficult to balance kids of different ages… especially when you have a rambunctious, active toddler and/or preschooler in the mix!! You can read this post about homeschooling multiple ages, if you are interested.
This week, I want to highlight a a huge list of preschool activities I put together when ED was about 3-years old. It’s FREE to download! 🙂
I’m also going to talk about how I tried to change things up each week or so… by creating different THEMED tables. It worked incredibly well for our family when the kids were 5 and below!! It helped keep our homeschool fresh, exciting, fun and engaging! (Most of the time, that is!!)
This is a huge, long list of more than 100 different activities that you can do with your 2-5 year olds. I originally compiled this list when ED was three or so. I compiled this list when I was struggling to balance the needs of my preschooler with my older two school-age kids. Here’s what I wrote when I first made this list:
I am a list person! I love writing down things we should do, could do, have done. In fact, I started this blog as the ultimate list of things we’ve done! Trying to balance the needs of three kids, I worry at times about not doing enough with ED. I was going through the preschool lists I created for the other kids and started making a list of things I wanted to do with ED. Then after going through my old lists, I also went through my blog (you can scan through out old toddler or preschool posts too by going to the categories in the sidebar). I came across a lot of things I’d like to do with ED…
Ultimately, I came up with a three-page list of things to do with my preschooler. Some things she is beginning to outgrow, but I included them since others might find them helpful. I included hyperlinks back to old blog posts. And if you find this list helpful please drop me a comment. I love sharing our activities and get a huge boost when I hear from others!
- A Huge List of things to do with Your Preschooler (Free Printable)
Tons of outdoor time!
One thing I really want to make clear is that activities like the ones above or the ones I’m going to show you in this series were just a small portion of our day… the other parts of the day we were likely to be found outside on a hike or playing at playgrounds, going to the zoo, going on a nature hunt, swimming, or biking … you know, just playing and doing kid-things by exploring the world around us! I consider that an important part of homeschooling too! We did things like kindermusic and kindergym, playdates and trips to places around town. Anyway, it felt important to share that with you! When I glance back through our older posts I was often talking about the cool cicada we saw hatching or the tadpoles we saw or the birds we watched. 🙂
So, while I may share a lot of “indoor” activities in this series, I want you to be aware that that was only a snippet of our homeschool life!!!
A blog just can’t really capture what life is “really” like. It captures the happy, fun moments of a family’s life. Keep that in mind when you’re having a rough day, the kids are crying, and the house winds up up in a giant mess that makes you want to pull your hair out! We all have moments in our day that are tough, tough, tough! Hang in there and keep your chin up! This homeschooling journey is worth it!! Honest!!
The Prepared Environment
I want to start with a glimpse into our homeschool environment when the kids were about 2, 4 and 6. We did a lot of Montessori activities at the time and I read a lot of books and articles about the Montessori philosophy. Here what I wrote back then:
Montessori talks a lot about having a prepared environment, one in which the children can choose from materials that are set up in such a way that fosters independent learning.
But it’s not simply having materials out, the environment is to be ordered and calm and the materials should allow them to charge of their own learning.
I’ve also heard the prepared environment described as calm, beautiful, accessible, and structured.
Personally, I also want an environment that encourages the kids to play creatively. Now I’m not so sure our set-up is beautiful (we’re making due with what we have since we’ve just moved from furnished accommodations overseas), but it is functional for us. I am impressed by how much the kids do on their own. I’ll set things up the night before and find that the kids find activities and do them on their own — often without me noticing.
Anyway, here are a few photos of our set-up. Much of this is geared for ED and DD… [my two girls who were 2 and 4 at the time].
As you can see, here are blocks and legoes, Kid K’Nex (the puppy version, of course!) Puzzles, board games, and all kinds of Montessori activities.
We have just moved and are using what we have on hand to create an environment where the kids can be self-directed. We have some very low tables and I bring out new things daily or every other day. For example, in the picture above, I set out a board game and a bead stacking activity.Other things I’ve set out recently include board games, Montessori cards, sorting and tonging activities, pattern blocks, dress-up bears, card games, and so forth. I’ve seen other people set out their materials on bookshelves, but I find that the kids actually stand/sit at these tables and do the activity right there (or on the floor nearby). That works well for us.
Our craft table is a major source of activity. Each morning I make sure the paper (a huge ream of butcher paper) is fresh and often I set out a craft they can do independently (though unfortunately I can’t yet trust ED with scissors or glue so that only comes out when I’m in the room).
Lately the girls have been enjoying coloring pages too, so I often set out a couple new pages if they’re interested.
There have been times when I set out theme tables, but lately I’ve just been going through the cupboards and rotating in various materials they haven’t used since our move. It’s been a joy in particular, watching ED (2 1/2) who now does so much on her own with little or no direction/help from me leaving me free to work with the other kids as they need it.
I’m always asking myself if I’ve set out things that pique the kids’ interest, are challenging enough, foster independent-learning in some way, allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment and things like that.
Theme Time Tables
To keep things interesting for the kids… and to help me rotate through their toys, puzzles and books I would choose a theme for the week when the kids were younger.
The theme this particular week was bears:
Today our theme time table included all things fire related: little fire trucks, a fire hat, fire type books and a non-working telephone. We also had various first aid “equipment” … you know the plastic doctor’s kit we all had as kids!
