Ideas, Words of Wisdom, Teaching Preschooler at Home

Updated on July 07, 2011
J.X. asks from San Clemente, CA
15 answers

My daughter will be four this winter. I've decided to forgo preschool this fall, and may forgo it altogether. But this is not a debate about weither or not to preschool. The point is, for the time being, I want to teach early reading and other skills at home. So far we are just working on alphabet, letter sounds, letter and number recognition (or rather we were doing this until I got to busy with new baby, but now its time to pick it back up). Do you have any ideas on books, websites, or other material that I may want to have for myself to best tackles early reading, and other preschool skills? I realized I may want to have a more informed approach as my SIL is teaching her two year old just letters A-F and I just went after all 26 at once. Made me think there may be some teaching methods that are more adventageous and probably best not to just wing it like I've been doing. Thanks.

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Wow, great and thanks. I have bookmarked all your website recommendations and browsed them. I think my daughter will really enjoy the on-line vissuals. Time to find those confiscated scissors she ruined furniture with and dust those off for another try! I feel much better equiped. Thanks again.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You might want to consider just enjoying her and planning activities and using those to teach at the time they present themselves!

Look for letters as you are diving, etc.

Alphabet books for bedtime reading, Counting books, etc. Read TO her a lot. It will make her a better reader.

That's probably not what you were looking for...

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

Gee Robin, it must be nice to live in an area with free preschool, because around here it costs money every week to send the kids to "school" before kindergarten. Did someone pay for your grandson's preschool education? My husband and I are both unemployed right now and doing our best. Just because we can't afford preschool does not, in any way, shape or form mean we are discounting the need for school.

And neither is Jane. That is why she's here looking for advice in order to discover hidden resources she can use.

Your advice was completely unhelpful and incredibly critical. I know when I was of preschool age, I was taught that "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". Maybe it's time you went back for a refresher course.

We use this site to print out worksheets:

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

The MDO we used was a lot lighter on the curriculum, and fewer days/week, than some of my daughter's little friends, but we supplemented heavily at home (which I hope to continue doing throughout school), and we're well caught up, if not ahead in some things.

The Leapfrog videos are great fun. The Kumon learning books are good for little ones, too - mazes help with pencil control, and they have a great cutting book. I also like the publisher DK (Dorling Kindserly) - they have a series of books for younger kids - Eyewitness. They are still a bit mature for this age, but the pictures are fantastic, and we will save the more detailed caption descriptions for when DD gets older.

Words and letters MEAN something - labeling is an easy way to make the connect. Label easy things. (The fish tank has an index card that says, "Fish," a card on the door says, "Door," there is a picture of hands being washed on the bathroom wall, that says, "Wash your hands." Simple things like that.) Put the letters of the alphabet on the wall (we just taped a set of flashcards to the wall), and point to them while you sing the ABC's. We also got a dry erase board, and did the "Letter of the Day." I would draw the letter (we started with just uppercase but we're working on lowercase now, too) and we would draw all of the things DD could think of that started with that sound, and the second time through the alphabet, she would draw the letter, too. We are now up to sight words (DD was interested in learning to read, so I am definately taking advantage of that). We are doing a combination of sight words and phonics (Leapfrog does phonics, and it's working well with the sight words). I have a list of the words that our neighborhood kindergarten recommends students recognize by the time they start first grade, and we are occasionally learning a new one of those, when the mood strikes DD. (I figure that at the rate we're going, by the time kindergarten starts, she'll have enough, I hope, to make more structured learning less intimidating, but not so much that she's bored.) We write them on an index card, and then read a book together that has that word appearing a lot (it's fun to go to the library and find a good book with the right words, with the bonus that my kids are also learning how to be comfortable finding things in the library). After the book, the card is taped to the wall over her bed, and we review them from time to time, re-arranging them to make sentences. We not only work off of the school list, but also words that interest DD, or that we need to help our "playing" with the words - sometimes we need a new verb or noun to make things more fun.

Don't forget math - buy a piggy bank, and count the pennies as you drop them in. (Memorizing numbers and actually counting physical objects are two different skills.) Use your dry-erase board for learning what the numbers look like, too, and how to "draw" them. We also got a big bulletin-board style calendar at the teacher store, laminated the individual numbers, and bought sticky velcro from the craft store - we have the monthly task of taking down and rebuilding the calendar. It's into its second year now - that's why we laminated!

