Simple Learning Activities for Preschoolers

The rules have changed since I entered kindergarten over 25 years ago. Kids today are expected to know much more when starting school. The things I learned in kindergarten and even first grade are now required knowledge before setting foot in a classroom.

As a parent I wonder if I’m doing enough to prepare my daughter for school. She has just recently become old enough for preschool but I have yet to enroll her. Despite my busy day I still want to find time to help her on my own. I realize these moments won’t last forever and I want to enjoy them while they are here.

While waiting for my film to be developed the other day my daughter and I wandered around the store. We went into the craft section and we found the wood working section. I held up random wooden letters and to my surprise she correctly identified almost all of them. She easily counted the numbers up to fifteen and could name every shape I help up for her. I was quite surprised and I felt good that something I have been doing must be working. There are quite a few learning games and activities you can do with your child to help them learn. Here are a few that my daughter and I often enjoy together.

Do You Know Your ABCs?

I stumbled onto this simple game one rainy day when we were locked in the house with nothing to do. I grabbed one of my daughter’s favorite books and a note pad. I started at the beginning of the alphabet and drew the letter A. I asked her to look through her book to see if she could find the letter. I thought she would become bored or frustrated with this game but she ended up loving it. When she got better at learning each letter I changed the rules of the game. After she found each letter I explained the sound it makes and asked her to go find something in the house that starts with that sound. She only gets it right half of the time but she’s improving greatly. I’m amazed at what she has learned with such a simple game. Once we get through the alphabet, no matter how well she does, we play a board game together as a reward for her patience and hard work.

Building Blocks

Though wooden blocks are a great tool for learning to count, I prefer to use large Lego building sets. I start by building very small things with them using three or four of the blocks. I ask her to take them apart and tell me how many blocks there are in each one. Then I build some using more and more blocks. Once we get through all the blocks and she has correctly counted each set she uses the pile to build whatever she pleases. This activity can also help with color recognition if the blocks are multi colored.

Cookies

Though technically this isn’t much of a game it’s a fun activity that will give you fun times together as well as a great opportunity to learn. I use a simple sugar cookie recipe to create a batch of cookie dough. I have my daughter assist me in measuring and mixing. This helps to teach the basic principles of volume and some basic science. Once the dough is done I offer her cookie cutters in basic shapes and ask her to chose a specific shape to make a cookie. When the cookies are finished I mix up different colors of icing and ask her to decorate a certain number of a shape in a certain color (for example: “make three squares red”). After she is done with that part we count the different colors and shapes and of course, have a cookie!

Emotional and Social Learning with Puppets

What is more fun to a child then hand puppets? You can use puppets of any kind for this activity or make them yourself out of small brown paper bags. You can put on plays for your child that illustrates emotional and social situations. Ask your child to identify why each puppet is sad, happy or angry. You can also have the puppets act out a series of events such as a child spilling a glass of milk and the parent’s reaction. You can cover a wide range of situations to teach your child about sharing, caring, peer interaction, manners and simple problem solving.

Learning Software

Don’t discount computer-learning games for kids. If you don’t wish to purchase the software yourself, there are many great sites on the Internet that offer age appropriate learning games. In our modern age computer skills are also a great asset to any child’s future. The sooner they become accustomed to using a computer the better off they will be when entering school. Software can help teach alphabet, counting, phonics, counting, colors, shapes, simple math and simple logic.

Children’s Entertainment

Many parents balk at setting their child in front of a television. I am not one of them. Don’t misunderstand; I don’t sit my daughter in front of the television for hours at a time to mindlessly watch anything that’s on. My two favorites are the Wiggles and Dora the Explorer.

My daughter has viewed the Wiggles since she was a year old. I credit a lot of what she already knows to them. She knew the colors yellow, blue, red and purple almost as soon as she could speak. I was truly amazed. The Wiggles also teach alphabet, counting, an appreciation for music, manners, relationships and simple problem solving. The very best part of the Wiggles is the music. There is no sitting still while watching the Wiggles, she is up and dancing while the show is on. On rainy days we dance together to get some much needed exercise.

Dora the Explorer came along a little later than the Wiggles but I love that she enjoys this show. My daughter’s grandmother is from Puerto Rico and speaks Spanish fluently. She teaches my daughter simple Spanish while they are together. Dora reinforces this and keeps the learning going throughout the week. I feel the sooner she begins to learn a second language the better it will be for her in the future. Dora also teaches simple problem solving and has brought about a sense of adventure to her life.

Final Thoughts

You can turn almost any activity into a learning challenge for your children. Children are like sponges and they are eager to learn from you. Not only will they learn, they will cherish the memories of time spent with you for the rest of their lives.

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