Homeschool Preschool Essentials

Homeschool Preschool Essentials

I am here to share with you what I consider to be homeschool preschool essentials. The pressure to buy all the things is strong when your kids are young, and they are just beginning their homeschool journey. I am a former preschool teacher, and I also operate within a real life budget.

My youngest child was in a Mother’s Day out preschool when we decided to start homeschooling. We decided to keep him enrolled, even though I would be teaching my older children at home. However, this year he will be home full time with us. I am so excited! He will be in pre-k, which is the last year of preschool. Because he is my last child, I do not want to spend a lot of money on things we will only use for a short time. So, I am sharing with you what I consider to be homeschool preschool essentials.

Essentials You’ll Use for Years

Table top easels are great because they take up less space and can easily be stored. I love easel work because it hits so many learning points for preschoolers. For example, did you know that easel work teaches pre-writing skills by encouraging top/down hand motions?

This marble run kit is a favorite for all three of my kids! However, I plan to utilize it most for our preschool. So much STEAM activity is involved in planning and building these structures. And preschoolers LOVE it when they finally get to release the marbles down their creations. 

This set of gears provides another opportunity for planning and creating with a big reward of action at the end. We work on building gears on the flat surface first, then we start working on vertical structures. 

I love this dinosaur balancing game. This kit works on proprioception skills as well as fine motor movements. Start with the animals on a flat surface, then work up to using the included curved base. My preschooler also really enjoys doing pretend play with this toy.

I love these blocks so much. I had them in my classroom when I taught preschool. Every piece is the exact same size and weight. That might sound boring, but it actually fuels creativity. Because all the blocks are equal, it makes it easy to build amazing structures that are stable and don’t fall over easily. 

Essentials for Arts and Crafts

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. I am not a crafty mom. When I taught preschool, my co-teacher did all the arts and crafts, because I just didn’t enjoy it. However, they are SO important for preschoolers. Crafts provide opportunities for so much exploration and learning, so of course I will be doing all the crafting with my preschooler this year. Below are a few things I consider to be important to always have on hand, but might not be obvious. Additionally, most of these products can be used in other subjects as well, such as math and science.

These Dot Markers were a last minute addition to my homeschool preschool essentials, but I am so glad I bought them. They are easy to hold for kids who might not have a great pincer grip yet, and they practice the handwriting skill of using appropriate pressure. Use these to create artwork, or you can use them to learn all about patterns in math.

Everyone knows about construction paper, but using cardstock paper is really great for preschoolers. Cardstock is, of course, thicker than construction paper. This means when your child uses 10x the amount of glue necessary, the paper won’t tear as easily. The same is also true when your little one colors with markers in the same spot a little too much. Cardstock is also great to build on established hand strengthening skills like folding, tearing, and cutting.

If your preschooler is still struggling with their pincer grip, triangle crayons are awesome. They encourage proper grip, which means you’re having to correct your child less. Added bonus is these crayons won’t roll off the table. 

Essentials for Sensory Play

Finally, we need to talk about the importance of sensory play. My preschooler has ADHD, and he needs sensory input throughout the day. Even if your child is not neurodivergent, sensory play is essential for early learning. It fuels learning and curiosity for preschoolers (and all children, honestly). Below are things that I have on hand for sensory play at all times.

Last year I added a fidget station to our homeschool, and it was such a huge hit. Every child has their own preferences with fidgets, so this kit provides a little bit of everything.

Any time I am talking about sensory needs and children, I share this vibrating cushion. It is probably what gets the most use, in our home, out of all our sensory tools. A child can sit on it, and it will automatically start vibrating. This provides LOADS of proprioception input. My preschooler likes to use this cushion during meal times, as well as when he is upset and needs help calming down. 

This Ikea Trofast storage bin is what I am using for a sensory box. It is big enough to provide enough room to play, but small enough to be practical. I also like how it can be used for water play. I switch up what is in here every week for my preschooler. For our first week of school, I put soapy water in it along with his little construction builder trucks. His activity was to wash and dry them. He loved it!

And there you have it! I wanted to keep this list sparse, containing only what I consider to be homeschool preschool essentials. You can always add more once you begin schooling and notice gaps. But this list will get you a great start to your homeschool journey! I would love to know what you think is a must have for homeschooling preschoolers. Also, make sure to share this post with your friends!

Guest Post: Raising a Toddler by Chrissy Lyons

Guest Post: Raising a Toddler by Chrissy Lyons

Hi there. I’m Chrissy from www.lyonessandcub.com. Today, I’ll tell you about how I am raising a toddler. My Lyons Cub. He’ll be four in two months, so toddlerdom lies behind us now, and I congratulate myself on my preschooler.

All of you who have toddlers will know them—the terrible 2’s and even 3’s. I once had the faintest hope it would get better at the age of three, but no such luck… I had the chillest baby you could possibly imagine: Leander was so laid back; he hardly ever cried (maybe he didn’t have the strength, because he was born a preemie with IUGR, weighing only 3 lbs and spending the first three weeks of his life in the NICU). He didn’t suffer from colic or reflux, slept through the night most of the time, was friendly towards strangers, and smiled and giggled a lot. My friends told me back then that the sweetest babies make the wildest toddlers. They would be right…

Picky Eaters: Baking with Your Toddler to Stimulate Their Appetite

My son needed fortified breast milk to gain extra calories. So, I became an exclusive pumper, feeding him every three hours, including at night, for the first year of his life. This was tough, but we made it (and I rewarded myself with beautiful breast milk jewelry). I even used a pumping app to keep track of my daily output and his daily input. When my son turned five months old, we started with baby food. From the mom forums and blogs I was on, I heard about baby-led weaning and wanted to try it. However, my son mostly just smashed his food and played with it on his high chair. He seemed to enjoy the sensory play, but he also gagged and spat out a lot. So, I often wondered how much really went into his tummy. He gained a little weight, though, and reached the normal growth when he was nine months old.

