Ok, so this blog post is VERY different from my normal content. During this shelter in place, schools all across the country are closed and teachers are trying to teach from home, do remote learning, and children are stuck at home while parents try to help home school them. I have talked to several friends and I know a lot of families with kids at home have been hard. I know some schools are doing a lot online for their students, trying to keep their students active and learning online and teachers and parents are trying to do as much as they can to help their kids and students. it is hard for many of us right now… I get it!
This topic hits home for me. I am a Montessori ore school teacher and teach children 2-5 years old. Online teaching is hard for teachers and students right now especially when so much of teaching is so personal connection. The connection makes a big difference to be in person instead of distance learning or teaching. Add in really young students and it has been hard. A lot of our students do not have the attention span to sit online and watch us try to teach them and a lot of parents are still working from home and struggling to help their child get online and learn. We have been trying to be creative, try and do a lot more personal calls, FaceTime, and group zoom calls, dance parties, sing-alongs, reading stories out loud, playing games and even cooking live with the children. Being a teacher, growing up with my mom as a teacher, I always respected teachers and realized how much work teaching truly is. Now throw in-home learning…it’s not only been hard but a ton of work.
I have received so many questions about if I could share some activities we are doing with our students so I thought I would share some ideas, materials and hopefully give some help to parents who may be looking for some extra help, extra activities and also try to share some ideas for other teachers who are struggling to help their younger students. These are just a few activities and ideas. If you have more please leave them down in the comments.
What’s important to remember is we all can only do the best we can right now given the circumstances. The home is supposed to be a safe place where children are allowed to be kids and spend time with family. So please just do the best you can and not stress too much over how much your child is learning or if they are spending all day “playing”. Use this time to allow them to spend time with family, be creative in their play, learn life skills like love and respect for themselves and others, practice patience, learning how to deal with being told “no”, and go back to basics…having dinner at home as a family, family movie nights, using this time to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life safe at home with their family.
It is important to remember to so the best you can and turn this whole situation into a positive one. Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest. Being a teacher we know that we can put out all of this material, send projects home, do live zooms and activities, read books and bake with them. Each family will take, use and consume what works for them. No matter how much you choose to participate or consume, that is up to you. But we will continue to keep doing it! Being a teacher we will continue to be there for the families, the children, and doing everything we can to continue to bring education and love to the children and their families.
We are sending packets home once a week. We find that by doing this the children have a week’s worth of activities to do at home. We send art, math, Montessori job materials, painting supplies, coloring pages, writing jobs, tracing projects, glue sticks, workbooks, coloring books, ingredients to bake with us, snacks or other treats. We are sending as much home as we possibly can so the child can physically have things to do at home. Each week they get a new packet with more goodies and work inside. Once a week we also do a scavenger hunt with them. We send out a list of the items for them to find for that week. We have a private Facebook page where we share not only videos and Facebook lives, post links to fun things we find, stories times with authors or celebrities, links to watch Disneyland fireworks, games, at-home science projects….its space where the teachers and parents can stay connected, share pictures and articles and continue on, as a community. We are a small private school with only 23 students so it is a very family-like, close community we have. As much as we miss seeing the parents and students and being at school with them, we have to focus on what we can control and do the best we can under these circumstances.
I will first share some tips, then I will share more at-home activities and projects that you can do at home.
Tips for At Home Learning Success
- Make a section of the house for your child that can be their learning station. If it is a small space in their room, the living room in a tent or on a bench in the kitchen…a space that is their own that has school supplies, coloring, workbooks, activity books, coloring books it will make them more likely want to want to do their work on their own without forcing them to
- Turn everything into a learning experience. Making dinner you can have them count out the ingredients, help collect the ingredients or sort the different shapes of pasta. Makeup stories while you cook, use your imagination, or teach them how to read a recipe.
- Don’t force it. They get tired too. If they are happily playing with their toys, don’t force them to do something else. Playing with toys is not a bad thing. They are using their imagination, problem-solving if with their siblings, learning to build, stack, and just be creative.
- Set a schedule and help them create a new “normal” routine. Children usually work better when they know what to expect and have a schedule to follow. Try to set something that works for you and try to stick to it. Maybe every day from 10-11 they have free play time but at 11-12 its time to pick a school activity until lunchtime.
