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Daycare, Preschool, and Home Learning: Ideas and Resources

Updated on November 19, 2016

If you are a parent, guardian, grandparent, teacher, daycare provider, center director, nanny, tutor, babysitter, aunt, uncle, or assume any other role that entails caring for children, then you are in the right place!

As a former public school teacher, daycare teacher, private lessons instructor, nanny, and as a lifelong learner and educator, I believe in education and I believe in children. So I've written this hub as a resource to help those who help educate children - the Earth's most precious assets and gifts. I hope it is useful for you all.

We need to put more of our efforts into how we teach the youth of this world. Fundamental ideas about education and learning as well as the passion and drive to be educated and learn are falling away from the children in our communities and we MUST make it our purpose to bring them back. So much information about the world is gathered at such a young age - for the innocence and curiosity of youth encourages the brain to soak up every morsel of knowledge like a sponge - so we must provide!

— Meagan Earls
Me when I was a little one...
Me when I was a little one...

In this first section, I have detailed activities, games, projects, and more to help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers with:

Language Skills

Math Skills

Science Skills

Fine Motor Skills

Gross Motor Skills

Art Education

Music Education

and MORE!

Sesame Street Flash Cards Set of 4 (ABCs, Beginning Words, Colors, Shapes & Opposites, Numbers 1-20)
Sesame Street Flash Cards Set of 4 (ABCs, Beginning Words, Colors, Shapes & Opposites, Numbers 1-20)

Great flashcards are essential. Why not load up on a set that helps with math, language, science, AND art?

 
Teacher Created Resources SW Alphabet Chart, Multi Color (7635)
Teacher Created Resources SW Alphabet Chart, Multi Color (7635)

This is a great chart that could easily be used with the activities described here.

 
Jake & the Never Land Pirates A.B.C's Learning Workbook
Jake & the Never Land Pirates A.B.C's Learning Workbook

A fun workbook to help your kids identify letters, conquer mazes, color pictures, circle objects, and of course, practice their writing skills! I love it!

 

Language

Language skills are so important for children. They absorb information like sponges - so challenge them!


ALPHABET CHART OR BANNER ACTIVITIES

Here are some great language activities to do if you have an alphabet chart or banner (or two) with pictures to match the letters:

1. Sing the "Alphabet Song" (To the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star")

-This helps to incorporate a musical element

-This also helps children learn the letters of the alphabet and their order in the alphabet

When you do this, have the children sing with you AND have them sing without you sometimes too. Give them a solid starting pitch so that they can attempt to sing together in unison. Also, when you do this, start by pointing to each letter on the chart, then switch to not pointing and/or having the children point to the letters.

*To add even MORE of a musical element, you could have the kids tap out a steady beat (or attempt to), play along on instruments, or dance as they sing. (Dancing also incorporates gross motor skills!)

2. Point to the Letters and/or Pictures on the chart or banner and have the preschool kiddos identify them.

FOR EXAMPLE: Say "A is for" and have the kids respond ("Airplane!" or whatever the picture may be.) Go through the whole alphabet.

-To add a gross motor element, have the children sit in chairs. On each word they say in response to you, have them jump straight up with their hands above their heads and sit again. (It is fun, challenging, and good exercise!)

3. Point to the letters and give examples of the sounds they make and words that begin with them. Having the children raise their hands (to help prepare them for school), ask them to:

-Give you other examples of words that start with the specified letter

-Find objects in the room that begin with the specified letter and present them to the other kids

-Point out the specified letter on the chart and in a book

-Find the corresponding flashcard


ALPHABET FLASHCARD ACTIVITIES

Here are a few preschool learning activities that you can do with alphabet flashcards:

1. Hold the flashcards up and ask the children to:

-Identify the letter on the flashcard

-Identify the picture on the flashcard

2. Have the children sort and order the flashcards:

This helps children to identify letters, learn about each letters' proper place in the alphabet, and connect visual aids with the learning of the letters. (It also incorporates a fine motor element, which is extra groovy.)


