Your Questions Answered: Preschool Activities

The biggest job that a preschool child has is to explore his surroundings and make sense of the world around him. As he uses his five senses, he’s forming crucial connections in his brain. And those connections will help him be prepared for later challenges like formal school work. But pushing the school work first defeats the purpose.

Charlotte Mason encouraged us to give young children a full six years of a quiet growing time before we start formal lessons. In this post, we want to discuss what that looks like.

Joining me are my friends and fellow Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, Jenn Faas and Laura Pitney.

Sonya: I was trying to count up how many preschool kids we have had in our homeschools. I’ve had four; Laura, you’ve had four, so there’s eight. How many have you had already, Jenn?

Jenn: Five that have gone through the preschool years already—well, one is still in it—and then the baby.

Sonya: So 13 between us all, and you have a baby that’s coming up, so we’re going to have 14 preschool kids that have gone through our homes. What does preschool look like? I remember when I had little ones, sometimes the days seemed to go forever. And I knew I didn’t want to do formal lessons, but what kinds of things should we do with preschool kids?

Laura: I feel like before you even go there, there’s a quote that I keep up in my school room that says, “The days are long, but the years are short.” The mental state of remembering that the time goes by so quickly helps motivate you on the days you’re unmotivated to invest in those preschoolers.

Jenn: Yes. When you’re in that day, sometimes it does feel like that day is very, very long. But when you try to take the long view, it goes by fast.

Laura: Habits were a big focus for me with my little ones. I had four in four years, so the “crazy” was just there. I needed them to have good habits. So we played a lot of games to teach them habits, direction, first-time obedience when I’m giving commands—informal play that reiterated ultimately what I wanted to accomplish with them. Sometimes that was me instructing and coming up with the ideas, and sometimes it was my older children coming up with ideas to play with the little ones. It was kind of a whole family mindset of accomplishing those good things, the good habits. Habits for me was a big deal.

I had to have a few anchors in my day, that if things were going awry, there would be certain things that would bring us back and we could kind of have a redo.

Jenn: I would say, yes, those routines, and trying to have that consistency of the routines. I know a big thing for me was having some anchors in my day. You always think a schedule is a great idea, but with little ones, toddlers and preschoolers, the schedule often just falls through the crack.

Sonya: Goes out the window.

Jenn: Out the window, completely.

Laura: Sometimes with your sanity too.

Jenn: Absolutely. And so I felt like I had to have a few anchors in my day, that if things were going awry, there would be certain things that would bring us back and we could kind of have a redo. We always had a snack time at 10:00 and then again at 3:00, so snack time was a good reset for us. Trying to read books during that snack time would be a good reset. So even if your morning, right off the bat, has gone down the drain, that snack time could be a reset. Food makes everyone happy!

Laura: Can you move it up to 7:00 a.m.? No, I’m just kidding.

Sonya: “We’re having snack time a little early, kids.”

Jenn: Right!

Sonya: Yes, snack times and meal times, those seem to be the anchors. Now, routine is different from schedule.

Jenn: Absolutely.

Sonya: As you said, routine is more “We’re going to do this, and then we’re going to do that,” but it’s not tied to a clock. And I think that’s a huge thing.

Jenn: Yes, having a flow to your day—what comes next—so that they have that consistency of “These are the things that come next.” It may not necessarily be a strict schedule where we do this for 10 minutes, then we do this for 15 minutes—and “Oh we’re behind schedule”—but kind of a flow to your day: these are things that come next. They’re always asking what comes next, right?

Laura: And I think a big part of that is being prepared. Jenn and I were just talking about this: knowing what’s in your house, knowing what you can do with your preschoolers.

