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15 Favorite Preschool and Kindergarten Resources — Part 3

If you missed it, be sure to read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

11. PaperBackSwap — I know I’ve mentioned it over and over again here, but we love PaperBackSwap. We’ve basically built our entire children’s library through books from PBS and Grandparents. So we’ve ended up spending very little out of pocket to do so.

12. Magnet Boards — I don’t know that there’s an official name for these, but we call them “magnet boards” at our house. And they are one of the girl’s all-time favorite things to do! I got some cheap cookie sheets and these Power Magnets and we’ve used them for all sorts of educational activities.

I often give the girls the Magnet Boards and a the magnet sheet from the Letter of the Week Curriculum (see an example below) and let them fill all the magnet holes on their board while I’m reading aloud to them. When they are finished, they can create shapes, letters or whatever else they’d like.

13. Read Alouds — Speaking of read alouds, books make up the core of our homeschooling “curriculum.” I think that there is so much value in reading a wide variety of books to your children. We’ve learned so many new things, explored so many fascinating cultures and time periods and had so many excellent discussions as a result of books we’ve read. You can see some of our favorite picture books here. I’m hoping to do a series on our favorite chapter books in the not-too-distant future.

14. Do-a-Dot Art Markers These markers are so fun. You can use them to create your own pictures, on the downloadable sheets in the Letter of the Week Curriculum or there are also Do-A-Dot Coloring Books available. Just make sure to supervise the 2-year-old with them, unless you want Do-A-Dot Artwork all over the walls (ask me how I know!). These wash off of hands and clothing quite well. Walls, not so much. 🙂

15. ABC Scripture Memory BookI used this for Scripture Memory as a young girl, so I especially enjoyed using it with the girls. We just read through it every day at breakfast for a number of months and the girls memorized the verses by that daily repetition. Plus, Kaitlynn (then 2) picked up on quite a few letters, too.

A Few Words of Encouragement for Young Moms

For those of you who are young moms wanting to add in some educational activities to your day, please do not go buy all the things I’ve listed. These probably won’t all work for you and they certainly won’t work for you if you try to do them all at once. I offer these just as ideas of things which are available; please tailor what you do in your home to what works for you.

If you don’t currently have much structure in your day, I’d first suggest you focus on getting a consistent routine in place. Make your routine simple (maybe even just five or seven things you want to do in the same order every day), write it out and make yourself stick with it for three weeks. After that, you’ll probably find it’s become somewhat of a habit.

Don’t set your expectations too high. If you’ve never had a consistent routine, you’re not going to go from chaos to a regimented schedule in two days. Start small, take babysteps and — most of all — enjoy your children.

In my opinion, it’s much better to spend quality time laughing, talking and playing with your children every day, than to stick to a strict schedule. That’s why I think a flexible routine is more doable when you have young children. You need some breathing room for interruptions, fussy babies, diaper blowouts, kissing owies and seizing teaching opportunities.

If there was one thing I’d say to start with, it would be teaching your children obedience, character and God’s Word. When your children have learned the basics of obedience, not only will you enjoy them more and your life will operate much more smoothly, but you’ll also have a much easier time of being able to teach them academically.

Read aloud from a plethora of good books. Look at the pictures together. Talk about the stories. Stop and listen and answer your children’s questions. It’s not about finishing the book; it’s about investing in your children’s lives.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. I try to ask myself “what will matter in 25 years from now?”and then live my life accordingly.

Take advantage of teaching opportunities. It’s amazing the things you can learn and explore together when you’re willing to stop what you’re doing and seize a teachable moment.

Praise your children liberally. Have you ever stopped to consider how much you praise your child versus how often you correct or criticize? Of course, as parents, it’s our role to guide and nurture our children, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also be their biggest cheerleader!

If your child is taking initiative, putting forth effort, or showing any signs of positive behavior, praise them. One thing I try to do often is to praise the girls in front of Jesse. You can just see them beam with such joy when I say, “Jesse, I have a good report to tell you about so-and-so.”

