Pinterest can be a wonderful source of information. But just like other social media networks, not all information shared is accurate, especially when it comes to child development.
Spending some time on Pinterest is what led to me write this article.
There are so many pins (with 1000’s of repins) about setting up a “preschool” or “tot school” for your child (I don’t mean a home daycare where you are watching other children).
Most of these are aimed at parents of 2-4 year old’s.
From what I have gathered, these articles are typically written by well meaning parents who want their child to thrive and succeed.
This is great! As parents we must take an active role in our child’s development.
But setting up an at home “preschool”, complete with curriculum, isn’t the way to do this and I will explain why (and what you should be doing instead)!
One more thing before we get started.
There is nothing wrong with attending a “play class” with your little one.
These classes are great for parents to meet other parents and it’s interesting to see young children interacting – and good for their social-emotional development.
And these classes can be helpful to teach new parents about developmental milestones and how you can easily incorporate learning into play.
These classes can either be drop in or run for a set number of sessions.
There may be some free ones that are government funded and there are always ones that require a fee. Both are good options.
Be sure to scroll to the end to find the best ways to get your child learning and developing at home in a natural way.
The Downfalls Of A Homeschool Preschool Program
Too Much Structure
It’s true that children need structure, but there can also be too much of a good thing.
In this case it’s structure.
Kids thrive when they have a general idea about what is going to happen.
Like getting up in the morning, having breakfast, that kind of thing.
While at home, a young, typically developing child does not need to be given a list of activities with a picture schedule of what is going to happen first, next, then…last.
I did say “typically developing” children in the sentence above because those are the children I am referring to in this article.
But for a typical toddler spending the day at home or out and about running errands with mom or dad, a set schedule really isn’t necessary.
Dependency On Adults
When you are always there with ideas and suggestions for your little one, they will become used to this and will start finding it difficult to come up with their own thing to do.
Especially once your child gets a bit older.
Of course toddlers are dependent on their parents to a great extent, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have or need any time for exploration.
There is nothing wrong with trying to give your toddler some independence.
This will be a great asset in years to come.
And don’t worry about feeling like you are neglecting your child because you are letting them safely play with and explore toys on their own!
This brings me to my next point.
Difficult To Follow Child’s Lead
Following your child’s lead is one of the best things you can do from a language and overall developmental perspective.
But if you are planning a bunch of activities for your child to do you can’t truly follow their lead.
You can follow your child’s lead to an extent within each activity, but perhaps your activity isn’t really what your child wanted to do.
But since they are still young (and perhaps has an easy going personality) they went along with it.
School Starts Early Enough
You may have heard or read that “parents are their child’s best teacher”.
And this is completely true, but it doesn’t mean that you should actually take on the role of a school teacher with your young child.
There is a debate going on within the community of child development professionals about whether or not children are starting formal education too early in North America.
Many children in the U.S., U.K., and Canada start school at the age of 4.
We definitely know that starting academic education too early can be detrimental to a child’s success later on.
Therefore when children are starting school at the age of 4 (and even 5) the curriculum needs to be play based with plenty of time for exploration and open ended play.
I feel like I am rambling a bit.
The point I am trying to make is that your child will be going to school soon enough.
Let their time at home be fun where they can grow and discover at their own pace.
Too Much Pressure (Parents)
Why give yourself more to do than you already have with little kids?
Some of the lesson plans/curriculum and pictures of people’s “at home preschool” set up that I saw while browsing Pinterest made me feel like I wasn’t measuring up as a parent.
The effort that has gone into this is commendable.
But your child doesn’t care.
All a toddler wants is to be loved and played with (and fed of course!).
Cuddle your child, snuggle up and read books and sing songs.
When something catches their attention (a toy or otherwise) use this time to talk about whatever it may be.
Language and learning opportunities for toddlers are everywhere, from bath time to playtime to mealtime.
Your child’s development doesn’t have to be complicated!
What You Should Do To Facilitate Language Development & Learning At Home
While reading some of the “tot school” articles one thing that stood out to me was the reason why so many parents were claiming to homeschool their preschooler.
And that was that they felt they (and their child) were spending too much time in front of the TV or playing on a tablet.
I love that parents are becoming more aware of how much time they and their children are “plugged in” and are trying to do something about it.
This article is in no way meant to come down on these parents.
Rather, I want to point out that you can engage your child in non-tech activities without going to the extreme of setting up a preschool in your home for your child.
Here are a few ideas that might help you out:
♥ Toy exchange ♥
This can be done with the toys you already have or get a few parents together and do a toy swap.
The vast amount of toys most children have can get quite overwhelming and you may find that it seems your child isn’t really playing with anything.
So instead of having all your child’s toys readily available, have only a few out and put the rest in bins.
If your child has a favorite toy and getting him to speak or speak more regularly is something you are working on, put the toy somewhere he can see it but can’t reach it on his own.
This way he will have to request for the toy in some way.
This could be via signing/gesturing, vocalizing or using a word or 2.
You can exchange toys once a month, every 2nd month, whatever works for you.
You and your child may be getting bored of the same old toys, but if some are packed away for a few months at a time they will be like new each time they come out!
This is especially true if you are doing a toy swap with friends.
If you are nervous about the toy swap idea because it’s an easy way for germs to be spread around, don’t worry.
There are many simple and natural ways to clean toys!
♥ Make A Schedule For Yourself ♥
I don’t mean schedule each activity your child will do, but just some ideas of what you and your child can do together when you are at home.
This can be a mental schedule that’s in your head that you make each night for the next day.
Once that is done, why not make some playdough.
Have your child help you pour the ingredients into the bowl and stir.
This is a perfect example of hands on learning!
Make sure to keep your toddler safe while helping in the kitchen with something like this!
Set aside some time to read books and play with toys!
I’ve made a list for you of the perfect toddler toys and how they can help with language development and learning!
So if you are stuck for playtime ideas and how to implicitly incorporate learning make sure to check it out.
♥ Guided Play ♥
Most parents don’t realize this but your child is almost always learning.
Figuring out if only one or 2 balls can fit into a ball drop is a great example of problem solving.
Matching the red ball to the hole outlined in red is a fun way to learn about colors, same/different, categorization, etc.
Now throw in some guided play and you can subtly teach your child without having to really take on the role of “teacher”.
I always recommend guided play for the 0-3 age group.
This means you are playing alongside your child.
But you are also following your child’s lead and letting them guide the play and interactions.
Your role is to comment on what your child is doing, expand single words they may be using into multi word phrases, model correct pronunciation (without expecting your child to repeat back) and have fun!
Be sure to also make time for some independent play. This can be done when you need some downtime like when prepping meals.
What Does This All Mean?
As you can see, there are many ways to “teach” and engage your toddler without setting up a form preschool environment in your home.
There are so many things that you can do together to encourage learning.
Here are just a few examples:
♥ running errands
♥ finger painting
♥ making a simple (and age appropriate) craft
♥ reading books together
♥ and so many more!
Focusing on these skills (ABC’s and 123’s) can end up to be detrimental to your child as she gets older.
Keep it simple and have fun!
Pinterest is a great place for ideas, but it can also suck you in and make you feel like a terrible parent when in fact you are probably already great!