OTHER GREAT LANGUAGE IDEAS AND RESOURCES:

1. Alphabet Tracing & Learning Workbooks and Worksheets

-These can be a great way to get children writing, identifying letters, learning to spell and read, and even to do mazes, color within the lines, and circle objects.

2. Rhymes and Songs

-Rhymes and songs are ALWAYS good ways to incorporate language learning into your day with your baby, toddler, or preschooler. They also include music elements, fine art elements, and often fine and gross motor skills (if there is movement with the song or rhyme.)

3. Sand, chocolate syrup, ketchup, chalkboards, dry-erase boards, shaving cream, paint, etc.

-These are all great things to use to practice drawing letters, writing names, and forming new words.

4. Books

You can use books in SO many ways in the education of your baby, toddler, or preschooler. In the classroom, in the daycare, at Grandma's, at home - books are an amazing resource ANYWHERE your child goes.

Here are just a few of the ways you can use books in a daycare, preschool, or home setting (and beyond!):

-Use books to help teach a weekly theme

-Use music books to teach songs, stories, fingerplays, and dances

-Use books to help teach about interpersonal relationships, manners, good habits, good choices, being successful, being a leader, etc.

-Use books to teach rhyming words, poetry, poem structures, and song structures (ABA, Rondo, etc.)

-Use books to teach basic reading skills (sight words, letter identification, sounding words out, etc.)

-Use books as a reward, as fun, and as a neat way to explore new topics

When reading books, I use a few different strategies:

-Read one on one with kids

-Read in small groups

-Have kids read alone or with small groups

-Show pictures AS I read

-Show pictures after I finish a page

-Show pictures only here and there as I read

-Don't show the pictures at all, but instead give little hints and tips to help them imagine pictures in their heads (This helps cultivate creative thought and imagination)

5. Educational DVDs, Movies, & Television Shows

-These are for fun and entertainment as well as learning.

6. Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down Letter and Word Matching Game

-Have a spotlight letter. For example: C

-Tell the kids a few words that start with C. (Cop, Cake, Corn, Cymbals, Circle)

-Then, tell them that you are going to say some more words. Some will start with C, but some will start with OTHER letters. If the word starts with a C, they have to give you a thumbs up. If it starts with another letter, then they have to give you a thumbs down. NO WORDS can be spoken until the answer is revealed. Then, and only then, can students elaborate. (Like if you said "Xylophone. Does Xylophone start with a C? Thumbs up if it does, thumbs down if it starts with a DIFFERENT letter" and a student wanted to tell the class what the other letter was. You can also have the whole class say the other letter in that case if you'd like.)

7. Letter Puzzles

A great alphabet puzzle can really help a baby, toddler, or preschool kiddo learn the alphabet. (It also helps incorporate fine motor skills.)

8. Name Hunt

-Start in a circle

-Have name cards for every kid in your daycare or preschool class

-Hide the name cards around the room and have the kids "hunt" for their name and bring it back to the circle

-Have kids present their names to the class so that the other students can see what it looks like too.

9. Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters can really help with developing advanced language skills.

10. Sign language and/or another spoken language

-Incorporate simple words and phrases into your existing curriculum (numbers to 10, please, thank you, hello, goodbye, I love you, stars, dog, cat, bathroom, "Happy Birthday," my name is ______, and mom and dad are GREAT ones...)

(I personally try to teach all my kids English, a little Spanish, and a little sign language.)

Keep checking back for more ideas and activities.

Learning Resources Counting Cookies
Learning Resources Counting Cookies

These counting cookies are awesome for number recognition, counting, basic math, and fine motor skills. Plus, they can be used in a house setting for imaginative play as well! I love them in my classroom!

 
50 Counting Bears with 5 Cups
50 Counting Bears with 5 Cups

These counting bears are great for math, art, and fine motor skills. A MUST HAVE!

 

Math

Teaching kids MATH can seem... well, challenging. But it doesn't have to be!

One of the most effective things you can do to help your kids with math skills is (drum roll please...) COUNT THINGS! Go counting crazy! Count everything! Just count, count, count!

