Author: Melissa Droegemueller

Melissa is an elementary school teacher–turned–homeschooling mom with over nine years of teaching experience. She has taught grades 1st through 4th, with a few years working with preschoolers, toddlers, and babies sprinkled in. She is passionate about helping busy parents connect with their kids through play, and she dreams of a world where all children are excited about learning and are being equipped to use their unique gifts to make a big difference in their communities.
Preschool at Home Curriculum Ideas

Preschool at Home Curriculum Ideas

Do I need preschool at home curriculum?

Did you know the number one search result for both “tot school” and “preschool at home” is all about choosing curriculum? Which program will BEST prepare my child for Kindergarten?

As I’ve said before:

The truth is, there is NO perfect curriculum that will make tot school or preschool at home a guaranteed success.

While I am not anti-curriculum, I don’t think it’s necessary for MOST families who choose to do tot school or preschool at home. Curriculum is simply meant to be a jumping off point for teachers (and homeschooling parents). All too often, we become more focused on teaching the next lesson in the book rather than what our child needs to learn next.

{text} Which preschool at home curriculum is best for my family?
I don’t typically recommend that families “wing it,” either.

Some programs, like Five In A Row or A Year of Playing Skillfully, have a natural and gentle approach to how young children learn best. We also offer affordable, themed Family Activity Guides in our Play School Club, a membership program for parents with children ages 2-6.

The Family Activity Guides take a “menu approach,” with 40 hands-on learning activities that can be chosen based on skill, interest, or time. Think of the guides as a learning BUFFET, where everyone can get exactly what they want (and need!) next. Best of all, each guide comes with a list of recommended books, material suggestions, and the support of a (former) elementary school teacher–ME!

Or maybe you’re more of a DIYer? There are lots of great Instagram feeds and Pinterest accounts filled with activity suggestions for you and your kids. The piecemeal approach can be fun as you follow your child’s interests and passions … though it can cost you more time and money.


Are you considering preschool at home for your toddler or preschooler? Check out our series:


There's more to homeschool preschool than "just playing." Get your questions answered from a former classroom teacher.

Is learning through play really enough?

If you are new around here, you should know I am a BIG FAN of learning through play!

Is it enough for preschoolers learning at home? Yes…and no.

Babies and toddlers discover most of the world through play (and their mouths). It really IS enough to choose a few, intentional open-ended toys, stock the play area with a variety of terrific board books, and spend lots of time reading, singing, and playing outside.

If you have a preschooler at home, I believe that child-directed play should take up a large portion of each day. However, some skills will need to be taught directly to children by a caring adult. Despite my greatest hopes that they would pick it up indirectly, I have had to teach both of my children how to:

  • brush their teeth
  • wipe their bottoms
  • wash their hands
  • tie their shoes
  • and ride a bike.

(But they picked up how to read on their own. Go figure!)

Knowing which skills to teach (and when) can be tricky for parents and caregivers who do not have a background in education. (And even for those of us who taught older children and didn’t take many ECE/EYFS classes in college!)

Developmental Milestones Checklist

During our preschool at home years, I created a list of nearly 100 developmental milestones for children birth-age 5. You can grab yours here!

Developmental Milestones Checklist {from birth through Kindergarten}

Using this milestones checklist can give you the wisdom you need to plan fun, hands-on learning activities that are perfectly, developmentally-appropriate for your child(ren).


Where do I find ideas for fun learning activities?

As I mentioned before, there are so many amazing parents sharing their ideas on Instagram and Pinterest. Use hashtags #totschool, #preschoolathome, and #learningathome to connect with other families who have similar styles to you!

You can also follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook for simple learning through play ideas — or join our FREE Resource Library for even more FUN!

If you’d like, we invite you to join us in The Play School Club for a free trial week. Download our latest Family Activity Guide, and see if it’s a good fit for your family.

(Simply use the code TRIAL here to join immediately!)

