School Before Age 3

We started “formally” homeschooling a few months before my son hit his third birthday! I heard some criticism about starting him too young. Of course, no one would criticize starting preschool at that age.

If you were to ask when I started teaching the Champ, I would reply “at birth.” Children are always learning. And, while worksheets and textbooks are not necessary at a young age, you can teach your child a lot through play.

So, how do you “School” before the age of three?

Count Everything

When I changed the Champ’s diapers as a newborn, I counted the buttons on his pajama’s. Count everyday objects such as toys, place settings at the dinner table, or ducks at the park. When the Coach would swing the Champ on our porch, he would hold the swing and count “1, 2, 3…” before letting the swing go. The Champ was proudly imitating him within weeks.

Read Everything

It is never too early to read to your child. You can introduce books to your baby from the moment he arrives, and babies love to hear their parent’s voices. As your child gets older, you can point out words on buildings, signs, and brochures.

Sing and Dance

Gross motor skills are important to learn. Dancing is a great way for your child to learn how to control his body. Children’s songs are another way to introduce vocabulary and language skills.

Create a Literature Rich Environment

Make sure there are letters and words everywhere around your child. Have children’s books readily available. Hang up letter activities they created in the hallway or their room. Hang up an alphabet chart, calendar, or number chart next to the dinner table so they can ask questions while you are eating.

Go to Activities

Mommy and me classes are great if you can afford them. Many of these classes work on gross motor skills and social skills. If there are none in your area, or you don’t want to pay for them, start a mom’s group or set up play dates.  Story time at the library is a great opportunity for your child to work on social behaviors and be introduced to new books. Some libraries even offer puppet shows and craft time.

Creative Play

Playing dress up, toy cookware, toy tools, and other pretend toys are great ways for your child to learn about the world around them. Creative art such as drawing, coloring, painting, and playing with play dough is great for working on fine motor development. Sensory boxes can also help your child work on fine motor skills.

Cook and Clean Together

Assist your child as they work on skills such as pouring and mixing when you are working in the kitchen. Let them help you put clothes in the dryer and fold washcloths when you are folding towels. You can also let them think they are helping. Give them a miniature dust pan and broom while you are cleaning or fill the sink with water and let them “wash” a few dishes. They will slow you down, and they will make a mess. But they are learning and will actually be helping you one day.

Create Independence Learning Opportunities

As soon as your child can dump out a box of toys, you can begin to work on independence skills. Chores such as cleaning up toys, taking clothes to the laundry basket, cleaning up water spills with a towel, and taking dishes to the sink can all be introduced to two year olds. Other skills such as getting dressed, washing hands, and taking off shoes can also be introduced. Do not expect these skills to be mastered, but simply allow your child to have the opportunity to work on them.

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World Ocean’s Day!

Today is World Oceans Day!

Play with an ocean themed sensory box, make ocean themed crafts, and watch the movie Oceans.

Fake Aquarium

A craft we made a few years ago that has been a huge hit was our fake aquarium!

We found a fishbowl jar (different candies and other items that are sold in these or pick up a cheap one in the fish aisle of a pet store).

We cut out a piece of paper in the shape of one flat side of the fishbowl and glued it to the back side of the bowl.

You can use decorative stones or shells from the floral department or decorative gravel from the pet store to fill the bottom of the bowl.

Then we placed cardboard strips of “sea grass” in the decorative stones at the bottom. (See further down for a free template download).

We punched out holes in the lid of the bowl and ran string through the holes. We attached our pet fish to the other end of the string.

Two years later, we still have our pet fish that we never have to feed!

Octopus Handprint

Cover your child’s hand with finger paint. Then have them press their hand down on a piece of construction paper. Flip the paper over and glue on google eyes and decorate the “ocean” around your octopus.

Paper Bowl Turtle

Color or paint a paper bowl green. Tear up pieces of green and brown construction paper and glue to the bowl. Then cut out four turtle feet, a tail and head. Glue these pieces to the inside lip of the bowl. Attach google eyes to your turtle’s head.

Download Free World Ocean Day Craft Templates for the Fake Aquarium and Paper Bowl Turtle.

The Walmart Challenge

Ask anyone which store they frequent that they dislike going to the most. It seems like the most popular answer will be “Walmart!” or whichever grocery store they happen to use.

So, I decided to create a challenge for myself this morning to get through the mundane task of grocery shopping.

This challenge can be done anywhere: Walmart, the dentist, the DMV, church…

The Rules:

Be Positively Positive! Go in with the right attitude. There is no reason we cannot find JOY in shopping for our families. We are “like the ships of the merchant; [we bring our] food from afar” (Proverbs 31:14).

Go in with the knowledge that a lot of people in the store do not want to be there and want to get out as soon as possible.

Smile at everyone (or at least most people)!

Find small ways to brighten the day of the people around you!

Bonus points if you do this while shopping with your kids (I didn’t)!

The Results:

As I drove to the store, I realized that I was driving with a little less impatience. I didn’t mind letting someone cut in front of me. I drove the speed limit and took time to notice the world around me.

The first person I came to in the parking lot, I felt really awkward smiling at. But as soon as I smiled, a funny thing happened: she smiled back! Each time I smiled at someone and got a return smile, I noticed that my facial expressions were no longer forced. I was actually giving people a moment of happiness.

At the checkout counter, I let the man behind me check out first. He looked completely confused but gratefully accepted. And, it turns out he was in the store buying a slow cooker on his lunch break and was trying to rush home to start supper for his family after theirs would not turn on. I am sure those 10 extra minutes that I saved him really blessed him.

Then, I took the time to talk to the cashier. She was bored with her morning and seemed to enjoy having someone to laugh with for a few minutes.

In the span of ten minutes, I was able to talk to two complete strangers and had the opportunity to serve them in the smallest of ways.

Was anything I did difficult: Absolutely not.

Was anything I did life changing: For others, probably not. For me, maybe. It helped me to see the difference that a positive attitude can have on the people around me. I also think having a willing and open heart allows me to see where God wants me to move. Perhaps having more of these “Positivity Challenges” will allow others to see the light in me and seek Him.

Bedtime Routines

Studies* have shown that a consistent bedtime routine is associated with better sleeping habits in young children.

We have found it best to create a bedtime routine that we can recreate when we are traveling. It is also important for us to have a routine that we can “modify” when we are running late.

Our typical bedtime routine for the Champ (age 3) is as follows:

  • He takes his clothes to the dirty clothes basket.
  • He goes to the big boy potty.
  • We check the refrigerator for checkmarks and get spankings if we have any (this is our current discipline method).
  • The Champ cleans up his room
  • We give the Champ his daily “allowance” (three coins) to keep or put in a jar to donate
  • The Champ takes his vitamins and brushes his teeth.
  • We read our Bible story.
  • We have “brother time.” (We place the Rookie in the Champ’s bed so they can have a moment to bond).
  • We read a short story out loud and if time allows, the Champ tells the plot of the story to the Coach.
  • We say our prayers.
  • I tell the Champ goodnight and leave the room with the Rookie.
  • The Coach prays over the Champ and tells him goodnight.

On a typical night, this routine takes 20 minutes. When we need a shorter routine we will help the Champ clean his room, do a shorter period of “brother time,” and read a shorter story.

What does your bedtime routine look like?

*For further reading: Mindell JA, Li AM, Sadeh A, Kwon R, Goh DY. Bedtime routines for young children: a dose-dependent association with sleep outcomes. SLEEP 2015;38(5):717–722.