Starting Up Preschool Activities: Your Guide To Getting Started

If you’re here you need some direction on how to start up sensory bins and other activities for the early childhood age! So before we begin, I want to share with you a whole page I’ve put together of multiple blog posts that can direct you and answer questions that you may have. Check it out here!  

Adding in hands-on activities for your early childhood learners can be overwhelming at first, but don’t stress! I am here to help. What qualifies me? I was in the exact same position as you a few years ago. I had the desire to be the #teachermom that pulls out fun, educational activities for my kids, and even followed plenty of people on social media giving me all of the ideas for activities. BUT it seemed absolutely overwhelming to do so. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and now I am in a place where I can walk you through it! Here’s what I did. 

I invested in materials. Typically, these materials are fairly inexpensive and you’ll probably find a lot of them around your home (rice, cooking utensils, paper, markers). But I found the most success when all of the materials were there and ready for me to pull out. I spent around $75 at Amazon, Walmart, and The Dollar Store combined. This is also partially because I didn’t want to share my kitchen materials with my kid’s activities, so I spent a good chunk on new spoons, cups, muffin tins, etc. Having all of the materials together and organized helped tremendously to help me feel like I could be a part of this crafty early childhood educator bandwagon of hands-on activities! 

I lined out the purpose of these activities. Yes, I want my child to have these experiences and learning opportunities. But was I setting up activities for me to sit down and work with my kids one-on-one? Did I need the activities out to keep them entertained while I worked on something else? Yes to all of the above. However, it would take time to achieve the latter. 

I decided to use the sensory bins and activities for one-on-one time and connection with my kids at first, and then eventually use them as something for them to do while I made dinner or worked. I wouldn’t be setting myself up for success by expecting my kids to play independently and keeping expectations of the activities. 

I found the right social media accounts to follow. There are parents and educators out there that have done all of the dirty work for us! You don’t have to carefully create a new activity each time you feel your child needs entertainment or has a skill they need to practice. Others have already done it, and they are on social media! My favorites: Busy Toddler and Days with Gray.

These two stand out to me because they don’t post extravagant activities. It takes minimal set up time, simple materials, and are doable for any parent or educator to put together! Watch out for those social media accounts that are posting above and beyond activities that will make you feel inadequate to carry them out! 

I made a schedule. This was a temporary thing that I didn’t have to do for long, but helped initially. It made it predictable for all of us and gave me a visual of what I could expect. I decided activities in the morning would be 1:1 and done with new activities that needed a lot of supervision. Afternoon activities, while I was cooking dinner, would be independent activities that I knew I could trust my kids alone with. It looked like this: 

Week one: Activities in the morning after breakfast, before nap. 

Monday: bubble foam
Tuesday: rice scoop and transfer
Wednesday: water painting on construction paper
Thursday: Color mixing pour station
Friday: contact paper art

Week two: morning activities for together time, afternoon activities for independent play

Monday morning: moon sand
Tuesday afternoon: water painting on construction paper
Wednesday morning: color mixing pour station
Thursday afternoon: contact paper art
Friday morning: dot sticker line-up/ color match 

Week three: Start trying two activities a day!

Monday morning: moon sand
Monday afternoon: sticky note shape match
Tuesday morning: rice bin scoop and transfer
Wednesday afternoon: water sensory bin
Thursday morning: play dough
Friday afternoon: dot sticker activity 

This isn’t exactly but gives you an idea. Mornings were for working together and learning together. Afternoons were for independent play with materials I could trust my kids with. This schedule didn’t last forever, only about 3-4 weeks. But once I was in the rhythm and knew what to expect more, I didn’t need the schedule as much and slowly tapered off. Eventually pulling out activities became intuitive and I could tell when we needed one, what type it needed to be, and so forth. 

Do what you feel comfortable with. Are you not into playdough or paint? THAT IS OKAY! You can still have success. Just because a teacher or mom on Instagram shows how “easy” and “doable” it is to let children play with slime doesn’t mean you have to do it too. 

My first activities with my daughter were water sensory bins (because all it takes to clean up when it spills is a towel.) and “painting” with water on construction paper. Again, because cleaning up water is mounds easier than cleaning up rice. 

