I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends lately about their preschool-aged kids and how the majority of preschool teachers are very focused on learning letters. They assign homework or make comments like, “Maybe work with your student on their letters at home, he seems to not be picking them up as fast as other kids.”
Why are we so focused on kids learning letters and reading so early? Why are we adding to the stress and pressure moms feel? Why do we feel like walking away from preschool with every single letter memorized is our end goal here?
Let’s talk about other skills kids learn and walk away with from preschool that is even more important than letters and numbers.
Social skills- working with other children in play and at learning stations.
Language skills- walking away from school talking better and easier to understand.
Coping skills- how to handle emotions when mom and dad leave or someone takes a toy they wanted.
Responsibility with sensory bins, play dough, paint, toys, and other items.
Fine motor development- working through fine motor activities such as stickers or fingerpaint so later in life, they can do things like…. Hold a pencil.
Gross motor development- jumping and skipping and throwing.
Gaining a love and appreciation for literature.
How to open snacks independently.
How to prepare food.
How to advocate for themselves.
How to communicate needs and wants.
Empathy and sympathy.
There is a list of OVER TEN things that preschool-age students walk away with that are essential to the future of their education, yet we are still focusing on learning letters and numbers. Yes, learning letters and numbers are important and we should focus on them as well! But it shouldn’t be our only spotlight. Play is a child’s work, it’s how they learn and grow. If we are giving them adequate time to play and interact with peers and adults, that’s what they need more than anything.
Please stop adding to the stress of parents and students by shoving numbers and letters down their throats! Please celebrate all of the accomplishments your child is achieving during preschool!
Hi friends! A lot of my posts lately have been focused on early childhood and how we can foster this education as parents and teachers. It’s been my focus simply because it’s my daily life right now. I spend the majority of my day fostering the learning of a one-year-old and a three-year-old, so naturally, it’s where my thoughts have been centered.
Because I have been throwing this content at you so much, I felt like it needed a place where it’s all corralled for you for easier searching. Lo and behold! My early childhood page!
Featured on the page are sensory bin lists, tips, and recipes. Some thoughts on raising independent kids. Really great articles on PLAY. And bonus material on emotions in kids and using Myers- Briggs and Enneagram to understand your child better.
This list and page will be ever growing as I continue to create new content in this scope of ideas, so check back later for more articles. You can find this new page on our top banner under “blog”.
Hello, early educators and parents of littles who are ready to dive deep into the sensory bin world! Sensory bins can be daunting given the mess that can come with it. But I’m here to help ease your fears and bring more sensory play into the world. First, a few other resources for articles:
Here are my tips specifically for RICE sensory bins.
SET BOUNDARIES: Before you even begin, set boundaries. Our number one rule is to keep the rice and tools inside the bin. This idea of rice in a bin to play with can be new for the majority of kids and we can’t just assume they know to keep the rice nicely in the bin. Give them good boundaries BEFORE you give them the materials.
SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS: One thing I firmly believe is that we have to set kids up for success before we expect them to perform the way we want and expect them to. Even if you set them up for success, accidents still happen. The best solution I have found for keeping rice contained is to put the sensory bin on top of a quilt or rug. Then it can easily be shaken off outside or vacuumed up when you’re done!
KEEP THE BOUNDARIES: When lines are crossed, don’t be afraid to take a break from the rice. Separate the child and the bin however you can, take a minute for a break, and come back to try again for success when you feel the child is ready.
FIND THE RIGHT TOOLS: Too many tools, not enough tools, or the wrong tools can make or break the sensory bin experience. We’ve done our fair share of experimenting with tools and here are our favorites.
Scoops and spoons
Ice cube trays
Small people or animals for pretend play
Holiday-themed toys (usually from the dollar store)
Puzzle pieces for a puzzle find. Expect this to be messier because they’ll be pulling pieces out of the bin.
PRAISE THE POSITIVE: Applaud and praise the correct behaviors. “I love how you’re sharing so nicely with your friend!” “You are keeping the rice in the bin so well. I am proud of you!”
TASTE SAFE IS NOT AN AFTERNOON SNACK: Dyed rice is typically made taste safe (recipe coming soon!). Just because it’s taste safe doesn’t mean it should be eaten. It means you don’t need to call poison control if it ends up in their mouth at some point. With diligent supervision and boundary setting, babies as young as a year old can play with sensory bins full of rice. More on that in the next point.
The first experience of a sensory bin looks like sitting right next to the child, helping them scoop and play. When rice is inevitably put in their mouth respond with, “Yucky! No no!” and help them spit it out. Repeat over and over. It takes multiple times to remind them and in multiple settings! Be diligent and they’ll understand. Take it away if you need to.
