I have so many friends with small children who worry that they aren't teaching their children. They're not reading yet. Not counting yet. Not doing long division yet.
They fret over not having a curriculum or a program or a plan. They don't think they can do it.
Chin up, Mamas! Put aside your reservations and hesitations and listen to me: YOU CAN DO IT! You CAN teach your children! Without them even realizing it. And you don't need anything fancy to do it. I promise.
The following ideas are mostly things I do in our own jungle preschool. Some are things I can't do in the jungle btut wish we could. If I can do preschool in the jungle, you can do it anywhere!
1. Read, read, read to your child! Read books, newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, road signs, words to songs, and more books. Become friends with the librarian. Build your own mini library (I love thrift stores and yard sales!).
2. Go outside. Make patterns with pinecones, leaves, and rocks. Use flowers to teach colors. Make shapes out of blades of grass or sticks. Count bugs. Make leaf rubbings. Start a rock collection. Or a leaf collection. Or if you're really brave, a bug collection.
3. Cut up old magazines. Cut out words and letters. Cut out pictures of animals and people. Make up stories with the pictures. Glue letters or words onto paper. Let your toddler practice cutting and glueing with the rest of the magazine.
4. Buy basic art supplies*. Children love art! Let them paint, color, stamp and draw when you can't think of anything else. Color on cheap paper plates. Paint rocks. Use dry-erase markers on the mirror. Cut up colored paper into squares and let them glue them into a design. Make yourself an art box of supplies, recycle things from around the house visit the dollar store. Empty cereal boxes have hidden canvases inside them.
5. Print off ABC printables. Look on Pinterest, there are so many good sites out there dedicated to free preschool printables. Print them off, put them in plastic page protectors and into a notebook. Bam. A writing book. Use dry-erase markers for endless fun.
6. Look in your pantry. Put baking soda in a pan and let them use a dropper to drip food coloring and vinegar into the baking soda. Use cornstarch and colored water to make goo. Make your own bubbles. Make your own play dough. Make your own modge-podge. Again, Pinterest is your friend when you need ideas.
7. Make cookies. Make bread. Make ice cream - you don't need a fancy ice cream maker. Let the kids do the scooping and pouring and measuring. Talk about it. You just might teach fractions without realizing it. This whole, half, quarter thing is an early math skill they can totally get.
8. Teach things like alliteration, opposites, and rhyming using what you find in your house and yard. They will not only think you're the most clever person alive, but they will think it's hilarious. Find a bunch of items beginning with the same letter and make up a story using them. They won't even know they're learning.
9. Study your child. What are their interested? Do they love animals? Google them and learn about them. Do they love music? Listen to as many different kinds as you can think of. If they love cars, use painter's tape on the floor to make roads and parking lots for red cars, blue cars, etc. Use their interests to your advantage.
10. Make a play area. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a play kitchen if you have cardboard boxes and markers. Or shop at yard sales or craigslist for deals. Try goodwill for dress-up clothes or premie baby clothes for a dolly. Use an end table for a tool bench. Put clean,empty food containers on a low bookshelf and they have a store. Children learn through play. Play with them.
11. Be kind. Teach your child to look for opportunities to help others. Write cards to people to encourage them. Buy flowers for a neighbor. Leave a note in the mailbox for the mail person. Cheer up elderly in a nursing home. Deliver a meal to a new mama. Get creative. Teach them early on to be on the lookout for ways to spread cheer.
12. Now put it all together. You can do a few things each day, or just one thing a day. Start with A and work to Z. Or start with red and work to purple. Or put all the letters in a jar and let the child pick out the letter to work on each day. Don't set expectations. Have fun and let your child go at their own pace. If you set out supplies to make a butterfly and they end up with something resembling a dead dragon, it's ok. If your child is having fun they are learning.
*Our art supply box includes:
Washable watercolor paints
Washable tempra pants
Extra paint brushes
Washable crayons (thin and fat)
Washable markers (thin and fat)
Washable stamp pads
Magnets to stick on projects
Empty toilet paper tubes
Old scratched CDs
Collect things as you go. You don't have to get everything at once.
Early childhood education doesn't have to be ridged and structured. You can use what you have where you are.