Eventually, all of our water play led to me being more comfortable with dried corn in a sensory bin. Then rice. Then, I let my daughter paint… It was absolutely nerve-wracking, but guess what I learned? The paint can be cleaned up. I can clean it up, and my daughter can learn how to clean when she helps! “Everything can and will be cleaned up.” Now, years later, we paint at least once a week, and I can comfortably leave my 3.5-year-old alone at our kitchen table to play with play-dough. Rome wasn’t built in a day, friends. 

Set you and your kids up for success. This is something that deserves a whole blog post, but I’m going to sum it up in two paragraphs for you. When setting up activities, think ahead. Are you working with paint? Keep a wet rag close by for messes. Maybe today is rice sensory bin day? Don’t put the bin near the fridge, because when it inevitably spills, it will roll under there and you won’t ever want to set up a rice sensory bin again. Also, set your kids up for success. No child was born knowing how to play properly in dried rice and corn, they need boundaries and rules! Keep it simple, but keep them there. 

Don’t add too much rice, don’t give them access to too much paint, or too much water, etc. Use big blankets or dollar store table cloths and shower curtains to protect your floors. And know your exit plan. What will clean up look like? What will your child help with, and what will you take on? Read my whole list of sensory bin tips here.


I know, I know. This post can be just as overwhelming, if not more so than you were before. But take it in baby steps! Figure it out as you go! Your child isn’t looking for the perfectly curated bin with exactly the lessons and skills they need for their current age and stage. 

Your child is looking for an opportunity to play. To spend time with you. To just be a kid. These finite details aren’t here to scare you away or add more to your plate, it’s just a reference guide for when you need help. 

So let’s break it down to basics. 

How do you start a rice sensory bin? Open a bag of rice. Pour contents into a large bin or bowl. Add in a cup and spoon. Sit on the floor with your child and enjoy. 

It really is that simple. So, go play! Go have fun! And go let those kids explore! 

Picture Books For Kwanzaa

This is part of a series on writing booklists about holidays beyond Christmas. To read more about it, you can see it here.

Kwanzaa has officially started! Kwanzaa is from December 26th- January 1st. Here are some of the picture books I was drawn to that you can read during the holiday and can teach you and your students more about it! 

The Seven Days Of Kwanzaa is a spin-off of the popular 12 Day of Christmas but adapted for Kwanzaa. The rhyming keeps listeners engaged!

Kevin’s Kwanzaa I was instantly drawn to this book because of the bright pictures! A cute book following the Kwanzaa celebration of Kevin’s family. 

Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa A book about a cute little rabbit family celebrating Kwanzaa. 

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story is a fun story about a family using the seven principles of Kwanzaa to come together. 

What other books do you like to read to your students regarding Kwanzaa!? 

Lighthouse Parenting

I’ve written multiple blog posts on helicopter parenting and how harmful it can be. Read them here: 

Helicopter Parenting
Helicopter Mom Part One
Helicopter Mom Part Two

But I can’t give you these blog posts about how much you shouldn’t be a helicopter parent without giving you an alternative. In fact, I needed an alternative way to parent myself! This is when my research led me to lighthouse parenting. 

The whole concept of lighthouse parenting is that of a lighthouse- constant and always there. Keeping watch and being aware of your surroundings, but also respect the fact that kids can stumble and fall and learn lessons on their own. 

“I like to think of myself as a lighthouse parent, you know reliably there, totally trustworthy, making sure he doesn’t crash against the rocks, but committed to letting him learn to ride the waves,” – Ginsburg

The whole idea of lighthouse parenting is that is it adaptable as your child grows and develops, your parenting grows and develops as well into what they need at that moment.

So for our children, our students, our future: Be a lighthouse parent. Let kids explore, let them learn and grow, but find a balance with keeping them safe. 

Picture Books For Winter Solstice

This is part of a series on writing booklists about holidays beyond Christmas. To read more about it, you can see it here.

Winter Solstice! The day is known by many as the shortest day of the year but celebrated by the Pagan religion. Here are my favorite picture books to celebrate the day. 

Wintercake: A cute story about a bear teaching why holiday traditions are important. 