Try The Play School Club FREE for one week using the code TRIAL.

Preschool at Home Schedule {Free Printables}

Preschool at Home Schedule {Free Printables}

If you are just starting out on your learning at home journey, you might be wondering how on earth you’ll fill the LONG days with your little one at home. Or maybe you’re wondering how you’ll fit ALL the fun things you have planned into 24 hours! (Don’t worry–it takes both kinds of homeschooling families to make the world go ’round.)

This post will walk you through creating a preschool at home schedule that works for your family.


If your children are past the preschool phase, click here to see our post about creating a homeschool schedule for a new year.


Schedule vs. Rhythm

When we first started learning at home with our three-year-old, I had to adjust my expectations as a former classroom teacher.  I craved structure, but I quickly realized that no two days were going to be exactly the same (especially with a newborn, too).

While I loved the idea of doing math at 9:00, craft at 9:30, read-aloud at 10:00, etc., trying to stick to a strict schedule just left me and my preschooler feeling frustrated. We found that a rhythm worked better for our family:

  • breakfast
  • outside play
  • snack
  • read-aloud time
  • free play
  • lunch
  • nap/quiet time
  • invitation to play/tot tray/preschool lesson
  • dinner
  • family time
  • bedtime routine

On the days we needed to run errands or planned to meet with friends at the park, we would simply move things around. My little one always liked to know what was coming next, so we started each morning by writing out the day’s events on our chalkboard easel.


See our must-have supplies for preschool at home!


Learning through play is the best way!

Direct Teach vs. Free Play

It’s no secret that I’m a BIG fan of learning through play! I think toddlers and preschoolers need at least one big chunk of time for self-directed free play every day. However, some skills need to be taught directly (riding a bike and tying shoes come to mind) by a loving adult.

Each week, I would plan out a handful of activities that we could work on together. This might be sorting items by color, counting, working on letter recognition, or doing a science investigation. Once I had introduced the lesson, she could come back to the activity again and again during independent play time throughout the week.

Our best time for preschool at home lessons came directly after the girls’ afternoon nap. I would use their rest time to set up an activity, and we would get right to learning once both girls were awake. (The toddler often had a related “tot tray” or “invitation to play” that she could work on while I taught the older child.)


Download our favorite learning activities here.


Creating the Perfect Schedule for Your Homeschool Preschool

preschool at home | creating a schedule that works for your family!

Creating a Preschool at Home Schedule

If you’re anything like me, the temptation is to GO BIG: make an amazing, detailed daily schedule for your preschooler and dive right in! The trouble with going from no schedule to a full day, though, is that it’s very difficult to sustain.

My advice to new homeschooling families is to start with ONE thing and do it well before adding in the next element.

  • Make a list of ALL the things you WANT to do with your child, either daily or weekly. (My non-negotiables at the very beginning would be read-aloud and outside time.)
  • Ease into a new family rhythm by adding one new element each week.
  • Make a visual schedule using a chalkboard, whiteboard, pocket chart, or file folder. Talk about the day’s activities after breakfast so everyone is excited and on the same page.
  • Build in time for your child to be the boss of his/her schedule (free play). You can start out by giving your child two or three choices if this seems like too much freedom at first–or try toy rotation to limit decision fatigue.

In no time at all, with lots of parent consistency, our toddlers and preschoolers can learn to anticipate the daily routines and transition seamlessly from one activity to another.


preschool at home | free schedule templates

You can click here to download our FREE weekly planning page and schedule template from our Resource Library.


Creating a preschool at home schedule can be a fun and simple process, if you take it one step at a time!

The Importance of Nursery Rhymes in Literacy Development

The Importance of Nursery Rhymes in Literacy Development

Everything I know about early literacy, I learned from Mem Fox.

Our first child was born in the summer of 2008, about 14 weeks before her due date. I spent the first six weeks of her life (AKA “maternity leave”) sitting in an uncomfortable chair by her isolette. I couldn’t hold her or feed her, pick out her clothes, or doing anything that a new mother gets to do, really.

