Construct a Daily Schedule: Following your own consistent and predictable schedule will be very comforting to your child, so please make up a daily schedule that best fits your family’s needs and work hard to keep it consistent from day to day. Even printing it out and posting it on the wall at your child’s level and refer to it often with your child will help everyone stay on track. Please, please, please do not include any screen time in the schedule like I have seen on the internet. Children do not need screens at all at this age. Please do not feel that your only task in the day is to constantly keep your child busy with activities or use a screen if you feel you need a break. Let him/her get bored, offer just the right amount of engaging real activities, the child will find things to do to occupy him/her.
Independence: This one I cannot stress enough. Any child can complete any safe task at home if it is broken up into very small steps. Please encourage your child to do as much as he/she can independently as possible in every part of the day. This not only creates confidence for your child, but also allows space for a lot less frustration for the child which makes your day a bit smoother. My first suggestion is to include children in all the daily activities- and plan to go at a very slow pace. Please be aware that this might take more time than it would for you to do it yourself, but if you have the time, why not give space for your child to try to do it on their own? Sometimes it is painful to watch your child struggle with a task but give the child space and see if she or he can figure it out. If your child is getting frustrated then use an encouraging word or two or offer assistance. Offering assistance does not mean taking over the task for the child. I often tell teachers I train to do the “pinch finger help” where you help the child’s pant leg or shirt just a tiny bit by tugging on a pant leg, sleeve, shoe, sock, etc. with only your thumb and forefinger and let go as soon as you see the child has the hang of what they are figuring out. If child lets go of the item and waits for you to do it, you let go too, and say, I will only help you if you are helping too.
Try seeing the home environment through a child’s eyes; organize your home so the items the child needs or uses most often are at easy reach for the child.
Handwashing: This is an excellent time for your child to learn proper handwashing technique at home. Be sure to use a proper-height stool to help the child safely reach the sink where his or her hands hang comfortably over the sink’s basin. Have the child push down the soap pump themselves. Talk through and show the child how to wash by rubbing their hands together and singing a song or counting to 20. Your hands rubbing soap on the child’s hands for them may clean the hands but the child does not learn how to wash their own hands independently from this. If nails are dirty, show child and let them practice how to use a nail brush. Show proper rinsing and drying techniques as well having available a towel nearby that the child can easily reach.
Remember that not every activity has to be new every day. Repeating the same activity over time is a good thing as children learn more and more from that activity each time it is performed.
-Read: read, read, read everything. Books, read recipes, food boxes when preparing food together, read instructions on crafts out loud… this builds vocabulary and instruction following. Act out books, pretend to be different characters each time, wear costumes, make up a song about a book.
-Count: count everything tangible around the child (counting just to count is often irrelevant for the child). Count snacks, count socks, count stairs, count rocks, count how many stones… etc. Depending on your child’s level, count by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s.
-Music: play various types of music with on a device (hopefully with innocuous lyrics 😊) in the background of your day, dance/march/run/walk/stomp/tiptoe to it. Sing together, sing loud, sing quiet, make up songs together. Make or bring out your own instruments and make your own music and songs. Please, please, please don’t play songs on YouTube for children only to passively watch the screen. Songs on YouTube can be played in the background (hide the screen, put the device up high) while your child (and you) can dance and sing to the music, while you cook, draw, craft or other activities around the home.
-Cook together. Plan a reasonable meal together: “we need a protein, let’s see what protein we have to choose from…” (lay out protein options and have child choose), “we need a vegetable, let’s see what we have…”(lay out veggie options and have child choose), etc. Do the same another time with a sibling. Have child help prep meals (cutting veggies, measure and pour in ingredients, stirring).
-Help set the table for meals.
-Pour own water from a small pitcher into a cup. If spills happen, have a small towel within reach for child to wipe up the spill.
-Make your own playdough
-Go outdoors, start a garden
-Ask your child what he or she wants to do. It is a parent’s job to offer a few thoughtful suggestions, but it is not a parent’s job to feel like he/she has to constantly entertain the child. It’s okay for your child to have some quiet time to think on his/her own and come up with his/her own games
-Regular conversations with the child of give and take (not giving directions or talking at them).
-Young children enjoy repeating activities that they can do by themselves. If the child wants to wipe an already clean table with a damp rag, let them. Let them do it for as long and how much they want to. Children really do not care that the table is already clean. If you don’t have anywhere to be and the child is not breaking anything or disturbing anyone, leave him/her to do it. Think of how much muscle work and concentration they are building by performing this task.
-Do laundry together: sort clothes by color, match socks, show how to fold small towels and pillowcases, read the instructions on the soap, show how to measure into the cap and talk about load sizes (I wouldn’t recommend children pouring detergent or handling pods just yet).
-Wash dishes by hand or load and unload dishwasher
-Listen for sounds in a quiet house and identify the sound of where it is coming from.
-Play with open-ended materials such as boxes, crates or build forts out of blankets (indoors or outdoors)
-Have a small amount of craft items and a small amount of glue or a glue stick available for the child to get creative.
– Build with blocks
-Sort objects by color or size
-Color hunt: let’s see how many red things we can find in this room (in this box, in this yard, etc.)
-Smell spices and guess what it is
-Identify shapes in your house
-Trace objects from house, first try tracing their hand
-Practice writing their name
-Color on paper or on shipping boxes, art materials/craft station
-Have them draw a picture and dictate a story to you.
-Write words and say them out loud. Have them put the label on objects in the house.
-Have conversations about topics they like.
-Dice game… roll two dice, count each dice and write down…3 + 6, then count the dots on both dice together to get your answer. 3 + 6 = 9. Have them write on paper.
-Measure things in your house. How many steps do you have? How long is the couch?
-Make up cards with numbers, find that many objects, Lego, etc. to go with the number
-Practice writing numbers
-Depending on ability practice recognizing numbers.
-Practice reading written numbers depending on ability “32”, “49”, “153”, etc.
-Let them experiment with water for sink and float. Have them find objects from around the house to use. Have them make a guess whether it will sink or float. Then try.
-Take a nature walk. See how many different birds you have around your house. Make a list together. If the child can write let them write the list.
-Draw a picture of the bird they like best that they saw. Depending on ability, your child can write a sentence about the bird they saw.
-Put measuring cups into the bath, strainers, odd, unique different items for young children to scoop, pour, etc.
-Jigsaw puzzles, age appropriate board games
-Card games such as UNO or Go Fish can be easy for children 4 and up to learn.
-Walking on a line- use string or a ribbon or if they have washi tape.
-Let the child use tweezers or tongs to build their writing muscles.
-Use a plate or tray with a slight lip/edge on it with dry rice to practice writing letters. Please keep in mind that Montessori calls letters by their sounds and not letter names.