Realize that no mom — however put together she might look — is anywhere near perfect. Stop comparing. Stop feeling guilty. Focus on what works for your family and be okay with the fact that you aren’t gifted in all areas.

I wish I could sew and decorate and scrapbook and cook gourmet dinners. I used to feel really guilty when I’d read about these incredible crafts and hands-on activities other moms were doing with their youngsters.

But you know what? I’ve had to accept that I’m just not gifted when it comes to arts and crafts. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I love my children any less if we’re not making these elaborate paper mache castles. They just love spending time with me — even if we’re just coloring and cutting, making silly faces or mixing up pancakes.

Finally, don’t give up. Being a mom is hard, hard work. If you’re anything like me, you have days when you feel like you just can’t do it anymore. And I’ve come to learn that I can’t, in and of my own strength. But “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

If you’re a Christian, I strongly encourage you to make your relationship with the Lord your number one priority. For me, I’ve found that getting up early and reading my Bible and a good devotional, writing in my journal and praying is extremely beneficial in laying the foundation for the day. That time in God’s Word and prayer fills up my heart and gives me strength and courage to face whatever the day holds.

If you’re too busy for God, you’re just plain too busy. Make time for the most important things. You won’t regret it.

What are some of your family’s favorite preschool and kindergarten resources? I’d love to hear!

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  • Angela W. says:

    With a preschooler and a older toddler, I’ve been very interested in this series of 15 things. Thanks so much. But really the best part was the encouragement and advice at the end of today’s post. It IS hard. Stop comparing. Baby steps. God first. Thank you again, Crystal!

  • Danielle Bradbury says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! I must confess that when I’ve looked through these lists I’ve thought, “Oh! I need to get that! I need to get this!” But right now, our budget is eaten up with just covering basic bills and getting on time with that! There’s NO money for extra anything right now!
    We have a 4 year old, 2 year old and 5 month old and our days are usually scattered and chaotic. I’ve been working the past few days to map out a workable routine for us, and I really do feel that getting us into a predictable rhythym (within reason!) and staying on budget are more important then any amount of “curriculum” right now. We don’t even officially start homeschooling until next fall! There’s no reason to rush!
    Thanks so much for confirming “out loud” those things that I’ve been feeling inside. I imagine it takes quite a bit of strength to speak so honestly and openly, and this momma really needed it!

    • kr says:

      @Danielle Bradbury, Whispering, if you look at the “common curriculum” from World Book you will see that you already have probably 100% of what you need to homeschool your child at least through 3rd grade level (this assumes that one of the things you have is a library card–if you don’t have, get one, they are free). It is probably “easier” hs w/ pre-printed curriculum but really if you are sticking w/ the basics you won’t miss anything important.

  • We are about to embark on our first homeschooling year with 3 boys, 5.5 yr old, 2.5 yr old and 11 mo. These words spoke to the very bottom of my soul and sprang tears of thankfulness and comfort. Thank you for posting this…it was for me!

    I’m afraid that in the homeschooling world (I was homeschooled for the majority of my schooling 5 th thru graduation) that is a need to be “bigger and better”… What curriculum are you using? What co-ops are you in? All those are the BIG questions! Everyone is so concerned that your child is going to be left in the dust. I have tried to be laid back about our approach. He’s only 5…no rush! But its easy to get caught up in the hubbub!

    • Kim says:

      I was in your shoes 3 years ago. I’ve been homeschooling for 3 years now and finally decided that no co-op or group was offering what I needed (just encouragement and the freedom to do things the way it worked for us) so I started my own group with a few moms who understood that. Sometimes the best path is the one you forge through yourself, with God’s leading of course!

    • kr says:

      @hyperactivelu, You are SO right. I homeschooled mine 1st and 3rd respectively through high school. There IS a ton of pressure from other parents to buy lots of STUFF but all of that outside curriculum is just a tool! We spent less than $100 per kid on “curriculum” in elementary and less than $300 in high school.

