Homepreschool and Beyond

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    Homepreschool and Beyond will give parents the knowledge they need to find “balance” for their family. Find out what young children need to know—and how to teach it. Gain the confidence you need to relax and enjoy those precious preschool years—and beyond.

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

    • 26 Chapters
    • Covers all areas of development
    • Covers all areas of curriculum
    • For a ages 2-8
    • Developmentally appropriate
    • Literature based
    • Spiritual and character building emphasis

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Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category

Homepreschool 101: What Preschoolers Learn Through Play, Art, and Music

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 10, 2014

What’s the big deal about play? Isn’t it….just play?

If you’ve followed my blog for any time at all, you would know that I emphasize the importance of play for children—especially for preschoolers. The value of play is greatly underestimated in our society today. Not so long ago, young children spent most of their time in creative, unstructured play. Older children played from the time school let our until dinnertime. But nowadays, more and more of our children’s time is taken up with “educational” activities, parent-initiated activities, television. and computer time. Dr. Alvin Rosenfield, a noted child psychiatrist, recently quoted these startling new statistics:

“In the past twenty years, structured sports time has doubled, unstructured children’s activities have declined by 50%, household conversations have become far less frequent, family dinners have declined by 33%, and family vacations have decreased by 28%.”

This change in family dynamics seems to be a modern phenomena that affects all families, whether we realize it or not. Even families with preschoolers are often so busy driving their children from one adult initiated activity to another that little time remains for family and playtime. In fact, many parents feel guilty if they do not keep their children busy this way. They seem to think that these “enriching activities” keep children busy, happy, and learning. But the reality is, this “busyness” is stopping us from giving our children what they need most: Time to develop close bonds with family members, and time to play.

Experts agree (how often does that happen?) that play is key to normal child development: Normal social, emotional, physical, and academic development is dependent on large daily doses of unstructured play. Through play, children learn. Here is a list, off the top of my head, that shows you what I mean:

What Preschoolers Learn Through Play

Through block or building play, preschoolers learn: Shapes, sizes, pre-math/math skills, thinking skills, cause-and-effect, planning skills, one-to-one correspondence, counting skills, and more.

Creative play is what we used to call “dramatic play.” It’s the type of play your child is engaging in, either alone or with others, when they take on the “role” of another–a mother, a dad, another person in the family, a super-hero, a doctor, a policeman…you get the idea. Through such play, preschoolers learn: Social skills, emotional skills (they use play to work out their emotions and practice appropriate social reactions, and so on), as well as speech/vocabulary skills, thinking skills, and more.

Through manipulative play (puzzles, Duplo’s “fit together” toys) preschooler’s learn: Spatial awareness, size/shape awareness, matching skills, eye-hand coordination, thinking skills, planning skills, pre-math/math skills, colors, and more.

Through outside/physical play, preschoolers practice coordination, large and small-muscle strength and control, “sport” related skills, and let out pent-up emotions. Outside play is often combined with creative/dramatic play for increased learning. Outside playtime is also key to physical fitness. Additionally, much has been said of late, about the need for children to get out into nature. Richard Louv, in his book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” makes a strong case for children’s need to spend extended amounts of time in nature (not in suburban areas, but in “wild” areas.) I think time “in the woods” is good for our souls.

Other activities that I emphasize for young children are art and music. Art and music are more than just “extra curricular” activities of little import. Rather, they are also key activities in the lives of children of all ages.
Children should be exposed to music from birth. Singing calms babies and is an expression of love. I strongly believe that while musical skill can be inherited, it is usually directly related to the amount of early exposure to quality music. In fact, I believe it is directly proportional to it (i.e. the more they hear, the greater their “ear” and skill for it. That’s why, musical ability so often runs in families.) There is no replacement for developing an “ear” for music–that instinct of what comes next, as well as the ability to hear and “stay on” the melody when singing or playing an instrument–OR the ability to hear/pick out the rhythm or the harmony (and again, the ability to stay on that part.)
You can learn more about the importance of music and see my specific recommendations when it comes to choosing good music, as well as a list of activities and skills, in the chapter on music in my book, Homepreschool and Beyond. You can find a much shortened version of that chapter HERE.