Opposites are important, too. "Go Dog Go" is not only a good beginning reader book, but it's riddled with opposites. And have fun with it - "Hello, Goodbye" by the Beatles is a favorite in our house.

The toy-like things from the teacher store are good, too: we have mini volcanoes and bug catchers (I drew the line at the 150-piece skeleton model - maybe in a year or two...). There are always fun, hands-on things. (I'm indulging every interest I can afford to/have the patience to - my goal is also to spark a general interest in learning.)

Don't forget that a lot of play is learning. While I'm clipping coupons on Sunday mornings, DD is cutting apart the sale ads. This is hand-eye coordination and learning a useful skill, as well as being fun for her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

We are not doing preschool for our almost four year old daughter either next year. We have purchased some dry erase alphabet cards where she can practice writing the capital and lowercase letters. I also print out different activities (dot to dot, word finds, mazes, etc) so she can work on those. We have her practice writing her name as well as other letters (either ones she chooses or ones we choose). We try to make any/all parts of the day a learning experience. In the tub, put foam letters on the wall and have her tell me the letter, is it capital or lowercase and what is a word that starts with that letter or what is a word that rhymes with a word that starts with that letter.

When baking, I have my daughter help me crack the eggs, pour and measure and stir and mix.

Outside, hubby and I have her chase us around the yard (to get exercise she says!!!). We also practice cartwheels and other things she learned at gymnastics. She and her brother play in their water table (fine motor skills) and we look for bugs and talk about what they are, what they eat, etc.

She and her brother take turns feeding/watering the cat so that is teaching her responsibility!

She goes to a friend's house every Friday and has social interaction with another girl her age and two kindergarteners (as well as her brother) for 8.5 hours every Friday. She also interacts with other kids her age 1x a week at gymnastics. She'll start dance in the fall (not sure if she'll continue gymnastics) and I may even start taking her to Awana class (bible study) on Wed nights.

I'd like her to have a few activities each week with other kids her age since she's at home with dad and brother all day! But I do agree that she needs to learn how to share, use her manners, interact with others her age, etc.

She has a few CDs that enhance her computer as well as typing, math, reading, comprehension and spelling skills.

We also do a lot of coloring, paints and play-do!

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answers from Los Angeles on

keep it short and sweet.
have a set schedule that you go by.
start with the basics.
make it fun!

there are tons of good websites to go along with your lessons.
one of my favorites is

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answers from Fargo on

Surfnsk8mom had great advice! Keep it short and sweet! With my 4 year old, we did about an hour a day. has TONS of great preschool activities.

Contrary to popular belief, school doesn't make a child have good social skills. That starts at home! My kids are homeschooled and have excellent social skills. You aren't denying her anything by keeping her home another year!

"Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" is a great language tool! We used Explode the Code with our daughter and she does such a nice job with letter recognition, phonetic sounds and writing her letters. She also has an advanced vocabulary.

Kumon has great books and you can purchase them at Barnes and Noble, Target or Wal-Mart.
We used "Let's Cut Paper", "I Can Paste" (I *think* that was the title!) and a book for recognizing numbers.
We also use a book for teaching simple Spanish words, and a book called Museum ABC, that teaches letters using famous works of art.

Good luck! :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Sorry, I know this is late--- a month late, lol. But I wanted to echo MomofMany... I used "Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons" with both of our kids, too. But I didn't skip the writing portion... I just used easier tools. Like a magna-doodle instead of pencil and paper. Actually writing the letters helps reinforce them in memory. :)

And both my kids were great readers before starting school. It is a step by step, word by word, instruction/workbook for you and child to work through together. It takes less than 30 minutes per lesson, and the earlier ones are shorter than the later ones (when they'll be reading an entire PAGE in one sitting). They are SO PROUD of their ability when they finally can read on their own!

