Marissa is the writer of "ThePracticalMommy" and owner of Mommy Knows What's Best. She's a former teacher and a stay-at-home mom to four.
How to Teach Preschool at Home
Preschool is often the first place where a child will begin to prepare for kindergarten. It doesn't have to be at a physical building dedicated to a preschool curriculum, however. Learning that takes place prior to schooling can happen anywhere, and most of the learning can occur right at home.
Teaching preschool at home can be a fun experience for you and your child. Learn how to prepare your child for kindergarten with fun preschool activities you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Review of ABCMouse.com
Read my review of the preschool site ABCMouse.com on my blog Mommy Knows What's Best.
What Supplies You Need to Teach Preschool at Home
You don't need to go crazy buying every possible preschool item you think you need (or the magazine/website tells you) to buy. Believe it or not, if you have a toddler or preschooler at home, chances are you already have some necessary items.
Here are some of the basics to have at home to teach preschool:
- A table or area where activities can take place. Your kitchen table will work perfectly for many activities, but if you have a child-sized table, that will be great as well. Also, if you have a little corner of the house, putting a comfy chair or bean bag chair there can be helpful for quiet activity times.
- Cards, magnets, or blocks with numbers and letters. These can be bought or handmade. They can be used for a variety of activities, so they're great to have on hand.
- Writing and Art Supplies. Pencils, paper, crayons, markers, paint, glue, and scissors are among some of the items you should have on hand for your preschooler. Most likely you already have many of those things, and so much more. You can reuse many items, like gift wrap, ribbon, tissue paper, plastic bottles, yarn, and much more, for art projects.
- Books. You probably have many of these. Yay! If not, books with simple words and colorful pictures are great. Nursery rhyme books also are great to have available.
Here are some optional items to have available in your home:
- Easel. An easel is great for artwork or learning how to draw/write.
- Instruments. Music is an important part of preschool learning. Having small instruments, like drums or a keyboard, makes learning music fun!
- Aquarium or terrarium. Having small animals or fish to take care of can provide learning experiences for your child. We have a turtle at home that my son likes to watch and help feed.
Preschoolers: Did You Know?
Preschoolers are not known for sitting for long periods of time. If you are going to do any activity with a preschooler, try to keep it between 15-30 minutes in length. Of course, some activities may be longer or shorter, but that depends on the activity and how long your preschooler is going to want to pay attention.
Preschool at Home Curriculum
Deciding on a preschool curriculum, or what you're going to teach, doesn't have to be difficult. Since preschool prepares children for school, you need to determine what your child will need to know or do once he/she is in kindergarten.
Here are some basic areas in which children should have practice before entering kindergarten:
- Following directions
- Being in a social/public environment
- Completing simple routine tasks
- Understanding the world, what is in it and how it works
- Using numbers
- Understanding patterns, opposites, and categories
Basically, preschoolers need to have experience in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. How can you incorporate these areas while teaching preschool at home? Chances are, you already are incorporating them without realizing it. Reading books, following bedtime routines, looking at bugs, putting together a puzzle, and singing nursery rhymes all incorporate the areas above.
If you are trying to have structure, then you can set up specific activities and routines each day for approximately 15-30 minutes at a time. Below are learning activities and ideas you can use for preschool at home.
The Beauty of Teaching Preschool Concepts at Home
Learning can occur at any time, so formal lessons aren't always necessary. Anytime your child seems interested in something, foster that interest by talking about the interest.
For example, if you're reading a book, ask questions prompting your preschooler to think about the story and what is going to happen next. If you're making dinner, talk about the process of measuring ingredients. If you're doing laundry, talk about the colors and fabrics you encounter.
Children learn by what they observe as well as what they are presented in lessons. Any time can be learning time!
Getting Ready: Set Up a Preschool Routine
Routines are essential for children. Without them, life would be chaos for them (and frustrating for you!).
You probably have some routines in place already: morning routines, mealtime routines, bedtime routines, etc. These are great ways to help preschoolers to get ready for school routines by setting up patterns that they need to follow, especially when the routines are consistently completed.
For a lesson routine, you can do the following:
- Start with an opening activity. This can be anything from reviewing the previous day's activity to answering specific questions to get little minds going.
- Say the day, date, and weather. This is the perfect time to introduce days, months, dates and weather to your child. Using a dry erase board or a calendar set, have your child practice saying "Today is [Monday] [May 21]." Then have your child take a look outside and say "The weather is [warm and sunny]."
- Introduce the activity and set the guidelines. No matter what the activity, it's best to start with a set of guidelines your child needs to follow. For example, you can say something like "Today we are going to use paints, but we need to be careful not to spill them." Step-by-step instructions can be given at this time, along with examples.
- Complete the activity. This is something that the preschooler needs to do on his/her own. Give guidance, but allow your child to complete the activity themselves.
- Review what was done for the day. This is the closing activity. Review the activity and clean up, with a hint at what the activity will be the next time.