What else do preschoolers learn through finger-plays and music? Preschoolers learn: Speech and vocabulary skills, grammar and language skills, small-muscle control, listening skills, counting forwards and backwards (through finger-plays), math skills (music is closely related to math, believe it or not), and more. Through listening to or participating in musical activities and musical play, preschoolers develop their “ear” for music, which is key to later skills involved in singing or playing an instrument–such as rhythm, matching pitch, and the intuitive “ear” for music. The truly amazing thing about music that should interest all parents is the fact that studies have shown that children who are involved in music do better in every other subject in school–and no one can explain why.

And what about art? Art is important to children’s development for a plethora of reasons. Art, like music, is also important for self-expression, as well as the control and release of emotions.
Through art, preschoolers learn: Through art, preschoolers learn cause and effect, colors and color mixing, small muscle control (which is vital for writing), pencil/pen control, eye-hand coordination, art appreciation, self-expression, and of course, art skills. Art experiences of all types are really “pre-writing” experiences. For a more complete list of what preschoolers learn through art, how to set up your house for art, a list of suggested supplies, as well as important things you need to know about talking to children about their art, check out the art chapter in my book OR read a very abbreviated version HERE.

Important Tips:

~Never allow yourself to think, “She’s just playing.”

~Now that you are aware of the value of play, be careful not to let play become an academic exercise. Once in a while, introducing a purposeful type of play (play with a learning goal at heart–what I call “playful learning” in Homepreschool and Beyond) is OK. But be careful not to do this too often. At its heart, play should be child-initiated and child-le. Be careful not to over-analyze your child’s play, watching for “what they are learning today.” Play for play’s sake is enough.

~Provide open-ended toys and props that your children can use in many different ways. If you buy a set of duplo legos or wooden building blocks, s/he could play all kinds of things! He could build a city, adding some cars to drive on the “roads”; add plastic animals and she could build a zoo, and on and on. It’s a good idea to avoid toys that need batteries; 100% kid-powered is better.
For creative or “dramatic” play, children also enjoy the type of toys that allow them to act out adulthood or toys that make them feel powerful. That’s why dollies and cradles, play kitchens, cars and trucks, a doctor’s kit, and dress-up clothes (including “capes” for super-hero play) continue to be popular choices.

~Play with your children, but don’t assume a leadership role in their play. Instead, follow your child’s lead.

~Limit television and computer time. Let your children come up with their own imaginary scenarios–or let them get inspiration from books (instead of acting out what they’ve seen on television.)

~Observe your children’s play: That’s what child development experts do! Watching your children’s play clues you in on their secret world.

~Children will play longer and play safely if you stay nearby to watch and give occasional feedback. Obviously it’s not safe to let your children play outside alone nowadays, so plan your days in such a way that you have free time to spend outside with your preschoolers, ideally for part of every morning and afternoon.

~Be “that Mom” or “that house” where the neighborhood kids gather. Many kids are drawn to the house on the block where a Mom or Dad is around, creative toys abound, and cookies or cool-aid is served. Really, the key is having parents around who care. (I’ve also seen that the reverse be true: The kids who are used to being totally unsupervised and who don’t want to obey our rules quickly stop coming over.) Most afternoons I have two to four children from the neighborhood either in my yard or in my house. This is a form of Christian hospitality that can even open the door for sharing the gospel.

~Try and offer your children opportunities to play outside, weather permitting, as often as possible. Outside play and exposure to nature are especially important experiences for children of all ages.

Give your children plenty of time for unstructured. uninterrupted, creative play. They need it more than you can ever imagine.

Check out these important links to learn more about the importance of play– in our homes and our homeschools.

An Excerpt from A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fanasy Play, by Vivian Gussin Paley

Why Play? The Importance of Play

Learning Through Play by David Elkind

(NOTE: I haven’t investigated the other articles on these sites, and so can only recommend the pages above, not other pages on these links or their recommended links.)

Note: Homepreschool and Beyond has a whole chapter on play, how to play with your children, how to choose good toys, and more.

This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. © 2010, 2011, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.


Posted in Art, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool Preschool, Play, Preschool Art, preschool at home, Toys | Leave a Comment »

Building Baby’s Brain

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 16, 2011

NOTE: I wrote this article for Home School Enrichment Magazine, and it appeared in issue #39, May/June 2009. They have graciously allowed me to reprint it on my blog.