Jenn: We have so many different activities! As we talked about, I have six kids. So I have so many things, so many different activities and things that they can do that we’ve accumulated over the years. But when you’re in the moment and you have a toddler or preschooler who is maybe having a meltdown, you can’t think of anything in that moment. So I sat down and made a list, and I had the little ones help me: “Okay let’s think of everything we have.” We have play dough, we have pattern blocks, we have lacing beads—all these different things that they can do. One of our favorite things that we have collected are little animals. So we have one bin of animals, and one bin of we call “guys.” That’s an activity for my kids: getting out that bin of animals. But in that moment, you can’t think of all the things that you have. So I took some slips of paper and I wrote everything down, and now I have it in a little jar. And when we need to think of “What are we going to do next?” and you maybe don’t have a plan, we’ll get that out and they can choose two; then I read it to them, and they get to choose one out of those two things that they picked—Which one do they want to do? So they feel like they have some choice over that.

Laura: I think that’s a big deal. If we give them the responsibility of choosing what they get to do, even though we’re ultimately in charge, then they’re more committed to that activity and usually more content doing that.

Jenn: Make them think that they’re in charge.

Laura: Correct. And I think that goes back to habits, teaching them boundaries. “Okay, you just selected to play with Lincoln Logs; so I’m going to set my timer and you’re going to play with this for 30 minutes,” or 20 minutes, or 10—whatever that looks like. So the habit of obedience and doing what you tell them to do comes into play with keeping them busy, so they’re not necessarily under foot during that time.

Sonya: You have a special timer, don’t you, Jenn?

Jenn: I do have a special timer.

Laura: It’s amazing.

Sonya: Tell me about it.

Jenn: That has been a huge tool in our home school. It’s called a visual timer, and I think there are many different kinds. I have a really big one, which is our favorite. It has a little handle on it, so they can even tote it around.

Sonya: Oh, nice.

Jenn: I have three of them. It might be overkill, but…

Sonya: No, not for your size family!

Jenn: We really like them. We have two that are magnetic: one on the refrigerator and one on a whiteboard in our homeschool room. We use the visual timers for a lot of things. Little ones can’t understand that concept of just 30 minutes or 10 minutes.

Sonya: Yes, time is very abstract, especially to a young child.

I think little ones need to feel some sense of control of what they’re doing and that everything in their day is not just open-ended.

Jenn: So with this visual timer, you set it and it changes color, so it shows them how big of a block of time they have left. Now they know when I say “an hour,” and I do the entire timer, the whole thing turns red, and they can see it.

Laura: The red disappearing.

Jenn: Yes, it disappears.

Sonya: As it ticks down, okay.

Jenn: Right. That has been a huge help that they now have some sense of time. I think little ones need to feel some sense of control of what they’re doing and that everything in their day is not just open-ended. Like what we were just saying, the What comes next? It helps them to feel safe when they have a routine that they go through, when they know what comes next. I have one child in particular that really, really needs to know what comes next to help her feel safe. That timer is another way of helping them know, “This is how much time I have left.” I think the hardest thing is that consistency and getting those kind of things started. When I first started using the timer, it was painful. And you know, they may try to touch the timer to make it less time. A little tip for that: if you start using the visual timer, keep track of it on your own, because they may try to change it. So I would tell them that I would add five minutes: “Oh, you touched the timer, so now we have to add a few more minutes.” It’s a kind of natural consequence.

Sonya: Good idea.

Jenn: But that only happened a few times.

Sonya: They learn quickly if you’re consistent, as you said.

Jenn: That’s the hardest part.

Laura: I think another good idea with preschoolers is to figure out how you can include them in things. If your preschoolers are your older kids, then they naturally want to follow you along. As you have older kids and preschoolers, then it’s almost like, “What can I figure out for them to do?” and “How can I still invest in them with all the other things going on?” But with preschoolers themselves, they think they’re big. And they want to act big. So I think it’s just brainstorming how you can include them in the simple daily routine that you have to do anyway: folding laundry— I would have kids move it from the washing machine to the dryer; or if we would dump it all into the laundry hamper, they’d help push it across the floor. I included them with the chores I was already doing. Even in the kitchen: yes they can stir, but what else can they do to help learn chores in the kitchen?

Sonya: Yes, it seems so limited, because everything involves either sharp knives or fire. So, “Yes, you can stir and that’s about it.”

Preschoolers think they’re big. And they want to act big. So I think it’s just brainstorming how you can include them in the simple daily routine that you have to do anyway.

