It seems everyone is trying to grow kids up faster, or get you to buy things to help with preschool. Here are some ways to enjoy Preschool without the hustle or rushing your little one into learning before they are ready.
Make it fun
Children are naturally curious and bent toward learning. Have you ever noticed that you don’t have to force a baby to want to sit up, crawl, or walk? Sometimes they try so hard, we wish they would calm down and just cuddle in our arms a bit longer. But their little brains are wired to learn new things and mature into adults one stage at a time.
Our job as parents isn’t to rush them into learning as quickly as possible, but rather to provide them with the tools and time they need to master what they are already gravitating toward. These ways to enjoy Preschool don’t require curriculum, or enforced learning time, but at this stage a lot of directed play.
From 2-6 it’s a great time to learn letters, animal sounds, shapes, and colors, and widen the vocabulary. This can all be done through play. Let me share some ways we’ve done this at our house.
You may be inclined to think that the more books you have the smarter your child will be, however, if you aren’t getting books that they enjoy or that you enjoy reading, it’s not really going to serve you well. I would rather have 10 books with high-quality language that we love than 50 books that were poorly written and mind-numbingly dull. There are way more dull books than beautiful ones and a little research goes a long way. Here is our list of favorites.
Instead of doing morning menus or posters, I love teaching my toddlers shapes and letters with puzzles. The chunky ones are always the favorite. This would be a hard way to learn in a classroom setting with 15 toddlers, but when it’s just you and your little one sitting and fitting all the pieces into the right space is perfect. I name the shape or letter as we put it together and encourage them to do the same thing.
One of the most underrated forms of learning is in song. Kids remember so much if you set it to music. Susan Wise Bauer suggests singing the A, B, C song to your toddler every time you change their diaper. Simple changes like this can help build learning into everyday life. My personal favorite is turning on a playlist while they go to sleep, or in the car. Our oldest two learned many Bible verses, and most of the Children’s Catechism with the basics of theology this way.
Games are another way I love helping toddlers and pre-schoolers learn. When they are learning to talk I’m constantly asking them “What is this?” as they get older we begin to name the letter sounds instead. I used to run with my oldest and he would get bored sitting in the stroller. To keep him occupied I would ask him “There is a t-t-tree. What letter does that start with?” We would do it with everything we saw. When it came time to teach him to read that work paid off!
A mistake with my oldest was thinking that because his hand might not develop until he was 6 or 7 that meant I couldn’t encourage proper pencil grip. Because I just handed it to him however it took him a long time to learn to hold a pencil and for his hands to get strong enough to write. With my second two every time I hand them a crayon or marker I hand it to them the correct way. They’ve learned it’s so much easier to write that way, that they bring me the crayon to help them hold it. This has made art significantly easier for them.
If your child’s hand gets tired and they change the grip, it’s okay don’t correct it then, but every time you give it to them, give it properly! (Visit this post to see other ways I encourage the development of good habits).
Many craft activities are great for developing a pinching grasp and hand strength. It may seem like cutting with scissors and stickers are just for fun, but all those little things are ways to enjoy Preschool and they add up to being ready for school!!