IT TAKES TIME FOR RICE TO BE AN INDEPENDENT ACTIVITY: To go along with the last point, it takes time for any sensory bin to be an independent activity! If you’re a parent, handing your child a rice bin with toys and tools for the first time so you can make dinner isn’t setting them up for success. Rice bins are a side-by-side activity to teach your child self-control and pretend play.
In an early childhood educational setting- model, model, MODEL how to play with any sensory activity. Set a responsible adult next to the bin with a handful of kids to monitor and keep the boundaries.
Given time, independent play with rice is possible!
Do you have any tips for rice sensory play you can add to this list?
I’ve been teaching my daughter and her little neighbor friend preschool since mid-April. At first, it was very consistent and every day, but now we’ve tapered off since the world is (somewhat) opening up again and we can leave our homes again. We have been using Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool curriculum and love it! You can read more about my review here.
Today I want to share a few little nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned from teaching on a preschool level. This age and curriculum are somewhat out of my realm, my dream teaching job would be 3rd-4th grade, but I’ve learned a lot teaching this age and learned to adapt to this different age range.
More play. Less instruction. I knew this before, I live by the phrase “play is a child’s work.” However, sometimes when we put the label “teacher” out there, it’s easy to fall into teacher instruction mode. I found that the less I was involved and the more play that took place, the more learning that came.
Sing. Sing all of the songs. I’m not a singer!! I know a lot of people say this, but I’m REALLY not a good singer. Guess what? They didn’t care. They just wanted songs. They craved the repetition and beat and learning a new tune. Sing the songs, and sing them loud and silly.
Consistency is important for them at such a young age. We had our schedule that we did every day (laid out by Playing Preschool), and the days we strayed from it, left something out, or switched it up slightly, the whole lesson was hard for them. Be consistent.
Not all kids grow up with a #teachermom and do activities like poke toothpicks in an apple, and that’s okay! Our cute neighbor boy that joins us for preschool was doing the apple poke activity. It promotes counting, spacial awareness, and fine motor skills. After he had put two or three toothpicks into the apple he looked at me and asked, “Why am I doing this?” while my daughter sat next to him happily poking her toothpicks because an activity like this is fairly normal in our household! Gave me a good laugh!
Learning letters and numbers isn’t the goal of preschool. Playing is the purpose of preschool, and throwing in the letters and numbers is just an added bonus. I was reminding myself often that just because my daughter still didn’t know that R says rrrrrr by the end of two weeks, it doesn’t mean the two weeks was a fail. We played, we sang, recited poems and painted. So much paint! The purpose of the R unit wasn’t to engrain the letter or sound into her mind, it was to expose her to a new letter, maybe recognize it, and most importantly- to play.
I think doing this preschool program with my daughter has opened my eyes to what playing for a child truly is. I knew it was important and I knew that’s how they can learn, however, now I realize that it’s not just how they CAN learn, it IS how they learn. It is crucial!
To you preschool teachers out there, what other tips do you have, or what else can you add to this list?
Lessons are easy to read and organized. Whether you’re an educator or not, there is plenty of information and resources to give you the most success possible.
We had to take a few weeks off while I worked from home, but it was easy to pick back up again and get started. The lessons are evergreen and can be done at any time of the year.
Most of the materials were found at home, but mostly because we’ve been doing toddler based activities for a year now. Even if you don’t have all of the materials at home, it’s a worthwhile investment because they are cheap and useful! I don’t know about you, but we go through a pack of construction paper really fast over here!
Some weeks required more materials such as the cooking unit because we needed a lot of food, but again, nothing crazy expensive and worth the money for the outcome. I went through the supply list of every unit before we got started and made an Amazon Wishlist and shared it with our family members that often like to buy my kid’s gifts so that they would know the books and tools that would be extra useful to us right now!
The activities do not take a lot of time to set up. I don’t think I ever spent more than two minutes gathering supplies and setting up an activity for the lessons. They are quick and practical!
The lessons truly are playing. There are no worksheets to print out! It’s all activities to set up for your preschool to explore numbers and letters. There’s a lot of paint and a lot of play! A method I can get behind!
I loved that each unit had a great book list that really worked hand in hand with each day, but we started Playing Preschool the same time quarantine began, meaning our library was closed! Without the resource of the library, it was so hard to find the specific books she recommended. I did my best to find substitutes (although her suggestions truly are the best books to use). I also tried the free trial of Vooks, but not a single book on the list was found there! You can read my Vooks review here.
Another solution I found was to buy a few books on thirftbooks.com, they had great prices and free shipping after a certain amount spent! I couldn’t pass up an opportunity at buying new books! We also searched Kindle on Amazon for any free or cheap purchases. Those books obviously aren’t the same as holding a real book, but it did the job!