Laura: So brainstorming and finding good resources for things like that. Even yard work, there’s things that may be beyond them to really accomplish the job in full, but they can do pieces of it. I just think we have to look at what our home situation is like, what chores need to be done, and then think, “How can I include my preschooler with this?”

Sonya: It’s easy for us to think—we wouldn’t say this, but it’s easy to think—they are a nuisance. “They’re slowing me down.”

Laura: Right.

Jenn: Absolutely.

Sonya: “And how am I going to keep a clean house with them under foot?” Actually, yes, you could clean the house a whole lot faster without them “helping” you. But getting them involved keeps them out of trouble, and you’re training them to do those chores when they get older. So why not take advantage of it when they want to help you? Let them do it. Mine would fold, …I wouldn’t trust them to fold the shirts, but they could fold socks; they started with washcloths, because you just fold it this way, fold it that way, and “Good job, you’re done.”

Laura: Restocking toilet paper is a great chore; they can go to all the bathrooms.

Jenn: Bring the bathroom trash cans to the big trash can, that’s one my little one does. And in the kitchen, we have one cabinet that just has the kids’ plastic dishes; so even my little guy that’s three can put away the bowls and the cups that are the plastic. I have two dishwasher helpers that help empty it: one does the “big stuff” and one does the “kids’ stuff.”

Sonya: Nice. And it’s down where he can reach it.

Jenn: Right. Now, that cabinet is a scary mess, but it has all the kid things that aren’t breakable.

Sonya: I remember when my kids were getting a little bit bigger, like maybe four or five, I could not have them take out the plates from the dishwasher and put them up in the cupboard, but they could take them out and stack them on the countertop, and then all I had to do was grab the stack and put it up. So you might want to break down chores into little segments, if you will.

Laura: If we’re supposed to invest these six years leading up to school without doing formal schooling, it’s good to remember that all of these chores are motor skills, are listening; you’re developing school skills without doing school that they will apply once they hit that six- or seven-year-old year of school. I feel like it’s important to understand that the things that we do with them, and the things that we teach with them, even stacking Lincoln Logs or play dough, all of those things are building physical skills, even with their handwriting, even how to hold a book.

Sonya: And mental.

Laura: Yes, for sure. There’s definitely value in investing in the little things during these younger years. So I have a question. I think everything we’ve talked about is really great, but what do we do with them when we don’t want them around us? I’m just asking.

Sonya: [laughing] That happens?

Laura: I’m just throwing that out there. Sometimes we just don’t want our kids around us.

Jenn: Right.

Sonya: Okay, one thing that I did, I had a friend who had kids the same age as mine, and often I would call her up and take my kids over to her house, and they would go play together while we sat and actually had an adult conversation. Or sometimes we would trade off: you watch my kids, so I can have an hour of breathing time; and then next week I’ll watch yours, so you can have an hour of breathing time.

Laura: A little bartering going on there.

Sonya: Yes, exactly; that was a big thing. We’ve talked about chores. What are some other kinds of activities that our kids can do in those preschool years? You mentioned not having them under feet, you just want them away from you. Sometimes also, I would get cabin fever, staring at the same four walls. And I was up in Chicago, so the winters seemed forever. What kinds of things can we do besides chores?

Jenn: I feel like when my oldest were preschoolers, and I only had little ones, I really, really felt the need to get out of the house. I like to talk to people, and just being in the house all the time with the little people, those were not the people I always wanted to be talking to.

Sonya: Conversations are important with them, absolutely. But sometimes…

Jenn: I really felt the need to get out. And I think the change of scenery is really good for them too. So I sought out some different things that we could do on a weekly basis. We would go to the library. The libraries usually have all kinds of different programs. I remember even going to the baby lap sit program when they were really little.

Laura: Tuesday mornings at 10:00. We were there.

Jenn: And so it just became a thing that we did every week and that they looked forward to. And then I would bring those books like Honey for a Child’s Heart and Books Children Love, because I didn’t know what the best books were for young children at that point.

Sonya: And those books are books of book lists for different ages.

