Two weeks ago, I wrote about the value of not doing preschool at home. I know that many parents want to do a bit more than “nothing”, but far less than workbooks and flashcards for their 3 and 4 year olds. So last week I wrote about some of what I think are the best toys for preschoolers. I gave some examples of how use those toys to introduce colors, shapes and counting as well as teaching important social skills.
This week I give you a peek inside a preschool day in our home.
You may remember that I had purchased a Pre K curriculum for my then-3 year old son. It was much more than he was ready for, so we put it away for awhile and tried again the year before he would start kindergarten.
A routine, not a strict schedule
Children thrive on routine that is flexible. They like having a pattern to their days, but for your own sake, don’t try to create a down to the minute schedule. Be prepared for changes in the weather, your mood and upcoming holidays. Take advantage of the snow or mild temperatures by going outdoor, and bake and decorate for holidays, regardless of your original plans for the day.
With those things in mind, sketch out a daily routine that alternates quiet activities with more active ones. Quiet activities are things like meal times, reading, playing with puzzles. Active things would be singing and playing musical instruments, going for a walk or to a playground and arts and crafts.
Be sure to allow lots of time for your preschool to play independently, what I would call free play. You can incorporate free play into your child’s day by playing with him for awhile, then encouraging him to continue to play while you take care of household chores. Try to stay near by so that you can continue to interact with him.
Keep it Easy at Three
Three years old is the typical age for starting preschool. Children this age should have their days focused on play. I see this as being sort of a pre-preschool time. Introduce them slowly to a daily routine so that their days become more structured. Start by establishing a daily reading time together, perhaps right after all the breakfast chores are completed. Read for as long as both of you are enjoying it, then let him go off and play. At snack time, play some music in the background, then after snacks have some coloring time. Keep the music playing and sing along. After lunch, head outside. Play in your yard, take a walk together or go to a playground. Late afternoon is nap or quiet time.
(A note about quiet time. When your child no longer naps, set aside that time to be “quiet time.” During quiet time is for mom to get some rest. Let your child play quietly in her room for an hour or two. Whatever kinds of things you allow her to do are up to you, but she should stay in her room and not come out except to use the bathroom. Explain to her that mommy needs to have rest during the day so that she can be a happier, more fun mommy! Who doesn’t want a happy mommy? After quiet time, be very enthusiastic to see her again, thank her for being such a good, quiet girl and then share a snack together.)
Focusing your 3 year old’s day around meals, reading time, craft time, outdoor time and quiet time gets him used to a routine and he will start looking forward those special times. It won’t be long before he is finishing breakfast, searching out books and waiting for you to read to him.
A typical day for my 3 year old would be:
8 am wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast
free play until mom is done in the kitchen
10:30 snack time
You’ll notice that the only actual times on our schedule are usually meals or snacks. Everything else is free flowing and dependant on attention span or energy levels.
A Little More for Four
At four years old I like to begin preparing my children more for school. This is when I started using my purchased curriculum. (I used Sonlight’s Pre-K) Our morning reading time became focused on school books, though I always let my preschool choose a couple of books of their own for school time. I had a list, very similar to the one in last week’s post, of fun games to play. Every day I would choose from the list and incorporate 2 or 3 games into our school time.
We did school three times a week and did not spend any more than 45 minutes to an hour on school. On non-school days and afternoons, we kept to a routine like a described for three year olds.
If you don’t want to purchase a pre-K curriculum, use your library and focus on reading age appropriate books about children around the world, fairy tales and religious stories as appropriate. If you’d like, there are lots of workbooks out there that focus on listening skills. Mom reads the directions, like “color one hat red” or “draw a circle around the big flower”, and the child listens,then follows the instructions. A couple of pages a day are all you really need for those.
A typical “school” day morning for my 4 year old would be:
8 am wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast
9:00 school time which would include
reading 2-4 pages/one chapter from a children’s bible story book, fairy tales and other books
playing 2-3 learning activities such as sorting counting bears, singing and playing musical instruments
10:00 snack time
I like to keep my preschooler’s days light and easy, with a little structure instead of a rigid schedule. I prefer their learning to come from their play and from fun books. I try hard not be influenced by what other children are learning because I know my children will learn all sorts of wonderful academic things in time.
To read more ideas from around the blogosphere, check out Works for me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer!
Lorri has 4 children, ages 3 years old to 10 years old. During quiet time, she blogs at The Mac and Cheese Chronicles.
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