Friday, September 30, 2011

Top Ten Home Preschool Tips

A friend of mine is starting a co-op preschool with 2 other moms.  She asked me if I had any suggestions (because I have 2 going on 3 years of experience and no training in education. . .guess she wasn't picky!).  I put some thought into it and came up with my Top Ten Tips for home preschool.  If you have ever been to school for education you will probably laugh at me.  You may even want to comment to correct my horrible ideas (that is encouraged. . .please help me any way you can) but this is what I have learned so far.  In two more years, I am sure the list will be even better.   For what it is worth (approx 65 cents) here is my list of things to consider when planning a preschool in your home.

Meg's Top Ten Preschool List

1. Plan every minute. Do not allow for "free" time. Yes, kids can play but it should be guided. Trust me on this. Do not allow 3 year olds to "play" without some serious guidelines. They must be taught to play. I did not know this before, but it is true. 
Set out one or two things for the kids to play with during 'play time'. Then, either show them how to play with it or give them a scenario. For example, when we talked about inventions (this was with my 3 year old class) we talked about men and women who solved problems. They made new things out of parts of old things to solve hard problems, gave examples, showed pictures, read a book etc. Then, at play time I put out wooden blocks and tiny plastic horses. I told them that these horses have a problem. It rains on their heads at night and gets all of their hay wet. Can you help solve their problem? Then I let them play for 15 minutes. Some of the kids took right to the building of a stable of some sort. Some just played with the blocks and some with just the horses, that was fine. I didn't interfere other than to compliment each kid in a different way "oh look how kind Savannah was to Brooke, she gave her the gray horse even though Savannah had it first!" "I love how Addy made a roof on her stable, that will keep the hay dry" etc. I did not really care if all the kids got the invention thing. The point was they had been given a way to play. They had been instructed and had a purpose. Trust me on this one. Free reign of the toys with a group is a recipe for disaster especially if you are rotating homes. What happens is the kid whose house it is gets the short end of the stick because they have to share EVERYTHING. It is their stuff, afterall. but, if they have a guided purpose for play time, sharing isn't as much a factor, neither is boredom or wandering around into bathrooms and such.

  • 2. Plan more things than you think you will need. It is okay to not get to everything. It is not okay to have 5 3 year olds at your house playing duck duck goose for 40 minutes.
  • 3. 3 year olds will not sit for 5 books in a row. Even if they are awesome books. Even if they are beautiful books. Even if you love them and you are the best reader ever. Do something active between each book. Sing a song with actions, make them run around the room matching big R and little r, have them act out the story, SOMETHING. If they can be an active participant in the story (repeat a line that is repeated in the story, hold an animal that is a character in the book, take turns turning the page, etc.) they will listen better. As much as we want them to love reading, they won't sit their forever. Not even if they do at home 1 on 1. When their friends are there, you have about a 1 book at a time window. . if that.

    4. Less worksheets, more action. Check out the books 'Worksheets Don't Build Dendrites"  (Marcia L. Tate) and "Smart Moves"  (Carla Hannaford)  They give some great ideas, although I am sure you have tons of great ideas from your schooling. I, on the other hand, am an education idiot and had to learn all that stuff since I spent my college years learning useful stuff like symbiosis, animal classification and protein synthesis. So glad I took Organic Chemistry. . .riiiiiight.
    I like to to buy lots of workbooks and then use the worksheets to inspire active games. For example: One worksheet had an apple tree on it. The apples had A or a on them. The child was to draw a line from the A's to the basket that had an A on it and the same for the a. I got a hold of a giant faux tree, attached velcro circles to it and laminated a bunch of paper apples. I can now write on the apples with dry erase markers. I put the apples all over the tree with A and a on them. I had two baskets one with A and one with a. . .you get the picture, right? the kids pick and apple, say the sound, put it in the basket. Of course, worksheets are essential for teaching writing. they have to build the muscles in their hands for writing and they have to practice practice practice. There is just more than one way to skin a cat. . .or to teach a kid to add.
    5. State your rules the first day. Don't assume they will know or pick up on ANY rule. They. and you, will feel more comfortable if you state the rules from the very beginning. It is easier to ease up later on than to make new rules (although this is pretty much unavoidable. I now have a 'no touching the couch at preschool rule' and a 'no building guns at preschool' rule, two things I did not anticipate ahead of time).
    • 6. Dress up. They love it. If you are silly, you will have them.
    • 7. Have a snack.
    • 8. Do not allow sugar to ever be a part of that snack. Be strict on this. Cheese and apples. Ham and celery. No sugar. Trust me, it is for the best. Protien, baby. Don't underestimate it.
    • 9. Songs. Lots. Of. Songs. With actions.
    • 10. Always give their hands something to do. Do not expect them to hold still. They cannot. If you are going to explain something or tell them something or read them a longer book, let them squish playdough, hold an animal, play with string (kids love this. . .not sure why. . .give them 1 foot of yarn and you can read them The Odyssy), anything to hold, manipulate or keep them from poking their neighbor.


  1. Not picky? You actually have experience! And remember, I was a secondary education major, and a failed one at that. I have no experience with early childhood education. As I was reading over your last few posts, I'm feeling really out of my league. We're only meeting once a week, and now I'm wishing it was a little more often because you have such great ideas and activities that are more conducive to being done over more than one day. Anyway, thank you again for your ideas!

  2. Uuuummmm, you are pretty much awesome. I loved all of these tips and totally agree with you on ALL of them! Awesome.

  3. That was an awesome summarization of early childhood to-dos and not-to-dos. Seriously, I went to school for it and you summed it up beautifully- all the things you need to know but only experience can teach you. You inspire me. Hopefully one day I'll have a preschool half as awesome as yours.