-Count the kids in the preschool, daycare, or special educational program class

-Count how many plates, cups, forks, napkins, etc. are needed at mealtimes

-Count toys, letters, objects, fingers, etc.

-Count days on the calendar

-Count grains of rice, beans, candies, rocks, etc.

You can also learn math skills in these awesome ways:

1. Cooking

-This also incorporates science

-Count how many cups of sugar you need or how many chocolate chips you add to the batter

-Do basic math by adding things up as you cook together (like when I make juice. Each can of concentrate takes 3 cans of water. We do 2 cans of concentrate. So the kids figure out that we need 6 cans of water total. MATH! YES!)

2. Math Learning Workbooks

-These workbooks help with math, reading, and other essential skills

-They are often fun to work on and feature fun characters, making math extra exciting

3. Number Flashcards

My personal favorite flashcards for teaching numbers in a daycare, preschool, or home setting are the flashcards that have the numbers on one side and pictures that represent the number on the other side. (Like a 7 card with 7 ladybugs on the back.)

-Hold the flashcards up to test the kids' number recognition (much like the alphabet flashcard activity.)

-Have the preschool kiddos sort and order the flashcards (This incorporates fine motor skills and team-building skills as well!)

-Just let the kids play with the flashcards in their own way (you may want to laminate them to do this...)

Science

Expand the brains of your baby, toddler, and preschooler at school, daycare, or at home with cool science activities that blow the mind!!

My favorite ways to teach science usually involve cooking or some other elaborate project. Here are some examples of just SOME of the things I have done (and you can do too!)

-Bread (and Gluten-Free Bread)

-Butter (whipping cream and a tiny bit of yogurt -room temp- shaken for what feels like AGES...)

-Apple Butter (in a crockpot)

-Apple Cider Smoothies (apples, apple cider, ice + blender)

-Baked Pumpkin Seeds (after opening the pumpkins, scooping the goop, and carving them too!)

-Cookies (Sugar AND chocolate chip)

-Gingerbread Houses (and men)

-Stone Soup (To go with the book as well...)

-Salt dough

-Volcano (baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring make for a cool "eruption")

-Slime

-Salt dough "fossils"

AND MUCH MORE

I also like teaching science lessons through:

-Books

-Movies

-Group Discussion

-Songs

-Experiments

-Etc.

Melissa & Doug Alphabet Express Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle (27 pcs, 10 feet long)
Melissa & Doug Alphabet Express Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle (27 pcs, 10 feet long)

Great floor puzzle that helps with fine motor and language skills, while being super fun and a good team building challenge.

 
green sprouts Stacking Cups, 8 Count
green sprouts Stacking Cups, 8 Count

These stacking cups are great for little ones and can still be used by older preschoolers for fine motor development, math, and imaginative play.

 

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are important to develop in young children. Develop them in fun ways!


Great ways to get those fine motor skills a-workin':

-Puzzles

-Lacing cards

-Matching Games

-Sorting Games

-Buckles, Buttons, Zippers, Ties, etc.

-Legos (and other small building toys)

-Sorting toys (or other objects)

-Stacking cups

-Chains, clips, etc.

-Beading

-Weaving

-Playing on tablets and phones

One of my personal favorite fine motor skills activities for kids are called fingerplays. They involve a rhyme (or song) and motions (or counting of some kind) with your fingers and hands. Here are some of my favorites:

FINGERPLAYS:

TEN LITTLE FINGERS:

(To the tune of "Ten Little Indians")

1 little, 2 little, 3 little fingers

4 little, 5 little, 6 little fingers,

7 little, 8 little, 9 little fingers,

10 little fingers on my hands.

10 little, 9 little, 8 little fingers,

7 little, 6 little, 5 little fingers,

4 little, 3 little, 2 little fingers,

1 little finger on my hand.

(For this one, simply hold up the correct number of fingers as you count.)

