Outdoor Activities for Preschoolers

In my previous blog post, I shared the benefits of the outdoor classroom. Now summer is here! Today I want to give you some ideas of things to do this summer. Go outside with your preschoolers. The ideas listed below are free or can be done with a limited budget.

Places to go:

  • Go to the beach, collect shells, sort them; don’t forget to bring along a bucket and shovel.
  • Go for a walk in your neighborhood and look for fire hydrants, or white cars, or certain flowers, or certain shapes.
  • Ride your bike.
  • Go to the playground with some friends.
  • Go to the forest and let the children lead; they will find all kind of interesting things.
  • Feed the ducks at the pond.
  • Go for a picnic in the park.

Get creative:

  • Paint rocks or a branch.
  • Make a bird feeder.
  • Make stick-men out of sticks you collected at a walk.
  • Make a bracelet out of sticky tape and stick flowers, leaves, etc., to it.
  • Paint outside using nature paint brushes.
  • Make home-made ice cream.

Explore outside:

  • Catch (lady) bugs; read a book about bugs.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Find shapes in the clouds.
  • Dig for worms.
  • Go strawberry or flower picking.
  • Build a fort.
  • Make mud pies.
  • Plant flowers (that attract butterflies), or plant veggies, or start with seeds.
  • Explore the weather, make a weather-vane, or a rain collector.

Games:

  • Play tag or any variant, like What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?
  • Play Hide and Seek, Simon Says, or I Spy.
  • Play with bubbles.
  • Roll or kick a ball.
  • Use sidewalk chalk to…
    • draw a hopscotch grid.
    • draw different colored shapes.
    • draw letters and numbers.
    • draw an obstacle course.

Play with water:

  • Run in the sprinkler.
  • Play in a blow-up pool.
  • Give each child a bottle with water (without lids) and kick them over with a ball.
  • Paint with water.
  • Draw with chalk, and wash it away with the hose.
  • Make a toy car / bike wash.

There are so many things to do. I hope you enjoy the outdoors this summer. Be blessed with all the benefits the outdoors brings to your family!

Benefits of the Outdoor Classroom

Here in the Netherlands two organizations worked together to promote going outside for learning by organizing an outdoor school day. They challenged schools to do at least one lesson outside on this day. We decided to join this special day with our homeschool, and we spent the whole day outside. In the morning, we went for a walk in the forest with three other homeschooling families. The afternoon we spend working and playing in our garden.

Both my children, but especially my son (three years old), love to play outside. My son often asks me, “Can I play in the garden now?” — even before breakfast or after dinner. I simply can’t say no to this. Being outside has so many benefits.

Today I want to share with you some of the benefits of playing and learning outdoors, particularly for preschoolers.

In the book Child Guidance, sister Ellen White shares with us:

  • “Next to the Bible, nature is to be our great lesson book,” Testimonies For The Church 6:185.
  • “To the little child, not yet capable of learning from the printed page or of being introduced to the routine of the schoolroom, nature presents an unfailing source of instruction and delight. The heart not yet hardened by contact with evil is quick to recognize the Presence that pervades all created things. The ear as yet undulled by the world’s clamor is attentive to the Voice that speaks through nature’s utterances. And for those of older years, needing continually its silent reminders of the spiritual and eternal, nature’s teaching will be no less a source of pleasure and of instruction,” Education, 100.
  • “The fields and hills — nature’s audience chamber — should be the schoolroom for little children. Her treasures should be their textbook. The lessons thus imprinted upon their minds will not be soon forgotten,” The Signs of the Times, December 6, 1877.

So, let’s use the outdoors for learning. The course of SonLight about the ‘ten principles of true education’ also emphasises the importance teaching in nature.

“Homeschooling is meant to be done in a natural surrounding where children learn naturally.… Teaching outside tends to quiet hyper students. At first there may be moments of distraction, but these moments will pass, or can often be turned into lessons.… Teaching outside will improve the five senses. Students will become more sensitive to seeing detail, hearing quiet sounds, smelling fragrances, feeling breezes and changes in temperature, and tasting nature through its smells. This will help develop in them a sensitivity to people, their needs… In their time of trouble to will be the little things that will help them to know how to respond to a friend or an enemy. Teaching outside offers time for personal prayer, thoughts and meditation. It offers opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak gently to students through nature.” https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B1d_dY0vFt8ffm1wVjFNQ25tUWFsWFFnT1RnZ3hCbWhHcDdodkhBZW82akg0dERfcFpDbDg?amp%3Busp=sharing

There are also multiple health benefits from playing and homeschooling outside:

  • Sunlight: the sun supplies us with vitamin D and helps with sleep-wake cycle.
  • Fresh air: indoor air is more toxic than outdoor air.
  • Exercise: it strengthens muscles and bones, and it prevents obesity.
  • Healthy eyes: spending a lot of time outside in natural light protects against nearsightedness.

And, last but not least, the influence of being outside on mental health:

  • Better cognitive performance
  • Improved attention spans
  • Better behavior and mood
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved memory
  • Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Playing together with other children encourages social development like sharing, and how to negotiate and resolve conflicts.

Adult controlled play, such as in organized sports, and free play are not interchangeable, although both are valuable. Children learn better when they regularly spread their attention or can pause.

What is your experience with the outdoor classroom? Please share how you use your outdoor classroom and how it benefits your children.

