Like many parents, I had plans to send my kiddo to preschool in the fall. And in true #2020 fashion, that’s not gonna happen anymore. So, I’ve put together a list of various educational toys and activities that can be used to make homeschool preschool a success. They have been hand-picked to support the cognitive and emotional learning of three and four year old preschoolers.
If you’d like to jump straight to the learning tools, click on “Hands-on Literacy & Math Activities for Homeschol Preschool” on the Table of Contents below.
I’m going to cover a lot of material below. But I want to make one thing clear: do your best, and that is enough. 2020 has brought with it so many challenges, and we are all going through a lot. It’s hard to manage everything, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead is also a heavy burden to bear. This guide below is meant to give you some ideas and tools that you can use to make homeschooling your preschooler easier. You don’t need to buy every single one of these things. You don’t need to put together a formal educational activity every single day. The main goal should be to support your child’s curiosity and encourage them to try new things. These are the two most important things that you can embrace during preschool years.
Table of Contents
Why I'm not buying a curriculum to homeschool preschool
This guide is in no way a curriculum. There are preschool curriculums on the market, but I won’t be purchasing one of those. Instead, I plan to use these open-ended, developmentally appropriate toys for this age group that will allow me to hit on preschool learning goals through play, open-ended questions, and joy.
I’ve seen two schools of thought surrounding preschool: (1) if they don’t learn enough, they’ll be behind (2) kids aren’t learning anything valuable at this age, so school is a waste of time.
As a licensed teacher with a Master’s degree in education, this is my professional opinion about those two concepts:
Since the preschool stage is such an intense period of development, there are a host of things that children need to learn at this age to set them up for success when they enter kindergarten. HOWEVER…(and please read this part): it is possible to teach them at home, doing many things that you are already doing to support and facilitate their learning. You probably didn’t even know it you are already doing many things that are technically “homeschool preschool.”
So remember to take a breath. You got this.
The idea that three and four year olds aren’t learning anything is preposterous. Preschool is a time of intense learning and rapid development. Three and four year olds are little sponges, and I know that each day brings opportunities for us, as parents and caregivers, to support that development.
But if you look at the name, it’s called “pre-school.” That, to me, is a reminder that this time is for getting children ready for their years of formal instruction, but does not need to look so formal yet. Three and four year olds developmentally cannot sit down in a chair with a pencil in their hand and learn that way.
That’s why I put together this list of hands on educational toys for preschoolers! These games and activities allow children to learn important concepts, through play!
For more info on how to support your preschooler learn at home, scroll to “Homeschool preschool FAQs.”
Hands-on Literacy & Math Activities for homeschool preschool
Below find my hand-picked toys that support literacy and math development of preschoolers. Each has multiple ways to use it, so you get the most out of your money. Each activity promotes hands-on, interactive learning– perfect for homeschooling your preschooler.
Skills: Lowercase letter identification, upper case letter identification, letter sounds, vowel identification, CVC words, letter formation, word building, fine motor skills.
Skills: Lowercase letter identification, upper case letter identification, letter sounds, CVC words, letter formation, word building, fine motor skills, number identification, number sequencing, some preK sight words.
Skills: Lowercase letter identification, letter sounds, vowel identification, CVC words, letter formation, word building, fine motor skills.
Skills: Lowercase letter identification, upper case letter identification, letter sounds, letter formation, fine motor skills.
Skills: Lowercase letter identification, letter sounds, first sound in a word, turn taking, CVC words, constructing and deconstructing words, fine motor skills.
Skills: Lowercase letter identification, letter sounds, name identification, number identification.
Note: this set comes with letters, numbers, and holiday cookie cutters. I swap these out periodically depending on what we are learning about and what my son is interested in! You can use them to make cookies, but I use them pretty exclusively with play-doh as a fun hands-on learning activity.
Skills: Fine motor skills, expressive language skills, receptive language skills, imagination, colors, cause and effect, one-to-one correspondence.
Note: if your child or someone else has a gluten allergy, you can find a great gluten-free recipe for home made play doh here.
Skills: Fine motor skills (these support pre-writing and writing), colors, letter formation, number formation, flexible thinking.
Skills: Fine motor skills, number identification, one-to-one correspondence, color identification, sorting (by color or number), reading a dice, counting on, turn-taking, patterns.
Skills: Fine motor skills, number identification, one-to-one correspondence, color identification, sorting (by color or number), following directions, turn taking, pretend play.
Skills: Fine motor skills, one-to-one correspondence, color identification, sorting, following directions, patterns, creativity, flexible thinking.
Skills: Fine motor skills, creativity, flexible thinking, color identification, patterns.
Skills: Fine motor skills, shape identification, constructing shapes, deconstructing shapes, colors, patterns, counting, creativity, flexible thinking.
Skills: Counting 0-100, fine motor skills, one-to-one correspondence, counting on, counting in increments, matching numbers, part and whole.
Skills: Cause and effect, problem solving, counting, sequencing.
Skills: Upper case letter formation, lower case letter formation, letter sounds, number identification, find motor skills, pre-writing skills.
Skills: Upper case letter identification, lower case letter identification, letter sounds, number identification, find motor skills.
Developmentally appropriate homeschool preschool workbooks
Preschoolers aren’t yet ready to sit at a desk, per say, and do worksheets. But, there are some fantastic developmentally appropriate workbooks on the market that can be done along side a parent or caregiver to promote a variety of concepts.
The key here is to be flexible and light. Let your child pick the page they do, and allow them to freely move from activity to activity as they are so inclined– they don’t need to do every activity from start to finish. They will also likely want to go back and trace over pages that they have already completed– that repetition is developmentally appropriate, and supports learning!
Skills: Fine motor skills, pre-writing, letter identification, colors, shapes, number identification, number sequencing 0-20, one-to-one correspondence.
Homeschool preschool FAQs
At this age, children learn through play. All activities need to be fun, leave lots of space for wiggling and giggling, and embrace pretend play and imagination.
As explained by the experts at Wonderschool, “Play itself is a voluntary, enjoyable activity with no purpose or end goal. Believe it or not, activities like this lay the foundation for a child to become a curious and excited learner later in life.”
Check out my post on ways to support creativity through play here.
There is nothing wrong with using a formal curriculum, and you should absolutely use one if you feel that will support you, as the teacher!
This pandemic has made us all put on many hats. So, if you are looking for formal guidance on what and how to teach your preschooler that you did not intend on having home with you but for a host of reasons now do– then a curriculum may be a good choice for you. Curriculum is just a day-by-day plan about what to teach, in what order. There are many online, and I suspect that many more will be available in coming weeks.
I’m taking a less formal approach, because that’s just what’s going to work best for us I think. But– you should seek out whatever resources you need to feel comfortable right now, doing another hard #2020 thing.
In order to make sure kids are getting the most out of this time, we need to take a look at the preschool learning objectives. Essentially, you need to know what they need to know. Not sure what it is they need to know? I’ve got ya covered in the next section.
Homeschool preschool formal learning objectives
Keep in mind that they do not need to know this all at once…these are the concepts that will be helpful if they know when they enter kindergarten. They have two full years to master these concepts. You can keep these bookmarked, and refer to them periodically.
What do preschoolers need?
In addition to the more formal learning objecties, preschoolers need to fall in love with learning during their preschool years. Curiosity and problem solving are skills that will help take them through the rest of their education. Check out more specifics below.
Magic Mom Hack
As explained by Carol Dweck, a “growth mindset” is the idea that “ability is something you can improve through practice.” Check out this video to learn more. This is something that parents can embrace to set their children up for success. These are some fantastic prompts we can use to promote the Growth Mindset.
Activities for homeschool preschool that promote Independence
One of the most beautiful and significant developmental milestones of preschoolers is their budding independence. Consciously supporting this independence is a key component of teaching your preschooler at home.
Below are just a few examples of tasks three and four year olds can do themselves.
I’ll be the first to admit that, when children do things themselves, it takes longer. However, it also builds their confidence and gross and fine motor skills. Part of an informal preschool homeschool curriculum can (and should!) be creating space and time for kiddos to do the following:
Skills: Self-confidence, fine motor development, gross motor development.
Incorporating opportunities for independence is a powerful way to support preschoolers during this developmental stage. While not traditionally perhaps thought of as “curriculum,” these lessons of self-sufficiency become deeply embedded in children’s psyches. This confidence will stick with them for years to come. Plus, it doesn’t require any additional gadgets, toys, or lesson plans. Double win.
If you’re looking for some more ways to support children become more independent, I highly recommend Vicki Hoefle’s book called Duct Tape Parenting.
Magic Mom Hack
Having a stool for your preschooler can make it much easier for them to access countertops and sinks to participate. These are the ones we use in our home– I have one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen.
Looking for some other homeschool preschool resources?
Check out my collection of other related toys, games, and activities that could come in handy during this prolonged time at home we are now facing. Click below to read more ideas for child-directed, open-ended, play-based learning options.
I wish you the best of everything for your homeschool preschool year. I’ll be right there along side with you, teaching my kiddo at home too. Follow @momjeanmagic on Instagram and Facebook to find out what we’re up to in coming months!
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