Tag: learning through play

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.

5 Winter Learning Activities for Kids {FREE Printable}

5 Winter Learning Activities for Kids {FREE Printable}

Hooray, it’s winter!

I know it’s not common, but I LOVE winter. (I actually really love celebrating all the seasons, after living in Texas most of my life.) Winter is such a fun time to observe nature with our kids: watching squirrels and bunnies frolic in the snow, tracking footprints, and watching the days get shorter and then longer again. Whether you are doing preschool at home or just looking for awesome ideas to beat boredom with your toddlers, you’ll love these winter learning activities!

Scroll down for our freebie!

In case you missed the introduction to our invitation to play series (click here), here’s how we structure these fun, simple activities at our house.  

It’s the middle of the afternoon. Mom is trying to help the older child finish up her school work/homework before making dinner. Younger child is spinning around nearby or doing something quietly destructive in the next room. Mom pulls out an invitation to play to keep everyone calm and connected.

An invitation to play is an easy, open-ended activity. It uses just a few materials found around the house, like measuring cups, straws, old magazines, etc. Keeping these activities set aside for special times keeps them interesting and intentionally engaging for when you need 10-15 minutes to get something else done! Best of all, these simple materials can be mixed and matched for countless other activities throughout the year.

This week, I have a freebie for you: a printable with FIVE winter-themed invitations to play!

You also get:

  • a materials list
  • winter book recommendations for snowy days
  • and a coupon code for our winter Family Activity Guides, full of hands-on learning fun for kids ages 2-6!

5 Winter Learning Activities | FREE Download

Click here for your Winter Learning Activities download.

Access this and all our other freebies immediately!

How do YOU feel about winter? Leave a comment below and let me know!

3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

It seems that no matter where we look these days, experts are talking about the importance of play. Doctors are prescribing it. Child development experts are advocating for it. Parents everywhere are clamoring for more play in the classroom. It’s no exaggeration to say there is an educational crisis in the world today, and it stems directly from a lack of play in our children’s lives. Play makes learning fun and helps our children build executive function skills for a happy and successful life. But did you know there are THREE different types of play that have a powerful impact on our kids?

Three powerful types of play every parent needs to know!

3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

1) INDEPENDENT PLAY

Sometimes called free play or creative play, independent play is critical to the emotional and social development of our children. When children play independently, they are in charge of which materials they want to play with and what the rules of their play entail. True independent play allows young children to develop and practice new skills, which is why you’ll see toddlers and preschoolers do the same action (dump and fill, for example) over and over again.

(Read more about kids and repetition here.)

Independent play builds these executive function skills:

  • making a plan
  • solving problems
  • self-monitoring

Learn how to teach independent play to young children.


2) CONNECTED PLAY

When a child and a trusted adult do an activity together, I call it “connected play.” This type of play can be kicking a soccer ball around in the yard, going for a bike ride, or working on a puzzle. The purpose of connected play is to strengthen relationships and spend time together.

Connected play can be adult-directed or a shared process between child and parent. It’s important to take turns choosing the activity, though it’s okay to give your child a few choices to pick if you need some variety. 😉

Connected play builds these executive function skills:

  • taking turns
  • regulating emotions
  • understanding different points of view
  • having empathy and recognizing the needs of others

Learn more about executive function skills here.


Learning through play is the best way.

3) LEARNING THROUGH PLAY ACTIVITIES

If you’ve spent much time on our Facebook or Instagram pages, you know that we are a BIG fan of learning through play. It’s worth mentioning that learning through play activities are not TRUE independent play, because they are often parent- or teacher-directed. They are fun and help reinforce important academic skills, for sure–but they cannot be the only play experience for our children.

If your child attends a preschool program, be sure to ask the director what percentage of time children are given for independent (child-directed) play. These are often called “centers.” A good program will give young children the freedom to learn through exploration along with adult-directed learning activities. 

Learning activities build these executive function skills:

  • paying attention
  • staying focused
  • completing tasks

Click here to see our full directory of learning through play activities.


Until our education system remembers how children learn best, the responsibility falls on parents to make playtime a priority. The ideal is giving your children all three types of play on a regular basis.

SMARTplay mini-class

Learn more about the types of play in our SMARTplay mini-class–absolutely FREE!