Sooo, just to confuse you, now I'm going to admit that there are some circumstances in which you may in fact, want to use some "schoolish" stuff with your preschooler. Here are those circumstances:
* your child has expressed a keen interest in something more than imaginative play, baking, and nature walks and has said some version of the following: "Oh Most Knowledgeable Mother, would you be so kind as to impart the wisdom of the alphabet on me, a humble, yet eager learner?"
* it's not mandatory or too formal sit-at-the-table-and-hold-your-pencil-the-right-way style
* it's casual and cozy (think sitting on the couch or carpet or on the deck)
* it's enjoyable for both of you
* the materials you use are tools that help foster the child's natural curiosity and creativity that I've already spoken about in Parts 1 and 2
* it does not become the focus of having your young children at home and doesn't replace all the other things that may be more suited to a preschooler (see the previous "25 Things" list)
The list I've complied here are things that I occasionally used with my boys when they were younger and am know making available to the girls. The girls tend to want more "school stuff" because they see their big brothers engaged in formal lessons. I'm happy to oblige, but want to reiterate that my preschool children are never required to do any lesson that they are not particularly interested in. When they are interested, sometimes I work with them, and sometimes they're left to their own devices while I work with the boys :) Many of these activities come in very handy when it's best for the girls to be independently and quietly engaged in something so that I can have a couple uninterrupted minutes here and there with the boys. (Some things on my list are academic-ish [not a word most well-educated people throw around, I know], some are sensory/manipulative/brain building activities, some are early science, some are just for fun!)
ABCs, 123's, and Other Stuff :
25 Things to Use With Your Preschooler Instead of a Boxed Curriculum
1) Beautiful ABC, 123 Books. I feel very strongly about this. I believe that even kids deserve good books, and in this case, it primarily means it means good illustrations. I will not just let any old ABC book into our home. It must be beautiful. Call me annoying, but that's just the way it is. Here are some of our favorites:
* The Metropolitan Museum of Art books for kids (Museum ABC, 123, Shapes)
* Alphablock, Christopher Franceschelli
* Brian Wildsmith's Amazing Animal Alphabet
* Charlie Harper 123's
2) Nature books with fabulous photographs. We love the Nature Babies Series by Aubrey Lang and Wayne Lynch
3) An engaging picture atlas (or two!) and a globe. We have loved looking at the Nat Geo Wild Animal Atlas and the Usborne Children's Picture Atlas which we just recently got from Molly!
4) Picture books that build character. That's actually the title of a book also, so check it out of your library and you'll be well on your way to choosing some great character-building, age appropriate literature!
7) Alphabet and Number flashcards. Again, pretty pictures are important. (Usually, with any flashcards we have, I laminate them and put them on rings so that they stay together and stay intact.) I love stuff like this to give the girls to look at in the car.
8) Wooden tiles / pattern blocks (or magentic pattern blocks)
9) Homemade Activities such as I Spy Alphabet Bead Bottle, Color Matching Craft Stick Drop, Craft Stick Number Matching, Clothespin Letter Matching
10) Handwriting Without Tears wood pieces and alphabet cards
11) Arranging Activities. Some of our favorites are the HABA Geomix Learning Game and HABA 1001 Arabian Nights Arranging Game
12) Do-A-Dot Letters (downloaded from here)
13) PlanToys Preschool Number Cards and Alphabet Cards
14) Tracing paper, stencils, rubbing plates.
15) Various learning-related iPad apps. Here's my list of ABC apps for little kids and a my list of brain-exercising apps for preschoolers.
16) Alphabet and counting pages in plastic page protectors to be written on with dry erase marker
17) Rag Quilted Numbers. (I made mine using this tutorial)
18) Letter foods! (like Scrabble Cheez-Its or letter pretzels)
19) Workbook-y Stuff (like Dollar Tree Stuff - mazes and 1 -20 dot to dot, or workbook pages left over from the boys)
20) Handmade Daily Weather Tracker. I made this magnet board when the boys were little. It needs some repairs now, but I should get it back out for Clare :)
21) Alphabet Post-It Notes. (a gift from my mother who has a special fondness for sticky notes and an uncanny ability to track down cool ones!)
22) Lacing cards .
24) ANY Dover Educational Coloring Book. You can read about my extreme love of Dover coloring books here :)
25) Age appropriate games to practice pre-math skills. Think Candy Land, Connect Four, Chutes and Ladders.
FINALLY, if your four year old is nearing five and you think it's time to get a little more formal, these are the three things I've used and liked for "Kindergarten":
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Math U See, Primer Level
Handwriting Without Tears, Letters and Numbers for Me
Annnnnd... now it's your turn! What activities and tools do you recommend when your preschooler is ready for a little light instruction??
** I really enjoyed writing this three-part series on (non) preschool. It was such a great way to order my own thoughts on the subject and to get my lists of ideas down for myself and my kids. Thanks for joining me! I hope you enjoyed it also and got at least a few ideas you think might work for you and your little ones. Let me know what you thought, and please feel free to pass it on, especially to families who may be considering homeschooling and aren't sure how to start with their young ones. I always welcome questions and comments! And remember, there is no one way to homeschool. These three posts are merely an account of how we do it, what works for us, and what I think is great :) Thanks again for reading! **