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Top Free Resources for Teaching Pre-K at Home

Do you have toddlers or preschoolers in the home?  I’m planning to teach our two preschoolers at home this year, for reasons like teaching the faith and values that our family upholds as true and also for financial reasons.

While I’m really excited to exercise my teacher muscles by homsechooling our preschoolers, I’m also feeling a little overwhelmed since preschool is not exactly my specialty. So, lately I’ve spent a good deal of time on Pinterest and Google trying to gather up the best, free (or really, really inexpensive) preschool resources out there – from curriculum, to themed units, to printables, to hands-on activities, and more.

So, on today’s Mama Monday, I thought I would share these free preschool resources with you so that you don’t have to spend all of the time I did on collecting them! 🙂  I won’t have room to mention everything I’ve pinned while searching, so if you want even more material to consider, look at my Learning at Home board on Pinterest.

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  1. God’s Little Explorers CurriculumMotherhood on a Dime offers this FREE, faith-based preschool curriculum online for homeschoolers, and it looks to suit our family’s needs.  The free curriculum includes basic plans for daily instruction (based on a four-day school week) as well as printables.  I plan to use the free version of this curriculum as my foundation and supplement it with some of the activities and ideas listed in the categories below.   Note: the creator of this program also has a paid option format that includes better graphics and more printables.  The paid option is still very inexpensive (less than $15 )for an entire school-year’s worth of plans!
  2. Seasonal/Themed Printable Packs – I plan to use this free fall printable pack from Homeschool Creations as a supplementary material for this season along with the curriculum mentioned above.  Homeschool Creations offers many other printable packs as well.  1+1+1=1 is another amazing printable packs resource with everything from princesses and my little pony to solar systems and star wars! 🙂
  3. Writing Skills – my children are not yet coordinated enough to form actual letters (although our daughter is close), so we’ll be working on some pre-writing skills before anything else.  I picked this floral printable for my daughter  and these printables will work well for both children as well as these from 3 Dinosaurs .  I love the idea that this mom had to put the printables or workbook pages into sheet protectors in a binder so that you can use dry erase markers with them.  You could even let your preschooler decorate the front of his or her binder to personalize it.  Use them over and over again! 🙂  Once they grasp the concept, I plan to introduce alphabet letter formation.  The Measured Mom offers these writing stations as homeschool alternatives to using printables alone.  You could use the same methods with shapes and numbers, as well.
  4. Letter Recognition – I love the idea of starting out with my children’s names as well as other names in the house.  You can read about name kits at Fun-a-day.  If you’re intersted in a montessori method for introducing letters, Living Montessori Now offers excellent advice.  Hands on as we grow  has a list of 50 fun activities for learning both upper case and lower case letters.  At Crystal and Co. you can find instructions for fun letter-of-the week crafts, too, as well as other homeschool resources.
  5. Number Recognition – DLKT offers a number of counting and number worksheets here. Turtle Diary offers these printable options.  What I think will most appeal to our preschool boy and girl will be more hands-on activities like this paper tube one from Learn With Play at Home and a method using easter eggs from Reading Confetti.
  6. Shape Recognition – Although our preschoolers already know most of their shapes, we still need to do some reviewing in this area.  Hands on as we grow demonstrates how to be hands-on when learning shapes.  Shape puzzles are another great resource as children can both handle the shape itself and also learn how it fits into the board. I also like this crafty approach to shape matching from education.com.  Creative Family Fun offers 12 fun ways to learn shapes.  Also, you can find printables for shapes here at Aussie Childcare Network.
  7. Color Recognition –  Although our daughter is pretty solid on her colors, our son could use more help.  So, we’ll be continuing to practice our colors through the preschool years in our homeschool.  I’m working on a home-made version of Go Fish using colors for our preschoolers, so when it’s done I’ll be sure to share with you. 🙂 Toddler Approved provides these hands-on learning methods for colors.  Inspiration Laboratories has a great idea for creating a color rainbow that I think our preschoolers would love.  We also plan to sort buttons, pom-poms, beads, etc. by color and create patterns, as well as learn colors through reading some books we have about colors.
  8. Music/Rhymes – I plan to use youtube for much of our music, but I also like these printable nursery rhymes from Aussie Childcare Network.  DLKT offers these printables for making nursery rhyme characters to use as puppets or for a felt board.
  9. Bible Literacy – I plan to incorporate Bible lessons into our home preschool, but I’d like to save this topic for a future post as I plan to review a few options in detail.  So, check back next week for those options. 🙂
  10. Letter Formation –  Here are some great printables for the alphabet:

Other free (or nearly free) resources to consider:

Pinterest – while I already knew of some of these free online resources, much of the additional material I found on pinterest. 🙂

Library books – the best way to teach your children (aside from play) is through reading to them.  You can find books on almost any theme or subject you plan to teach.  Libraries are great resources for supplementing the books you already have at home.