The rest I put on my Amazon wishlist for our family members and we received many that way. I also called upon good friends and neighbors to borrow their books. With all efforts combined, I was able to get together all of our books! With access to a public library, this process would not be as difficult as it was for me, but I wanted to share my ideas for others who also may not have access to a library as well.
The final downside is more on me than on the curriculum itself. I would feel like the entire unit was a failure if we skipped a day or even a single activity. I wanted to get everything in to make sure she understood the concepts being taught. In the introduction of Playing Preschool, Susie the creator of the curriculum explicitly says you do not have to do every activity and it does not have to all be done in one sitting. She suggestions spreading it out throughout the day or splitting it up into two sections if accomplishing everything in one sitting is too much for your preschooler. My type-A personality shone through a lot when I saw each activity as a checklist feeling like I needed to mark everything off. You do not need to do this to have success in the program.
Overall, I truly have loved Playing Preschool and use it often with my daughter. Even if we are on a break from doing preschool, I can still pull it out and find one or two activities for her to do while I cook dinner or clean the house. It’s great exposure to letters and numbers. My 2.5-year-old has very little interest in her letters and even after a few weeks of playing preschool she can’t name a single letter or letter sound, but she’s still gaining that exposure and teaching her to have a love for learning and reading. Playing Preschool for the win!
Have you done the Playing Preschool curriculum? Leave your pros and cons in the comments for others to see!
If you remember back to my introduction post, you know that I haven’t been in my own classroom teaching my set of students for quite some time now. I’ve had plenty of substitute teaching jobs, which don’t get me wrong, has been amazing! But not the same as your own, personal classroom.
Alas, I’m here to say- I’m finally stepping back in the classroom! Although, my “classroom” is in my basement and my students are my daughter and her little friend that lives down the road. The curriculum is learning letters and counting, something I was never given proper instruction on how to teach because my degree is in elementary education, not early childhood. While most would not think twice about the difference between the two, there is enough difference that I somewhat feel out of my realm here. My dream job would be to teach 3rd grade, not 3-year-olds!
However, it’s still my dream job right now, even if it isn’t in a 3rd-grade classroom because it means I can teach and be with my kids at home every day.
The curriculum I purchased for preschool came from Busy Toddler, a former early childhood teacher but now a mom running her own business by blogging about kid activities and writing preschool curriculum. So far, I have been very impressed with the book. It’s very play-based and includes math, writing, art, science, plenty of children’s books, and lots of sensory bins, my favorite! I plan to do a full, honest review once we have had a few more weeks under our belt and I can give a better idea of what it’s like.
It has also been very helpful to have a little slice of normalcy in our lives right now during this crazy time with everything shut down due to COVID-19. It’s about 20-30 minutes of our day where we can just leave the world behind and have a little structure.
My absolute favorite part about it is that I went deep in our storage to pull out a little plastic bin my grandma gave me years and years ago to use for my first year of teaching! While I imagined it very different, I was still just as excited to pull it out again and use it for this!
So for now, you can catch me in my little classroom corner that I’ve created!
To all of the educators out there teaching in early childhood- the daycare workers, the preschool and kindergarten teachers, even up into first and second grade, this post is for you. First, to salute you for your noble work. Teaching littles can be difficult, emotions run high and logic doesn’t always seem to follow. But at the end of the day, we all know the work we are doing is worth it for those little brains to learn and grow.
Here’s a tool for my fellow sensory bin lovers, something I’ve searched the internet, Pinterest, and Instagram for a few years now, and I am ready to share my findings with you. My best list of sensory bin fillers!
Good old fashioned rice- Fairly common, but always a hit. Dye the rice fun colors for an added twist.
Shaving cream or
Whipped cream- make sure your students know which one is edible!
Cardboard pieces cut up smaller
Water with scoops and cups
Foam packing peanuts
Cotton balls as pretend snow
A big bucket of snow! What’s more fun than snow indoors for littles?
Dried corn for those fall months
Straw or hay
Fake grass (usually made for Easter baskets)
Sand or moon sand
If you’re feeling like you’re ready for a really messy day- Dirt!
Flower petals/ flowers- either real or fake
The possibilities are endless! We have had so many successes and failures in our sensory bin activities. Some I find are not interesting right away, but left out can facilitate great play. This list is just a start to items you can find in a sensory table, but my hope is that it can get your gears turning for some fun, imaginative play for littles.
What are some of your go-to sensory bin activities? What has worked for you in the past? Is there something new on this list that you are going to try in your classroom?
A child’s play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has aquired.