There is nothing more calming to a child then having a more or less constant routine. Here is what I used to have as a day's worth of learning and fun when my little ones were too young for school. Some days they would be interested in these activities and other days we would have to be flexible and do something else.
The thing about these activities is they can be interspersed with normal daily activities like breakfast, washing hands times, etc. They help the day go by. There also has to be periods of free play where there is no "set activities planned" and at these times, I would set up about four books in a corner of the room and have different toys available, but if they wanted to sit and stare into the air, then they could - everyone needs downtime!
Here is a sample lesson plan I would have for my toddlers and young kids when they were at home:
On a piece of paper I would write the following headings - Math, Science/Nature, Manipulatives, and Music. (You can add more headings like DVD viewing times or a quiet music tape you buy for nap-time)
Put five squares under them like a calendar for five days, and fill them in with the activities you wish to do. The key is to be flexible, if one thing doesn't take off very well, skip to another thing. The idea is to have fun together. None of these actions should take more than ten minutes, unless the child just has fun doing the activity.
Here is my sample lesson plan for a weeks worth of each heading: You can buy lesson planning books at the teacher supply stores too.
- Stuffed Animals in a Barrel: Play or throw different sized stuffed animals in a barrel or basket. This is good at teaching the child where to keep them, too. In this activity, you look at each animal and feel of it and hug it and then put it in the basket. You can count, or you can just put them in the barrel. You can put in two at a time, three at a time, etc.
- Dominoes: Playing with dominoes is fun and this helps to see lots of things put into groups. There are little cardboard squares with dominoes on them..one square has one domino on it, another square has two dominoes on it, etc. This becomes a math puzzle of matching, You can use anything, like pop sticks or squares, anything that can be put on the little squares. Of course the lining up and knocking down of dominoes is a favorite of young and old alike.
- Clothespins and Empty Bottle: I like to have them fill up a bottle with clothespins, the kind that don't have a metal thing on them, the old fashioned kind. It is fun to have a plastic jar or some such jar or plastic container and see if you can drop the clothespins into the bottle. You can count as you do this or just do it to see how fast the container fills up.
- Blocks: You can make blocks out of boxes of things and tape them together. Just keep a lot of the smaller and medium size boxes handy. You can build, and then sort in a row from littlest to largest and back.. The child mainly watches and does not have to understand what is being done, if they tear up the boxes, good, it recycles them for the trash. If the child likes to tear up boxes, save them and that is one less chore you will have to do later. Of course, you can build with them too.
- Stacking Cups: These are fun to do, You can buy something to stack but I prefer to make my own or buy a couple of dollar stacks of cups from the dollar store...how fun to stack together and unstack...I would keep some aside just for stacking.
The theme here is leaves:
- Leaf pictures: you draw a leaf and you both color on it.
- Leaf rubbings: You take a rubbing of a leaf by putting it under a piece of paper and rubbing a crayon long ways on it.
- Leaf book: I would read a book on leaves from the library or make up a book on your own. This would be like a field trip to the library or you could already have checked it out or made your own leaf book.
- Throw Leaves in a Basket: This would be having a few leaves in a basket, that you are sure are not poison ivy, and picking them up and throwing them in the wind. This is usually a great hit!
- Leaf Puzzle: Take an old piece of paper or cardboard or posterboard and draw a big leaf shape on it, then cut it into different parts and put it back together.
These are the toys that work your child's fine muscles, such as Legos, Mr. Potato Head, etc. I would have the larger sized Legos the smaller the child is, sometimes the small ones are a choking hazard.
I would have time each day to work on:
- Lego type toys
- Sorting Crayons by Color
Any kind of toy or activity that requires them to sit down with their little hands and pick one thing up and then another will do. I like to make shapes out of board that is like greeting card paper, and then have them put like shapes together, this also counts as a math activity/art activity when it involves crayons.
I always had a video or some such tape that got played all the time, but it was themed around fun things like potty training, counting etc. There are so many good shows on now and there are music tapes you can make of soft music or buy that are good for nap-time, and pre-nap time readiness.
Most of these things can be made at home, making them even more frugal than ever!
By RobynFed from Tri-Cities, TN
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