 We’ve all seen them: products that promise to optimize your baby’s brain growth, increase the neural connections (synapses) in your baby’s brain, and give your baby a head start on learning. These claims are based on the fact that babies’ brains grow at a phenomenal rate, which, manufacturers claim, offers  a unique “window of opportunity” that parents can use to maximize their baby’s development. Some manufacturers imply that if you miss this special window  of opportunity, your baby’s intelligence will suffer. These claims are based on the premise that parents can somehow design or wire their baby’s brain, “building” a better baby. Better than they were before! Better, stronger, faster, and of course, smarter.

Many parents do believe that they can greatly influence their baby’s development. They believe that with the proper enrichment and stimulation, they can grow their baby into some sort of genius. Just follow the money and you’ll see the proof of these beliefs: parents spend more than 2 billion dollars on products promising such results every year. But do these products really work? To answer that question, we need to learn a little about brain development.

See How They Grow: Baby Brain Development

There is a lot about the human brain that scientists don’t know and can’t explain. Here are some things they do know: Babies are born with immature brains. While they contain almost the same amount of cells that adult brains do, the cells are not organized or connected properly (compared to an adult brain). During a baby’s first three years especially, his brain is busy building connections between cells. These connections are called neural connections, or synapses. By the time a child reaches three years old, his brain has made most of the necessary connections. In fact, your baby’s brain has made too many connections: the brain of a 3-year-old is twice as active as an adult’s brain. This is because his brain is less efficient than an adult’s brain. Over the next few years, the neural connections are refined: the connections that are used are strengthened, and those that are not needed are pruned away. But this pruning isn’t a bad thing. A child’s brain must prune connections in order to become more efficient. This is not the end of the story, though. The brain continues to grow and prune connections throughout life. Yes, you read that right: the truth is, the brain continues to grow and prune synapses as needed throughout life!  Since babies build these synapses based on experience, many parents assume that the more experiences they can provide for their babies, the more connections their babies’ brains will make, the bigger their brains will be, and the smarter their babies will become. This is not necessarily true. A bigger brain is not a guarantee of greater intelligence. Just look at nature. Many animals have bigger brains than humans do; human males have larger brains than females. Size does not correlate to intelligence. What makes the human brain more intelligent is its unique, God-given organization and refinements.

Since the human brain grows at such a phenomenal rate during its first three years, many “experts” urge parents not to miss the special window of opportunity to influence baby’s mental development during those years. They warn that once missed, the opportunity will be lost forever. They claim that certain skills are especially important to introduce early—primarily the development of second languages and learning music. In truth, the optimal “window of development” extends much longer than some “experts” suppose. From the book, Einstein Never Used Flash Cards:  “The window extends far beyond early childhood. Professor Huttenlocher writes, ‘Second-language teaching and musical training are likely to be more effective if started early, during the period of high plasticity, which includes the early school years (ages 5 to 10 years.)’  Thus, we needn’t rush music and language learning training into he crib.” [Emphasis added.]

There is great comfort in this—comfort for parents who have adopted an older child, for parents of developmentally delayed children, and for those of us who have older children.  We should never think that it is too late to learn music or a second language. It is never too late to enrich and develop your child’s mind and abilities—or even your own.

The Truth about Early Learning Systems

There is no evidence that videos, flash cards, or other infant “learning systems” will make your child smarter. But there is considerable evidence to show they are harmful. As David Elkind says in Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk, “When we instruct children in academic subjects, or in swimming, or gymnastics, or ballet, at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short term stress and long term personality damage for no useful purpose. There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.” In Einstein Never Used Flashcards, the premise is put forth that the danger of too much early enrichment contributes to “neurological crowding.” This occurs when too much information is presented to children, competing with the neural connections that should be forming in the brain. This competition can potentially crowd out necessary connections and actually decrease the size and number of brain regions related to creativity and intelligence.

Babies need face-to-face interaction with responsive adults to learn. If you are truly concerned about helping your baby grow and develop his brain to its maximum capacity, you should spend time talking to and playing with your baby. Television takes away from a baby’s true learning time. In her article “Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All,” (TIME Magazine, August 6, 2007), Alice Park reports on a study from the University of Washington that showed that “With every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form. The article continues: “Three studies have shown that watching television, even if it includes educational programming such as Sesame Street, delays language development. ‘Babies require face-to-face interaction to learn,’ says Dr. Vic Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. ‘They don’t get that interaction from watching TV or videos. In fact, the watching probably interferes with the crucial wiring being laid down in their brains during early development.’”

