Creating learning opportunities at home for 2-4-year-olds can serve one of two purposes: 1) replacing the traditional preschool experience, or 2) keeping the learning momentum going outside the classroom. Learning opportunities at home can satisfy both purposes when parents can create meaningful opportunities to learn at home.
It may seem like a daunting task if a parent does not have a child development background. However, creating these learning opportunities is as easy as having the materials, a little time, and some imagination! When brainstorming potential learning opportunities, it is worthwhile to ensure that these activities are targeting important skills. A few of these skills include:
The difference between this age group and the younger ones is that this group is capable of more complex thinking. Parents can help foster these thought processes by engaging their children in more mathematical and scientific learning opportunities. Parents can also provide more challenging language/literacy, art, and sensory opportunities. Due to this increased complexity in thought processes, it is ideal to spend ten to fifteen minutes engaged in an activity.
It is important to note that your child may shorten or lengthen this time, depending on the level of interest. You can always revisit the concept using a different approach. For example, one of my nephews does not enjoy practicing his writing skills while sitting at the table. He does much better lying on the floor or standing at the dry erase board. That is also another great thing about creating learning opportunities at home. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and you, as a parent, have control over which method works best for your child!
Here is a sample lesson plan you can use to help create learning opportunities at home for your 2-4-year-old!
Reading books: Spend ten to fifteen minutes with your child reading I Can Grow a Flower by DK publishers. As you read through the book, take some time to ask your child some W-questions (who, what, when, where, why) about the story.
Materials: I Can Grow a Flower by DK publishers
Flower spelling: Before this learning opportunity, write the letters of your child’s name on some Popsicle sticks and tape each one to an artificial flower. Help your child spell their name with the Popsicle stick flowers. This is also a great opportunity to work on letter recognition and their corresponding sounds.
Materials: Artificial flowers (enough to spell out your child’s name), masking tape, permanent marker, craft Popsicle sticks
Above/below/in/out: Introduce the concept of prepositions to your child by using an artificial flower and vase. For example, put the flower in the vase and talk about how the flower is “IN” the vase. Then take the flower out of the vase. Ask your child if the flower is now in or out of the vase to gauge their level of understanding. If your child has difficulty grasping a preposition, try using another one!
Materials: Artificial flower, vase
Flower sort: Help your child brainstorm how they would like to sort the flower stickers (i.e., color, size, type) then, with a few pieces of paper or a poster board, have your child use fine motor skills to remove the stickers and place them in groups on the paper. Once finished, count how many stickers are in each group. For an added challenge with older children, you can encourage them to write the number of stickers next to each grouping.
Materials: Various flower stickers, blank pieces of paper or poster board, pencil (optional)
Matching game: Create a matching game for your child using real-life images of flowers! Before this activity, you will want to perform a Google search and print the photos from a printer. Make sure there are duplicates of each image to play the game successfully. When ready, show your child how to play the game!
Materials: Real-life images of flowers
Patterns: Introduce your child to an ABAB pattern with the use of artificial flowers. Model what this means for your child using items other than flowers (such as eating utensils). Since they are working with flowers, it may be beneficial to identify them by color. Allow your child the opportunity to create an ABAB pattern and assist if needed.
Materials: 4 artificial flowers (2 of each kind)
Flower graph: Help your child use the data collected from the flower walk to create a bar graph. Using a poster board, write down the types of flowers that were found on the walk. Then explain what a bar graph is and help them create a bar graph to represent their data.
Materials: Poster board, markers, data from flower walk
Flower count: Before this activity, use a hot glue gun to attach artificial flower heads to Popsicle sticks then place them into a Styrofoam block. Encourage your child to manipulate the Popsicle sticks to remove them from the styrofoam block and, in the process, count them. This is also a perfect opportunity to review the concept of prepositions. For an added challenge with older children, number the Popsicle sticks and help your child line them up in numerical order.
Materials: Popsicle sticks, artificial flower heads, hot glue gun, styrofoam block
Tie-dye Flower: Assist your child in adding a drop of each color to the coffee filter and observe what happens. Once dry, encourage your child to practice fine motor skills while poking a small hole in the middle of the coffee filter using child safety scissors. Then have them place a pipe cleaner through the hole, and fold over the end of the pipe cleaner closest to the coffee filter to keep it in place.
Materials: Coffee filter, pipe cleaner, child safety scissors, food dye
Flower garden: Encourage your child to use their imagination while creating a flower garden using a variety of art materials. For this learning opportunity, let your child choose their supplies and assist if needed.
