2020 News Stories

Activities to keep your preschooler learning from home—tips from the USF Preschool for Creative Learning

Published May 6, 2020

While social distancing and staying at home, many families and educators are thinking about how to best support children’s learning. For young children, play provides an important space for interacting and engaging with the world. Through play, children are authentically engaged with the physical and social world in ways that allow for safe, authentic, joyful, and open-ended exploration.
The USF Preschool for Creative Learning (PCL) is housed in the USF College of Education and is a site used to demonstrate, observe, study, and teach exemplary practices in early childhood education. Below, teachers at the USF PCL share ideas that offer activities for play with young children while supporting learning connections to a variety of content areas. These experiences allow for children to work together with family members and engage in discussion as they play.

Cook together with your child

Child cooking at home in kitchen

Bring your child into the kitchen to cook with you. Pick a family favorite or try something new. Cooking supports engagement with math, science, social studies, science and literacy.

As you measure ingredients together, count how much of each item you put in. Notice the ways each ingredient looks, smells, and even tastes, observe its color and texture. If you pick a dish that’s a family favorite, discuss what makes this recipe special to your family. You might even consider cooking a non-food item, like playdough, that can be used later.

— Elyse Ledford, Willow Classroom Teacher

Make an at-home obstacle course

Preschoolers playing in an at-home obstacle course

Create an obstacle course with safe household items like chairs, baskets, towels and anything else you can think of. Practice words like “under,” “over,” “around,” “across” or “fast and slow,” while giving one or two-step directions.
You can make this activity more challenging by having your child hold a ball or toy to move across the course. This demonstrates gross-motor manipulative, balancing and traveling skills.

— Keegan McKay, Willow Classroom Teacher

Step into nature while practicing writing

the word air spelled out by sticks from nature

Explore the nature surrounding your house. What can you and your child find? Collect nature resources and use them to help your child write a word. Remember to only pick-up living things that naturally fell on the ground. If it is attached to a bush or tree, it is still growing and it will fall off on its own.

While creating letters with natural resources, children are demonstrating emergent writing skills and identifying letters. You’re also getting some fresh air together as a family.

— Eloah Decat, Holly Classroom teacher

Create a piece of art using natural materials from outside

a child painting a stick from outside

While looking for natural resources to write words, you can also search for pieces that can be part of artwork. You can draw, paint, cut or glue—be creative! What piece of art can you and your child make with things you find in nature?

Science and art come together when children explore the various ways, shapes and forms nature can collaborate with artistic representations.

— Meaghan Mosher, Holly Classroom teacher

Build a matching game to strengthen your child’s memory

A child creates drawings from shadows of their toys

Let your child create their own matching game by drawing the shadow or outline of different objects and then have them try to match what shadow or outline belongs to each object. Children can use any toys they already have at home for this activity, or use natural materials found outside such as rocks, sticks or shells.
This activity allows children to exercise their fine motor skills by drawing with a writing utensil and creates the opportunity to learn about physics and the concepts of light and shadow.

— Danielle Richardson, Maple Classroom teacher

Explore your child’s artistic side by creating patterns

Children create designs using masking tape and tiles

Engaging children in independent tasks leads to creativity and play-based learning. Creating designs with painter's tape along with small manipulatives—such as bottle caps, legos or buttons—allows children to interact with materials in a variety of ways.
Children can make colors, sizes and shape patterns, and then count the total amount of manipulatives it takes to create the design. This activity also gives them the the opportunity to exercise their little fingers!

— Chrystyan Williams, Maple Classroom teacher

Practice counting skills using at-home staples

A young child practicing counting skills with blocks

Math is all around us and can be naturally embedded into just about anything we do. At home, have your child use materials of their choice to incorporate math skills. Materials could include toys, natural materials or common household items. After choosing what items to use, have your child practice their number sense by representing the quantity of each material with its numerical value. 

— Cassidy Dickson, Holly Classroom teacher

Recycle cardboard and fuel your child’s imagination

Preschoolers using recycled materials to create art

Let your imagination run wild and repurpose cardboard boxes! Engaging in imaginative play allows children to explore new ideas, develop oral language skills and take on different roles. Children can use a variety of art materials—such as paint, crayons, markers or chalk—to add details to their creation. Asking children questions while they are creating challenges their thinking and promotes a deeper level of learning.

— Jordan Simmons, Magnolia Classroom teacher

About the USF Preschool for Creative Learning: 
The USF Preschool for Creative Learning (PCL) exemplifies an inquiry approach to teaching and learning, innovating and improving early childhood education through teacher education, research, and community engagement. The mission of the USF PCL is to provide a site to demonstrate, observe, study and teach exemplary practices in early childhood education. Learn more at www.usfpcl.org.