This specific routine doesn't need to be followed verbatim, but it is very similar to what is used in schools on a daily basis.
To be ready for kindergarten, preschoolers should do the following:
- Know at least 10 letters of the alphabet
- Recognize and use rhyming words
- Know letters in their name
- Try to write first name
- Distinguish opposites
- Speak clearly to be understood by others
- Follow simple, step-by-step directions
- Converse with others by joining conversations
- Ask questions and display curiosity in world around them
- Recognize categories (i.e. couch and chair, pencil and paper)
- Repeat and recognize patterns
- Dress and undress
- Help with basic household chores or tasks
Preschool Activities: Reading and Writing
Here are some activities to teach reading and writing skills:
Learning the ABCs
- Sing the ABC song with your preschooler. Tired of the same old melody? Look up the melody used by Alpha Pig in the show Super Why or use the melody Alphie the toy robot sings.
- Sing the song again, but this time have your preschooler touch the letters (flashcards, book, placemat, etc.) as he/she sings the song.
- Sing the ABC song, but as you sing, stop so that your preschooler fills in the next letter.
- Pick a letter of the day and post it in your 'learning center' (flashcard, sticky note, dry erase board, chalkboard, etc.). First thing in the morning, introduce your preschooler to the letter and practice the sound(s) it makes. Any time the letter appears (books, toys, newspaper, TV, etc.), make note of it to your preschooler and practice the sound again.
- Use the letter of the day as the focus of the day's lesson, even if your lesson is a science, art or math lesson.
- Play a game! "I'm thinking of a word that starts with the 'wh' sound. What could that word be?" Your preschooler needs to think of all kinds of words that start with that sound or letter.
- One Letter a Day. Whether or not it is the letter of the day, choose one letter to practice writing every day. You can start with A and work towards Z or you can teach letters with similar shapes (i.e. Pp, Bb, Dd--all involve a line and a bump or two).
- Tracing letters with fingers. Have your preschooler use his/her pointer finger to trace the letters. As the letter is traced, practice the letter name and sound(s).
- Write first and last name. Preschoolers should at least know how to write their first name, but it wouldn't hurt to practice the last name as well. Search online for tracing sheets you can create with your child's name.
Educational Apps: Kids Math and Kids ABC
A great app I have on my Android phone is Kids Math. It allows kids to trace numbers and count. My son loves to use this app whenever we're out shopping or in the car.
Kids ABC is a very similar app, but instead of numbers kids can practice with letters, letter tracing and letter sounds.
Both can be found in the Android Market.
Preschool Activities: Math
Here are some activities to practice preschool math skills:
- Number flashcards. Practice number names by using flashcards. Start with them in order and when your preschooler masters them, mix them up.
- Counting items. Using ordinary items around the house, like blocks, buttons, spoons, or shoes, ask your preschooler to count items by picking them up as the numbers are said.
- Number of the Day. Similar to letter of the day, the number of the day can be posted in the house or learning center. Have your preschooler mention every time the number is seen or heard throughout the day.
- More or Less. Using the items needed for simple counting, make piles of the items and have your preschooler choose which has more and which has less.
Preschool Activities: Science
Here are a few activities to use as science lessons with your preschooler:
- Plant a small garden. So much can be learned from plants: life cycles, importance of natural resources, colors, categories, cells, etc.
- Take care of a pet or small animal. Animals too can be used for learning about life and how bodies work.
- Liquids and solids. Watch an ice cube go from a solid state to a liquid state, or monitor how long it takes for ice to form. Play with bubbles. Talk about molecules moving fast or slow.
- Textures. Place items with different textures in containers. Ask your preschooler to cover his/her eyes and touch the items, explaining as best they can how they feel. Discuss why the items feel different from each other.
- Dinosaurs and fossils. What preschooler is not interested in dinosaurs? Talk about how they were different from animals of today, what they looked like, what they ate, how they defended themselves, and how their bones were preserved.
Preschool Activities: Social Studies
Here are a few social studies activities for preschoolers:
- Family Tree. Have your preschooler discover more about your family by creating a family tree together. A fun activity would be to take pictures of your preschooler with various members of your family and add the photos to a large family tree poster.
- Who's in Your Neighborhood? Have your preschooler observe the people in your neighborhood. How are they alike? How are they different? Go beyond just looks. Talk about different types of families, different kinds of jobs, etc.
- Cultures of the World. What better way to do this than through food? Every week, sample a recipe from a different culture or country. Discuss traditions other cultures or countries might have when they eat these foods.
Preschool Activities: Art
Here are some art activities:
- Drawing basic shapes. Practice drawing circles, rectangles, triangles, and squares. Talk about what makes each shape different.
- Primary, secondary and tertiary colors. Your preschooler should be able to identify the primary colors and some secondary colors by now, but how many more does he/she know? Introduce new colors from the color wheel and talk about how mixing primary colors can make secondary colors.
