We’ve been seeing them for a month now: back-to-school pictures, back-to-school sales, back-to-school supplies and so on. But if you have a little one at home, “back-to-school” might not look like an August commercial. What can you do with those toddlers who get left behind when the older kids go to school (especially if you don’t have the money or desire to put them in preschool)? Here are five ways to keep them learning without the classroom.
Consider an alternative preschool.
Talk with other parents in your area or look through local resources. You can usually find a preschool atmosphere that relies more on parent involvement. Some models have one teacher but ask parents to come with their children and help lead activities. Other preschool co-ops ask parents to help plan and run the program. Either scenario gives your child a chance to experience a school-like atmosphere while you still get to hang out and interact with your kid.
Don’t discount non-academic classes.
It’s easy to focus on ABC’s and 123’s when thinking of school readiness but don’t assume that other classes won’t help prepare you little one. Classes like dance, sports, art, and music appreciation introduce creativity, learning through doing, and a wide foundation of experiences. In addition, children can practice interacting in a group setting, listening to an instructor, and following directions. Oftentimes, teachers find these skills more helpful than knowledge of the alphabet or math. Perhaps, in the meantime, they will inspire a future Van Gogh or Baryshnikov.
Get involved in your community.
Many community host a variety of educational opportunities for the whole family. Libraries frequently have reading programs for various ages once a week. Your fair house might host a Fire Safety Program. The local hardware store can have a weekly or month building project for kids. Like non-academic classes, these things can broaden horizons and give valuable experience.
Take advantage of everyday life.
Your regular day is filled with information! You can talk about color while sorting the wash. Make groups and patterns with a meal. Count toys as you put them away. Find the learning in what you and your side kick are already doing together. You can create extra moments with books and toys that encourage exploration.
Don’t be afraid of technology.
Your preschooler and technology don’t necessarily mix on a full-time basis but there are many programs, websites, and apps that can excite a younger child into loving to learn. You can take advantage of their excitement over using the machine and use it to help instill a love of learning. There are plenty of programs that hit the letters and numbers but also many that can tap into your child’s other interests like animals or history.
Whatever path you take, those early year are much more about exploration and discovery than the kindergarten basics. Do those things that not only enhance your child’s enthusiasm to learn and your own enjoyment of your time together.