- Don’t put all toys or materials out all at once. Maybe put some books or toys away, and switch them out. It will keep the children interested and feel like they have something new and different. Similar to what we do with the weekly packets. When items seem new they will be fun and interesting.
- Use this time to spend time with your kids and family. I think it is important to remember that this is an opportunity to spend more time with the people close to us that we don’t normally get to spend so much time with.
Here are a few different ideas for how to make puzzles more interesting. Try taking the pieces from two different puzzles and mix them together to see if they can put both puzzles together. Another way to make puzzles different is to put the pieces in a box of rice or sand and have them have to find the pieces first.
Reading is so important to do with your child. It helps with language and vocabulary. So Read, Read, Read! Ask your child questions after you read the story…What was the name of the girl? What was she wearing? Why was the bird so mad? Ask them questions about what you just read and see how much they can remember. Asking these questions is great for memory recall and helping them to pay attention to what is going on in the book.
Our kids at school love all of the Froggy books linked HERE.
I know a lot of people feel bad for having their kids watch so much TV or movies and screen time right now. If they are watching movies or tv, ask them questions too about what they watched. Ask questions about the storyline, characters, what they were wearing, and doing. Again helps with memory recall and paying attention and gives them something to think about while they are watching.
Get your kids moving! Turn on some music and dance with them. If you search kids movement songs on youtube they have a whole bunch of head and shoulders dances, educational dances, and fun sing-along songs. Or blast Taylor Swift and just get moving! We love to search for preschool movement songs on youtube and see what the kids enjoy, there are so many choices!
Letter of the Day and/or Color of the Day
This is something fun to do daily. Pick a letter of the day. Go over the letter and what sound it makes and what items start with that letter. Have your child go around the house and find everything that they can that starts with that letter. Have them draw items or print out coloring sheets for the items that start with that letter or color.
I will attach copies of some we have done. We do this once a week and will always include a color, a letter, and a book.
Playing with ice is such a fun activity for kids. Show how ice freezes, put water in the freezer, and check back the next day. Put items or toys inside ice cube trays with water and freeze it. Then have the child try to get their toy back out.
Also, use your 5 senses. Put some items in a bag and blindfold them and have them try and feel what the items are. Blindfold them and try different foods and guess what it is. Use your taste buds and try different foods and see if it is sour, sweet, spicy.
Another idea is to gather several items and see if they will sink or float.
HERE is a link to a list of some easy at-home science projects we found
Plant flowers, grow veggies or fruit and have them help water, cut dead leaves and take care of the plants and watch them grow.
Virtually watch events and Go on tours
You can virtually go to museums, zoos, and even virtually ride Disneyland and DisneyWorld rides.
Here is a list of links to some places doing these types of activites.
- Cincinnati Zoo Facebook Live (3 pm daily)…meet a new animal
- Mo Willems Lunch Doodles…livestream Mo’s drawing lessons (1pm weekdays)
Activities and Lessons
- Scholastic Learn at Home
- Mystery Science
- Fluency and Fitness (free for 60 days, grades K-2)
- Colonial Williamsburg
- Magic Tree House Book Lessons and activities
- Scholastic’s YouTube Channel…watch book videos!
- Indiana Public Library…100+ free read aloud stories
- Quizizz free educational quizzes kids can do independently. Feels like a game show:)
Virtual Field Trips
- San Diego Zoo
- Yellowstone National Park
- Virtual Farm Tours (around Canada)
- US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL
- Polar Bears and the Tundra
- STEM Career in robotics, Tennessee Factory
- The Louvre Museum, Paris, France
- The Great Wall of China
- Boston Children’s Museum
- The British Museum
- The Guggenheim Museum, NYC
- National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (2 exhibits)
- Google Earth (you can even explore the moon)
- Details on how to do a moon virtual field trip from home.
- Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France
- Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany
- Riljksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
- J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
- Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
- Museum of Art, San Paolo, Brazil
- National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
- Museum of Modern Art, NYC
- The Metropolitan Museum, NYC
- ALL the Google Arts and Culture Museum Tours
- ALL the Google Museum Street Views
- Google Open Heritage…explore 3D famous worldwide cultural sites
- VR Tour of the White House
- Google Maps…click street view to look around as if you are walking on the street
Coloring pages and workbooks
Coloring is a great activity to help with imagination as well as the skills and strength for writing.