Jenn: Yes, right. So I would take those books with me to the library and search out those good books and bring those home. That helped me figure out which books I wanted to purchase for our own home library. So it was kind of a win-win situation. That became  a routine as well: something we could do is go to the library or go to the park. I definitely got out a lot more when I only had little ones. It’s a little bit more difficult when you have older ones that are homeschooling too. But when you only have the little ones at home…

Laura: There’s a little bit of freedom there in some ways with your schedule.

Jenn: Right, because you’re not doing the formal schooling and those things. But it’s laying such a good foundation. You’re laying a foundation for books to be a part of their life. You’re laying a foundation for nature to be a part of their life, even though it’s not on a formal school level yet. You’re making it be something that they do, something that they love: “Going outside is something that we do.”

Laura: Even if it’s just getting outside in your own yard. We had a trail that we would walk repeatedly through our yard, so that we got familiar with things in our yard, just to observe the changes. That was the beginning of nature study that we’ve come to know now. So even though we weren’t in our four walls, having preschoolers, staying on our property was kind of handy in some ways.

Jenn: We would keep a big quilt in our garage, and I would pull it out into the yard. A favorite thing that my kids have done is that we had a little bin of matchbox cars, and they would roll them down the driveway. Even when they were really little, that became a fun thing they did.  Taking the toys outside or the activities outside—the same things that you have inside but just relocating—can change the mood of a child.

Laura: And change your mood.

Jenn: Absolutely, it can change our mood.

Laura: It makes me a lot happier.

Sonya: And when they’re outside, they’re not messing up inside, not making a mess.

Jenn: Right. Laura, you had your dollhouse on the porch for a while.

Laura: Yes, on our porch.

Sonya: Oh, great idea!

You’re building this beautiful foundation for all of these things to come, so instead of pushing the formal things down so young, they will have time for that. They will have time for that, but you won’t be able to get those younger years back to do all those other things.

Jenn: And the kids loved that.

Sonya: Or even just make the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and go have lunch outside.

Jenn: Absolutely.

Laura: I remember one time when all of mine were pretty small, we took a quilt in our backyard, and I took some of our picture books that I wanted to read to them. It was one of those situations where we were all just kind of laying on our tummy looking at the book, kicking our feet up. Then we started looking at all the grass petals, and all of them had these little green, some kind of worm. We looked at this, and then we looked at the next one, and it’s like the whole yard. Something must have just hatched in our yard. Some kind of little creature. (If I was a really good mom, I would have learned about the worm. But that’s not the point here.) The point is there were thousands of these little green bugs. So then, of course, they had to get the magnifying glass, and they tried counting them. We couldn’t count as high as we saw them. But just that opportunity of taking it outside, spending that time, doing unofficial school by reading some of their favorite picture books, and just happened to look up at all of these.

Jenn: That’s awesome.

Laura: And then I’m like, “I don’t want to walk barefoot back to my house; I’m going to be squishing all these worms!” So I kind of got a little grossed out, but it was a great memory.

Jenn: I think sometimes people want to, or maybe feel the pressure to do school, to do formal school with children, even when they’re four and five.

Sonya: You get pressure from other people.

Jenn: But when you look at things like that time with the worms, that is a form of schooling, for sure.

Laura: Curiosity.

Jenn: Absolutely. You’re building this beautiful foundation for all of these things to come, so instead of pushing the formal things down so young, they will have time for that. They will have time for that, but you won’t be able to get those younger years back to do all those other things.

Sonya: So we can give them music by just playing music and letting them move to it. Explore different ways they can move on low, medium, and high levels. We can show them good pictures. Cultivate their tastes for what is beautiful, just informally. We can read poetry to them.

Jenn: Nursery rhymes are such a good foundation for the poetry.

Sonya: And for reading, even; because before a child can learn to read, that child has to be able to hear the difference in the sounds of the words. Nursery rhymes are going to help cultivate that hearing, because they’ve got to have that first. And then we can also do crafts, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate. One thing I see a lot of moms who have preschoolers doings is, they buy a kit and say, “Okay, make your craft look just like this kit.” But that’s not giving the child the creative outlet that he needs. I remember when my oldest was a preschooler we created a big craft box. We would put in it construction paper, scratch paper from the printer, safety scissors, glue sticks. (I did not give her liquid glue, because I was a bad mommy and I didn’t want to clean up the mess.)