      You do have to make good use of your public library and other resources in your home (example that might LOOK like a box of Cheerios to you but they are quite acceptable as counters when you need” math manipulatives”)

      • kr says:

        @kr, Oh and both of mine went to college on academic scholarships, made the Dean’s list all the way through, graduated cum Laude! I don’t think they were hampered at all.

      • Crystal says:

        I agree! Between the library and the internet, there’s a wealth of incredible resources which are practically free (unless you’re like me and forget to return your library books on time!!).

        • Rae says:

          @Crystal, Too bad your library doesn’t do what ours does. They do several different drives during the year to erase your late fees. Right now it is bring in a box of cereal or a can of something (forget what) and other times it has been a used but good condition coat or book, any toiletry item, any canned good, etc. With our bargain shopping it would be easy to get the fees erased for free (or very very cheap) AND help somebody out. I’ve been lucky enough never to have returned something late but am glad they have these programs just in case.

          • Crystal says:

            Oh wow! That would be so nice! I got spoiled when we lived in Topeka because there were no late fees. And now I’ve realized that I’ve gotten into a habit of not getting my books back on time. 🙁

  • Crystal, Thank you for that memo to young moms…. everything you put was so well said and SO true. I hope TONS Of moms read that. It was a blessing to me tonight, thank you. 🙂

  • Rachel Averett says:

    Thank you so much. We need to slow down and put God first and then the rest of our day and our children’s day will fill with good things. And the things that don’t matter, will fall out of our lives.

  • Danielle Ford says:

    Thanks for that post….I have 2 tots. one is about to turn three and one is about to turn 2. I have had a difficult last few days and at my wits end….that calmed me. Thanks again.

  • Sarah says:

    The post was very encouraging to me as a Mom. I may or may not homeschool my preschooler, but the most important values that we can teach our children will be from the home and taught from the Mom. Thank you for your reminder. God is honored in our lives when we put Him first!

  • Keri Turner says:

    I regularly spend time on your blog and enjoy it greatly. Tonight, however, I was blessed by your encouragement. Thank you for taking time and sharing all you do. I am grateful to have access to such a wonderful ministry.

  • Caren says:

    Thanks, Crystal. I really needed this today.

  • Allecia says:

    Thank you for the timely encouragement. So well written and spoken from the heart. What a blessing for all of us who needed some encouragement. May God continue to fill you up as you pour yourself out for your family and others!

  • Karen S. says:

    I think you’re spot-on in your note to young moms! This “old” mom could stand to follow that advice a little better too 🙂 After being off school unexpectedly for 2 weeks this winter due to snow, and starting to sympathize with Jack Nicholson in The Shining, I vowed that I would have a great schedule this summer. Well, we didn’t stick to the schedule all that well but the preparation I did — lots of crafts materials, workbooks, and educational supplies, and a list of things to do outside the house like special programs and festivals — paid off because whenever someone is “bored” or if we’re going batty, there is always something to do!

    And I am finally realizing that I want my children to remember their mom as a gentle, joyful person who would rather read them a story than dust, and not as a stressed out mom on her hands and knees scrubbing floors!

    • Katie says:

      @Karen S., This is why I invested in a cleaning lady. There is just not enough time in the week to work full time, cook dinner, clean house, and spend quality time with my kids. My time at home is precious and I won’t spend it cleaning the house. It’s not cheap, but I look at it as an investment in my family.

      • Crystal says:

        I totally agree that no one can do it all. Pick what is most important for your family and then let other things go — or find someone to help you bear the load!

  • rebecca says:

    Thanks. Just thanks.

  • Paige says:

    Thank you for this Crystal. You really spoke to me this morning. I thought I might try again to get up and spend some time with the Lord. Well, as soon as I cracked my bedroom door open, my toddler woke to start the day too. I know I must rise earlier to be still and seek my Lord.
    I feel the same way about not being so crafty, etc. I still have not completed my wedding scrapbook from 3.5 years ago. : ) I am working on not comparing myself to others—even my more crafty sister.
    I am anxious to read about your P90X success this week!!!

  • pantrygirl says:

    Thank you for your memo. I keep it bookmarked to help me remember the important things.

  • Laura says:

    We’ve used the Dot-to-Dot paints, and they’re fun! They are not as messy as painting with a brush but they do need to be applied in dots. So, if you want your child to work on the letter A, for example, he/she can’t just do the three strokes. He/she would have to do dots. Also, if you can find an easel, or hang the paper up on a wall, this kind of movement improves fine motor skills for writing later – especially helpful for boys. I’m an elementary teacher, it is not fun for kids when they are lacking fine motor skills, and it’s often the case with boys who tend to choose large motor tasks. Hope this helps!

  • Kim says:

    You speak the truth! What wonderful encouragement. I’ve been homeschooling for 3 years, and I can never be reminded enough of the importance of simplicity and doing what works for our family. Thank you!

  • My Boaz's Ruth says:

    I was at IKEA this weekend trying to find out if their easel was magnet and saw they had these Magnetic boards for $13!

  • Jessica says:

    Looking forward to your list of chapter books. I have a 4 year old little boy who adores chapter books. We’re just about finished with the Little House Series, and are going through The Chronicles of Narnia as a family, but I am starting to run out of good chapter books. We’ve read a few Magic Tree House and A to Z mysteries, but in my opinion the writing is much less rich. Hard to find good writing that is age appropriate.

  • Amy says:


    Thank you for the encouragement. I NEEDED that today, after my fully potty trained son decided to pee on the floor and push my daughter off the chair. God used your words today!

  • elizabeth says:

    My kids are a bit older (12 and 8) but your note to moms was so true. I wish I had read it when my kids were younger and I was trying to do too much, but none of it getting done well. You are wise beyond your years. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I don’t know about that — though I am blessed with wonderful parents who set a great example for me! — I’ve just learned a lot of lessons the hard way! 🙂

  • Ebony says:

    I have really enjoyed reading this series about the resources. We are currently in the process of strongly considering to homeschool. Our oldest daughter is 3 and right now she goes to preschool two days a week until I finish school in December. This summer we have been spending more time when she is home supplementing and I have just been so amazed with how much she has learned during our time together over the past couple of months. It is what really makes me feel that not only can I do this, but I think I can do a better job than a teacher who has to teach 30 children.

    I loved your message to the young moms and that has been one of the greatest lessons that I have learned and I still need to be reminded of from time to time. I try to follow about five specific things that I want to accomplish each day (time with God, time with hubby, quality time with the girls, work-related tasks, and maybe give myself room for one other major area). If I am able to get more done great! But if I only get done those five things…at least I have done the important things.

    Thanks so much Crystal for your work on this site. You have truly been a blessing in my life!

    • Crystal says:

      I love your five specific things — excellent way to prioritize and not get overwhelmed! And yes, isn’t it so rewarding to see their little eyes opening up to the wonder of learning?

  • Amanda says:

    I absolutely love reading your blog! This has been my first year as a stay at home mom, and I have gained so much knowledge from all you share! Would you be willing to post a glimpse into your day? I would love to see the routine you and your kiddos follow throughout the day!

  • JUHYUN says:

    Thank you SO much for sharing this wonderful resources.

    Most of all, I’ll keep in mind #1 priority is doing with God. He will give me strength and all wisdom what I need for my daughter.

    Thank U, thank U, thank U!!!

  • Melissa says:

    This encouragement was just what I needed today….thank you Crystal, you are/were a blessing! 🙂

  • Ellen says:

    Thank you for posting this. Made me tear up a bit b/c it hits home! It’s good to know there are others “in the trenches” too, and haven’t lost sight of some of the common things that I feel are important to me and my family’s life as well. Thanks again!

  • Linette says:

    Thanks, Crystal, for your encouragement! I am one of those young moms that feel very overwhelmed with so much to do! You don’t realize how much time and energy mothering takes until you are in it. Satan is in a battle with us for our families and I believe that he enjoys nothing more than seeing us flounder in one of the most important tasks on earth-raising up the next generation to fear God. I needed your encouragement today to keep trying. Thanks again.

  • Annie says:

    Thank you ten billion times over for posting this! I have been feeling super guilty about not spending enough time with my girls- even just sitting and coloring with them! And what a vital reminder that if we are too busy for the Lord, we are too busy. Thank you so much for being so faithful!

    • Crystal says:

      You are very welcome! Look to the Lord and find your fulfillment in Him. Who you are in Christ is truly the only thing that matters — not how you compare to others. 🙂

  • Anna says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I quit teaching to stay home with my son. I’m just starting to keep ideas and make some for my son for when he’s older. I currently watch my nephew who is going into preschool this year. I wrote about one activity today on my blog. Today we made a “grocery list” and practiced all kinds of skills doing it! check it out.

  • Julie says:

    I would love to know more about teaching your children obedience–through a Christian perspective and otherwise.

    I recall from one of your other blogs a few years ago you talked about “blanket training” your youngest girl so she’d stay put (even as a baby) while you dealt with the needs of your oldest daughter. How did you accomplish that training for someone so young? I think that’d be super useful for homeschooling moms who have babies and older kids to teach and give one-on-one attention to.

    • Crystal says:

      The best book I’ve ever read on training children is the Bible. I encourage you to just study the Scriptures with your husband and seek the Lord on how He would have you train your children. Some day — maybe 25 years from now when my children are adults — I might be qualified to speak on the topic of child-training. For now, I’m just seeking the Lord with my husband and learning along with the rest of you! 🙂

  • Clara says:

    A heartfelt thanks for your words of encouragement. First things first! 🙂

  • Annette says:

    These past few weeks I’ve been discouraged- I feel as though I can’t get it ALL done and that so many other moms out there are so much better and more organized- I still am lost as to how they do it, but that you so much for encouraging all us young moms to not give up. I LOVE being a mommy, but it is just plain HARD! Thanks for lifting my spirits and giving me a new out look. God is doing wonderful things through you.

    • Crystal says:

      I don’t know anyone who gets it ALL done, but it’s easy to compare ourselves to others and feel we are failing. Do your best, look to the Lord for strength and claim His promises. Be not weary in well doing, for you will reap — if you faint not! God bless you, Annette!

  • Samantha says:

    I am not going to lie, this made me cry. With everything my fiance and I are going through with our budget and daycare (which will be none next tuesday when I become a SAHM, but now that that income, even though it was very small, is gone…) its rough. Our relationship with God was failing.. I was having a rough time believing he cared. But recently, we are stronger and have a bigger faith in Him. I really appreciate this post and thank you for it. I will be homeschooling our daughter and these are some amazing ideas!

    Thank you VERY much!

  • Cassie says:

    This makes me wish you still had your other blog up! Thanks for the encouragement!! =)

    • Crystal says:

      You’re kind. Someday — maybe in 15 or 20 years from now — I might consider writing again in that context if God leads. But for now, I’m relishing just living life quietly and enjoying my family. 🙂

  • RE: magnet boards. They now have magnet paint! You can paint any paintable surface with it, then paint over the magnet paint with whatever color of your own paint that you want. You don’t have to paint over it, it just looks prettier. This way you can have a magnetic wall or section of wall, magnetic door, magnetic bed headboard …

  • Catie says:

    Thank you so much for this! I just survived my first year as a stay-at-home mom and I don’t think I would have made it without you. It was a challenging but incredibly rewarding year, and my husband and I agree that it is one of the few decisions that we got right.

    My oldest is 4 and I have been going crazy the past few weeks trying to decide if I should homeschool or not. One day I’m sure I must homeschool, and the next I am sure that I must send him to Pre-K. Your posts help me to put everything in perspective and not get so worked up. I have a year to really discern what is best for us, and no decision is set in stone. No matter what my final decision, I know that my husband and I are truly our children’s primary teachers regardless of where they end up spending their days.

  • Amanda says:

    Thanks so much for your encouraging words at the end of your post today. I’ve been stressing as I plan to home preschool my 4 year old boy/girl twins this fall (or in two weeks I guess!) Reading this was a big encouragement to me! Thank you!

  • Nancy says:

    Love your post. I teach preschool in my home to my children and my friends and neighbor’s children. A few things that I have come to love while teaching in my home are:

    *Bob Books- they are silly and not the most interesting books in the world but they build very nicely and aren’t too frustrating for young ones just learning how to read.

    * it is clean and very education site. It really helps my little learners have fun computer time and reinforce those letters and begging sound blends.

    *Leapfrog Letter Factory and Talking Word Factory- We use a clip from the Letter Factory to help introduce each new letter and it is a great visual clue to give when trying to help kids remember the sounds of each letter. The Talking Word Factory really helped my kidos learn how to rhyme, learn their vowels and how to blend letters.

    *Wipe off tracing worksheets for numbers and letters (you can find these almost anywhere but they are often in Target’s dollar spot.)

    There is so much more I’ve found but those are a few of my favorites : )
    Keep up the good work.

  • Olathe Mom says:

    If you ever read Ann Voskamp’s Holy Experience, she has a beautiful list of seven pillars that “guide” her homeschooling day. It was lovely to read. (Also, of course, scriptural in the “wisdom’s house has seven pillars.”) 🙂

  • What an encouragement and a reminder this post was today.
    Thank you!

  • Brenna says:

    Thanks for the encouraging words!

  • charlotte says:

    Thank you so much for blogging. I really need to read the “Praise your children” part. Thank you again

  • Michelle says:

    LOVED this series! As a fairly new mother of a 17 month old, we are considering homeschooling and I loved hearing about different things you use to teach your kids. Please continue to do more posts on your experiences homeschooling.

  • arianna says:

    I was wondering if you could tell me in a few words how you teach obedience to your children or if you have some good books to recommend.
    I have a 2 year old that is starting to challenge me and I am not sure how tough I should be with him…
    I am thankful for your encouraging words.

  • We are using the My Father’s World Kindergarten Curriculum this year to start our first year of homeschooling. From different consignment sales I have been able to pick up various Melissa & Doug puzzles, games and manipulatives, plus lots of educational fun games. The Hooked On Phonics Overstock sales have been great for workbooks, eraser boards and the handwriting programs.

  • Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for this series! I have a 2 year old and I have been working to get him engaged for a few months now. He loves it! I feel like a spend too much money on those silly workbooks and I am always looking for a more affordable way to teach him at home.

  • Jennifer says:

    A great place to get all the Do-A-Dot crafts is
    They are this small mom and pop shop that specializes in educational toys…aka no batteries!! I highly recommend them!

  • Emily says:

    Hello and thank you so much for this series!! I have two little girls (ages 2 and 4) that I am eager to start homeschooling with this fall. I’m looking for simple ideas that allow us to have time together and enjoy learning. The best part of this article was your encouragement at the end; I really, really needed to hear that. Thank you for all your help and I really hope (hint, hint) you continue to post about your homeschooling endeavors! 🙂

  • Heather says:

    I do preschool with my son. This year I’ll be doing it with my two oldest. Thanks for the posts! I blog about our adventures at

  • is a fantastic website for young readers. I’ve been introducing children to it for years now.

  • lisa says:

    I was recently introduced to Seeds Family Worship through a christian homeschooling blog. I love the songs, they are very catchy and easy for young children to learn the importance of God’s word. I would use these with my boys during our homeschool time!

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