I have a big gap between kids in my homeschool. That means messiness and sometimes mean mom if I’m not on my game. That’s why I think it’s important to have a strategy for the under five crowd in your homeschool.
My youngest is lovingly called “the terrorist” because she gets into everything while we’re schooling. So, I’ve been very intentional about helping her have some creative outlets while I’m working with her siblings. And since this is such a common question on homeschool podcasts and blogs, I thought I’d give you a rundown of how we give the under-five crowd a learning environment that meets their needs at home.
Kids love to play real life, so most of this list is based around what you’d find in a preschool classroom. The best part is that you can put most of this away in regular areas of your house. I don’t have a playroom, so most of this stuff lives in my kitchen or dining room.
- A mom’s train table. My husband built this for me for Christmas one year. It is still in our living room. It has a train track and trains and my kids sit in it. You can close the lid on it when you are finished playing and it looks like a real table.
- A mini grocery cart, a cash register, and play food. This is still one of our favorite activities. Shopping and checking out keeps littles busy.
- A mailbox to send letters. My youngest is always making invitations to tea parties and baby birthday parties. I’ve also started sending her mail. I got the idea from the book called “Larabee.” It’s about a dog who wants to get mail, but “dogs don’t get mail.”
- A real picnic basket with a blanket, dishes and a few friends. Your littles will have to set up the picnic, which gives you time to “do school.”
- A mini trampoline for expending energy. My kids also treated it like a club house. This is great for cold days.
- A sensory table. Put down a plastic shower curtain and let them play with water and measuring cups or rice and beans. It’s messy, but the shower curtain contains it. I taught my son how to vacuum up the rice when he was 3.
- A giant bag of cookie cutters and plastic utensils for play dough. Play dough is a great distraction and learning tool for littles. Mine love everyday objects for cutting and shaping. (Hint: Make sure everyone has a cutter and rolling pin.)
- A shower caddy with a spray bottle, feather duster, rags, mini broom, and dustpan. I don’t know why kids like to spray and wipe, but my kids will do this for quite some time. It’s usually in the same spot, but my refrigerator is VERY clean.
- Keep a box of fun art supplies near a window or glass door. We stocked window markers, crayon rocks, paint brushes, water and construction paper, those little painting magic books, construction paper and foam stickers, pipe cleaners and a colander. My son used to paint the wood on our deck with water.
- Cookie sheets and lots of magnets. Some of my kids liked these more than others, but they are a good table activity for when you need some time at the table with an older child.
- Tiny containers for sorting small things. I’ve used buttons, little dolls or farm animals, acorns, rocks, glass pebbles, and other small objects to occupy my littles.
These are just a few of my tips for creating a learning environment for the under five crowd. I hope you have some fresh ideas for bringing fun and a little extra teaching time to your days. These tips are also great for when you need to get stuff done around the house – and there are no screens involved!
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