2 LITTLE BLACKBIRDS

(Start with hands behind back)

2 little blackbirds sitting on a hill (hold up one finger on each hand in front of you)

1 named Jack (wiggle one finger)

and the other named Jill (wiggle the other finger)

Fly away Jack (take "Jack" finger behind back)

Fly away Jill (take "Jill" finger behind back)

Come back Jack (bring "Jack" finger back out)

Come back Jill (bring "Jill" finger back out.)

5 LITTLE PUMPKINS

(This is a great one for Halloween. It seems as though everyone has their own moves for this one!)

5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate

the 1st one said "oh my, it's getting late."

the 2nd one said "there's a chill in the air..."

the 3rd one said "but we don't care."

the 4th one said "let's have some fun!"

the 5th one said "let's run, run, run!"

Then WOOOO went the wind

and OUT went the lights

and the 5 little pumpkins

rolled out of sight

5 LITTLE BATS

(This is another great one for Halloween.)

5 little bats hanging upside down

1 bat said "I'm going to town"

"to see all the children as they trick or treat"

and away he flew, going "Eek, eek, eek!"

4 little bats hanging upside down

1 bat said "I'm going to town"

"to see all the children as they trick or treat"

and away he flew, going "Eek, eek, eek!"

3 little bats hanging upside down

1 bat said "I'm going to town"

"to see all the children as they trick or treat"

and away he flew, going "Eek, eek, eek!"

2 little bats hanging upside down

1 bat said "I'm going to town"

"to see all the children as they trick or treat"

and away he flew, going "Eek, eek, eek!"

1 little bat hanging upside down

that bat said "I'm going to town"

"to see all the children as they trick or treat"

and away he flew, going "Eek, eek, eek!"

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills = movin' and groovin'!

Here are some great ways to incorporate gross motor skills into your daycare, preschool, or home learning environment:

-Dancing

-Exercise

-Outside Play

-Physical Indoor Play (such as bowling, ring toss, a punching bag, or Twister)

-Team Sports

-Jumping, running, skipping, crawling, etc.

-Stop, drop, and roll (This is a GREAT tie-in to Fire Safety Week)

I personally incorporate a lot of gross motor activity into my other subject areas (especially music). So check out the Music section for more on amazing gross motor skills ideas and activities.

Fine Motor / Gross Motor / Art Activity

Paper Sorting Obstacle Course

This is a fun activity to do with toddlers and preschool age kids (probably early elementary as well):

-Have paper squares of 2 or 3 different colors all mixed up in a loose pile on the floor.

-Have the kids sort out the colors by taking them 1 by 1 to different locations around the room

-As they move to the different locations, have them do some kind of movement or gross motor skill (hopping, skipping, crawling, etc.)

For example:

During our "Out West" theme week, I had my preschool students sort green and brown paper and put them in separate locations across the room from each other. The green squares represented "horse food" and so they were required to gallop like a horse to take the green squares to their designated spot. The brown squares were "cow patties" to be used for our imaginary fires along the wagon train trail. So as the kids walked the brown squares to their designated spot, they had to hold their nose with one hand as they walked slowly with the brown square held far out in front of them.

It was a fun take on our activity for them, and it was extra fun for me to watch.

The great thing about this activity is that you can alter it for any holiday or theme. You can also use as many or as few colors as you choose. And you can modify the gross motor movement activities to utilize ANY of the colors; you just have to be creative.

Art

Color identification, writing, drawing, painting, cutting... art skills are so important in a child's growth.


Here are just a few great art activities you can do every day with little to no mess at all.

1. Find Colors

-Choose a special color (or have a color wheel and have the students spin to find the special color)

-Give the kids one minute to go about the room and find an object that is the special color and bring it back to their seats or positions on the floor

-Have the kids share what they found, one by one, with their classmates

-Repeat with other colors as desired or needed

2. Identify Colors

-Point to objects and ask the children to identify the color (this is good to start doing at a young age - even if they can't answer, ask them. Then answer if they can't yet. "It's yellow!")

3. Sorting by Color

(This incorporates fine motor skills too!)