Youtube  – a quick search for alphabet songs, shape songs, days of the week songs, and more reveals that the options on youtube are endless… and best of all, free! 🙂  You can also teach nursery rhymes and other preschool favorites such as “Five Little Speckled Frogs.”

PBS/Netflix – Leap Frog, Word World, and Super Why are all educational animated shows that focus on letter learning, although Leap Frog has some that focus on numbers and shapes as well.  We have a subscription to Netflix’s online streaming service, so I plan to use many of these programs through Netflix.  The advantage to using Netflix over PBS is that I don’t have to wait for an episode to air.  Instead, I can hand-pick episodes to coordinate with themes we might be exploring that week.

Online learning – the internet offers a wealth of free online resources for learning games.  Check out this article to  find out which of  our favorite educational websites will suit preschoolers.

Dollar Store Deals – I wrote a whole post on items you can find at the dollar store to use in teaching preschoolers or toddlers, complete with ideas on how to use them!

Toys – we have a few toys that I have set aside specifically for our preschool use (I do not keep these toys in their regular toy box, which makes them special since they can’t play with them whenever they want).  Any toy that says a letter’s name aloud and repeats the sound the letter makes can be a good tool to use when your preschooler just doesn’t want to sit and work with paper.  You probably already have a few of these “educational” toys laying around the house, so don’t feel the need to go out and buy new ones. 🙂

Additionally, much of the time spent during preschool should be free play, when children have time to pretend play using blocks, legos, dress-up clothes, kitchens, etc.  You can also use toys you already have at home to enhance themed lessons.  Finally, puzzles can be great resources for learning shapes, colors, letters, and numbers, etc.

I hope this helps to get you started on planning for your toddler/preschool years, whether you intend to teach formally by homeschooling or just as your children are interested.  Feel free to share with us your favorite free online sources, as well!

Jen 🙂

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Practicing Patience with Preschoolers

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It’s the longest hour of the day, that chaotic stretch of time when naps have ended but supper isn’t ready yet and Daddy won’t be home for another sixty minutes.  It’s the time of day when mamas are weary and wishing for a nap of their own.  In our home, it’s often a time of crankiness and whining and neediness and hunger and all too often, a time of mom’s frustration.

The older boys are home from school, so the seven-year-old needs help with homework and the teen needs a permission slip signed.  The twins are rubbing sleep from their eyes and asking for snacks or juice or to be held.  I’m trying to find the motivation to start supper preparations, but one twin is clinging to my leg and the other is crying for no known reason in the next room.  What’s a mama to do?

I’m ashamed to say that this mom’s reaction can often be  a sharp, “Everyone BE. PATIENT!!”, followed by a mini-rant of my own about how I only have two hands and they are both full and can’t they just wait for a few minutes because I can’t help everyone at one time!  And then there are louder tears from the crying twin and a look of quiet frustration from the teen and more scowling impatience from the seven-year-old boy who just wants to do his homework right now!  Why is it that a request to be patient or wait creates the exact opposite effect than what parents desire to see in their children?

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I think most children who hear “be patient” or “just wait” see it as an immediate no.  They feel we have not acknowledged their needs and are, in effect, just ignoring them.  So, they ask again…and again…and again…almost infinitely.  As an adult who sometimes (ok, maybe often) struggles with impatience herself, I feel for my children when they have to wait.  However, I know that they need to learn patience in order to survive in the real world, and preschoolers are the perfect age to start practicing patience.

The reason I say “practice” is that patience, like any other virtue, takes time to learn. Patience is also something we must intentionally teach to our children, not something they will magically acquire on their own.  And in this day and age, I think we can all agree that patience seems to be lacking in our society!  So today, on Mama Monday,  I’ll share with you a few tips for teaching your children patience.

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Model patience yourself.  I know you saw this one coming!  Young children are excellent imitators, and unfortunately sometimes that backfires on us parents.  Our middle child was a very impatient little guy, even from birth.  During his toddler years, I spent many days questioning my ability to parent him to adulthood, seriously.