Television and videos can actually delay language development instead of improving it. Additionally, some experts contend that television and videos actually shorten children’s attention spans, overstimulating their immature brains. Television trains children’s minds to expect high levels of stimulation—bright colors and quick changes. Real life is not always as interesting.

The AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics suggests that babies 2 and under shouldn’t watch any television and that it should be strictly limited even after this age. Television takes time away from play, exploration, and interaction with adults. This is where true learning takes place.

Finally, there’s context: Meaningful learning takes place in context. You can teach a baby to memorize the look and shape of words, and perhaps to recognize them, but without the appropriate life experiences and vocabulary to go with those reading skills, this “learning” is meaningless. They will not understand what they “read.” Research has proved over and over that there is no academic advantage to early reading.

What Parents Can Do to Enrich Baby’s Development

• Relationships first: developing a strong, emotional bond of love and trust is most important for you and your baby.

• During the early years, you are training your child’s habits and tastes. Television watching is a habit that is easy to acquire, but hard to break.

• Go ahead and expose your child to classical music. Sing to your children, too.  This may not make them grow synapses, but it will help set their tastes. It will set the stage for appreciation of music, and later, learning music.

• Instead of television, provide your little ones with interesting things to see, do, and explore. Put your baby on a blanket on the floor and place colorful toys around him. Let your toddler play with play dough or explore an indoor “sandbox” made from oatmeal or rice (for toddlers who won’t put it in their mouths!) Add plastic measuring cups and plastic-ware for more fun.

• Change your baby’s point of view. Switch your baby between the floor, a swing, a bouncer seat, a playpen, your arms, etc., and give him a new perspective on the world.

• Talk to your baby/preschooler all the time, about everything you are doing. Talk to your baby using “parentese”: that special, high-pitched voice and exaggerated facial expressions parents instinctively use when talking to babies. Involve your baby in “conversations”: when baby makes a sound, copy it, and then talk to baby. Be sure to pause and give baby time to respond to what you say. This teaches conversation skills.

• Remember that the “experts” who misinterpret brain research to mean that babies must be sufficiently “stimulated” or “taught” before age 3 do so to promote their products. They are using fear and guilt to compel parents to buy unnecessary merchandise.

• This isn’t to say that babies don’t benefit from enriching activities. It is the type and amount of stimulation that matters. Natural learning, as always, prevails as the best way to stimulate your baby’s development: things like gentle, consistent care, talking to babies, singing to babies, and reading to babies.

• Gentle sensory stimulation, if not overused, can be beneficial to babies. Place small babies on different types of textures: carpet, blanket, parachutes, and so on. Play baby games like “X Marks the Spot” or “So Big.”  Give your baby a gentle massage.

• If you want to spend some money on baby-learning products, remember that babies earn through relationship, interaction, play, and exploration. It would be better to invest in quality, old-fashioned toys and spend time playing with your baby than it would be to plop her down in front of a video.

Remember that there is no single window of opportunity that slams shut once babies reach a certain age. The brain continues to grow and prune synapses throughout life. You will not harm your baby by giving him a normal, loving babyhood minus the flash cards and videos. To the contrary—you will be giving your baby the best start possible.

© 2009 Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

You might also like: Curriculum for Babies?!

 What Babies Really Need: Creating a Stimulating Home Environment

Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers

Posted in Babies, Early Academics, Family Life, Mothering, Music, Parenting, Toys | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Homepreschool/Homeschool Learning Centers: The “Creative Curriculum”

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 25, 2011

         NOTE:  The Creative Curriculum is the “curriculum” used by most institutional preschools, and taught at most colleges. (The book was a required element in one of my Child Development courses.)  As I stated in a previous post, the book itself is really intended for preschool teachers and daycare providers; much of its content is not for home use and it is very expensive. However, I have heard of a few homeschooling families who are using the Creative Curriculum as their homepreschool/homeschool “method”. Since there are some ideas that you might be able to use in your homepreschool/homeschool, I thought I would share about it–specifically, about the use of “learning centers”.

         The book, The Creative Curriculum, lays out the traditional institutional preschool setup: A daily schedule centered around learning through creative play and including a thematic approach (what we homeschoolers call “unit studies”.) A typical day would include circle time (music, finger plays, story time), play time, and learning centers. 