This was pre-smartphone (and we couldn’t have our phones on in the NICU anyway). I passed the time by working on a cross-stitch project for her “someday” bedroom and reading tons of books.

One of the first books I remember reading during those long summer days was Reading Magic by Mem Fox.

As an elementary school teacher, I knew all about early literacy and helping kids fall in love with books in a classroom setting. As a first time mom, though, I had very little clue about what I should be doing with my newborn daughter to set a good foundation for early literacy.

Mem’s sweet words showed me the ONE thing that I COULD do in those early days of our daughter’s long NICU stay: I could read to her.

The best time to start reading aloud to a baby is the day it is born. --Mem Fox

I brought in tote bags of picture books from my years in the classroom and set them up on the shelf next to her isolette. I read book after book to her, and then I switched to chapter books to make them last longer. We read Ramona the Brave and Gooney Bird Greene. I read to her from my own books, too.

Before long, I was able to take her out of her isolette, feed her small bottles of milk, and pick out her clothes. But our favorite activity to do together was READ. The foundation had been set.

By the time our second daughter was born (on time) three years later, I was ready for her! I packed Mem’s beautiful book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes in my hospital bag. Within hours of her delivery, I was reading aloud.


I’ve talked about Mem Fox and Reading Magic here on the blog before.

Today, I want to talk about the importance of nursery rhymes, which she covers in chapter 10.

Why nursery rhymes are important for early literacy development!

We all know that young children have short attention spans, which makes songs and short rhymes a perfect fit. And as Mem says, “Songs and rhymes provide comforting rhythms in children’s early lives and also expose kids to gorgeous forms of language. They are a natural extension to the heartbeat of the mother and the rhythmic rocking of a child in loving arms or in a cradle.

Songs and rhymes allow busy families to play with language on the go:

  • in the car
  • waiting in line at the grocery store
  • even during those countless bathroom hours while potty-training!

Nursery rhymes can help with preschool literacy development, too! Young children learn new vocabulary and begin to anticipate the missing rhyming words at the end of each line.

“From songs [and nursery rhymes], children learn words, sentences, rhythm, rhyme, and repetition, all of which they’ll find later in the books they read.”

–Mem Fox, Reading Magic

Rhymers will be readers: it's that simple. --Mem Fox

The importance of nursery rhymes cannot be overstated or underestimated. According to Reading Magic, “experts in literacy development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”

How do we incorporate nursery rhymes into every day play?

  • Invest in a quality anthology of Mother Goose or other rhymes.
  • Write a few on index cards and place them around your home.
    • Put one on the bathroom sink to recite while washing hands.
    • Hang one above the changing table to make wiggly changes a little easier.
    • Keep one or two in the diaper bag for the next time you’re stuck in a waiting room.
  • Choose one rhyme a month to focus on together. Plan a few fun extension activities that coordinate nicely, like a relay race up a hill for Jack and Jill.
  • Add more rhymes to your child’s educational playlist and let it run during independent play time.

“Once children have masses of rhythmic gems like these in their heads, they’ll have a huge store of information to bring to the task of learning to read, a nice fat bank of language: words, phrases, structures, and grammar.”

–Mem Fox, Reading Magic

What are your thoughts on the importance of nursery rhymes?


Watch the Facebook LIVE on this topic, and then check out the nursery rhymes FREEBIE in our Resource Library!


Nursery Rhymes Family Activity Guide

We’ve just released our NEW nursery rhyme Family Activity Guide for busy families with kiddos ages 2-6. There are 10 popular rhymes included, each with four FUN, hands-on learn activities that you can do any time of the year! Focus on one rhyme a month or do all forty activities in one unit study–the choice is up to you.

The guide is part of our affordable monthly subscription program, The Play School Club. Learn more here!