Sort objects by color. Objects such as:

-counting bears

-crayons

-marbles

-bean bags

-chalk

-play food

-blocks

-dishes

-towels

-paper

-balls

etc.

4. Color Flashcards

-Hold up the flashcards and ask the little ones to tell you what color is on the card.

-Ask what other things are the same color as well

-Act out some of the things you thought of to match each flashcard (like if the kids say that a cat can be black, based on the black flashcard, then show them how to move like cats and have them move like cats. It's fun, it incorporates dramatic play and gross motor skills, and it's about art in the end. Meow!)

5. Coloring Pages and Color By Number

-Coloring pages get kids to focus on staying in the lines, not scribbling, trying to make the color scheme make sense (whether it be realism or fantasy that they're going for), and provides a calm activity that teaches patience and the importance of trying and sticking to something. Coloring is a beautiful thing. Some research has even shown that coloring can be a stress reliever even for adults. Awesome! I know I still love to color. Do you?

-Color by Number is great because it does a lot of what coloring does but it also makes kids adhere to strict rules AND it makes them have to be able to identify numbers and colors in order to make things come out right.

6. FREE ART

-Have a dedicated time for major free art projects and have a limited free art station available all the time

-For the major art projects, some great things to have on hand are: glue, glue sticks, tape, scissors, stickers, construction paper, markers, coloring pages, foam stickers and sheets, toilet paper tubes, used wrapping paper, glitter, cardboard pieces, markers, crayons, colored pencils, highlighters, rulers, tracing cards, texture boards, fabric, ribbon, string, plates, cups, beads, beans, bowls, tins, jars, craft sticks (popsicle sticks), cotton balls, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, scrapbooking supplies, lined paper, cards, post-its, air-dry clay, etc.

7. WATCH ART RELATED MOVIES, TV SHOWS, VIDEOS, ETC.

-Great examples include: "Color Crew," "The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross," "Rainbow Horse," "Paint This with Jerry Yarnell," "Sesame Street: Guess that Shape and Color," and "Nickelodeon Let's Learn: Colors

Color Crew!

Do Your Own Dance - Choo Choo Soul

Music

Music helps kids to excel in math, social studies, language arts, science, dramatic arts, public speaking, and social skills. It is also valuable as a remarkable art form and source of never ending fun and fulfillment.


GREAT SONGS TO HAVE AS A PART OF EVERY DAY:


The Hello Song:

Let's sing hello together

Hello, hello, hello

Let's sing hello together

Hello, hello, hello


The More We Get Together:

The More We Get Together, together, together

the more we get together, the happier we'll be

For your friends are my friends

and my friends are your friends

The more we get together

the happier we'll be


The Clean-up Song:

Clean up! Clean up!

Everybody, everywhere!

Clean up! Clean up!

Everybody do your share!


The Alphabet Song:

ABCDEFG

HIJKLMNOP

QRSTUV

WXY & Z

Now I know my ABCs

next time won't you sing with me?


GREAT WAYS TO INCORPORATE MUSIC INTO YOUR DAILY ACTIVITIES:

-Gross Motor Music Games (Like Freeze Dance or Bluebird, Bluebird)

-Free Dancing

-Singing songs

-Singing and/or reading music story books

-Playing instruments

-Listening to music during art or while working on workbooks, worksheets, or coloring pages

-Listening to soothing music during nap time


GREAT NAP TIME MUSIC:

-Classical Music

-Enya

-Spa, Relaxation, and Meditation Music

-Ambient Music

-Broadway Baby


GREAT SONGS FOR USE AT DAYCARE CENTERS, PRESCHOOLS, HOME LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS, IN THE CAR, AT GRANDMA'S, ETC.:

-If You're Happy and You Know it

-Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

-Row, Row, Row Your Boat

-The Wheels on the Bus

-6 Little Ducks

-Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

-Over in the Meadow

-5 Little Ducks

-Old MacDonald

-The Farmer in the Dell

-The Chicken Dance

-The Hokey Pokey

-So Many Animals

-It's a Zoo Out There

-The Bear Went Over the Mountain

-Tree in the Wood

-Turkey in the Straw

-The Itsy, Bitsy Spider

-The Circle of Life

-The Climb

-Colors of the Wind

-Spin Around

-BINGO

-I Like to Dance (Yo Gabba Gabba!)

