Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Indoor Preschool Activities

We are in serious need of some indoor preschool type activities in our house.  Being in Texas, we have to beat the heat and find ways to enjoy the indoors!  Plus my toddler-turned-preschooler is out of school and I want her to have some fun, but educational type, stimulating activities.  It's been hard balancing play time with educational playtime.

And just a little side note about play and learning.  As a Play Therapist, I believe big time that children learn best through play.  In fact, when I was in college as a Child Development major, the main belief in our field was that preschool children learn best through play in school, not necessarily pushing the ABC's and 123's.  But the School of Early Childhood Education on the other hand, believed in pushing letters and numbers at an early age, and did not emphasize play as much as the Child Development school did.  Not that there is anything wrong with one vs. the other school of thought, I am just more of a play based girl and lean more towards that side.

But with that being said, now that I am a parent I can understand wanting your child to know her numbers and letters!  Who wants their 4 year old not to know what the letter 'A' is, right?  I am big in my child learning through playing and expressing herself in art and imaginative play, but it has been challenging to balance both play and wanting her to know her letters and 123's.

So I have come to terms with letting my child have free play and encouraging self expression with a few educational lessons here and there. So to refresh my preschooler's knowledge of colors, numbers and letters, and constructive play, here are a few ideas I have found:

1) Busy Bags! 

My playgroup friends had an idea a few months ago, to make 13 busy bags of 1 activity and then pass them out to each other, so we all 13 different bags of fun activities.  If you haven't heard of busy bags, 'google' it and you will see a ton of ideas pop up!  I store all of mine in a special bin, so she knows right where they are.

The one I made for our group was a Color Sorter.  I made it from a Pringles can to color sort and also teach fine motor skills.
-All you do is empty out a long Pringles can, then punch holes in the lid.
-I bought some hole-reinforcement stickers and placed over each hole.  Then color with a marker each sticker a different color and put over each hole
-Then purchase some colored pipe cleaners in primary colors
Voila!  Now all you do is have your child pick a color of pipe cleaner, and then match it to the colored hole and push it through.  Then you store the pipe cleaners inside the tube when not in use.
I also covered the can with paper so your child can decorate it.  Awesome activity that you can also take on the road!

Other Busy Bag ideas:
This blog has some cute ones, check out these examples from it:
Color Wheel

Shape sorting. I used 5 plastic cups and stuck a shape (circle, square, triangle, star, heart) onto each cup. Cruz's job is to sort through all the shapes and put them into its correct cup.

This blog also has some great ideas on it (wish I could come up with these on my own!):
Lacing Cards:

2) Letter Fun!  Another way to foster learning letters through play is doing art for each letter. I found this 'Letter of the Week' activity online, but was thinking we could do this every weekday for the summer.  Maybe I'm being optimistic here in doing one each day, but it seems like fun!

3) Math Ideas!  So from letters onto number learning.  Okay, so not to push addition too soon, but still to get used to the counting idea, this is a fun way to teach your preschooler math ideas!  It looks crazy, but basically you are showing them a flashcard (which they totally should NOT be able to do yet, just a visual tool), and then you show them how to count with the pegs and then to choose the number card above to show what it looks like.  Very Sesame Street basics!

This blog also has a few other math teaching ideas!

And this activity is a great math busy bag idea:

4) Baking and Cooking!  We've been baking and cooking which is a great way to teach following directions, math skills and science too!  Getting out the measuring cups to measure flour, sugar, water, etc. is awesome at showing measurements.  Also using the Tablespoons and teaspoons to show amounts as well.  I go through each recipe part, step by step to show my child how to follow directions, and then watch things like muffins rise in the oven to show science skills. 

So there you have it!  Some great summer fun activities to do indoors, and to make learning fun!  But keep up the imaginative and expressive play.   

I have allowed ourselves (baby included) to stay home some days and not feel I have to go somewhere with my little ones, like the zoo, park, jump houses, etc.  Some days are good to just lay in our pj's and have free play all day and not feel we have to rush somewhere, or that I am not entertaining my child enough.  Don't feel like you have to have an activity planned every day, just go with the flow and let your child play.  Although I know as a parent you need to get out of the house, sometimes it's nice to stay in all day in your pj's, and just go with the flow!