three young children playing with blocks on the ground

By Breanna Tauschek 

One of the most important things when homeschooling your child through preschool is to create an environment of learning. Young children learn by exploring and absorbing the world around them through their senses. Therefore, it is important that you surround your child with things that promote their development. Here are three ways that you can turn your home into an educational space.

 

Place Learning Materials at Your Child’s Level

Young children are endlessly curious. Placing learning materials – books (including workbooks), educational games, or educational activities – on low shelves that they can easily reach encourages them to incorporate learning into their freeplay. If all of your learning materials are high up and out of sight of your preschooler, he/she will be less likely to choose those activities when given the option. It is very important, however, that your child does choose to play with these things. 

Playing is practicing for young children. In preschool and kindergarten, your instruction time for each subject should be no more than ten minutes since children of that age do not usually have the attention span to sit longer than that. Therefore, a short instruction time followed by a brief (ten to fifteen minutes long at the most) educational game or activity is what is most developmentally appropriate. Because the amount of formal instruction time children of this age are able to handle is so short, it is essential that your child also practices his subjects (especially literacy and math) throughout the day via play. The more educational activities and materials you put at your child’s disposal, the better.

In addition to encouraging your child to incorporate education into her play, placing learning materials at your child’s level also allows your child to take responsibility for her learning. Each time your child picks an educational activity or game, whether she realizes it or not, she is choosing to expand her knowledge and feed her own curiosity. It teaches your child that learning is for any time of the day – not just class time. 

 

Create Learning Centres 

Learning centres are designated areas with activities designed to focus on one particular skill. It is best if your child can access them both during designated homeschool time and freeplay. There are three types of learning centres that are essential for preschoolers: literacy, math, and fine motor. 

Practicing early literacy and math skills helps to set your child up for grade one, and helps him have an easier time learning how to read, write, count, add, subtract, etc. By the end of kindergarten, some important things your child should know are:

  • the alphabet; 
  • how to read and spell some basic CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant, such as “gum” and “hat”) and sight words;
  • numbers up to 100;
  • sorting;
  • basic addition and subtraction. 

You can help your child acquire these skills by creating learning centre activities that allow her to practice them. Having a learning centre that focuses on developing fine motor skills is important for children for many reasons, including – but certainly not limited to – strengthening the muscles needed to hold a pencil, tie shoelaces, dress themselves, print neatly, and cut and paste. (Some ideas for learning centre activities will be listed at the end of this article.)

 

Use Sensory Bins

A sensory bin is a bin or other such large container filled with something your child can touch, feel, and dig through. Sensory bins can be filled with all kinds of things, including rice, uncooked pasta, or kinetic sand, and often have small trinkets such as plastic jewels buried inside. Sensory bins are very easy to make, and allow your child to learn and explore through sight, touch, and smell.

You can use sensory bins to develop fine motor skills by burying things such as plastic toy bugs in the bins and having your child use different tools to dig them out. You can also use sensory bins to practice math and literacy skills. For example, you can have your preschooler dig through the bin to find secret treasures and then practice his numbers by counting the items found, or you can bury plastic letters and have your child name the letters he finds. 

Sensory bins provide another benefit: they are a safe way for your child to explore different textures she is curious about in non-destructive ways. Let’s say, for example, that I have a three-year-old named Alice who loves to rip up paper. I often catch her ripping pages out of books. I can put shreds of paper in her sensory bin and tell her that she can only rip the paper in the bin. That way she can enjoy feeling the texture of paper and practice her fine motor skills by gripping and tearing without destroying our books. 

Sensory bins have also been proven to be beneficial to children with autism. This article from Cross River Therapy discusses the many benefits of sensory bins (and sensory play in general) for children with autism, and gives some suggestions for sensory activities.  

 

A Customized Home Education

One of the benefits of homeschooling is how easy it is to personalize your child’s education experience. Adjusting the environment to fit your child’s educational needs – be it through trial and error or by leaning into what you observe your child to be most interested in – is a great way to ensure that your child remains engaged and eager to learn. The above three activities can easily be adjusted to the needs and interests of your child, and are therefore excellent and simple ways to turn your home into a place of learning. 

preschool girl stacking wooden blocks

 

Learning Centre Activity Ideas

Literacy

  • Use letter blocks to build simple CVC words (e.g. hat, cat, mat, etc.).
  • Colour and label a picture. This can be done either by helping your child sound out a simple CVC word that relates to the picture, or by using pre-made colouring pages with words your child can trace.
  • Cut and paste letters into their proper places to build words (this can also be used as a cross-curricular fine motor activity).

Math

  • Sort number blocks into their correct sequential order.
  • Provide number colouring pages, and/or simple colour-by-number colouring pages.
  • Practice patterning by having your child come up with an interesting pattern using coloured blocks or, if age appropriate, beads. 

Fine Motor

  • Sort pom-poms by colour using only a clothespin to pick them up. (This can also be used to teach patterning). 
  • Create collages by cutting and pasting a variety of brightly-coloured pieces of construction paper onto a piece of white paper. 
  • Tracing activities, such as colouring pages that require you to trace the outline.

Breanna Tauschek has a Double Honours Specialization Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Western University and a Bachelor of Education Primary/Junior (JK to grade 6) from The University of Windsor. She has worked as a grade 1 teaching assistant, a senior kindergarten teacher, and continues to occasionally tutor and supply teach. Her writing career includes projects for the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research, Answers in Genesis Canada, and HSLDA Canada. She is a homeschool graduate living in Southern Ontario.