You can get the workbook at Amazon for under $15.


answers from San Francisco on

Preschool (and even kindergarten to some extent) is really more about learning social skills than academic ones: sharing, taking turns, paying attention, etc. I think it's fine to teach letters and numbers but please make sure she also gets some time to socialize and play cooperatively with kids her own age.
Also, she should get lots of practice drawing, cutting, gluing, etc. as these are skills directly related to writing development. And of course read to her every day :)
Whatever you do, make it FUN!
EDIT: Sesame Street is an incredible teaching tool. I never went to preschool, and my family NEVER worked with me, but I knew all my letters, numbers and even some words before starting kindergarten as a direct result of watching Sesame Street every morning!



answers from Los Angeles on

Definitely agree with the moms who suggested using teaching opportunities as they arise during naturally and enjoying a preschool age kid just being a preschool age kid :)
And that starfall website is fun, my middle child's kindergarten teacher recommended it and our child LOVED it!
I did want to recommend a website for a company we get homeschool curriculum from (I am now homeschooling 2 of my 3 children).
They have stuff even for preschoolers and it's really great stuff. You might not want to buy the whole preschool package for financial reasons, but if you do get it, you won't be disappointed. My kids LOVED it! It's mostly really fun books to read and suggestions of fun stuff to do.
And I bought Singapore preschool level math from them for my middle kid, because he was dying to do math in preschool. He's just totally a numbers kid. Really fun for him, lots of colorful pictures and he really learned a lot.
Another resource they sell is a book by Ruth Beechick called the 3R's, which helps you teach your young kid reading, writing, and arithmetic at home. Beechick is like a homeschool legend, and this book is really nice, encouraging and helpful. Might be a really good starting place for you.



answers from Colorado Springs on

Hi Jane,
You got some good responses already, but I wanted to add the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We have used it for several of our children, and by the time they are finished the book, they are very good readers. We skip the handwriting portion of the book. You might check out for some more ideas for your preschooler. We like Miquon Math for the littles. It is an inexpensive manipulatives based math program. And, the kids seem to really enjoy it. And, then, once you think she is ready, you can use a handwriting book to teach basic handwriting. At four, I wouldn't concentrate too much on "school." I would spend more time just enjoying her through play. For example, before getting out pencils, fill one of those tupperware (or aluminum) rectangular containers with uncooked rice. Let her draw her letters with her finger in it. It is so much fun for them, and much easier than manipulating a pencil. (Store the rice in a ziplock bag for future use for this type of play.) There is also a website called, which is a free resource. It has projects and books for each letter in the alphabet. So, you can go to the library once a week, pick out whatever books you want from the list, and then enjoy various activities and books based on the letter you are on. Here's the link:

Enjoy! It is such a wonderful, fun time with littles. I am so happy for you that you will be spending that time with her. I wouldn't give someone else that opportunity for anything!


answers from Fort Collins on is great.
You can google "preschool games" and come up with quite a list of free sites.
NickJr, Jumpstart, Disney, Sesame Street and Fisher Price all have pretty good games and activities on their sites.

I even found a neat clock skills site by googling "time learning games"

I have also used a basic preschool skills lesson book I bought at a local store to supplement writing, cutting and drawing skills.

Just keep it fun and simple : )



answers from San Diego on

I have a pre school curriculum that i use with my daycare kids, and i also bought work books for math, reading, spelling and even spanish at Target, As a licensend provider i get a ot of things through the mail. As far as the Alphabit goes, it;s best to go for all 26, all 3 of my kids could sing the alphabit song by two lmnop was a little rough, but they got it, I started introducing all the learning activities befor the age of 2. You can go on line and print things out for your child, I really like the work books because i s an each page so i always have the originals. J.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Jane,
My son just turned 4 and he loves It's a really great online resource (as others have mentioned) and the kids have a lot of fun with it.

As for other great learning materials, please take a look at my Discovery Toys website. Our products are all educational, but also very fun, so the kids are learning while they are playing (which many people feel is the best way for preschoolers to learn).

A few of my favorites for preschool-aged children:
Busy Farm - teaches pre-reading skills:
Busy Bugs - teaches pre-math skills:
Letter Fun Lotto - teaches letters and has good opportunities to work with sounds:
It's a Match - wide variety of skills, excellent game for when you're on the go (car, restaurant, airplane, etc):
ABSeas - capital and lowercase letters:

There are many other great products, too. You can purchase them on my site at We're having our annual summer sale through June 30 with select products up to 50% off. Also, if you would like your toys for free, you can host a party and invite your friends over to shop. I do all the work and you reap the benefits. June hosts can earn an extra $25 in free product!




answers from Los Angeles on

You can find alot of material at Lakeshore. It is a great store for educational items. They have crafts every Saturday. Look on their website and they have alot of helpful tips on how to help your child. I love their store and all the educational toys and material.


answers from Los Angeles on

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