Learning Centers 

        A learning center is just an area set aside for a certain purpose or activity. They don’t have to be big; they can even be a box or dish tub with special items kept in it. There are many different types of centers used in preschools; some are set up all the time, and some are rotated. The centers that are almost always set up are:

1) Blocks (various types of blocks and cars; this is usually an open rug area)
2) Housekeeping (dress up, play kitchen, dolls and cradles, etc)
3) Table toys or manipulatives (Lego Duplos, puzzles, pegboards, stacking/nesting toys, lacing cards, big beads to string, etc–either set out on tables or placed on shelves near tables so that children can choose their own activities)
4) Art (usually crayons and paper, felt tipped pens, etc; some preschools keep easels out all the time; others only offer the “project of the day” at this center.)                                                                                                                   5) Library (sometimes audio books are included–a cozy area with books and throw pillows.)

        Some preschools include computer centers and music centers (although, to my way of thinking, computers simply take away from active play time…and leaving musical instruments/rhythm band out all the time is too loud.) Other activities or “centers” that are often offered but usually rotated include sensory tables (sand and water tables, or rice/bird seed bins) and cooking experiences.

        The activities in the centers change according to the theme (especially the library) and the specific skills that are being emphasized (especially the table toys.)

        The outside environment is considered a “center” by some, complete with activities that are alternated: Outside toys (balls, hoops), obstacle courses, and props for dramatic play (boxes, sidewalk chalk, etc.) Sensory tables and easel painting are often offered outside only, due to the mess.

        Some preschools allow children to freely move around the room, choosing the centers/activities they want to participate in during inside play time; others divide the children into groups and rotate them through the centers. Children might rotate between circle time, art, cooking experience/snack, and a table activity such as manipulatives, but the disadvantage to this is that some children don’t have enough time in the play/art centers. Other preschools do circle time, music, art, and cooking experiences as a group and then let the children move freely around the centers as they see fit…taking all the time they want for art, manipulatives, play, etc.

Applying These Ideas to the Home 

        Some families try to totally copy the institutional model–making their homes into “schools at home”. They set up a spare bedroom, play room (wouldn’t that be nice to have?), family room, or basement just like an institutional preschool, complete with “centers“. I don’t think this is necessary, however, I do like the idea of having certain materials available for my children to use whenever they like.  Even in a small house with no spare rooms, it is really easy to set up a few areas of your home to accommodate your children’s play/activities—without having to rearrange the whole house. I know it’s possible, because our first place (with kids) was around 1000 square feet, and our second only 1400.  Here are some ideas we used:

-Blocks: When my children were little, we always kept blocks, cars, and plastic animals underneath our coffee table in bins or baskets. The table served double duty as a play table. We’d often keep bins with Duplo Legos or other toys nearby.  Lately, I’ve given up my formal dining room table for puzzles, blocks, and models.

 -Housekeeping: When my daughter was young, she had a plastic “play kitchen” and a doll cradle that were kept in various places–sometimes in her room, and sometimes near the real kitchen, so that I could keep an eye on her as I worked. Even an old box with kitchen burners drawn on it with felt-tipped pens will do. (I also kept plastics and non-breakables in a couple of low kitchen cupboards for my little ones to play with. Toddlers like nothing better than banging on pots and pans with old spoons–if you can stand the noise!) If you have room, you can save old kitchen items (plastics, small pots, spoons, etc), old boxes of cereal and empty juice cans (metal cans often have sharp edges, so use paper or plastic juice cans instead. You can tape labels from other canned goods over the top of the juice cans.) These are also fun for playing “store.” Dress-up: Purchase an old suitcase from Goodwill and fill it with dress-up clothes: Hats, old dresses, high heels…and for boys, old suits and ties, camouflage clothes, firefighter hats, cowboy hats, etc. My boys used to love to put on an old snow suit, snow boots, and a bike helmet to play pilot or “astronaut.”  For girls it’s fun to include an old square dancing petticoat or other type of full skirt for dancing and spinning to music. The suitcase can be kept under a bed, so that it can be pulled out or put away with ease.  

-Table toys and manipulatives: I kept these types of activities in a bedroom closet, hall closet, or low bookshelf. Most often I’d pull them out one at a time, usually late-morning or late-afternoon (after extended outside play!). Sometimes I let the children choose their activity;  other times I’d just set things out on the kitchen table or coffee table for them to “find”.

