If you’ve read any of my past posts, watched any of my videos, or have followed me for any amount of time, then you know I take a tricky stance on learning in the early years. On one hand, I come from an early childhood development and education background… and on the other, I am a homeschooling mom.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to examine the educational experiences I was setting up for my children, especially my toddler and preschool-aged babies. My 12-year-old is in the thicket of middle school and what comes with all that, but even still, he needs and good educational experience.
In this post, I want to shine a light on resources for learning in the early years. I will start with what is most commonly considered to be needed, and navigate to the lesser thought of, but more powerful (in my opinion).
I see this question A LOT: What kind of curriculum do I need for my 2 (or 3) year-old? Knowing what I know NOW, NONE! Yes, I have a toddler 2 and 3 curriculum lesson plan in my Free Resource Library but when you look at it, it is more about introducing and “teaching” natural concepts that are more life skills related.
In a nutshell, there is no need to spend any kind of money of a full-blown curriculum for your toddler, or even preschooler.
If given an option between curriculum and printables, I would definitely lean more towards printables. These are what I use for my children when they are wanting to color, practice with scissors, or if I want help with introducing a concept or topic.
They seem to love the idea (for now) of sitting at the table with their caddies and working aimlessly on what they “school”. I go with it because one, they initiated it, and two, they are learning.
There are tons of ways to get your hands of free (or inexpensive) printables for your young learners:
- My Free Resource Library (a Subscriber perk)
- My Shop
- Teachers Pay Teachers
- Facebook (groups like Homeschool Printables for Free)
Side note: When I speak of printables, I am also including familiar terms such as printable packs and unit studies. Some of us are homeschooling multiple children of varying ages and these “packs” and “unit studies” come in handy!
Visual Aids (TV Shows, Movies, Music, Games Etc.)
This is an area that is highly frowned upon, yet at the same time most often used in this day and age. Take this suggestion with a grain of salt and not me trying to implore that your little learner needs this in order to be smart. As for me and my home, we do allow TV time, game time, and music and movement.
None of our children have their own computers, tablets, phones, etc., but our oldest does have a Nintendo DS and access to a computer when needed for educational purposes. Things have been just fine because that’s all they know! Whatever you choose to do for your family is totally up to you. On the other hand, I would like offer some show, video, and music suggestions to consider:
- Netflix (Octonauts, Story Bots, The Magic School Bus, Deep, Titipo, and more!)
- YouTube (Sid the Science Kid, TreeSchool, Jack Hartmann)
- Music & Movement on YouTube: The Learning Station, Little Baby Bum, Have Fun Teaching, The Kiboomers)
- Games (anything with matching, sorting, stacking, etc.)
Before children are actually reading, they are still reading. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true. When young children pick up a book and look through it, their minds are processing a ton of information.
Having what I call a home library is one way to introduce your child to the earliest stages of reading and writing. They learn so much by looking at pictures and characters (that later become known as letters and numbers). They are practicing reading without even knowing that’s what it is! It’s even better if you are taking time to read to them as well.
Good children’s books for young learners should have:
- hard covers and thick pages
- lots of colors
- minimal words
- concrete concept/topic
- things to touch and point out
I’ve honestly rarely come across a children’s book that made me think, “Hhmm, well that’s not good.” And if you’re looking for a great place to start with building your home library, I highly recommend Usborne Books & More! (I can even help you get started, let’s chat!)
A VIDEO YOU MAY ENJOY: HOW TO LESSON PLAN USING USBORNE BOOKS
What child doesn’t like toys, am I right? Toys are a great way to naturally enhance a child’s learning, and the possibilities are endless. Some great advice I received from another homeschooling mom is that toys without noise allow children to use more of their imagination. She gave a sample story of how her 2 year-old played with some wooden toys for almost 20 minutes and what processes were taking place during that time. (Check out our chat about that here.)
I would have to agree that while noisy toys seem to be fun and full of learning, there is certainly something to be said about toys that allow children to think for themselves. Some toys to consider are:
- blocks (wooden, stacking, Lego-style, etc.)
- natural figurines (people, animals, etc.)
- dramatic play materials
And now for the less conventional…
I for one know what it’s like to grow up without having siblings close to my age. My two siblings (a brother and a sister) and I are each 7 years a part, so I had friends that I depended on more than anything. However, if you have children close in age, that can definitely be seen as a “resource” for your children learning.
Siblings learn from one another all day every day. My husband and I find ourselves saying, “Don’t teach your brother that!” or “Where did you learn THAT?” Most of the time the answer is from another sibling. These are also precious times of learning because it’s building memories and experiences they can look back on (and tell funny stories about)!
Home Life in General
So much learning takes place in the home without much effort. Most of the time this is overlooked by trying to create a structure that most of us are familiar with from our own childhoods packed with childcare from an outside source combined with public schooling.
Truth is, the home-front can be one of life’s biggest lessons. Children are constantly learning every day lessons through simple tasks such as:
- how to clean
- how to cook
- personal hygiene
- functional skills
These experiences should never overlooked, but embraced and enhanced upon. I used to deter my children from the kitchen when I cooked because let’s be honest, I just wanted to get it done and everyone fed. Now, I see the learning that takes place when we are gathered around the table and they are watching me cut vegetables, mix ingredients, and come out with a good meal.
They feel even better and more accomplished when they can participate – again, more learning!
This is what some homeschool methods are getting back to. Children living in, loving, and learning from the very nature around them. There are so many lessons to be learned from nature. It’s funny how attracted children are to it as well.
My 5 year-old daughter will refer to “sun up, sun down” when talking about the passing of a day. Using nature at its finest. Not to mention the activities that can be done in nature:
- nature walks
- picnics in the park
- leaf, rock, and stick collection
There are many resources that can be used to foster learning in the early years. The idea is to keep it natural, keep it fun, and let your children’s interests shine!
CHIME IN: What are your favorite go-to resources for learning in the early years? Let me know in the comments below!