Tag: preschool at home

10 Simple Learning Activities: Straw Pieces

10 Simple Learning Activities: Straw Pieces

Do you need fancy curriculum or complicated activities for your preschool at home? Short answer: NO! Simple learning activities can be just as effective for young children, and they can save you TIME and MONEY.

In our homeschool, we like to reuse our favorite materials for a variety of learning objectives. One bag of colorful rainbow straw pieces have lasted for more than five years, and we’re still coming up with new ways to play!


See even more activities for tactile learners — 100 ideas!


simple learning activities

If you are doing tot school or homeschool preschool, be sure to add straw pieces to your list of materials! (Safety note: make sure that the pieces are a reasonable length to prevent choking, and be sure to supervise your child’s play at all times.)

Here are 10 simple learning activities that can be done with straws:

  • Sort the straw pieces by color.

Give your child a muffin tin or ‘chip and dip’ container from the dollar store to make sorting easier. Add in tongs or chopsticks for added fine motor practice.

  • Add a funnel and jar.

Practice counting the pieces as you drop them in.

  • Order the straw pieces by size.

Use vocabulary like “tallest” and “smallest” to learn more about measurement. You can also use sequencing words like first, next, then, and last.

  • Lace the pieces onto a shoelace or piece of yarn.

Wear your necklaces proudly!

  • Reuse an old Parmesan cheese container for simple learning fun on the go.

Your child can work on hand-eye coordination while enjoying the unique sounds of their new instrument.

  • Practice patterns with the straw pieces.

Start with AB patterning, like red yellow red yellow, and then make more complex patterns as your child is able.

  • Build letters and words with the pieces.

Practice lowercase and uppercase, spell out your child’s name, or just have fun making random words!

  • Use the pieces with playdough!

Make faces with them or use your imagination to pretend the straws are birthday candles or something else.

  • Measure objects with the straws.

How many pieces equal the length of a ruler?

  • Count a certain number of pieces.

Add in a pair of dice or use UNO cards to work on number recognition while you play.


See all of these activities on our YouTube channel:

You can also see more of our Activity of the Week videos in our FREE Resource Library.


As you can see from these simple learning activities using straw pieces, it’s so easy to bring learning into everyday play!

Can you think of more hands-on learning ideas using straws?

Preschool at Home Curriculum Ideas

Preschool at Home Curriculum Ideas

This month only, join our FREE Preschool at Home Facebook group, where we’ll have daily conversation starters, weekly Q&A sessions, and lots of free resources. Click here to join us.


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}

This month only, join our FREE Preschool at Home Facebook group, where we’ll have daily conversation starters, weekly Q&A sessions, and lots of free resources. Click here to join us.


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!