Combining Structure and Play: Preschool At Home

Now that Lulu is nearly 4, I’ve started a preschool at home curriculum with her. I will admit she doesn’t know a huge amount of memorization-type stuff yet, but I’m ok with that! I think it’s really important for kids to focus on play alone for their first few years. Through that they pick up on social skills, motor skills, and some educational facts naturally. 

Combining Structure and Play- 5 ways to keep preschool at home fun and interesting | thegrowingcreatives.com

But she is getting closer to school, so I felt it was time to add some more structured elements to her learning! There are certain things she should know before starting kindergarten, and more than anything I want her to get the hang of sitting through “lessons”. And maybe actually pay attention to them haha.

I’ve done a bit of reading on preschool at home schedules, techniques, curriculum, etc. to get us both ready. And I want to periodically share our experiences with you! Today I am focusing on the different WAYS to teach your kids.

Here are the main categories (with some examples) for our preschool at home lesson plans so far: 

Music

There are so many great educational benefits to music, and it’s something that most kids really enjoy! They can work on their memory skills, language development, self-expression, and build their self-esteem. Most of all, music makes everyone (kids and adults alike) HAPPY 🙂

Ways to learn for preschoolers: through music | thegrowingcreatives.com

The options for adding music to your day are pretty much endless. Children are so receptive to song, so that can be a huge tool. Singing nursery rhymes, learning songs, and even made up songs to encourage creativity.

One of my favorite things ever is listening to the sweet and fun songs my daughter comes up with on her own. Dancing to music is also an incredibly fun way for kids to work out some wiggles, learn to follow instructions, or just take a break and reset their brains for more learning! 

Beyond that, they can play instruments to work on coordination. You can choose to get them toy instruments, real ones if you’re hoping it’ll become a passion, and even take them to get lessons!

Another winning option for kiddos at this age is to make instruments, whether it be a craft or just using another object to make music. 

Story Time

Reading is a huge part of everyday in our house. My kids both LOVE having stories read, and I love reading to them! The benefits of reading are incredible, and as a bookworm myself I’ve been sure to encourage them to find the enjoyment in a good book. So you can be sure this has been a huge part of our preschool at home lessons!

Ways to learn for preschoolers: through reading | thegrowingcreatives.com

Something else that I’ve started doing is letting Lu read to me. Now, she can’t actually read yet, but she can deduce some of the events unfolding based on the pictures.

If the book she’s “reading” to me is one she’s heard many times before, then it helps her work on memorization skills to retell the story in her own words. If it’s a book we haven’t read before, or not very often, then she comes up with the storyline entirely on her own. It allows her to get creative and think more intently on what the pictures are showing.

Ways to learn for preschoolers: through reading | thegrowingcreatives.com

For our learning time, I’ve been more particular about the books we get. Some of them may focus on what we’re learning in our workbooks, such as the alphabet or days of the week. And some will teach a social lesson like staying safe, being kind, or sharing. We also will be reading books related to any holidays or other important days coming up in each month!

Kinesthetic Learning (Hands On Activities)

You know how some people are visual learners and some are more hands on learners? I’m pretty sure at 4 years old, most kids are at least partly hands on learners. So this is a huge part of having a creative and interesting preschool at home plan for them!

Ways to learn for preschoolers: through hands on activities | thegrowingcreatives.com

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For pretty much every lesson we do with the workbooks, I have an additional hands on activity to help Lu get a better understanding of the lessons. This can take some planning for sure, so I’ll periodically share some of our kinesthetic learning activities to help your lessons go as smoothly as possible.

We will be starting “letter of the week” activities that you can look for towards the end of each week as well!

Aside from more planned out activities, something as simple as coloring or drawing can help them to grasp the lessons better. Sensory bins, such as this one on gardening, can be great for teaching them about different topics in an engaging way. Ultimately they just need something physical to help them understand what you’re saying!

Structured Learning

Now we’re getting to the boring, typical schoolwork part. But the good news is it doesn’t HAVE to be boring!

Preschool workbooks are designed to be interesting and have an array of ways to explain the different topics. We are using this workbook by Brain Quest (affiliate link) and absolutely loving it. It’s a large book and filled with tons of little lessons to work on. We also have a dry erase workbook for working on Lu’s handwriting.