This cute YouTube story about the winter solstice and the tradition this small family has 

A Solstice Tree for Jenny: A book about Jenny, who’s family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, so they adopt the celebration of Winter Solstice instead. It’s great for including many different winter celebrations beyond Christmas! 

The First Day of Winter: This book doesn’t explicitly teach Winter Solstice, but it’s a fun, catchy book that can be the lead for great conversations about what the first day of winter is. 

Snow Party: Such a fun book to visualize snowmen coming together to party on a snowy night! 

Winter solstice is such a fun holiday that deserves representation in picture books too! What are some of your favorite picture books to read for Winter Solstice? 

Picture Books For Chinese New Year

This is part of a series on writing booklists about holidays beyond Christmas. To read more about it, you can see it here.

Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) is still a few months away, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be added to our list of holiday picture books! These books were fun to look up and discover new titles. The Chinese culture has so much to offer and learn about, so let’s dive into my top favorites!

The Runaway Wok

Ruby’s Chinese New Year

A New Year’s Reunion

Look! What Do You See?

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

What books are you reading for Chinese New Year? 

Picture Books For Los Posadas

This is part of a series on writing booklists about holidays beyond Christmas. To read more about it, you can see it here.

Happy first day of Los Posadas! This holiday celebrates the journey Mary and Joseph made to give birth to the baby Jesus, celebrated in Mexico and parts of the United States. Here are some fun picture books to read during this holiday! 

Uno, Dos, Tres, Posada! This book is fun because it incorporates Spanish and English and teaches someone who is not familiar with Los Posadas what the holiday entails. 

A Pinata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas A cute spin on the Twelve Days of Christmas from a Latino perspective celebrating Los Posadas. 

The Legend of the Poinsettia This book is longer, but a great one for learning about poinsettias and why they are significant to Los Posadas. 

Nine Days to Christmas: I really love the simplicity of the illustrations in this book. It’s another great one to learn more about Los Posadas! 

What are some of your favorite Los Posadas picture books to read?

Cover photo from tuscon.com

Why Is Helicopter Parenting Bad?

I’ve written a few posts now on helicopter parenting and how I have been trying to avoid being one. You can read them here:

Helicopter Mom Part 1

Helicopter Mom Part 2

But maybe we need to clarify the why behind these helicopter mom posts. Why is this a parenting style I am avoiding and trying to lean more toward independent kids? 

A helicopter parent is someone who stands over their children making every decision for them and directing their lives. A lot of the motive behind a helicopter parent is to prevent their children from experiencing failure or getting hurt. However, doing so can actually do the opposite. 

The side effects of being parented by a helicopter parent are depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, high stress, fear of failure, low self-confidence, and more. By never letting your child fail, you are sending the message that failure is not okay, therefore, bringing on all of the depression, stress, and anxiety that comes with the inevitable failure in life. This only grows more and more into adulthood. 

To see more about the side effects of a helicopter parent, check out this video. 

What does a helicopter parent look like in each stage of life? 

As a toddler, it’s a parent standing right behind your child as they climb a ladder, even putting their hands and feet in the exact places they need to go to find success. 

As a child, it looks like a parent changing their child’s teacher because they don’t seem to learn well with their current teacher. 

As a teenager, it’s a parent that chooses which friends their children can spend time with. 

As an adult, it looks like a parent that pushes certain colleges to attend (typically based on the closest location to home) and tells the child what the best area of study for them will be. 

How can you change your parenting style to be less helicopter parent? 

Step back and watch your child climb the ladder. Observe their method of movement and don’t step in unless absolutely necessary. Remember that a short tumble may be exactly what they need to learn the correct method for using the rungs. 

Let your child stay in the classroom of this teacher, and give them ways to learn with the style the teacher is using. Teach them how to work with different personality types, then pull them out of the classroom if matters seem to be worsening and you have tried multiple approaches. 

Have conversations with your child about the value of good friendships and what a lasting effect they can have in life. Teach them to identify good vs. bad friends and let them decipher their friend choices on their own. 

Ask your child what their goals for their adult life look like, see what their ambitions and dreams are. Have conversations about what college looks like and means to them, and help guide them to whichever school seems to be the best fit for them. 

By changing the way we interact and teach our children, it will lead to more independent and efficient leaders of tomorrow. 

Featured Photo: Kayla Wright