I hear about parents of preschoolers that are ready to start homeschooling, and while I don’t think rigid learning is necessary at the sweet age of three years old, I do believe there are some important things to do with preschoolers to give them a head start.
My oldest daughter was an only child for three and a half years, so we had a lot of time together to play and learn. My next three children joined our family over the course of the next three and a half years, and obviously I was swamped in feeding, changing, and rocking babies. There was a lot less intentional play to learn and a lot more effort in surviving each day. These were great days of living with the blessings of new babies, and I would never give that up. But they were very different and more difficult than the first few years that I had with my first daughter.
Here is what my first daughter’s preschool years looked like. We played board games that taught colors and counting. We did puzzles together. We visited the library for story time and for choosing books to bring home. We read a lot of picture books. We went skating together down the street and stopped (every three steps) to look at a neat flower or rock. We watched PBS together. We drew pictures and “wrote letters” to grandparents. We went to VBS and church.
I didn’t have the same opportunity with the others, but you know what? They turned out fine too 🙂 They didn’t have the same head start. They didn’t read quite as quickly. But they did get it. They amaze me every day with the stuff that they know that I didn’t have time to teach.
I say all this to say that if you do indeed have the opportunity, by all means, engage your preschooler in playful learning. Let him or her decide the direction. Make your home or his play area an atmosphere that causes him to want to explore and learn. Be available to him when he has questions or wants to play Go Fish over and over or for bedtime stories. These are some great ways to give your preschooler a great head start.
And if you don’t have the opportunity, know that your child will be fine with the limited bit that you can provide. Just give them a loving atmosphere, and be patient. I’ve been there. It still works. Actually, my kids that started later are actually picking things up faster than the early starters! So take a deep breath, do what you can do, and know that God will bless those efforts. You will see the fruit in due time.