Resources for Pre-K Learning and Fun at Home

First make a schedule for your little one including choice time, quiet time, and screen time for when you need to work or rest. Then use these resources.
 

Source: Getty Images

With schools and libraries closed, children's programming cancelled, and even playgrounds and playdates discouraged for now, parents and caregivers have a lot of hours to fill while spending time with small children. These suggestions and resources for engaging children ages two to seven will help. How are you and your family coping? Let us know in the comments.

 

Start with a schedule

Children thrive on routine and predictability. Whether they are in daycare, preschool, or a school age classroom, it's likely that they have a schedule that teachers use constantly throughout the day to redirect, reassure, and excite them. Create a schedule as a family for "school" days and weekends. Start by making a list of things they like to do at school. Then add some things they want to do every day or as a special activity. Pepper in some things you want or need them to do like independent play or choice-time, helping with chores or cooking, and naps or quiet-time. Come up with an order that makes sense for your family, for example scheduling self-directed activities and screen-time for periods when you'll need to work or rest.

Here is some advice from a homeschooling parent on schedules.

Some more schedule ideas from the twitterverse and beyond.

 

Try having a morning meeting

Things are changing every day, but even when they stay the same, young children need reminders about routines and rules, and a time to share what's on their mind. Some traditional morning meeting topics include looking at a calendar, and talking about the weather. This is also a great time to discuss your daily schedule, and check in about how everyone is feeling. It can be hard to know how to talk to young children in times of crisis–but trying to check in before the day begins can help mitigate and lessen any anxiety that might be brewing.

How to talk to kids about COVID-19, from Daniel Tiger

More strategies from the Child Mind Institute

Brain Pop video with the facts on COVID-19 (helpful for grown-ups to find simple, clear language to describe the virus)

Read:5 Podcasts on Kids & Tech Use Your Patrons Could Use Right Now

Rethink screen time

You may know the AAP screen time recommendations, and you may have even filled out one of our Family Screen Time Planners. If you don't have screen time rules, now is a good time to create some. If you, it's a good opportunity to temporarily reevaluate them. Some important things to keep in mind:

  • Choose (mostly) high quality content that is age appropriate. Common Sense Media has great lists of high quality and educational media for preschoolers and school-age kids. It's okay to watch some things that are just for fun (and maybe not as educational) as long as they are age-appropriate. Think of screen time as a healthy balanced diet: It's okay to have cookies and ice cream sometimes!

  • Co-view and co-play when you can: Co-viewing and co-playing increases children's learning, especially language and early literacy development. Of course, this isn't possible with every minute of screen time, but plan for some Joint-Media-Engagement when you can. Here are some more AAP tips.
  • Some screen time doesn't really "count": FaceTime with family members, Zoom playdates, exercise and yoga videos, virtual storytime (see below), and other ways we use technology as a tool and not as the main event don't really count as screen-time in the same way a passive TV program or even educational app does. If children are active and/or interacting with real people, it's not really screen time.

 

Here are some free apps for young children:

PBS Kids
Khan Academy Kids
Sesame Street

Some libraries, though closed, are keeping Wi-Fi on for those who wish to use digital devices outside our locations (especially nice on a sunny day!)

 

Rethink reading: ebooks and more

Don't worry if you don't have that many books at home at the moment. There are other ways to engage with books and reading.

Search your library catalog for ebooks and audiobooks. 

Come to Virtual Storytime at Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) every day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST! Read, talk, sing and play with our librarians!

Follow one of our DIY Storytimes designed by BPL librarians-with e-books, videos, songs and rhymes you can do at home.
Do-it-Yourself Storytime by Ms. Kathy
Do-it-Yourself Storytime by. Ms. Stefanie

Listen to folktales adapted for young children on the Circle Round podcast.

Doodle with Mo’ Willems.

Listen to these read-alouds from KidLit TV.

Check out even more children’s authors reading their books aloud to kids online.

Drag Queen Story Hour now has a livestream series.

Storyline Online features famous actors reading well known books.

Schedule some read-aloud playdates with friends, or encourage a family member to read your child a book or sing a song via FaceTime or Zoom.

Read: Free Tools for Online Teaching and Learning During School Closures

Check with your children’s school, daycare, preschool, afterschool for ideas

Check out BPL's  Ready Set Kindergarten videos in multiple languages.

The Scholastic Learn at Home site has some great daily activities for preschoolers.

Do some things you normally do, but virtually
It won’t be the same, but it might be cool! You can plan playdates, visit museums, go on field trips, and even take art and music classes virtually. Here are a few cool options:

Visit the Zoo! 

Take virtual field trips with Discovery Education.

 

Use what you have at home

Start keeping those egg cartons, paper towel rolls, and pick up some vinegar and baking soda if you can. Using what you have at home to make art and explore STEM concepts is fun, easy, sustainable and most of all–very engaging for young children!

Here are 50+ science-y activities you can do with household items.

You can even make your own soap dough!

For younger children, check out Play Recipes like these designed to encourage language through exploration of everyday materials.

Here are some fantastic sensory activities you can do with young children.

Read: A News- and Media Literacy–Themed Mixtape for Tough Times

Keep em’ moving, singing, and dancing

Outside activities are limited, but be sure to get some movement in every day!

Stories, Songs and Stretches has great content for young children from Katie Sherrer.

Go Noodle is what a lot of K-and-up kids do at school to get their wiggles out–it works!

Have a dance party every day at the same time--invite friends via Zoom or FaceTime!

Sing together! Learn storytime songs and rhymes from Jbrary, and songs in 12+ languages from Storyblocks.

Go on a nature walk. Instead of collecting items, use your phone to take pictures of the things you find and talk about them together!

 

Make things together as a family

Everyone might benefit from some art therapy. Take a little time to create a family art project.

Here are 50 Process-Based Art ideas from Meri Cherry.


Jessica Ralli is coordinator of early literacy programs at the Brooklyn Public Library and co-author of SLJ’s “First Steps” column on early learning.

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