Eventually, he developed into a picky eater, still loving his milk (we used Holle goat milk after he was one year of age). He preferred fruit and rice puffs to meat and veggies. I soon noticed when he was allowed to help prepare the food, he seemed hungrier and more eager to eat. Specifically, he liked to bake brownies, cookies, and cake. Although it was quite messy, I baked with my toddler whenever I got a chance. We used the floor to have a large space where he couldn’t fall or drop anything (no worries, I cleaned thoroughly before and after!). I remember the fun he had when he baked a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake with a mold I had found at ALDI’s. For Christmas, we build a gingerbread house every year, which is my German family’s tradition. He can hardly wait to pluck the candy off it!

Montessori Education: Child-Centered with Freedom of Choice

Although it was quite expensive, I chose Montessori education for my son. When he was 18 months old, he joined Amare Montessori. The children had “directresses” (you don’t call them “teachers” in Montessori language) who helped him help himself. That means he dressed himself proudly (and sometimes came home wearing his pants back to the front and his shoes on the wrong feet), harvested his own tomatoes, and prepared his own salad. The children flourish in a prepared environment with child-sized shelves full of beautiful Montessori materials they could choose from freely to satisfy their inner teacher. They also had a big garden to grow flowers and vegetables, with outdoor musical instruments hanging on a wooden fence, sticks for building tents, and mud kitchens.

Being outside in nature is emphasized strongly in Montessori education. Some kindergartens even have animals, so the children learn to care for them and cherish them (my son got to experience and to feed his aunt’s chickens). His little tasks were called “work.: Every day I received a short, written report with successes like, “he did the banana cutting work today,” or “he did the orange peeling work.” One day, I read, chuckling, “Leander painted a lot today, including himself.” That was true! I had a “Blue Boy” like the one from Picasso when I went to pick him up. He became very self-efficient as a consequence of this educational philosophy. However, the downside turned out to be that he doesn’t like my explaining and showing things to him; he wants to explore them by himself and doesn’t listen. We are still working on “following directions.”  

Since I had become widowed unexpectedly during the year I was pregnant after our IVF journey, I needed a nanny to have support with my baby while I was working full time. Luckily, I found a great nanny through care.com, who was on board with me to raise Leander the Montessori Way. Her husband helped me build a Montessori house bed for my son, and I got a Pikler triangle, arch, and ramp from Etsy. Initially behind with gross and fine motor skills and needing Early Intervention, my son developed into a fast, sportive, strong boy who loves hiking through the forest and going swimming.

Outdoor Activities for Extremely Active Toddlers

This leads me to the next point—what to do with overactive, never tired toddlers, who seem to have everlasting energy? This is one tired mommy!! (Well, I have as excuse that I am “AMA,” or “advanced maternal age” or a “geriatric mom,” meaning a mommy over 35.) My son is now high maintenance, as he needs constant entertainment. When we are inside, we often play the piano, as I educate my son with classical music (his late daddy was a professional pianist and composer). He also loves to build with LEGOs and Duplos and to create elaborate race tracks for his battery-powered cars.

As nice as it is to play indoors with playdough, clay, marble runs, etc., he cannot stay cooped up for long. He gets cabin fever. I am a little hyperactive myself. The best thing for us is to get out of our four walls, breathe fresh air, run around on a green meadow, and play in the park. We are lucky to have great parks in our neighborhood. One has awesome climbing animals to explore with children, as well as a training parcours (developed for seniors, but enjoyed by the kids of the area) with lots of exercisers like a huge outdoor gym. We spent many summer afternoons there with grandma.  

One of the highlights for my son is the animal park, where he gets to pet and feed alpacas, deer, goats, sheep, and watch otters, porcupines, seagulls, owls, and plenty of other animals. There are vending machines for pelleted animal food, because the visitors are not allowed to bring their own food. My son has lots of fun letting the goats and sheep eat the pellets of his hand. There are educational boards everywhere that talk about the animals, what they eat, how they live, what sounds they make, and other curiosities. When it gets too much for my son, he enjoys the big playground with the tire swings and the climbing tower.  

We also have a zoo close by, where Leander got to admire pelicans, deer pigs, elephants, a brown bear, macaws, penguins, seals, etc. At home, we read up on those animals and answer his questions. We also watch them on YouTube, so he can learn more about them.

Bilingual Education

My son was born in Clarksville, TN. We moved to Germany in 2020 due to the pandemic, to be close to my relatives. If you are a mixed family like ours, use this wonderful opportunity to raise your child bilingually. It will be beneficial to him/her in school and later in the job market. My son speaks German and English, and for an almost four-year-old, he has a great vocabulary and sentence structure. I spoke German to him from the beginning, and his nanny and the directresses and kids in kindergarten spoke English, of course.

Additionally, we read a lot of books together. Reading to your child is so important! Every evening, he goes to bed with one German and one English book. His favorite books at the moment are those that deal with hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, or the solar system, and he also likes The Pout-Pout Fish series, Der Grüffelo (The Gruffalo), Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen (Where the Wild Things Are), Der Tag, an dem Louis gefressen wurde (The Day Louis Got Eaten), and Peter und der Wolf (Peter and the Wolf). Grandma speaks only German. We Skyped with her almost daily, so he got used to talking to her in German even before he met her in person. He grows up with songs and games in both languages. If you feel inclined to learn German from a toddler, check Leander out saying, “Stoffel stolpert über einen Stein.” That’s a tongue twister. Good luck!!!