-This Land is Your Land

-I'm a Little Teapot

-Down at the Station

-Leaves are Falling

-Holiday music

-Choo Choo Soul

-Raffi

Farmer Joe And The Music Show
Farmer Joe And The Music Show

This is a great book to read in a rhythmic way. Kids can also tap along a steady beat or play instruments.

 

Finger Song - MItten the Kitten

Hohner Kids MT608 Toddler Tambourine - Orange
Hohner Kids MT608 Toddler Tambourine - Orange

A great instrument for little hands. It's durable, has a decent sound, and has a great bright color.

 

More Great Ideas and Activities

Daycare Centers, Preschools, and Schools all require a little creativity. You can be even more creative at home as a nanny or parent. Here are some more awesome ideas for you!


GREAT RANDOM ACTIVITIES:

-Have the kids help with cleaning, cooking, and setting the table

-Build forts out of blankets, towels, furniture, etc.

-One finger, One thumb

-Water Table, Sand Table, Exploratory Stations

-Make up motions to rhymes...

such as these two rhymes that I wrote:


1. We are Thankful:

We are thankful for the food we eat

We are thankful for the friends we meet

We are thankful for the golden sun

the trees, the birds, and everyone!


2. Five Resolutions:

Five resolutions I must keep

The first one is to get more sleep

the second one is to have more fun!

The third? Be kind to everyone!

The fourth one is to always try!

And the fifth one is to never lie!


SENSORY BUCKETS:

-Fill buckets with a plethora of different materials, objects, liquids, etc. to give kids several different texture changes. Some ideas: Cooked spaghetti, sand, water, vegetable oil, flour, cornstarch, rice (cooked or not), cotton balls, pudding, etc.

-Have the kids put on blindfolds and take off their shoes and socks. Lead them from bucket to bucket, allowing them to stomp around a bit in each, and noting the differences as you go (and wiping their feet between buckets of course.)

PUPPET SHOWS:

-Get puppets (or make them)

-Have the kids name their characters

-Figure out a vague story line that the kids have to elaborate on

-Give them a few minutes to put their show together

-Have them perform their puppet show (on video and to an audience, ideally)

Here! Have some helpful links!
Here! Have some helpful links!

Helpful Links - Helpful links and resources for teachers, parents, daycare and preschool providers, and anyone who teaches and cares for little ones.

I hope that this list will help you find whatever you need to be a success, as a teacher, a parent, as a nanny, as a daycare center director, etc.

There are links here to arts and crafts, coloring page and worksheet print-outs, training courses, online games, advice, lesson plans, etc. I hope you enjoy exploring each one a little.

Continue to check back for updates to the "Helpful Links" here.

Leapfrog: Phonics Farm
Leapfrog: Phonics Farm

This is seriously one of my favorite DVDs for kids! It has cute songs, cute characters, and lots of helpful information about letters, vowels, and letter sounds; it even provides words and animals for each letter. AWESOME product.

 

How Do You Feel About Movies, TV Shows, and Educational DVDs?

What is the proper use of educational programming, movies, television cartoon shows, and dvds?

See results

A few more fun ideas...

-Spend more time out in nature by watching sunrises or sunsets, stargazing, exercising outside, hiking, playing at the park, swimming, playing sports, going to the beach, etc.

-Teach children the art of meditation from an early age. It can have amazing positive effects on their learning, it can soothe them as they progress through difficult hormonal changes, and it will be a gift that they will be grateful for their whole lives!

-Make charity work, donating, and volunteering a vital part of children's lives. Helping others is important and should not be an occasional thing but an every day thing!

Feel free to leave a comment, share MORE great ideas and resources, and/or ask a question that a peer or I can answer or help you with.

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