Just when you thought we’d covered everything you could possibly want to know (and then some) about play-teaching toddlers and preschoolers, here’s one more “bonus” follow-up entry with a few more ideas on some of the subjects we covered in the past week…
More thoughts on tot school fun: (See the original post here.)
In answer to the logistical question of how and when we do tot school, I have to tell you honestly that it’s different every day. Normally, I try to do some fun activities with Remington early in the day, while she’s happy and interested. But sometimes circumstances dictate that other things have to come first.
Often we do the activities with her strapped into a booster chair, mainly because it seems to help her maintain focus on what we’re doing and it keeps our supplies from getting strewn all over the house. But other times we do tot school outside, or on the floor, or in some other random place, and occasionally we skip the PLANNED activities all together. (She doesn’t often let me get away with that, though!)
But even on the days you don’t sit down to a concentrated time of learning, remember that your child is learning all day as you interact and play with him! Don’t restrict tot school to certain times and places, and don’t restrict it to only your own ideas. I would certainly never have planned to have Remi measure Addy’s knitting needles, but there was a ruler sitting around, and her two-year-old curiosity just got the best of her…
(By the way, it was “a million.”)
Besides our sit-down times, we do tot school in the car (listening to CDs and talking about everything we pass), in line at the grocery store (looking for shapes and colors), before naps (reading books together), while fixing meals in the kitchen (counting forks and napkins, measuring, and pouring), during family devotionals and while lying in bed at night (listening to Bible stories), and so on. For a toddler, life is all about learning. The focused activities are special and fun, but they’re the extras.
Here’s an example of “spontaneous tot school:”
Yesterday was Saturday. I didn’t have a single formal activity planned for my toddler—we were just going to hang out. While walking around outside, she became intrigued by the colorful fall leaves on the ground. She started collecting them, and as she did so we examined each one and talked about the different colors and about why leaves fall from the trees.
We took them inside and ironed them between two sheets of wax paper to make a fun little autumn place mat for her spot at the table. She totally got into the ironing part!
We counted each leaf as she put it on, and she made them into families (which is why you’ll notice some of the leaves are stacked…Those are the mamas and daddies holding their babies.)
She spelled her name for me while I helped her cut the letters out using my Cricut. (I put the letters on the wax paper so it would actually spell Remi, but she did all the rest, and I left everything just the way she put it, which is why the hearts are upside down and most of the leaves are turned over backwards. The colors were so vivid on the front sides…but this was her masterpiece!)
No planned activity. Plenty of learning fun. Oh, and as usual, she wanted to take a picture of me, too. I think I’m raising a little photographer! (But she has some practicing to do…)
More thoughts on doing tot school on a shoestring: (See the original post here.)
Please remember that my little toddler is our fourth child, so I’ve been collecting fun resources for quite a while! And one thing I’ve always done is to buy ahead. That means that if I find a great resource at a great price, I’ll pick it up now to have on hand when we need it. (Think of it like stocking up on groceries when they’re on sale or you have a good coupon.) Here are a couple of personal examples from this past week:
I loved these colorful wooden shape puzzles with numbered pieces, but I knew they’d be a little advanced for my two-year-old. (This was confirmed after purchase!)
But, I also knew that they’d be great to have during her preschool years, and that they probably won’t be available for $2.50 each in the Target Dollar Spot by the time she’s ready for them. So now, they’re ready for HER.
I found a whole set of these telling-the-time puzzle cards at a thrift store for fifty cents:
I have no desire to teach Remi how to tell time right now, or any time soon. She’s only two! But these cards are super cute and will be great when we’re ready for them…and she’ll probably still play with them now, just matching the pieces that fit together…and did you hear me say they were FIFTY CENTS?!?
Speaking of thrift stores…Unless you are just rolling in money or don’t have anything else to spend it on, don’t be above buying second hand. My husband will tell you that I go a little crazy cleaning things I’ve bought used, but once that’s done we have all kinds of fun resources at incredible savings.
For example, Amazon sells this product (called Max Discovers Shapes & Colors) for $13.99. I found mine at the same thrift store where I bought the time puzzle cards. I paid fifty cents.
The instructions were missing. But I can tell you right now that we are going to be matching shapes and colors, copying patterns, extending patterns, and probably lots more with this set.
I found this Imaginarium art kit at a yard sale yesterday, also for fifty cents. Everything is in the box, including full bottles of paint!
Just remember to keep your eyes open wherever you are, always being on the lookout for fun, inexpensive ways to play and learn with your little one. I found these last week at Dollar Tree (for a buck) and immediately thought of tons of ways to use them in our tot school!
One addition to my favorite toddler resources: (See the original post here.)
Since the original post was monstrously long, I waited to share this last suggestion with you here. One of my very favorite and most budget-friendly resources for teaching toddlers is…the internet! There is an unbelievable amount of free inspiration online. I use the internet for ideas and to download free printables, which I can tailor to our specific needs. For example, after our recent family camping trip, I printed lots of fun camping-themed activities for Remi to have fun with in tot school. Here are just a few of the ones we did that week:
The activities were more meaningful to her because of what she’d just experienced. Whether you are going to the zoo, the farm, the circus, or Grandma’s house, internet resources can help you make your tot school relevant to your situation. I got the downloads for the activities above here and here.
One final thought on tot school organization: (See the original post here.)
After a time of trying to keep up with lots of little zipper baggies full of pieces from cute activities I’d printed from the internet, I finally came up with an EASY way to store them where I could see them, get to them, and put them away again easily. I took a 3-ring binder, added page protectors, and inserted each set into its own sleeve. I can easily flip through and find what I want this way, and NO MORE WANDERING PIECES! Yea!
Well, this is officially the final post of Tiny Tots Week. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and gotten some helpful ideas.
By the way, it THRILLED me to hear from some of you who have already tried out some activities, or have been inspired to think of your own. If you’ve done either, I’d LOVE to hear about it!