One day, he was even more impatient than usual, and I found myself throwing a little fit right back at him, asking why he couldn’t just BE PATIENT.  As soon as the whiny words left my mouth, I realized I was being just as impatient with him as he was being with me.  How could he possibly learn to be patient when his mama was not?

Change your speech.  When multiple children (or even just one) make requests at the same time and you already have your hands full, what is your response?  As you read above, my first response is typically frustration over my inability to help all four children at the same time. What if, instead of a frustrated command to be patient, my children heard me talk excitedly about an opportunity to practice a new skill?

What if instead of frowning or scowling, I smiled at them (even if I’m not smiling on the inside) and said, “Let’s practice being patient!  Who can do a really good job waiting quietly for mommy while she finishes this job?  We’ll use our words  instead of whining, and we’ll wait until mommy’s hands are free. Who can practice patience for me?”  Or, what if we used the word “choose,” especially with children who are older.  Instead of a pert command to be patient, I can remind them that they have a choice about their feelings.  They can choose patience rather than frustration. (And so can the mama!)

Distract them.  Although preschoolers are experts at wanting things, they are also fairly easy to distract (in comparison to older children).  Ask your children to find another activity while they are waiting.  Although you might make a few suggestions, put the responsibility for occupying themselves on their shoulders, not yours.  When I’m cooking supper, I might say something like, “Why don’t you practice patience by coloring while you wait for mommy.”  If they don’t like my suggestion, then I let them know it will be up to them to find something to do.

Give them a timeline.  While preschoolers are beginning to grasp the concept of time, they really can’t understand what minutes or hours or days are yet.  In their minds, ten minutes might as well be two hours, and that feels like a long time for a preschooler!  Even worse is the indefinite response of “Just wait.” However, if you relate those minutes or hours to scheduled events they are already familiar with, then they can understand how long they will have to wait.

For example, if we are going to the playground later in the day, but one of my children wants to leave now, then I would tell them we’re going after nap-time.  Use phrases like after this song, when you wake up from sleeping, after snack, when I finish this basket of laundry, and so forth, that give them more tangible ideas of the time frame they are dealing with.  If it’s going to be a particularly long wait, I give them multiple time markers, as in: first mommy has to vacuum the floor, then we’ll pick up toys, and then we get to go to the park.

Remind them.  Let’s see if this scenario sounds familiar.  “Mommy can I watch cartoons?  Can I have more milk?  Can I have a cookie? Can I? Can I? Can I?” Preschoolers have many wants.  As a mom, I know it’s not healthy for me to indulge all of those wants.  So, while I’m imposing limits, instead of just saying no or wait (for an indefinite amount of time), I like to remind them of what they have already had.  “You already watched cartoons.  Now it’s time to play.”  “You already had a glass of milk, but you may have water.”  “I already played with you this morning, but I’ll play with you again after nap-time.”

Sing the “Have Patience” song.  I don’t know who wrote the “Clean Up” song, but that person deserves an award!  It’s like magic!  You don’t even have to tell children to pick up toys because when they hear it, they automatically know what to do.  The lesser known “Have Patience” song can have a similar effect if you use it consistently.

First of all, singing in general, tends to lighten the mood.  Second, the song reminds children of the behavior you would like to see.  To find the “Have Patience” song, look here.  I only sing the chorus (and it is fun to speed it up as you repeat!). 🙂

Praise them lavishly!  At this age, children are often eager to please, so positive reinforcement usually works more effectively than negative.  If you see your children actively practicing patience, then tell them how much you appreciate their hard work (because it IS hard to wait, isn’t it?)!  Praise often enough that they are encouraged to continue practicing patience up to the very end.

For example, if halfway through a waiting period, I notice my daughter growing restless or whining, I will praise her for the good job she has done so far and ask her to continue. I might even draw her attention to how little time is left.  Many times, the magic is in the phrasing!

patience4, impatient children, learning to be patient, toddler, preschooler

Patience is a virtue worth instilling in young hearts, but it’s not an easy task.  Learning patience takes time and consistency.  It also takes a mama who is willing to look at herself and ask, “Am I a patient person?”

Of course, we cannot expect perfection.   I’m going to suggest that we learn to be content with imperfect progress in the area of patience (to borrow a phrase from Lysa Terkeurst’s book Unlgued).  As long as we are consistently moving forward in the bigger picture (even if sometimes we move back), then we are progressively working toward patience in our homes.

And in my opinion, a patient family is a peaceful family!

Jen 🙂

When is it most difficult for you to have patience?  When is it most difficult for your children to have patience?

Also linking up to Serenity Now and any of these lovely blogs.

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