Homeschool Ideas to Occupy Preschoolers

The littlest to keep them occupied? (Which sometimes means - How to keep them from distracting the older homeschooling siblings!)

A blog friend recently asked me about 3 year olds and it got me remembering when what it was like when I had a 3/4 year old...

Here are some of the activities my 3/4 year olds have enjoyed. When you are homeschooling and a toddler/pre-schooler is in the mix, you need an arsenal of ideas to keep them occupied. Here are some that worked for us....
My daughter watched and liked the Signing Times dvds teaching sign language.

She also LUVed the HOLY BABY series, consider it toddler catechism!
I introduced her to alphabet and number dvds, the ones by Preschool Prep . For us it's a great morning warm up to the day to have the youngest quiet for the first hour of the day as the bigger kids do math. So I used these DVDs specifically when I needed to remove her from the homeschool classroom as 3 year olds often can be disruptive. If I got an hour or so out of those educational dvds that was golden. Sometimes, if I played these before a nap when the little one was getting cranky it could even lead to a nap. From there we'd move on to other activities.

Hands on fun. Come on, who doesn't LUV Playdoh? We even made playdo together and colored separate batches with food dye and, for great smell, made more sensory playdoh by adding different KoolAid powder packs. Purple smelled grape and yellow smelled lemony...etc...Playdoh was luved so much it became a bargaining chip...stay in your bed all night and you can play Playdoh in the morning! Sure, it requires clean up, get them involved. That's what kid size brooms and dust pans are for and it makes them feel so grown-up.

You know those books where a bell chimes when it's time to turn a page? They're making these on handheld kid computers now and must be a help to reading. My daughter had the kind that goes in a tape deck with pages to turn and loved them and they helped at nap time too. Preschoolers seem to luv anything that empowers them.

To this day she luvs to paint. I buy huge art poster size paper so it takes longer to paint. But there are other fun things to paint as wood and rocks . (The Prayer Rock Craft is my most visited post, actually.)

She also liked stamping little stamps, Lite Brite and building with Legos, ALL great for small motor skills.
At some point she always came back into the schoolroom, but she wanted to play school and so she would sit and pretend to write. Leapfrog makes those great alphabet letter magnet games and we also had tracing letters and wipeboards for her to write letters on if she wanted to.

Even sorting was fun for her. I'd give her an empty egg carton and with tongs have her place and sort small colored blocks into the separations....or coins...or dried beans. I remember when my oldest son was little that he used to, like my daughter, like to wash dishes! So I had a set of plastic cups and plates that he could use, added some funnels, a pitcher and that would keep him busy a while, pouring back and forth. I was a montessori kid and that's what I remember from Montessori, getting to wash dishes, make concoctions pouring back and forth using measuring cups.

Sorting by color household scavenger hunt

My boys luved all the videos on jobs. Videos about firemen were huge hits, how to build roads, construction. There was one where a building exploded that they were fascinated by. They liked to watch men working and then go out and imitate it, especially contruction. Every library book then became illustrated ones on jobs. We made perhaps a 4 ft diameter circle of gravel in a corner of the backyard and put shovels and huge tonka trucks out there and it became a work station. Get'em a hardhat and let'em dig.
If a preschooler is interested in any show that has action figures, get them! I'd go to ebay and get lots of Winnie the Pooh characters and Thomas the Tank and all but one of my 4 luved to be quiet and reinact scenes in their imagination. I'd really encourage that, that imagining and building things. Legos, duplo, blocks, Lincoln Logs...We have a set of foam blocks that they use in a myriad of ways still today. See them in the link and picture below.

Discovery Toys phonics puzzle, Rainbows, Rabbits and Roses.

At the libraries we had this video series called Preschool Power and it taught skills to little people, like how to put on your own coat and montessori type stuff. Try to rent them and google montessori ideas, they are so creative and have educational, pre-reading value and often can be done with things around the house...cotton balls...salad tongs...
For littles especially, get them outside too. My guys always needed to wrestle and exhaust themselves to sleep well. When the leaves are turning like they are now I remember many big wheel rides around the neighborhood. (Wish they made one my size.) They still need a sweat a day or they're ornery! Nothing like hard work too that they'll feel proud of, moving things, pulling weeds, busy labor.

Write down a bunch of ideas for yourself to go to. A good school day always meant that they cycled through a few of the above ideas, had fun with me and their siblings and had quiet time too.

Share your ideas!

Educational Websites

and this listening tape for car rides taught my littles soooo much and see my previous post on DVD recommendations.


Gardenia said...

wow. this post is full of resources and ideas that i can use right this very minute with my three year old. and I do need to pick up some more watercolor paints today!

Arley said...

Thank you so much for this post. I am starting my school year with a 2nd grader and Kindergardener. My 3 year old wants to do school this year but I had no idea had to keep him distracted while I worked with my older two. This is great!!!!

Charlotte said...

Thanks alot Alison. I needed this.

+JMJ+ said...

You are all welcome and I am happy to have thought it through and written it down for my own records.

For that impetus, I am grateful to you, Charlotte.

I plan on continuing to post what we find and use so I hope you'll all keep checking back.

Hope the recommendations are ones that you too find useful.

atara said...


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