We spent time pretending to bandage a wound (that’s dramatic ketchup). LD insisted I put a knife in the picture, but rest assured there was no actual knife on hand during our activity! LOL!!
ED helped me to ‘prepare’ my arm so she wasn’t afraid (she drew on my arm with red marker and helped spread the ‘blood’). I called the older two into the room and told them I needed immediate help. LD said immediately, “Oh Ma, that’s ketchup.” Smart kids, right?! But then they got to the task at hand… putting pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding, wrapping my arm and calling 9-1-1 for help – giving their name, address and explaining what was wrong. We looked at all the various things in our first aid box and we went over where it is kept.
At lunch I ready a couple of books (The Fire Cat and The Polka Dot Puppy about a cat/dog who gets adopted by a fire station). Another cute book for this age is Pete the Cat, Firefighter Pete. (affiliate links)
After lunch we all gathered together and had a serious talk about fire safety. It’s been quite a long time (gulp!) since we talked about this, but LD remembered most everything. We talked about what to do in case of a fire. How they could get out of each room. We talked about where our family “meeting zone” is in case of a fire/emergency. We practiced getting to the safety zone (front gate).
We also practiced calling 9-1-1 for emergency services. We made practice calls to on the (non-working) phone, told them our name, our phone number, our address, and explained what the emergency was. Here’s a photo from another time we did this activity. DD is practicing talking on the phone to emergency services.
When we came back in, we practiced STOP! DROP! ROLL!! And we talked about how if you need to help someone you throw a blanket on them (the dog really got into this activity!)
FINALLY (said LD!!) it was time for their FAVORITE fire safety drill. Covering their mouth and staying low through thick smoke. Here are the pics
Before starting, we tested our smoke alarms.
Be sure you do this soon too!
Now on to the activity!!
I set up a few obstacles and the kids had to go through the blinding smoke safely and quickly. I talked to them about how confusing and scary it might be if they couldn’t see. And how they should cover their mouth with a cloth and try to stay as low to the ground as possible (things like that).
We’ve done this before and it has really stuck with them. And, needless to say, we spent more than an hour setting up new obstacles and venturing down the hall. I was surprised that ED wanted the blindfold on. Last year DD was too scared to do it with a blindfold (though NOT THIS YEAR she told me proudly!)
LD practiced being a real fireman with a heavy backpack on his back as well. He loved this new twist!
Other Themes We Covered in the Preschool Years:
Farms (which also included a felt board set up I did of the Three Little Pigs. The kids spent time retelling the story and then playing with all the felt pieces. (I talk about how I made our own felt board here. I used to use this TONS!) I’m not necessarily the best artist as you can see by the felt critters I made above and below, but the kids thought I was brilliant! 🙂 This goes to show you that you don’t need to spend a lot of money… just a bit of creative effort for your kids to have fun and to be inspired!
Other THEME IDEAS: We also did theme time tables on space, the circus, flowers, doctors, the forest, deserts, pond life, apples, magnets, insects, spiders, butterflies, the five senses, natural disasters … not to mention all the celebrating and doing holidays on the various holidays throughout the year. Of course, by the time we did some units my oldest was in early elementary (but my girls were still in the toddler/preK range!
Anyway, I just wanted to share some of the things I did to keep things fresh and active for my kids. By choosing a theme, it made it easier for me to brainstorm and come up with interesting creative activities. I then had fun pulling things out of their rooms and rotating through all the “stuff” we had tucked away in games closets and stuff.
Plus, another big benefit was that my kids always LOVED Monday mornings!! I often had a huge blanket covering our “Theme Time Table” to make them more excited and anticipate what was to come!!
Well, that’s just a quick glimpse into our lives at that age. I’ll be back again next week with another Preschool Post!
Too Excited to Wait?!!
Be sure to visit our Preschool at Home Page for TONS more ideas!!
Other related posts you might be interested in:
- Our Jack and the Beanstalk Activities
- Preschool at Home: Activities you can do with your 2-4 Year Olds, Fine Motor Skills
- Preschool at Home: Learning Letters
- Preschool at Home: Alphabet Activities
- Preschool at Home: Handwriting
- Preschool at Home: Science for 2-4 Year Olds
- Preschool Montessori: Vertebrate and Invertebrate Study and Free Cards
- Preschool at Home: A Few Math Ideas for the 2 1/2-3 year old crowd
- Preschool Math Activities (K4) Montessori Math and More
- Preschool at Home: Lapbooks
- You might also be interested in the post: Homeschool Preschool Year in Review which was a recap of many of our preschool activities this past year.
- Preschool Geography: Activities for learning about where we live in the world, Montessori world map work and more
- Preschool Geography: Maps and More
- Animals and Their Groups – Sorting Cards
- The Seven Continents and World Landmarks
- Various Free Montessori 3-Part Cards
- Teach Your Child to Read for fun ideas that help your child learn to read!Phonics Readers Our Family Used
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P.S. If you love hands-on activities, you’re going to love this post which shares lots and lots of pictures: Ultimate Hands-On Homeschooling Guide
P.P.S. We have a free Nature Hunt printable that has been really popular over the years! You can grab that here: