Are you thinking about doing preschool for your child at home?  Let’s talk about what to cover and what materials we love and recommend!

Getting Started with Preschool at Home - What to Teach and Materials to Use

Owen is 3 (turning 4 in May), and this semester, he has been ready for official preschool work.  Since he’s the third child, he has always “done school” with us, but now he is old enough to have some of his own books and materials.  Lately, I’ve had a few people ask what we use for preschool curriculum, so I thought I would share what we do.

First of all, I have to say that I don’t have a problem with going to preschool!  There are so many great things that go on in preschool classrooms, and there are so many excellent preschool teachers out there.  For us, preschool has never really been an option because of the cost.  I don’t feel that my kids have missed out, however.  Attending preschool is not necessary for academic success, in my opinion, and there are several benefits to keeping little ones at home during the preschool years.  It’s nice to not have to worry about deciding if a sick child should go to school or not.  And honestly, one of the big benefits is that the preschool stage is so much fun and I enjoy experiencing it with the boys!

If you’ve decided to do preschool at home, it’s very simple to get started.  My planning for preschool starts with a few simple goals for ages 3-4.

Goals for the Preschool Years (Ages 3-4)

  • Develop vocabulary through talking together and plenty of reading aloud.
  • Expand knowledge of the community and the world through life experiences (trips to the grocery store, pet store, zoo, a farm, the fire station).
  • Develop gross motor coordination through opportunities to run, play, and climb.
  • Develop fine motor coordination by learning to grasp a crayon, paint, mold with playdough, cut with scissors, etc.
  • Learn to recognize the letters of the alphabet and to count.

Sample Schedule

It really doesn’t take much time at all to cover what you need to cover for preschool!  My boys, however, have definitely needed some structure to their day.  This has been especially true for the younger ones since their older siblings are busy with schoolwork for a large part of the day.  Here’s what we do at our house:

8:00 – Breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, etc.

8:45 – Bible time together with all the kids.

9:00 – Play while I read history to the older boys.

9:30 – Workbook time at the table, cutting, coloring, etc.

10:00 – Playdough or sensory play or puzzles, etc.

10:30 – Snack

11:00 – Play

12:00 – Lunch

1:00 – Play outside

1:30 – Read aloud time

2:00 – nap

It’s pretty simple!

Preschool Resources

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links

There are several options out there for purchasing a full preschool curriculum, but I’ve found while there are some fabulous preschool programs out there (such as Sonlight), it’s not a big deal at all if you can’t afford one, or simply choose not to spend a lot.  Much of what should be learned during the preschool years can be learned through play, life, and library books.  You can supplement that with a few inexpensive workbooks and hands-on materials.

Read-Aloud Books for Preschool:

I decided that read-aloud books needed their own post, so you can view our favorite read-aloud books for preschool here.  Several of these books would be great as the foundation for a homeschool preschool curriculum.

Workbooks:

My favorite preschool workbook is My First School Book from Handwriting without Tears.  This book is adorable!  It has a classic preschool feel, and it is truly is a great first book for preschoolers.

Getting Started with Preschool at Home

My First School Book starts with basic writing skills, such as writing lines.  The first few pages are dedicated to the colors – there is a page for each color with items for the child to color in.  Then, it progresses to writing lines and then learning to write the capital letters.

Here’s a sample:  On this page, the child draws the fence posts and draws legs on the ducks, then colors in the picture.  So cute! (I love preschool!)

Getting Started with Preschool at Home

I have never purchased the teacher guide that goes with My First School Book, but I’m sure that it would be helpful.  I am probably missing out on some instructional points and hands-on activities by not having it, and I’m planning to order it soon.

Getting Started with Preschool at Home

Phonics Update: This school year, I have been using Get Ready for the Code and Get Set for the Code with Owen for phonics instruction. There is also a third book – Go for the Code.  I LOVE this series!  We started with the first one when Owen was almost 4 1/2.   The first book introduces the letters b, f, m, k, r, t, and the corresponding sounds as well as working on early writing skills.  Owen thinks the books are great and loves to do his work!

I also love the ABC series preschool workbooks from Rod and Staff.

Getting started with preschool at home

These books do not methodically introduce the alphabet the way My First School Book does, which is why we use both.  However, they are fabulous books!  Each book gets progressively more challenging, and each one has pictures to color, matching activities, writing activities, number activities, and things to cut and glue, and at $3.25 each they are a total bargain. The “B” book is Bible Pictures to Color, but the rest are not religious.  I think that a couple of the books have one Bible story in them, but otherwise they are just basic preschool skills.

Getting started with preschool at home

Printable Preschool Materials:

I love This Reading Mama and The Measured Mom for free printable materials for preschool!  Check out these sites for handwriting pages, alphabet activities, emergent reader books, and more.

Hands-on Manipulatives:

Last year, I went to a great teacher supply store in our area and planned to spend some money on new supplies for preschool.  I ended up not buying anything because everything I saw could be done with items from around the house!  I passed up wooden beads for lacing, plastic counters, and more.

Here are some items that I do feel have been worth the investment, plus ideas for things you can make at home.

  • Items for lacing.  I purchased some shoe laces at Walmart, and Owen likes to string on craft beads, pasta, and drinking straws cut into pieces.
  • A large magnifying glass.  Fun for exploring plants, rocks, bugs, and more!  We have this magnifying glass from Learning Resources, and this set also comes with large tweezers which are great for fine motor practice.  Owen likes to transfer pom pom balls etc. with them.

Getting started with preschool at home

  • Playdough.  You can make your own or buy it at the store – either way, playdough is a must for preschoolers!  My favorite playdough recipe is from Counting Coconuts.  One of our favorite things to do with playdough is to make interesting prints in it.
  • A large tub for playing with rice or dry beans.  Right now, the Target dollar spot has some kids’ gardening shovels that are perfect for this.
  • Puzzles.  We love this firetruck puzzle and this alphabet train puzzle by Melissa & Doug.  You can sometimes find them at Michael’s and use a 40% off coupon!  Garage sales and thrift stores are also great ways to pick up puzzles for cheap.
  • Magnetic alphabet letters. I bought a set of Melissa and Doug magnetic alphabet letters at Michael’s with a coupon, and I really like them.  Owen plays with them on a cookie sheet or the fridge.

Getting started with preschool at home

  • Alphabet Stamps – Use these with washable stamp pads, or stamp letters in play dough.

Getting Started with Preschool at Home

  •  Art Supplies:  Construction paper, scissors, glue, paint.  It’s worth it to buy large sized art paper for drawing and painting, and decent paintbrushes are worth the investment.  I don’t have a good brand to recommend, but I’ve thrown away a zillion cheap paintbrushes that have broken on the first or second use!
  • Lacing cards.  Yet another Melissa and Doug item – we have these wooden lacing cards, and I have been surprised at how well they have held the boys attention!  Both Owen (3, close to 4) and Gresham (6) enjoy working on them.  The laces seem to catch on the edges of the lacing holes and I thought they would wear out quickly, but they are still in really good shape after several uses.
  • Getting started on preschool at home

For read-aloud book recommendations, check out this post.  For more specific ideas for learning activities for preschoolers, you can view all of my preschool posts here.  Also check out my preschool Pinterest board for ideas from many of the best kid bloggers!

Getting Started with Preschool at Home

14 Comments

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  1. Karolyn Mar 3, 2013

    WHERE DID YOU PURCHASE YOUR WRITING WITHOUT TEARS FOR PRESCHOOLERS. I LIVE IN CT.

    THANKS FOR YOUR HELP,

    KAROLYN

    Reply
    1. Sarah Mar 3, 2013

      I have sometimes purchased from Mardel (a local Christian bookstore) and sometimes from Amazon. The link in the post goes to the item on Amazon, so you can purchase through that. If you want to see the book first, I'm not sure what to recommend since I'm not familiar with your area!

      Reply
      1. Mandy Mar 20, 2013

        If you are still looking http://www.hwtears.com/hwt

        This is the official Handwriting without tears website and you can order workbooks and teachers manuals. They also have some sample pages from each workbook on the website so you can see them. I am a substitute school teacher and have seen them in many k-1 classrooms. It is a fabulous curriculum!

        Reply
    2. Eddie - The Usual Mayhem Mar 4, 2013

      This is a really good collection of beginner "tools" for preschool at home. I would also add stickers (under supervision) for more fine motor work - peeling those things off the backing is great practice!

      Reply
      1. Sarah Mar 4, 2013

        Yes! Definitely stickers!

        Reply
      2. Leah Mar 4, 2013

        Thanks for this post! We are winging it with G and still in the early, early stages of preschool; but it is great to know some resources for later. I will have to look into the books.

        Reply
        1. Rebekkah Smith Mar 9, 2013

          Wow! This is great! Thanks so much. My oldest son, also named Owen, will be 4 in April, so they are very close in age. We just decided that we are going to homeschool for preschool. We've been doing 30 minutes of "school" a day, most days, for the past couple months. We're doing the Explode the Code books, in the first book now. Reading together a lot, lots of maze and connect the dot books, etc. I'm going to check out these books!!!

          Reply
          1. Maria D. Apr 17, 2013

            Oh I can think of so many fun ideas for preschool that's we've done just by using objects around my own house: patterning (you can use real objects...my son loves to make patterns with foods, colored construction paper, colored blocks...ha), counting (rote), rote recall of days of week and months of year, 1 to 1 correspondence (give me 5 beads), we learn about measurements when cooking, we make some fun letter shapes (I make and cut out a letter from construction paper) and my son glues on objects that begin with that letter sound (e.g. for C-we used sweetened condensed milk to "glue" candy corn, for F-fruit loops, for P-various pirate pictures I printed out from the computer (great b/c we used the glue stick for these)), sorting is a great activity too (sort by shape, by color, by function, by category), crafts (following directions to make a craft), open art (paint and paper and my son tells me what he had...great for language imagination, etc.), dramatic play-dress up, play kitchen n fake food, superheros, community helpers (firefighter, police, etc.), fine motor-b/c writing and pencil grasp, we also use tweezers, thongs, clothespins, chip clips all for pinching skills and finger strengthening, simple home science experiments-food coloring to change water color, or mixing primary colors to make new colors, baking soda volcanoes, colored ice cubes, ice play (melting b/c of heat, etc.), and so on.

            Anyway, this is just a list of some things we do at home that you really don't need to spend any money on to learn the skills. Just thought I'd add this in case anyone was looking for more ideas! Thanks :)

            Reply
            1. brooke Aug 1, 2014

              Great ideas!!

              Reply
            2. Brittni Apr 24, 2013

              I know this might sound stupid but how do you decide what to do each day? My son is three almost four and i want to start teaching him the alphabet and other preschool stuff at home but i just dont know how to go about it. Any advice?

              Reply
              1. Sarah Apr 24, 2013

                Not a stupid question! If you've never done it, it can be hard to know what to cover each day!

                Three days per week is probably plenty for structured preschool time. If your child wants to do more than that, that's great! For a basic framework for each day, I would recommend planning a good read aloud book, something for fine motor coordination (playdough, scooping and pouring rice or water, cutting with scissors, gluing, etc.), something with writing or coloring, and a few minutes practicing letters or numbers. Then, do something for gross motor coordination - play outside, or build with blocks indoors, etc. And do more reading out loud whenever it works for you.

                My three year old (almost four) has about an hour of structured time each day. Sometimes a little more, if we do something like scooping and pouring rice because he'll stick with that for up to 30 minutes sometimes!

                For more ideas, you can check out my preschool tab at the top of the page. I hope this helps!

                Reply
              2. Brittni Apr 25, 2013

                Thank you so much!! When you say a read aloud book do you read picture books or bigger books like small chapter books?

                Reply
                1. Grace Apr 27, 2013

                  I am planning on homeschooling my daughter who is 3 for preschool. I am not sure when to officially begin. Any suggestions? Should I start when the semester starts in like Aug or Sept? I have already been teaching her so much through my home daycare that I've done the past 2 years. I do occasional care and we have "friends" over several days a week. Each day we have a craft time, story time, outdoor time, sensory play, occasionally computer activities, dress up, puppet shows, coloring, as well as music & movement. She recognizes all her letters and numbers already. So proud!

                  Reply
                  1. Sarah Apr 28, 2013

                    It sounds like you're doing a great job, and I wouldn't worry about it! The longer I've been homeschooling, I've become less and less tied down to the school calendar. We miss days here and there for appointments and "life", so we're going to be taking off June and part of July and then starting back at the end of July! A mostly year-round schedule just works better for us. I'd say - do whatever works for you! If your daughter likes structure, you could pick a start date around when the other schools start, and if not, I'd just go with what you're doing!

                    Reply
                  2. Heather May 9, 2013

                    I like this post, thanks for sharing. We have pretty much the same supplies as you. Our son ( now 3.5) hasn't really cared for the work book type things at this point. ( we also have the Rod and Staff) I think the work books are a bit much to expect out of him anyway, but every kid is different. I don't think most preschools would have kids using work books but more of the hands on type of activities. I could be wrong. ?
                    Anyway, thanks! I signed up for your e-mail's, can't wait!

                    Reply
                    1. Elizabeth Mar 25, 2014

                      Thank you for sharing!! I have an almost 5 year old boy, just turned 3 year old boy, and a just turned 2 year old girl and #4 due in September!! This makes me feel like I am doing it right!! I am ordering pattern blocks and pictures for the oldest, he LOVES stuff like that (I saw them when I looked at a link on here and remembered that I have been meaning to order them!!). We also use starfall.com a little. It teaches letters and sounds and builds (part is free and part is paid for which we do not use at this point). I also have some dry erase books I bought at Hobby Lobby that cover basic skills (I think about $3 a book, I just would pick up one when I could and pick which one was the next skill I thought was good to work on). The dry erase crayons don't work great on them, we usually use wet erase markers so my perfectionist son can't wipe them off when he makes a mistake. They clean easily with a damp paper towel or towel (might stain?), or if it sits for a while (I some times leave it so I know where they were in the book; Each child has a certain color so I know who did what) hand sanitizer or denatured alcohol (hardware/ paint area) will clean it easily. These books are already on their second child and my daughter will start using them soon, as well as my niece. I am confident they will at least make it through #4, so a great investment in my book!! My oldest has moved onto paper books for some things (they have a race track at the front where you place a sticker for each page you have done, which he loves. I think he would do a book a day if I let him).

                      Reply
                      1. Sarah Mar 26, 2014

                        Those wipeable books are a great tip! My son would enjoy those. I like the idea of using a different color for each child - smart idea! We have never actually checked out starfall.com, but I need to. Thanks for your comment!

                        Reply
                      2. Emma Sep 4, 2014

                        Thank you so much for this post! (And all the helpful comments) my daughter is 3.5 and I've decided to homeschool her, i may send her to a preschool when she's 4 but I'm still on the fence. I have no clue how to start what type of schedule to go by, how long to make the school day, so thank you very much! I feel like I'm ready to start in a few days (after some supply shopping)

                        Reply
                        1. ashley Feb 26, 2015

                          my guess is that the plug for the ebook is per an affiliate link... feeling disappointed that i was misled into thinking this was some awesome curriculum when really its nothing more than my pinterest board in ebook form :/ it seriously lacked depth. to all others reading I definitely dont recommend that purchase.

                          Reply
                          1. Sarah Mar 1, 2015

                            Can you please let me know which ebook you are referring to? This post does not have a plug for an ebook!

                            Reply
                          2. Jen Mar 24, 2015

                            do you do a daily schedule if so what all do you do and how do you make yourself dedicated enough to stick to it everyday?

                            Reply
                            1. Sarah Mar 26, 2015

                              We do a daily schedule now because I also have older kids who are doing school. When my oldest child was a preschooler, we did not do school every day! Maybe 3 days per week. The schedule definitely needs to work for you or it will be too hard to stick to it. I've found that the key is to plan adequate times to get errands done, laundry done, etc. For preschool, this is really not too difficult - it's not necessary to spend a lot of time on school!

                              Reply
                            2. Hector Feb 21, 2016

                              Nice article!

                              Could anyone suggest something like homeschooling but a two year old until he turns 3 years old?

                              We have an Aupair and would love to implement some sort of a weekly calendar of activities (of course not too much teaching) to have an outline and little weekly routine?

                              Any ideas, links, references would be greatly appreciated!

                              Reply

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