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Toddler learning is all about play, exploring the world, and having fun. Keep the fun while getting your little one ready for homeschooling! Build these 5 school skills for toddlers into your everyday play.

5 School Skills for Toddlers

I’m not one to push my kids into growing up faster. Oh my goodness can they please stay little forever?? But when my girls each got old enough to want to “do school” like their older siblings I always tried to find a way to start developing skills that would carry into their school years. Here are 5 school skills you can teach your toddler now that will set them up for a positive Kindergarten experience.

1. Read books to stuffed animals or the family pet.

One of my top priorities is to inspire a love of reading in my kids. Even though toddlers can’t read yet, their imaginative minds will pretend to read and even make up a story that goes with the pictures as they copy you and older siblings. You can have family reading times that your toddler can be a part of. Have your child snuggle up with a pet, a favorite stuffed animal, or a sibling and get ready for some fun stories to come out of the book! The key here is buckets of encouragement to help your child love reading. And loving reading is one of the best school skills a kid can have.

2. Sit at a desk and do “worksheets.”

Now before you cringe and gasp at my mentioning worksheets for little ones, hear me out. I certainly don’t feel that kids should spend too much time at a desk especially when they’re so young. But learning to sit and work on a task quietly is an important skill that they can painlessly begin building even at this age. If you have older children homeschooling, your youngest is probably already wanting to do schoolwork like their big sister or brother. Don’t be afraid to tap into that enthusiasm and use it as way to introduce sitting quietly and working on a project. A quick Pinterest search will provide you with endless printables to use for your budding student. Keep desk time short. 2 to 5 minutes of independent work is a big accomplishment for a toddler. Some kids will want to do more, other kids will resist the pencil and paper thing. And that’s perfectly ok. Try other activities that can be done at a desk or table. The point is to make schoolwork a positive experience.

Desk Work Ideas For Preschoolers:

  • Line tracing worksheets
  • Dot marker printables
  • Watercolor painting
  • Coloring books
  • Name tracing sheets

3. Participate in a group.

Homeschoolers in particular need to develop the skills to learn within a group of siblings of different ages. We always try to start our day with circle time. We lay out a large blanket in front of the couch and do math drills, character lessons, and pray for our day. We also include some activities for the youngest one. Doing this builds patience in everyone for their siblings’ ability level. Sing some songs with hand motions. Get a few flash cards with animals on them for mini drills (keep it fun and short!) It can take many months to train your littlest ones to be quiet and calm during circle time, but trust me it’s worth it. Keep it short and be flexible. When they get too wiggly or disruptive, let them play with a few small toys or snuggle a favorite stuffed animal while sitting on a separate blanket. I have about a dozen totes I made out of old milk jugs that are filled with different toys and manipulatives – when my little one can’t sit quietly during circle time I sometimes bring out a tote for her to play with while we continue our drills. Remember – keep things short and be willing to try different things to help your preschooler peacefully participate with the group.

4. Hold a pencil, use scissors and a glue stick. 

It’s time to switch out those crayons for pencils every once and awhile. Give your toddler plenty of opportunities to doodle on white paper with a pencil. Every so often, place the pencil correctly in their little hand, then let them have fun scribbling. My first daughter loved worksheets, so each time we worked with them I held the pencil in her hand and we wrote her name together. We did that so many times that she began writing her name at an early age. Also, have to courage to begin offering safety scissors and glue sticks. There are so many activities and crafts that toddlers can really get into when they are allowed to use scissors and glue sticks. I’ve had much success with giving my little one scraps of paper, scissors and glue and getting a solid 20 minutes of play out of it. That’s a win for me!

5. Believe they’re smart and capable.

One of the most important things to teach your toddler in preparation for schoolwork is that they are smart and capable.  Encourage any act or behavior that will build into a positive experience. Following a single direction, doing part of a worksheet, holding a pencil, completing any task – speak encouragement over them at every opportunity. Tell them that they’re smart and very good at school. At the same time, teach them that it’s ok to make mistakes and that making a mistake doesn’t mean they’re less smart or capable. In retrospect, I wish I would have taught my girls about mistakes at a much earlier age. Guiding your child through the process of making a mistake is an essential part of their educational experience. Teach them young and often that mistakes are the way that we learn. In fact, when you make a mistake and correct it, it makes you even smarter. So we say, “Thank you mistake!” every time we make one. Every child is different, so try to tune into your little one’s heart and gently guide them through the mistake making process. If you have a child that melts down whenever their work isn’t perfect, now is the best time to help them work through the mistake process and set them up for emotional success in their later school years.

So let your toddler play and be a kid, but be intentional about sneaking some school skills in there. You’ll be glad you did when it’s time to do some more grown up schoolwork. What school skills to do you find yourself building in your youngest learners?

You can find lots of free printable fun for your little ones on my website PK1HomeschoolFUN.com

About Christy

Christy is a homeschooling mother of three beautiful girls ages 7 and under. She creates unique, educational printables and videos tailored for preschool, kindergarten and first grade kids at PK1HomeschoolFUN.com

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