There are so many ways to teach your children at home! Get ideas for reading, numbers, shapes, colors, music, science, and more!
Children are always learning. They are like little sponges.
It can be overwhelming to think about teaching your children the things they need to know, but it doesn’t need to be hard.
You can so easily work on things at home to teach your child a lot!
So much of what you have done in the baby and young toddler years will have set you up for great success in helping your child learn to do more structured activities.
When you read On Becoming Preschoolwise, you come to realize the far-reaching benefits of things you have taught your child since birth.
Things like being able to self-entertain, sit still when told, and follow instructions are of such benefit to the learning environment.
Adding Learning Time to Your Day
As your child gets older, you want to have structured, more school-type learning sessions with your child each day.
This is discussed in Preschoolwise, and is really geared more toward 3 and up (the preschooler age group).
There are things you can do to prepare for that time, and fun learning activities you can do with your younger than three years old.
You can easily come up with fun activities that also double as great learning opportunities.
Children come with a clean slate, so they are actively learning from each experience, for better or worse.
Many learning opportunities are actually common activities you do with your kids, but if you go into them with the idea of it being a learning opportunity, you will find those teaching moments.
You know those classic mom moments when they teach you a profound lesson when you least expect it? Those moments usually have the greatest and most long-lasting impact.
As my children grew up, we had many different ways we went about having structured learning time. There are many ways to accomplish it, so don’t feel stressed out about the idea. Here are some posts with different ideas:
What To Focus on At Home
Here is a list of topics and ideas of things you can do at home. I also have ideas for learning within those topics. You will see that once you get going, it is easy to come up with activities.
I am a huge reading advocate. I truly believe teaching your child to have a love for reading will provide him with endless power throughout his life.
If you know how to find answers, you have no limit to the education you can give yourself.
Mark Twain said “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”
One of my greatest goals as a mother was to raise readers, and now I can say that has been accomplished.
Here are ideas for working reading into your day.
Read books before bed. We read books every night before bed (for all children). This is so simple, but really helps provide a positive association with books for kids. It also allows them to be very familiar with books.
Sing ABCS. For a younger child, you can do something as simple as sing the ABCs to or with your child.
Display letters around the house. Magnetic alphabet letters on your refrigerator are a great way to show letters. Keep the letters there for your children to see and be familiar with.
At times, you can be making lunch and say, “Do you know what ‘milk’ starts with? M!” and hold up the M. It doesn’t have to be on the fridge.
Foam alphabet letters for the tub are definitely one of the best bath toys we ever got. You can talk about letters, sound they make, and even spell simple words during bath time.
Write letters in various ways. Writing out your letters. I remember even two year old Brayden had a fascination with seeing how letters are written and loved to see his name written out. You can do this in chalk outside, in crayon inside, on a magnetic writing board, etc. Once your child has uppercase down, be sure to work on lower case.
Library trips. There you can check out books as well as attend story time. Help your child learn to love the library. If you struggle with a child behaving in the library, see my library training post.
Quiz your child. You can get a poster, book, flashcards, or write out letters and ask your child what letter that is, what sound it makes, what it stands for, etc.
TV shows can also be helpful. Brayden always liked Super Why! on PBS. It is a great show for focusing on letters and reading.
Type letters or stories. For an older child, you can let him type on the computer. One day when Brayden was two, he was typing. He hit “B” several times and said, “That’s a B!” I said, “That’s right.” He said, “The B says Buh!” I asked, “What is B for?” He looked at me and said “It’s for…Me!” (Brayden). I thought that was cute.
Do puzzles. Puzzles are another great way to get familiar with letters. Here are two letter puzzles we had that were very helpful. We had an alphabet letter puzzle and we also had a see and spell puzzle.
Art is another area you want to focus on at home. This is perhaps one of the easiest activities to do with young children. Kids love art. It is also a huge category. So many activities fall under “art.”
- Color (use different mediums–crayons, markers, etc.)
- Coloring books
- Play doh,
- Side walk chalk
- If old enough, those silly little crafts (they sell kits in craft stores if you aren’t so inclined). Klutz makes some fun crafts.
- Make cards for people (paper crafting)
- Scrapbook (but use materials that are inexpensive and don’t matter to you)
- Attend museums if your child is mature enough.
Drama is actually really easy to do at home. Kids love to imagine things.
- Act out stories.
- Imaginative play with toys or with yourselves.
- Dress up clothes allow for some dramatic imaginative play.
- Attend plays if your child is mature enough.
- Puppet shows. Attend them or make your own.
- Record you child putting on a performance. You can do a lot of easy movie trailers with iMovie.
It is so easy to incorporate numbers, colors, and shapes into your daily life. Here are some ideas.
- Counting. Count everything you do. This is especially great for younger kids. I would count how many clips it took to clip my kids finger nails.
- Chutes and Ladders and other such board games (Candyland, Hi-Ho Cherri-o, etc.) offer a lot of opportunities for counting and colors.
- Books about colors, shapes, and numbers. Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 is a good counting book, as is One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.
- Cook or bake together. Making cookies is a great way to practice counting. He helps me measure and count ingredients.
- Sing songs that count (10 little monkeys, etc.)