Some links to some fun online coloring pages and worksheets
We have many differnt coloring /writing items available to the children in the classroom. We offer crayons, colored pencils and markers. We encourage the children to use crayons and colored pencils because it requires the children to deveolp grip strength as well as the strength to push on the crayon or colored pencil to make the color. We use markers on special occasions because we would like the children to work on developing those other skills that the markers don’t develop. The ink flows freely onto the paper without requiring the strength to push down and make the color show up. There is absolutly nothing wrong with coloring with markers but we try to develop those other skills without the children realizing that is what they are doing.
Draw a Picture and Tell a Story
If they are old enough have them write a story about what they drew. They can also make a book and turn their coloring pages and stories into actual books. If your child isn’t old enough to write the story you can still have them tell you the story and you can listen or write the story for them.
Send Some Mail
Send a letter, postcard, or art project to family or friends. Tell them about stamps and mail and maybe they can even get some physical mail too. Maybe even start doing a PenPal letters with a classmate, cousin or family member and they can send pictures or letters to each other. This is a great way to put a smile on a loved ones face who you may not be able to visit because of the current social distancing situation.
Pouring and spooning
Have them practice pouring buttons, pasta, beads back and forth in a cup, use a spoon to spoon objects back and forth. This helps with hand-eye coordination, concentration, and crossing their midline. Even try it with water or other liquids. Change up the items that they are pouring or spooning to keep their attention. This is a classic Montessori Job in our classroom.
Use an ice cube tray or muffin tin and put items (buttons, beads, small animals, cars ect.) in each tray. Have them count as they put each item in the tray, match colors, work on their one to one counting. Have them try to count in different languages too if they can or count backward.
Another way to work on math is take a piece of paper with the numbers on it and they have to put that amount of objects in each box
Click here for the 0-9 number box we made.
Baking and Cooking
Bake and cook with them. Decorate cookies, try a healthy recipe, get them involved! Have them decorate cookies in different shapes and go over shapes letters, colors and sizes. All of these can be a way to incorporate learning into cooking. The children will be learning about shapes, numbers, colors or sized without knowing that you are having them do that. They will just think they are baking, decorating and eating cookies.
Practice writing and tracing
I have created a downloadable and printable file with our letting tracing writing practice below with a page for each letter.
Have them practice cutting on straight lines, curved lines, and zig-zags.
HERE are some kid scissors that we use at the preschool.
If your child is older and can write free hand, have them practice writing their first name, last name, have them write their numbers and letters. (upper case and lowercase). After they have mastered their name you can have them practice family members names.
Books on tape
Have your child listen to books on tape or cd. They can turn the page and listen to stories on their own without needing someone to read to them.
Matching and sorting
Give them buttons, pasta, cereal, pretzels, etc and mix them up and have them sort them. Cut out pieces of fabric and have them match the fabric. Sort all of the big objects, small objects ect.
Painting with watercolors or finger paint is a great way to keep kids entertained for a while but painting objects such as birdhouses, picture frames, animals, jewelry boxes ect. It is great to paint 3D objects rather than just flat paper because it takes different muscles and looking things differently to paint these types of objects
Have your child decorate the sidewalk, put happy pictures and messages for friends or neighbors.
Show That You Care
Leave thank you notes for delivery people, hang artwork in the window, put words of encouragement in the window…share some love from your house to others. You never know who may see it and how much someone might have needed that little letter, sign or thank you!
Most importantly, SPEND TIME AS FAMILY!
These times are hard, scary, and unknown…same for your children. The more we can surround them with love, some sort of a normal routine and not stress so much about getting “school work in” helps them so much more than constantly arguing, forcing them to do something and everyone will be on edge and only add more stress.
Please remember to be kind and respectful to your student’s teachers. I know first hand how hard we are working and how much we are doing fo the children and parents. If you need one on one time with your child’s teacher, reach out and ask. I know we have offered one on one calls, FaceTime, one on one games to keep the child entertained, reading stores to them and we can (and have) gone to their house and just talked to a student, read them a book, sang them a song and just showed our face to them. The smiles on their faces and how happy they are to see us warm our hearts (and makes us a little sad too). Please know we are all doing the best we can, I love my students and the families and am doing everything I can.
What matters for everyone is knowing that love will help us all through this. Supporting your teachers, showing how much you care and appreciate them makes all the difference in the world.
Right now we can’t be together, but we are always here for you. We are just a phone call, text, email, or FaceTime call away.
We are all in this together and we will make it through this together!