Materials: Child’s choice of art materials
Flowerpot art: Decorate a plastic flowerpot with the use of child-safe paint and a paintbrush. This is also a perfect opportunity to practice W-questions with your child.
Materials: Paintbrush, child-safe paint, plastic flowerpot
Paper plate flower: Help your child create a sunflower by using child safety scissors to make little snips on the rim of the plate. These will serve as the sunflower petals. Then use a paintbrush and yellow paint on the paper plate. Once the paint is dry, use glue and a second paintbrush to attach coffee beans (pretend sunflower seeds) to the plate’s center.
Materials: Large paper plate, child safety scissors, glue, 2 paintbrushes, yellow paint, coffee beans.
Flower crown: For this learning opportunity, you will first need to cut a strip of poster board that is long enough to fit around your child’s head. Posterboard is ideal because it is sturdy enough to support the weight of the flower heads. Once the poster board is cut to size, assist your child in creating their design using a hot glue gun and flower heads.
Materials: Poster board, artificial flower heads, hot glue gun
Coffee filter experiment: Before creating the tie-dye flower, encourage your child to make predictions about what might happen as the food color touches the coffee filter.
Sunflower life cycle: Use the I Can Grow a Flower book to discuss the life cycle of a sunflower. Spend ten minutes or so talk about the smaller details of growing a flower from start to finish. Check your child’s level of understanding by asking questions about what they see in the book.
Materials: I Can Grow a Flower by DK publishers
Growing a flower: Introduce your child to the experimentation process by growing a few flowers! First, brainstorm with your child about the ideal conditions to grow a flower and then help them set up an experiment to test those theories. For example, you could grow a flower by the window for natural light and in the basement with no light and observe what happens in a couple of weeks.
Materials: Small flowerpot, dirt, seeds
Parts of a flower: Encourage your child to use a magnifying glass to explore the different parts of a flower. Afterward, encourage your child to demonstrate their understanding by using pre-cut flower pieces to assemble a flower on paper.
Materials: Magnifying glass, flower, pre-cut flower pieces, a blank piece of paper, glue stick
Fresh flowers: Help your child make predictions about how much water will keep a flower fresher longer and then test those theories. For example, you could water one flower an appropriate amount, give one flower a drop of water and give one flower a lot of water to see what happens.
Materials: flowers, water
Garden sensory bin: Create a garden sensory bin and provide your child with opportunities to explore it. Spend some time asking your child what they are doing.
Materials: Small shallow bin, dirt, handheld shovel, child-size garden gloves
Seed sensory bin: Create a seed sensory bin and encourage your child to explore the seeds with little hands. Ask your child what the seeds feel and look like as they manipulate them.
Materials: Small, shallow bin, bulk package of seeds
Flower exploration: During the parts of a flower activity, spend some time talking to your child about how the parts of the flower feel, smell and look different from one another.
Flower hunt: Go on a flower hunt while taking a walk around the neighborhood. Be sure to keep a notepad and pencil handy to encourage your child to keep track of the flowers found along the way! That information will be used in a math activity.
Materials: Notepad, pencil
Child’s choice: Spend time talking about the previous explorations and ask your child which one was their favorite to explore again!
Materials: Sensory materials from a previous activity
Flower shop: Set up a pretend flower shop with your child and introduce them to the concept of purchasing goods with money.
Materials: Artificial flowers, toy cash register, play money
Planting a garden: Using the garden sensory bin, encourage your child to pretend to plant a beautiful garden using artificial flowers. You may need Styrofoam blocks to help feel the flowers standing upright.
Materials: Garden sensory bin, artificial flowers, Styrofoam blocks
Florist: Encourage your child to become a florist and make beautiful flower arrangements. This is also a perfect opportunity to ask your child some w-questions about what they are doing!
Materials: Artificial flowers, vase
Flower delivery: Encourage your child to become a flower delivery person and allow them to deliver flowers to different family members around the house.
Materials: Artificial flowers
Garden fairies: Using the flower crown completed during art time, encourage your child to transform into a garden fairy and help the bees pollinate the flowers!
Materials: Flower crown
As mentioned earlier, creating learning opportunities at home for 2-4-year-olds can support in-classroom learning or replace it. The typical school day begins and ends at a certain time. Being absent means missed learning opportunities. Learning at home can help bridge those gaps for those preschool-enrolled children. The beauty of creating activities at home is that parents have creative control over when they take place.
There is no standard schedule for in-home learning because it is so individualized. Furthermore, there is no need to feel pressured to implement any sort of preschool-like schedule because learning at home is vastly different from learning in the classroom. All you need is some supplies, take advantage of the time when you have it, and use your imagination!
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