- Coloring is an easy way to talk about colors.
- Go on a “hunt”. Choose a color, number, or shape and go through your home searching for it.
- Have theme days. For example, an orange day. You wear orange, you drink orange milk, eat cheese and oranges, etc. Or a shape day where you cut foods into the shape of the day and you search your house for the shape.
- Flash cards can be used to review colors, shapes, and numbers.
Music is a huge part of my life. I love it, so it is a category all by itself.
- Listen to all kinds of music. Listen to toddler tunes, religious music, instrumental, and mainstream music.
- Play the piano or another instrument together.
- Get music toys (baby grands, music tables, musical instruments for kids, etc.). This is a fun music toy pack. The LeapFrog Music Table is one of my favorite all-time toys for kids.
- Make musical instruments.
- Sing songs A’Capella.
- Karaoke. You can get a machine or we have this microphone that is fun.
- Go to concerts if your child is mature enough.
This can be a really fun one. Science is in everything, so merely explaining how things work and grow is a fascinating thing to your child. If you don’t know, don’t make it up. Your child is learning. Look it up together.
- Walks are a great opportunity to talk about nature, technology, or whatever you see while you are out.
- Search for bugs (get a bug net at a craft store or dollar store–I got a HUGE one at the grocery store for 1.50).
- Bubbles–we use the big net to catch bubbles.
- Play in the sandbox.
- Pull weeds or garden
- Water plants
- Garden if you have one–let them help in ways that are age appropriate.
- Fly kites
- Go to the zoo
- Go camping
- Go to the mountains or beach or whatever you have near you
Many people dread the subject of history, but knowing the heritage of your family, culture, and country can give you a sense of purpose and pride. History also provides many valuable lessons.
- Visit historic sites.
- Vacations are a great way to find history. If you drive, you will likely pass many historic sites. You can also learn about the place you are visiting.
- Tell stories about family members and historic figures. We have no shortage of amazing people who have lived.
- I have seen children’s stories that tell historic events.
Many of these activities are part of our lives naturally. When you think of it in the frame of a learning opportunity, though, you will likely be better at displaying proper social graces.
For example, perhaps if you are typically an impatient driver, you will be more patient and courteous on your way to grandma’s house.
You can also do your child a favor by explaining correct behavior before you leave the house, “Now Brayden, when we are at the park, we don’t throw the bark.” Yes, that is a real experience from our lives.
- Have play dates.
- Visit friends and family.
- Have friends and family over. Be sure to emphasize qualities of a good host.
- Go to the park.
- Sibling playtime.
- Time with Daddy/Mommy. You can do it at home and/or have special “dates.”
- Go out to dinner, run errands, etc.
- Play games. This can include board games as well as those classics like Duck Duck Goose and Hide and Go Seek. Keep in mind that you are teaching social skills here. You don’t want to always let your child win. When I play a game with my kids and they tell me I have to let them win, I tell them I am not going to play with them if they won’t let me play. Yes, I take it easy on little ones, but I don’t always let them win. You want him to learn to lose gracefully and that you don’t always get to win.
Getting physical activity in is rarely a challenge for your toddler or preschooler. The inverse is usually more true.
Be sure to encourage physical activity. Being physically fit is of great benefit to your child, and starting good habits now will help set good skills for life. You can also use this category to help your child improve his fine and gross motor skills.
- Play tag.
- Play sports like soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.
- Go to the park.
- String beads or cheerios. This will help with fine motor skills.
- Play hopscotch.
- Get a big bouncy ball and throw it around.
- Play fetch with the dog.
- Go swimming.
- Take the dog for a walk–Brayden will walk our dogs around the backyard.
- Watch sporting events. Go to a football game, basketball game, or rodeo.
You want moral training to be a constant part of your lives daily. Your religious training will depend on your religious beliefs.
If you are a religious person, don’t leave your child’s training up to his church leaders. They have them for such a short time each week. You have them every day.
If you are not religious, don’t leave the moral lessons up to the world. You are responsible for teaching your child morals, not society.
- Church. This is pretty obvious. I personally wouldn’t count this as the religious training for the week, but it definitely adds. I am always pleasantly surprised at what my kids take away even from nursery each week.
- Family Night. We also have one night a week where we have a lesson followed by a family activity.
- Prayer. Teach your children to pray and to be reverent for prayer.
- Scriptures. There are many ways to study scriptures with your children. Actually reading them, telling stories, reenactments, etc. Pick what works for your child. We have a goal to read scriptures together each day.
- Board books. There are countless board books available for children that tell the stories from the scriptures.
- Stories. You tell the stories from the scriptures to your children.
- Reenactment. You can all get dressed up and act out scripture stories.
- Movies. There are movies available that tell the scripture stories.
- If you are not religious, you will most likely still want to instill moral values in your children. You can pick books and shows that teach those values you hold, in addition to your daily moral training (there is a lot more on moral training in Childwise).
You can see that learning activities come quite readily. It is so fun to watch your child learning new things. They just love to learn!
- 15 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Kindergarten
- How To Do A Preschool Homeschool
- How To Do a Learning Activity of the Day
This post originally appeared on this blog April 2008