Laura: Well, the glue sticks can be popsicles. No, I’m just kidding.

Sonya: I’m glad she didn’t know that!

Laura: It happens.

Sonya: And I did not put glitter in it, but some adventurous moms do that. We would put in old toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes and pieces of aluminum foil and anything we could think of that they could create with. It’s going to make a mess, but it’s time well spent.

Jenn: It’s a good mess.

Sonya: Yes, it is.

Laura: Invest in a good vacuum cleaner and a good spray cleaner.

Jenn: That’s right. One of my kids’ favorite things to do is to play with boxes. Whenever we bring home boxes from the grocery store, like the Sam’s type places, they would get so excited. Our oldest, when they were little, that was better than, you know…

Laura: Any toy.

Jenn: It really was! And they would make crazy things out of these boxes. And now any Amazon box that we get, or anything like that, they all fight over who’s going to get the boxes. They have made some really cool things. And a favorite book is Roxaboxen.

Sonya: Oh, yes!

Jenn: That is a great book for boxes. So start collecting those boxes; that gives them a lot of fun. I think the more creative they can be—and not those kits—they have more freedom to make, and they come up with amazing things. It really is neat to see.

Laura: I’ve kind of graduated to an Outside Box. It’s full of appropriate things that I don’t care if they get destroyed or messed up or left outside. So little ones up to the older ones, they know if it’s coming out of—it’s like one of those big circular tubs with the handles—then they know that if anything’s in there, it’s like free play for outside. It may be old rags or blankets or sticks that they’ve manipulated. For the little ones, it may be cups that they can fill with dirt or sand, kind of like sandbox type toys, things they can play with, but it’s bigger than that because we don’t have a sandbox.

Jenn: And just changing it and having it outside gives them a whole new thing to do.

Laura: Makes it wholly different. And honestly if I’m tired of it in my house, I’m like, “Y’all go put that in the outside box.” It kind of helps you clean out your house a little bit too.

Jenn: And still have a purpose with that stuff. That’s a great idea.

Sonya: Did you guys do very many outings? I know you said the library.

Jenn: Well, we have a funny story about that.

Sonya: Oh yes?

Laura: I feel like Jenn and I are like-minded. We’re homeschool families, so we’ve just bonded over the years. Last-minute phone calls seemed to work the best, because sometimes it’s really hard to plan with little ones and bigger families. Well, she either sent me an email or called and said, “Hey let’s go to the zoo.” And I was like, “Okay, let’s go.” It was spring break week, so it was going to be super crowded, but I think that was because they were having a special on the family passes. So we thought we would go and get a joint family pass.

Jenn: I think we were each going to get the family pass, because they were having this deal or it was a coupon or something. So we went, and there were like a million people there. It was crazy. And we had a lot of kids.

Laura: It was one of those scenarios where I wish we had a rope and just told all the kids to hold the rope so we could pull them, you know, cause it’s like, “Where are they at?”

Jenn: Other people thought we were a school group, probably.

Sonya: Well, you were actually.

Jenn: For sure.

Laura: So we went up to the guest services to purchase a family pass.

Jenn: For each of us to get our own family pass.

Laura: But it wasn’t enough for our families. Because, you know, it’s standard maybe four people to the pass; it was a small number. Jenn was really pregnant, and I think the lady felt sorry for us, because we were just sitting there with big puppy dog eyes, looking at her, with all these kids hovering around us.

Jenn: And she told us, “If you do a joint pass together, you can have two adults and eight children.”

Laura: Or four adults, anyway it worked out a deal to where Jenn and I could go and take all of our kids for the year, or if one of us didn’t go, we could bring other friends to come.

Jenn: So that was fun, and it was half the price, because we got this pass together.

Laura: I’m pretty sure she felt really sorry for us.

Jenn: But there are creative ways to go do outings.

Laura: Inexpensively too.

Jenn: I know there is the imagination-type place that’s downtown in Atlanta.

Laura: They have a free Tuesday afternoon that you can do, so we did that a few times.

