Teaching Your Tot Without Breaking the Bank – Part 2

Guest post by Jenae from I Can Teach My Child

Teaching your little one doesn’t require fancy curriculum or gobs of materials. As we discussed in my last post, hands-on structured activities for your toddler and preschooler can easily be created by simply using items from around your home. Just keep in mind, however, that young children learn best through play. Give them plenty of opportunities to play with various items by themselves and with you!

When creating a structured activity for your young child, it’s important to keep it short and simple. If an activity takes more than 15-20 minutes, it will probably lose your young child’s attention. Make sure to also keep it upbeat and don’t let your time together be tainted with power struggles. If your child has no interest or refuses to cooperate with an activity, just put it away for another day.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when teaching your child various “subjects”:

Early Math Skills

  • Number Recognition: Recognizing and identifying numbers 1-10 is an important skill for any preschooler to learn in order to be prepared for kindergarten. Even though eventually your child will need to automatically recognize these numbers, resist the temptation to use flashcards or rote memorization. Hands-on experiences and repetition are the best way to teach numbers, whether you’re looking at addresses on mailboxes or pointing out the letters on a calendar.
  • One-to-one correspondence: This is basically just a fancy term for your child being able to recognize that the number seven relates to seven objects by counting them. There are ample opportunities to encourage this skill in your daily life! Try counting kisses or sorting small snacks into a numbered egg carton! Counting songs such as “Five Little Ducks” and “Five Little Monkeys” are also great!

Language Development

  • Reading: Reading to your child is one of the single most important things you can do for developing language skills, starting at infancy!  Although it’s nice to own a few favorites, it is unnecessary to spend a fortune on books.  Most local libraries have a great selection of children’s books, including board books. Another great option is using PaperBackSwap!
  • Letter Recognition: Just like number recognition, teaching your child capital and lower-case letters should not be a tedious or monotonous task.  Alphabet Crafts are a great way to make learning letters fun and interactive. My 3-year old knows how to spell his name simply from his interest in the wooden letters that spell his name on the wall in his bedroom. Go on “hunts” for letters when out running errands or reading books. Learning baskets are also a great way to incorporate letter recognition while still being fun and hands-on!
  • Handwriting: The web is abuzz with tons of printables for teaching your child how to write capital and lower-case letters (go here and here). Prior to using a pen and paper, though, try making letters in shaving cream or forming them with feathers! Keep in mind that printables are great — in moderation. Children retain information better when multiple senses are incorporated into a learning experience.
  • Art: One of the best things we can do for our children is give them opportunities to just be kids…which, of course, includes getting messy! Allowing them to explore and be creative helps them learn about textures, colors, and the world around them. Sensory tubs are also great for toddlers and preschoolers. Did you know you can make almost all the art supplies you need at home? Here are just a few recipes:

Parent-directed activities are great for young children, but kids need time to just be kids. Pretend play is also such an important developmental part of the learning process in preschoolers — and even Mom can join in every now and then!

Jenae is a Master-degree holding former first grade teacher turned stay-at-home Momma. She loves finding creative ways to save money, spending time with her family, and sharing fun activities on her website I Can Teach My Child.

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  1. says

    And just in case it wasn’t easy enough to find free homeschool on the inspiration in the before-Pinterest era, it’s even easier on Pinterest. Find a handful of homeschoolers you’re in sync with and follow their boards. There’s a WEALTH of information and I’m finding it very time-efficient to find and organize homeschool ideas using it.

    Janae, are you on Pinterest? We’d all love to follow you!

  2. says

    I love these ideas. I love the freebies also. I’ll be preschooling my 4 year old son this school year as well. He will be attending our church preschool a few hours a week just to give me some “me time” :) .

  3. Megan says

    On Sunday while I am clipping coupons, I give my two and four year old boys an advertisement and a sharpie each and have them hunt for numbers. It’s great fun for them to circle all over the pages and they’re picking up their numbers in the process.

  4. Christy says

    I agress there are lots of free and inexpensive everyday items that you can educate with. Also, the public library in my area has a program called Bright Beginnings. It is sponsered by our local United Way. We get to check out a bag for 3 weeks at a time (can usually renew for another 3). The bag has a theme and has books; a movie and/or music; and puzzles, games, and/or toys related to the theme. We have one about trains right now. It has books, a movie, 2 audiobooks with paper copies, 3 toy trains, a rhyming words “game,” and a Thomas board game. I did have to go to a one time training session to be able to check them out. I love them because they are free and we get to have all kinds of fun puzzles and games without having to clutter up our house. We have had lots of alphabet puzzles, number and counting games, etc.

  5. august says

    My son isn’t even two yet, but I try to work with him on his learning skills now. For instance we count when we walk -stairs, stepping stones, jumping etc. It’s made a great difference. He’s been counting since he turned 1. He can count to 6, but that’s it. I have a hard time with letters though. I guess it’ll come with age.

  6. says

    So many great points in this post! Having an engaged, educated preschooler really doesn’t have to cost a lot. For general problem solving and fine motor skills, I think it’s fun to try to use common objects around the house to create Montessori-type toys. For example, my 18 month old has a great time sticking popsicles sticks into an old oatmeal container. I cut multiple slits in the lid so that she and her older sister can both play.

  7. Daina says

    Hah, unlike August, I have a girl who’s loved letters since before she was one (she only knows a handful at almost-two, but we’re still learning), but does NOT like it when I count! So I have to be creative and slip the numbers in when she is amenable… like when I’m counting out bits of something tasty I’m about to give her!

  8. says

    These are great ideas. My children are teens and preteens and I also have a 2 year old. I firmly believe that play and natural learning is the best way to learn. There will be plenty of time for serious book stuff later on.

    When my 15 year old was 3, he could count 1,2,5. I’d say “how many are there?” and he’d say “3”. Then he would count, 1,2,5. Drove me nuts. He counts just fine now.

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