- Picture patterns. Using stamps, make a pattern on a piece of paper. Ask your preschooler to recreate the same pattern with the stamps.
- Using scissors. Have your preschooler practice cutting on straight lines and curved lines.
- Using different mediums. When making art projects, go beyond the standard crayons and paper. Use markers, paints, paper, canvas, wood, clay, chalk, pastels, glue, or stamps to make works of art.
- Making a Bird Feeder. Do you like to upcycle? Make a simple bird feeder from a milk carton, container or plastic gallon jug! Step-by-step instructions and a video included. Great craft for kids!
Preschool Activities: Music
Here are a few musical activities to do with your preschooler:
- Clapping to the beat. Ask your toddler to clap along to the beat of his/her favorite songs.
- What instrument is that? As you listen to music, try to figure out what instruments are being used in the song.
- Sing Along. Sing along to some of the well known kids nursery rhymes or other fun kids songs. Practice singing quietly and loudly.
Field Trips for Preschoolers
It's important for your preschooler to get out of the house every once in a while. Trips to the zoo, aquarium, museums, or farms can teach your preschooler so much.
Don't live near any of those places? Simple trips to the park, stores, dentist, or even the doctor's office can be learning experiences. Visit faraway places online where you can use virtual tours to experience new locations.
Preschool TV Shows
- Super Why--reading
- Sesame Street--all subjects
- Martha Speaks--speaking/vocabulary
- Sid the Science Kid--science
- Word World--spelling
- Umi Zoomi--math
TV and Internet Time for Preschoolers
TV and internet time should be limited for preschoolers, but when they are being used, use them for learning opportunities. Have TV scavenger hunts by asking your preschooler to find a list of items, colors, shapes, letters or numbers. Visit preschooler-friendly websites where kids can complete learning activities.
Teach Preschool at Home
Anyone can teach preschool at home, with basic supplies and basic knowledge of what a preschooler needs to learn.
Don't forget: learning can occur anywhere at any time. Any experience can be a learning experience!
Enjoy these preschool years; your child will be kindergarten ready before you know it.
Marissa (author) from United States on May 23, 2013:
Felisa Daskeo, thank you very much for your kind comment!
Felisa Daskeo from Manila, Philippines on May 20, 2013:
Great job. You have explained the activities well and in details and I'm sure teachers and parents will find this hub very helpful.
Marissa (author) from United States on October 25, 2012:
Sharkye11, glad I could give you some fresh ideas to work with. Have fun, and thanks for reading! :)
Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on October 24, 2012:
Excellent hub! I am going with home-schooling, but these are still excellent guidelines for what children should know by kindergarten age. My daughter learns fast, and some days I am stumped as what to do next. Now I have some good ideas! Thanks for the great info! Voting up and more!
Marissa (author) from United States on August 14, 2012:
Learn Things Web, thanks for the feedback! I tried to cover as much as possible. :)
LT Wright from California on August 13, 2012:
This is a really good, comprehensive list of things to cover.
Marissa (author) from United States on May 30, 2012:
Samoa6, glad you love it! Thanks for reading and commenting!
Samoa6 from San Diego on May 29, 2012:
love this hub - thanks for some great ideas and a good reference for months to come!
Marissa (author) from United States on May 24, 2012:
tillsontitan, thank you very much for the comment and for voting up! :)
Marissa (author) from United States on May 24, 2012:
randomcreative, thank you very much! I was writing this for parents, but I forgot about all of the teachers who look for new ideas (like I used to). :) Thanks for reading and commenting!
Marissa (author) from United States on May 24, 2012:
kelleyward, I really like the idea of making little books with the numbers and letters of the day. Fantastic! Thank you for reading and commenting!
Mary Craig from New York on May 24, 2012:
Very good information and detail. Even if you aren't going to home school, pre-school at home can be a good idea to make sure your child is prepared for school. Voted up.
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 23, 2012:
This is a great resource for both teachers and parents!
kelleyward on May 23, 2012:
What a magnificent hub! We do some of what you suggested at home and my kids love it. Right now we are choosing a letter and number of the day for my youngest and making little books to go along. Thanks for sharing your helpful ideas! Take care, Kelley
Marissa (author) from United States on May 23, 2012:
angela_michelle, I'm glad you found it helpful! Thanks for reading and commenting! :)
Marissa (author) from United States on May 23, 2012:
LikaMarie, thank you for your perspective. Teaching preschool concepts at home certainly is a good indicator if you are prepared to homeschool or not.
Thanks for reading!
Angela Michelle Schultz from United States on May 23, 2012:
this is a very helpful tool. I really liked the sidebar that specified exactly what is expected from a child before they go into Kindergarten.
LikaMarie on May 23, 2012:
This is good info! :) Anyway, I had started a little bit in preschool to get my son kindergarten ready.
Then for half of second grade, I'd home schooled. I ended up opting for the virtual schooling instead. But still home based, and I get to add the extra curricular activities and the electives.
Thanks for posting.