Jenn: So you can find some economical things to do. Or ask for passes for Christmas. We end up accumulating so many things, and so to use those consumable gifts…

Laura: Like to an aquarium or to the zoo.

Sonya: Or even state parks.

Jenn: And I think if you have an older child, a fourth grader, you can get into all the state parks for free the whole year.

Sonya: Oh, wow!

Jenn: So there’s lots of little tricks like that to find out, to keep prices down.

Laura: Sometimes we planned it, because we knew an event was coming; and then, you know, we’re like “the more the merrier,” so other moms and families came. And sometimes it was like the zoo incident: last minute, good deal—for our sanity, let’s load up and go. I think there’s a good balance of planning trips, and also just having that good friend that it can be, “I’m losing my mind today; we need to get out of the house. What can we go do together?” And it may just be going to the park, or wherever they have ice cold Coke, where you can get your Coke and drink it, and the kids can play, and everybody’s happy! Something like that.

Jenn: Yes, sometimes it seems harder to have somebody come over to the house, and it feels like you have more things going on or maybe interrupting your day; but really it’s a blessing when you have other people come in and other children come in, because your children are so much more occupied, and then you get to talk to a friend too.

Laura: Adult conversation.

Jenn: Right! So it really is great to have.

Sonya: Well, one thing we haven’t talked about is ABC’s and 123’s.

Laura: Overrated. No, I’m just kidding.

Sonya: That seems to be the thing that we get the most pressure about from outsiders. And since we’re not doing formal lessons then, do we just say, “Well, you’re not going to learn any of your ABC’s or 123’s; don’t worry about it”? Or let’s talk about some things that we can do to lay the foundation informally. One thing that comes to mind is that Charlotte Mason talked about giving the child, even from the time they’re itty bitty, giving them some letters that they can play with. So just like with their little guys, you were talking about, they have the letters. And you can refer to those letters as they’re playing, so they get to know the letter names. And if you’re reading ABC books with them, just put them in the stack along with all the other books. Get good ABC books. We’ll have to do an episode on how to choose good books.

Numbers naturally come easy, just because, “Hey, let’s count this.”

Laura: Especially for the little ones.

Jenn: Right, because there is so much out there that you have to weed through.

Sonya: If you read those good ABC books, that helps them learn the sounds that the letters make, as well as there are other things for them to look at; it engages their mind in many ways. And we talked about nursery rhymes are also laying the foundation. Just reading books to them is a big thing.

Laura: For numbers, I was thinking, as informal as we want to keep it, for them to have the idea that the number one is associated with one object. So even counting the steps as they jump up your front steps: one, two, three.

Sonya: Counting everything, yes.

Laura: Just associating things. I feel like numbers naturally come easy, just because, “Hey, let’s count this.”

There’s so much more to math than just the numbers. There’s learning about behind and before, left, middle, right, learning about above and below, anything like that. Learning about the places: first, second. Big and small, and bigger and smaller in different degrees.

Jenn: Through little games.

Sonya: Or count the toys as you put them away.

Laura: So we can teach numbers as they’re interested and wanting to learn.

Jenn: Even just rolling the dice and having them move that many spaces on a game is great, or learning colors through Candy Land. There are so many games out there now that just gradually bring in those little skills.

Sonya: And there’s so much more to math than just the numbers. There’s learning about behind and before, left, middle, right, learning about above and below, anything like that. Learning about the places: first, second. Big and small, and bigger and smaller in different degrees. Lining up your toys from smallest to biggest. (Well, maybe not all of them. That could take forever.) But any of those things. It all has to do with math. And those are things that we can do easily as the children are playing. It doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t, be a worksheet: “Sit down and figure this out.” We don’t want to push that.

Jenn: And that’s not what they want to be doing either. Learning by the way. My three year old is very interested in his name right now. He’s starting to understand that it does mean something. “Do you want me to write Charlie on this?” and I do, so now he’s learned C because that’s what starts his name. So they start learning these letters just as they start getting interested in things; and then you can teach them those letters in their name, but you’re not sitting down and having this formal school lesson or doing a worksheet.