-Art: I’ve always believed that it is important to have art supplies available for children to use whenever they want to (not messy things like paint or glue, or items that need close supervision, like scissors; make sure whatever you leave out is safe for your children‘s abilities.) For many years we’ve used a re-purposed china hutch for this. The drawers hold crayons, paper, and learning games; the shelves hold books, more games, and school supplies. If you don’t have the space for such a big piece of furniture, you could easily use plastic drawers on wheels instead. We usually keep out copy paper, scraps of paper from previous projects, scrap booking paper (which is heavier), pens and pencils, crayons, colored pencils, felt tipped pens, glue sticks, stickers, safety scissors (4+ if they won’t cut their own hair with them), hole punches and stencils (plastic or homemade shapes to trace, cookie cutters to trace, etc). The rest we keep out of reach. This way, the children are able to draw/color whenever they want to (as long as they pick up after themselves later.)  Play dough and projects involving paint or glue need my full attention, so these materials are brought out at my discretion. 

 -Library: Collecting picture books for your children?  It’s easy to turn your bookshelves into a “home library.“ Make your “library” cozy and inviting for your children by placing big, fluffy pillows or a bean bag chair nearby, so that children can sit and relax while looking at books. Be sure to keep preschool books down low, so that your child can choose books for himself. You can also use dish tubs or baskets to display books that are appealing to your children, alternating them by season, holiday, or the theme/topic that you are learning about. 

        There are two more home learning center ideas that I’d like to share. One is a science or collection table (or shelf.)  Children love to look at and collect natural objects. It’s wonderful to have those materials on display, where children can touch them, look at them and learn more about them. Ideas for a nature table (for all ages): Natural objects/collections of shells, stones, feathers, bird nests, pinecones, plants, etc; small live animals/insects (caterpillars, gold fish, hamsters); science books, field guides and magnifying glasses. You could even include magnets, compasses and motion/tornado bottles.  A nature table can even be seasonal…in fall, display beautiful leaves, acorns, etc; in spring, blooming tree branches, pussywillows, and so on.  Some families also use their nature table as a holiday table, setting up touchable displays related to the holiday (this is big with Waldorf homeschoolers.) Nature tables are great for displaying treasures from nature walks/nature studies.

        Another fun table or shelf to set up is a unit shelf or table. Your unit shelf could include books related to your unit and hands-on items related to your unit (to explore.) For example, for a unit on “farms” you might have different kinds of fruits and vegetables for your children to touch and smell, or plastic farm animals to play with; for a unit on rocks and minerals you could have samples of various types of rocks, books about rocks, field guides, and magnifiers; for a unit about birds you could have bird nests, blown eggs, feathers, books/field guides…you get the idea. Older children might enjoy the addition of notebooking supplies, file folder games/matching games (from free printables on the ‘net), etc.  

        Other ideas for older children include:  Scrapbooking/journaling centers, academically themed areas such as file-folder centers, math centers (weights, scales, things to measure, abacus, money/money games), etc.  The possibilities are really endless.

        These ideas allow us to enrich our children’s play and education while maintaining a homey atmosphere. 

Links, pictures and other ideas                                                            (remember that I can only vouch for the particular blog page that I link to):

Learning Center Ideas

Ideas for “Creative Learning Centers”—fun items to alternate

The Attached Mama: Behind the Scenes: Our Learning Environment (Note: Remember, if you don’t have space or money for all these goodies OR a an extra room for a “school room”, don’t worry; these things are nice to have, but not necessary to the success of your homepreschool/homeschool. See my post, “The Keyword in Homeschool is Home.”)

Some of My Favorite Things for Learning Centers/Manipulatives/Play Time (No, I don’t get any money out of this…)

Insect Lore (we had great fun with the ladybug house last summer)

Discovery Toys (some of the best educational toys available, divided by age; our favorites include Measure UP! Cups,  The Giant Pegboard, Place and Trace Puzzles, A, B, Seas,  and for older kids, Marbleworks and Mosaic Mysteries.)

Dr. Drew’s Blocks (we made our own–fun and appealing to all ages!))

Citi Blocks (fun and appealing to all ages!)

Wooden Pattern Blocks

Lauri Puzzles

Ravensburger puzzles (they are expensive, but they are the best…beautiful.)

Duplo Legos


       Have fun! But remember…these things are nice to have, but not necessary. That being said…the toys I linked to above are classic and your children will enjoy them for years. In fact, we’re saving our blocks and plastic animals for the grandkids (someday!)

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Learning Centers at Home, Methods, Play, Toys | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »