What To Do with Your Preschooler

By Vicki Bentley, www.everydayhomemaking.com

What? Your Preschooler Won’t Sit Still?

A preschoolers play is his work – it may look easy to you, but it’s not all easy to them, and it is developing their thinking and providing life experiences.

A young mom writes:

I’m new at homeschooling – I have 2-year-old twins. I want to teach them and get them ready for preschool. Please send me info to help me start off on the right foot.

Another mom writes:

I have a 3½- year-old boy, a 2½- year-old girl, and a 7-month old baby boy.  I’ve read the preschool article on the website, listened to the sessions on beginning homeschooling from the convention, read a few books and magazines, talked to homeschooling moms…but now that I’m really looking at schooling my children, I just get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.  I can see the goal or vision…that my children will love to learn…to learn about God, to learn reading, math, problem solving history, art, music, and everything in between…but how do you start?  They don’t seem to even want to sit still and read a book…they just want to play with toys and pretend.

Vicki answers:

They are little; let them play with toys and pretend! But you pick the toys, so you shape the play. Their play is their work – it may look easy to you, but it’s not all easy to them, and it is developing their thinking and providing life experiences – sort of like hooks on which they can hang their future learning.

Provide them with stimulating, age-appropriate, developmental toys (not videos or video games, etc.). You might want to peek through the Timberdoodle catalog online for a few ideas. Discovery Toys also has a good line, generally speaking. Legos or building blocks, puzzles, and art supplies all help with thinking skills, while imaginary play (role playing or dress-ups or babies stuff) teaches life-skills. Your music can be educational and inspirational. And your everyday activities can be helpful for their brain and skills development.

For example, working puzzles is a pre-reading skill, while helping Mom set the table is a math skill (one-to-one correspondence). Having them help put away their things in an orderly fashion (which they won’t be able to do yet, but can watch you joyfully walk through it with them) is classification and organization – science, math, and English skills.

Ruth Beechick has a super book called The Three R’s of Learning. Valerie Bendt’s book, Making the Most of the Preschool Years, has lots of preschool ideas. You might also look online at www.fiveinarow.com and peek at Jane Lambert’s Before Five in a Row guide, for some fun and educational activities based on classic kids’ books from the library.

It is not uncommon for little children to seem uninterested in a read-aloud session, but don't let that stop you from reading to them! If your child will sit quietly for five or ten minutes as you snuggle and read together, that's super, but if not, read to her anyway while she plays quietly with blocks (or colors or dresses baby dolls or cooks...).

She is absorbing more than you think she is! Also, try reading at a time that she tends to be quieter naturally, such as a morning wake-up cuddle time in your bed or a bedtime snuggle in hers. Or maybe your afternoon quiet time could always begin or end with a short picture book read-aloud.

Character training is a biggie at this age – Marilyn Boyer’s Fun Projects for Hands-On Character Building has great, practical ideas for everyday moms like us.  And her mommy book, Parenting from the Heart, has plenty of gentle encouragement from a mom of many. The Everyday Family Chore System has ideas for including children as young as age two in diligence training (chores!).

If you think you may have a right-brained child or one who seems to learn a bit differently than you are comfortable with, Dianne Craft has some simple activities to stimulate healthy brain function – check her articles at www.hslda.org (Struggling Learners) and at her site, www.DianneCraft.com. Six of Dianne’s 2007 workshops are available on tape/CD at the HEAV website.

If you aren’t confident that you know what’s appropriate, check out Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready (with developmental activities for children from birth to age five) by June Oberlander. The Valerie Bendt book is very good. And if you plan to homeschool, I highly recommend you read Beechick’s The Three R’s of Learning, regardless of what teaching approach you utilize.

I don’t know where you are located, but your local support group (or MOPS group) may have some field trips and activities geared specifically to the attention span and interest level of two-to-four-year-olds.

HOWEVER…Don’t let what you see around you put pressure on you. Ask the Lord to guide you in being a joyful mother of children. My goodness – you have little ones! You have enough on your plate to just make dinner and get the laundry caught up! (That’s why the Home Education 101 workbook has an entire chapter devoted to “Getting Dinner on the Table the Same Day You Homeschool”!). Let your babies be babies.

The bottom line: This season will be shorter than you think, so enjoy being a mommy!

Vicki Bentley, the mother of eight daughters, foster mom of over fifty since 1985, and grandma to fourteen wonderful grandbabies has homeschooled 17 children over the last 15 years, with the strong undergirding of her husband Jim. She led a local support group of over 250 families for 14 years. She has served on the executive board of the Home Educators Association of Virginia and helps to coordinate their annual convention. Vicki has addressed state and national conventions, university teacher organizations, and many mothers’ groups. She is the author of My Homeschool Planner, Everyday Cooking, The Everyday Family Chore System, Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers, High School 101: Blueprint for Success, and other homeschool and homemaking helps. Vicki has a heart for moms, with strong practical wisdom and encouraging words. Her website is EverydayHomemaking.com.

Copyright 2007, Vicki Bentley, Family Resources. Used with permission.

Photos courtesy of Rachel Ramey.

(Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.)