Laura: I think that the momma of a preschooler should understand, too, that teaching them things doesn’t mean you have to teach them all day long. To give yourself some grace and guilt free time: “I’m just going to sit down for about 10 minutes, and we’re going to count something,” or “We’re going to go over Charlie’s name and the C.” Whatever that looks like, but knowing that it doesn’t have to be all day, every day.

Sonya: It shouldn’t be all day. I mean, the child is learning all day, every day, but it doesn’t have to be organized like that.

Laura: Well, it’s like you said, it’s seems like we get asked a lot, “What is your little one learning?” or “Have they started school yet?” You know, the pressure. So I feel like sometimes we add pressure to ourselves.

Jenn: Especially if it’s your first child. I think with the oldest child, there is a lot of pressure.

Laura: We also have more energy and time.

Jenn: Sure, but I think you haven’t had the time to see that they really do have more time to learn all of those schoolish type things. And so it’s kind of the “trust the system” thing. Trust the people who have been walking that walk and that have seen the fruit of laying that good foundation. But it’s really difficult when it’s your first child.

Laura: Yes, to reign it back.

Jenn: Right, and to not want to fight that, trying to not give them worksheets and things like that, because you want them to do.

Love your preschooler 100%, and see them as a person. Look them in the eye. Want them to be with you. Give them the best of yourself.

Sonya: So as a mom who’s been there, what would you advise? What would you say to a young mom who came up and said, “This is my first preschooler. I don’t know, what am I supposed to be doing with him?” What counsel would you give to her?

Laura: Pray a lot.

Sonya: Yes. That’s true.

Laura: I guess my first response, just off the top of my head, would be to love them. Love them 100%, and see them as a person. Look them in the eye. Want them to be with you. Give them the best of yourself. And then after listening to everything we just talked about, apply some of those things. Maybe choose a habit to start working on, or have a box of crafts that they can rummage through, or just brainstorm one or two things that you can start with. Because if you look at all the things some families do, it’s impossible. Every home is so different. But to just be starting out, I just think forming that good relationship with them is key. You’re tired; you don’t necessarily want to do it. But you’re investing in a life, and I think you can be encouraged knowing that there’s more value to that person than just checking off your list of things you’ve got to get done that day.

Jenn: I would say try to find some other like-minded moms, and maybe have a good group of people that you can bounce ideas off of, and when it is a hard day, someone that you can go to and talk to about that.

Laura: “Help me.”

Jenn: Yes, because our husbands for sure hear that, but sometimes it’s nice to have another mom that’s kind of in the trenches with you. So try to find a good group. And then, like Laura said, maybe just one thing, just one thing, and really try to work on that one thing. Maybe that’s just going on an outing once a week. Then once you start doing that and you get used to it, …because sometimes it’s scary to try to get out there: “What if I forget something?” I had a friend who had a sticky note on the back of her door, going into her garage, that had a list. One day she sat down and made a list of “These are all the things I need before I leave somewhere,” so that she wouldn’t forget something. I thought that was brilliant. So you can just check that list really quickly, and make sure: “Oh I forgot the diapers,” or “I forgot the wipes,” or—

Laura: The kids, “I forgot the kid.”

Jenn: Some days I would need to put that on the list.

Laura: Just saying.

Jenn: So once you make that one thing a habit, say, of going to the library every week and getting out, then start on a new habit of “Okay, this week I’m going to make a list of all of our activities that we could do,” and just find things. You don’t have to go out and buy a lot of things. Especially if it’s your oldest child, and you haven’t built up a supply of these different things. But maybe this week I’m going to try to put together a craft box. And it may be toilet paper rolls and boxes and different things, and then you have this craft box. Then the next month you go to a different thing that you’re going to try to implement. And before you know it, you have these habits that have been formed with your child, and each thing gets a little bit easier.

Sonya: Thank you for all of these ideas.

And now it’s your turn. Do you have any ideas for preschool activities? Ideas that are going to provide informal learning opportunities. Leave a comment and share your idea. Or if you have a question you’d like us to discuss, put that in the comments too, and let’s get your questions answered.