This fall I'm teaching a preschool class at our homeschool co-op. When I volunteered for this class I had fond notions of eight cute little faces gathering around to listen to me read classic favorite storybooks about Curious George and Peter Rabbit and Little Bear. What I hadn't taken into account is that the preschool class includes both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds... and some of those 3-year-olds are very young 3-year-olds. Which means their attention spans are pretty much nil.
The class has turned out to be more of a challenge than I anticipated, but like a grandma, I just have them for an hour, and then they go home with their mommies. I'm enjoying coming up with a wide variety of learning activities for the class, gleaning some age-appropriate developmental activities from our Fiction, Fairy Tales and Fun Parent's Companion. I never know what will go over well, and what won't. I'm also finding that it varies day-to-day, definitely keeping me on my toes!
This experience reminds me of a question homeschool mothers often ask me: "What can I do with my toddler while I'm trying to teach the school-age children?"
My favorite response: "School in a bag!"
You'll need a nice sturdy box (the kind that copier paper comes in is a great size) and several gallon-size zipper bags. Fill each bag with materials for one activity, and then put your bags in the box. Save this box only for during "school time."
Some of my favorite ideas:
- A handful of pipe cleaners and some chunky beads or buttons… or if your little one still has a tendency to put things in his mouth, provide a handful of Cheerios or Fruit Loops!
- A small cookie sheet with some alphabet or picture magnets
- Touch-and-feel or lift-the-flap books
- Preschool-style jigsaw puzzles
- Inexpensive stickers from the dollar store or just colored dots from an office supply store and a spiral notebook to stick them in.
- Play-dough (It's easy to make your own!)
- Blunt scissors with scraps of construction paper
- Extra-large crayons with a coloring sheet
The possibilities are endless. You'll probably want to add new bags from time-to-time, and "retire" some for awhile to bring out again later.
Plop the Little Guy in his high chair with the tray and give him the contents of one bag to play with while you sit at the table and teach your older children. (Note: Take the activity out of the plastic bag before you give it to your child. The bags are just for storage, not to play with.) The high chair helps restrain him and gives him a nice play surface. When he gets bored trade bags with him. If he has a tendency to go through them too fast, set a timer for whatever length of time seems reasonable to you and tell him he gets to trade when the timer goes off. You should have enough bags in your box to keep him occupied for an hour or so by rotating bags with him.
Have fun with your sweet little one! These years go by very fast!
Enjoying the adventure,