Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Really your child could spend a lot of time playing and still be fine. For those of you who have PRE-K STUDENTS (ages 4 ½ -5) who want to do some actual school work, there are some specific things you could do – especially for those kids looking to enter kindergarten in the fall. Don’t stress, just remember that for this age group reading is language development, writing is just tracing or copying letters and math is counting, sorting and classifying things. Do this IN THE CONTEXT OF EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES...and they’ll be just fine! After all, this is the core of what Montessori is about.
1. Explore Spring topics. Get on the internet and explore all the amazing sites that would cover fun things to do with your child around the theme of spring – this is their cultural work that we would be doing in the classroom: gardens, chicks, frogs, seeds, life cycles, leaves, flowers, trees. Keep it practical and based on the real world: plant a garden, sprout some seeds (I’ll have a video on this soon), go tadpole hunting, do rubbings of leaves or press the gorgeous wildflowers that are appearing everywhere. Go on nature walks (6 feet apart of course) and collect things they can make collages with.
2. Make a scrapbook of the things they are learning – let them glue things in it, draw pictures, and practice making sentences telling about things they are learning (they talk and you write it down)
3. Write a Journal. Your 4 year old was in the process of daily journalling – continue to do this. The way we do it at school is in a book (whatever you have – or swing by the school and pick your child’s up) the child would draw a picture, then tell a sentence about their picture. Now get a HIGHLIGHTER and write your child’s sentence as neatly and correctly as you can. Your child can trace your writing: his/her words, your writing, practice practice practice!
4. Read to them! I cannot emphasize this too much. Your child’s language development and reading development will come from how much they are read to. This is where they MAKE THE CONNECTION between oral language and print so if this is all you do, then it is a big thing to do!
5. Count things! The most important fundamental work in math at this age is counting and number recognition. This work is just lots of practice so the skills emerge.
Here’s a fun Easter activity: get some of those plastic eggs – I’m sure you have them laying around right now – you’ll need 10. On each egg, using a sharpie write a number from 0-9. On the first egg 0, on the second egg 1, on the third egg 2 etc. up to 9. Don’t go past 9. Now fill each egg with that number of jelly beans. You child can break them apart, and count them back into each egg.
Here’s another fun game: get a basket and fill it with plastic eggs. Now get another basket – smaller maybe – that is empty. Now, your child comes to you with the empty basket and you say, “can you bring me ___eggs?” They go to the big basket of eggs (that is somewhere else in your house) and count your number into their basket and they bring it to you. Now carefully, together, count the eggs. Did they get the correct number? If not that's OK and you will know they have to keep practicing. If they got the correct number, say “yay! You brought me ___eggs!!” The trick to this game is to not tell your child they “got it wrong”. Just tell them how many they brought you – and leave it at that. Try a smaller number if this happens. Stay with numbers up to 10 unless you know you child can count smoothly to bigger than 10 numbers. Some 4 year olds will love to bring you larger numbers, say teen numbers like 15 or 13. This is a fun game that the children love to play that REINFORCES an important concept – ONE TO ONE CORRESPONDENCE COUNTING.
One more great activity you can set up for your child and that is laying out numbers from one to ten. We call this the NUMBER MYSTERY GAME. You’ll need 45 small alike items – eggs, flowers, small toys, leaves - anything you have a large quantity of. Now cut some small pieces of paper into small rectangles and on each one write a number between 0-9. Fold each one up and place them into a bag, a purse or a basket. The object is to pull a number out of the bag, read it and then lay it on the table and count out the number in objects (in a row under the number). Keep doing this until all the numbers are laid on the table with the correct amount of objects under them – two kids or you and your child can take turns doing this too. Your child would need to be able to recognize the numerals before playing this game.
Sort and classify things. Give them a basket of all kinds of things and ask them to sort them if they are alike of different, the same color, the same shapes – whatever.
6. Here is a great website the Dept of Education put out to help parents with resources for tewxhing their child at home:
This is well put together and can supplement whatever you are doing with your child. They are modules for 4 weeks that cover a variety of topics that would appeal to a 4 ½ or 5 year old. This could be a large part of their “school work” for spring. Here are some notes:
Week 1: rabbits, plants, life cycles, spring. These are all things we would have covered in April at Foundations – so go ahead and do the activities, although you could skip Space unless you child is really interested in space – we covered that in January.
Week 2: Bears, Rocks and Minerals – we covered this in February – trash and re cycling, roosters, hens and chicks. These are all great – especially the chicks unit. I am going to be videoing the hatching of our chicks which we were going to do in school but now its at my home.
Week 3: Ladybugs, caterpillar to butterfly, what is rain?, Kids can help – these are all great for spring.
Week 4: Oceans, hand washing, gravity, penguins and kindness. Gravity and penguins are not so applicable but still might be fun. Oceans was going to happen in May. Hand washing is always applicable, right?
7. Apps and TV: As most of you know I am not a fan of either TV or screens, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I am willing to walk down this path with you for the sake of your sanity and giving some support. I guess the rule of thumb regarding apps is 1. not too much per day 2. make sure you know what your child is playing. If you keep it under control it would be fine to supplement their learning with educational apps in these exceptional circumstances.
There is actually some research that shows educational Apps and TV shows like Sesame Street do help with school readiness. So if you want to think of educational apps as their academic preparation for kindergarten, then they would have some small benefit if played in conjunction with the time you can spend with your child doing the things in 1-6. If you follow my “schedule” from the previous blog posts, you could spend time in the mornings doing things together, exploring and playing. Then in that “quiet time” after lunch when little ones are napping, or you need to get some work done, use that down time to play some academic games or watch some educational shows. Then after an hour or so of that – go back outside to play! This way the real life activities and the virtual activities are in balance.
So with that caveat in mind, let me share a few of my favorites:
1. Shiny Things. They have loads of fun games that are great for this age group. Shiny Party, Shiny Picnic and a Math Jr that will go a long way towards math skills.
2. Montessori Crosswords. I love this for emerging readers – they use Montessori concepts like short vowels, sounds first, lower case letters and a move-able alphabet that looks like the one in their classroom!
3. Monkey Preschool has lots of apps that are games designed for preschoolers that cover many different topics and skills.
4. Little Writer by Kinder town is a great letter writing app that most 4 years will just love. Of course, you could just do the same thing with paper and a highlighter.
5. Alphabet Zoo a great app for letters and sounds based on animals. This would be quite engaging for those animal-loving preschoolers! Great Zoology too!
I guess the take away I want you to get from this post is not that you should stress about their academic work because there are so many supports out there for you. Remember to have fun exploring the world, put any academics into the context of your day to day life, learn alongside your child rather than just giving him/her the screen, and have fun. Mrs Jo