Charlotte Mason Preschool

Charlotte Mason was a huge supporter for starting formal academics later. She spoke about the benefits of short lessons, rich living books, and lots of time spent outside. I love how her method of teaching supports early childhood development. It is my goal that my early learner is in love with learning! Currently I am working with my three-year-old, and want to share what a Charlotte Mason preschool looks like in our home.

After we have morning time with my middle schoolers, I send them off to their individual studies and work with my three-year-old. We read a short Bible lesson and then do her calendar board. Some days she will play with felts or do other hands-on activities during morning time. After her Bible and calendar time, we move to her “core” work.

I found a wonderful Charlotte Mason based preschool curriculum called The Peaceful Preschool. It is a literature and project based curriculum that is letter themed. I love the rich book suggestions and gentle hands-on projects for each letter of the alphabet. These activities include read alouds, phonics, counting skills, fine and large motor skills, practical life skills, and art skills. There are 26 weeks or 52 weeks of lessons depending on how much time you want to spend on each letter.  All of the lessons are pre-planned and include a weekly grid, book, activity, and field trip suggestions. It makes it really simple and restful for me as a teacher and offers flexibility for my child’s interests.

I chose to spend two weeks per letter so that we could move slowly through her learning. I love that I can add in my own manipulatives, activities, and books as we go along, depending on her interests.

Along with her letter themed activities, we are also learning about nature study. The Charlotte Mason method of education has a strong focus on time spent outside and in nature study. We love to go on walks; play in the dirt; and spot birds, flowers, and plants, and then learn about them. These nature activities can also be tied into the letter themes to round out their learning.

One thing to remember about early learning is that it doesn’t have to be fast-paced with lots of formal learning. Children learn through play, enriching books, simple activities, and lots of nature time. Keep it simple, let them grow within their developmental abilities, and provide a loving environment.

Sensory Slime Fun!

Slime, slime, beautiful slime! It is one of our favorite sensory items to play with! We love how easy it is to make an how open ended it is. Plus it lasts a long time if you store it in a Ziplock bag! One of our favorite things to do is to use clear glue and add food coloring and glitter!! You can also add sequines, stars, little plastic toys…the options are endless!

Our favorite recipe uses clear glue, liquid startch and food coloring.

Slime Recipe:

1/2 Cup of Elmer’s Washable Non Toxic Clear Glue or White Glue

1/2 Cup of Liquid Starch

1/2 Cup of Water

Measuring Cup

2 bowls and a spoon

food coloring, confetti, glitter {optional}

Instructions:

1. In one bowl mix 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup of glue {really mix to combine completely}. Pour glue into water. Stir the glue and water together well!

2. Add color, glitter, or confetti! Mix the glitter and color into the glue and water mixture.

3Pour in 1/2 cup of liquid starch and mix. The slime will begin to form. When it begins to turn into a glob, use your hands to mix and stretch it until it’s no longer sticky. Then it’s time to play!

One of our favorite ways to use Slime is to add in little animal toys, bugs, and play dough tools.  It really is so easy to whip up and the possibilities are endless. Need some more ideas? Check all of the gread slime ideas here: Best Slime Activities

 

What to Teach a Preschooler

“How do you know what to teach your child?” I have had this question quite a few times since we told people we were going to homeschool our children. My answer is usually, “There are some great online resources available.”

But, sometimes a feeling of insecurity comes over me and I ask myself the question: Do I know what I need to teach my child? Am I doing the right thing? I’m not a teacher by trade. Maybe I would do something wrong.

In January my husband and I went to a curriculum fair. We talked to a nice lady of a Christian publisher, and she had a nice offer for a unit study to try. It came with three posters, the activities weren’t too scholastic, and it had also hands-on and outdoor activities. With my insecurity about teaching the right way, and all the hours I spend to create my own unit studies every month in the back of my head, we decided to buy that unit study.

At home I opened the book, and I was astonished. What stood out most were the pages and pages with learning goals. It contained 20 pages of learning goals, followed by 24 activities for three- to six-year-olds.

Observing my preschooler on 12 points while reading a short story?!? Did I miss something? Did I do something wrong? Do I need to set up an activity to teach my kids to set the table? No! We set the table three times a day. They learn how to do that. But, that is not “doing school.” Or, is it?!

Working with this curriculum made me realize I don’t have to feel uncertain about teaching my preschoolers. I know what’s important to our family. I know what I want to teach my children. We are homeschoolers, so we don’t have to teach how, what, and when the schools teach.

Buying this set curriculum had some pros and cons.

Pros:

  • low prep time,
  • meets the goals set up by the state, and
  • the children liked it.

Cons:

  • costs,
  • some activities geared towards a group, so my family with two children couldn’t do those, and
  • therefore, I was still tweaking the unit study to our own needs.

Is buying a curriculum wrong? No. You have to do what works for you in your current circumstances. It may fit your family, but in our case the cons won this time.

Did we waste money by buying the unit study? No. My children had fun and learned, and mom learned as well. Starting some kind of homeschooling so early is partly for me as a mom to learn — to learn what homeschooling is, to learn what and how to teach, to get some confidence.

I hope to encourage you with what I have learned so far:

  • You can’t do anything wrong if you love your child(ren).
  • Tell them about God and His love.
  • Keep an eye on building good, Christian character.
  • Lead by example.
  • Go outside, get some fresh air, and enjoy nature.
  • Nourish their curiosity by answering their questions.
  • Play together. Have fun!