Ways to learn for preschoolers: through structured learning | thegrowingcreatives.com

In addition to the workbooks, there are SO many free printables out there! Check out this post where I’ve compiled some really fun and interactive ones that your kiddos will love.

One resource that I was super happy to find was the entire website over at Mrs. Mactivity! They have a really reasonable yearly membership that gives you access to all their learning printables for different levels.

For now I’ve just obsessed over how great the site is and printed out a ton of their material. Once Lu starts working with them more, I plan on doing a full review, because there’s just too many resources to skim through quickly! 

Take It Outside!

Seriously! There are so many great ways to learn outside of your house, and it’s good for everyone to change things up a bit.

Libraries are a huge resource for a lot more than books. Most will have weekly or monthly story times, special events, and programs connected to the nearby schools. I live in the tiniest town ever and even our library has regular events, so I bet yours does too! The best part is they’re all free 🙂

Ways to learn for preschoolers: through exploring nature | thegrowingcreatives.com

Aside from the library, you can look for local events near you. State parks, cities, community centers, and museums are all wonderful places to look into.

And naturally (no pun intended), you can always take the lesson outside to your own backyard. Not only are there tons of ways to learn from nature, but even the same pre-planned lessons in an outdoor location can inspire kids in new ways. 

A few last tips

Now that we’ve established the main lesson types, here are a few quick tips to consider as well. 

1. Work in short intervals

If they seem to be getting distracted, just take a break or move onto a more hands on/playful part of the lesson. I try to alternate structured learning with either a planned activity, or independent play. 

2. Let them teach you

People of all ages learn better when they have to teach the topic themselves. So it’s no surprise that this extra motivation can work great for kids. While I don’t suggest letting them take over the lesson (a very real likelihood with my daughter’s personality haha), asking them to help YOU figure something out can give them the self-esteem boost they need to figure it out for themselves.

3. Take your time

And don’t stress over a schedule! We definitely have a loose schedule made up for organizational purposes, but leave room for change.

Maybe a specific topic or activity is extra interesting to them. It’s fine if they want to spend more time on it! Likewise, feel free to skip or come back later to something that they can’t seem to focus on at the moment.

Preschool At Home | thegrowingcreatives.com

The nice thing about doing preschool at home is your child can get acclimated to a schedule without being thrown right into one with an entire class. By the time they start kindergarten it should be easier. But in the meantime allow room for grace and patience in their ability to focus. 

I was honestly a little worried about doing this on my own since I am not super organized lol. But now that we’ve started, it’s really inspired me to get creative in the ways I teach my kids!

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34 thoughts on “Combining Structure and Play: Preschool At Home

  1. Great tips for helping your preschoolers learn the necessary skills without squashing their natural love of learning! Hands on learning is so important at this age. We also do a lot of play with board game pieces, using them as manipulatively for basic math, props for storytelling, and more. It’s a fun way to get some extra use out of games.

    1. Absolutely, I love those ideas! My daughter got a pack of different card games for Christmas and she doesn’t even know how much she’s learning while playing games haha

    1. It definitely tests my patience at times, especially since my daughter has days where she thinks it’s cute or funny to purposely answer me wrong haha. But when it’s more play than structure, it’s not too bad!

  2. My little girl isn’t at the preschool age but I have been wanted to start a mini version of preschool and I love these ideas to help me get going and keeping organized.

  3. This is so great, and you are absolutely spot on that learning during play at this age happens naturally. Your tips are great, I definitely need to do more kinesthetic learning with my daughter. My favorite time of day is story time with her!

  4. I am at this point with my 3rd child. These are some wonderful reminders you give us. My son likes to spell words with the letter magnets on the fridge. I’m surprizes that just a few minutes a day and it works. he knows all his letters and can spell a few words and he’s only 4. No preschool, just homeschool.

    1. I love it! Kids are so naturally drawn to soaking up knowledge everywhere they can. Fridge magnets are awesome for early familiarity with the alphabet for sure!

  5. I like how you added in different aspects of learning. They are all important in the overall development and learning of children, so that they are well rounded.

  6. Absolutely great ideas to homeschooling. The idea of letting our kids to teach us is very helpful for their development. This will also help them to grow confidence and self esteem. Nice post!!

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