Learning Activities to Do With Your Littles While the Big Kids are at School

Okay Mama. Before reading this post, you need to do me a favor. Raise your right hand in the air. Good. Now pat yourself on your back.

You did it!

You had an awesome summer with your children. Then, you got them through those first hectic few weeks of school {the school supply shopping, the meet the teacher nights, the first day drop offs, and of course those terrifying first few car lines of the year}. I imagine you’re even starting to hit your stride with morning and afternoon routines and lunch packing. Back to school time is not for the faint of heart, and it’s basically the only stress-filled life sprint that’s not delineated by a holiday season or carols. 

For many of you, however, I also know that not all of your children went back to school. Your house may be quieter with the big kids gone, but for those mamas with littles {4 and under} it’s far from silent. After your littles have been playing tag-a-long with the summer trips and activities for the past few months, and your time is now completely devoted to them during the day, it’s natural to ask yourself, “What exactly am I supposed to do with these little people again!?”

Although I obviously don’t have the complete answer to this question, as a state certified reading specialist and mom of two littles {and one more on the way!}, I do have some wonderful educational activity ideas that you can do with your little ones to get your started. These activities are organized around three important areas in Early Childhood Education :: Reading, Math, and Sensory.

Before I delve into these activities, I want to emphasize two important components to make this successful for both you and your littles.

It should be FUN!

I have personally tried all of these activities with my own littles {from the very early age of 8 months in some cases}. These are NOT meant to be drills or mandatory activities. Instead, think of them as options to enrich playtime. If your child hates one, try something else. If they are tired and cranky, it might not be a good time to present the activity. You want these early learning activities to be a positive experience, not one that will give you early gray hairs!

It should be a part of your routine!

The best way to seamlessly introduce these learning activities into your life is to make it a part of your little ones’ daily routine. Maybe a good learning time for reading activities is after you get back from morning drop off, and math activities might be great after lunch and before nap. Whatever works for you, try to pick a part of your day, so that your littles look forward to a certain type of activity at a certain time. You’ll find that they start to anticipate the learning fun!

Reading Activities

  • Reading books  

I know this seems like a “cop out” activity to pad my list, but I can’t emphasize it enough! Reading books with your littles and making books available to them has ENORMOUS benefits! We’re talking vocabulary building, story structure understanding, concepts of print, letter recognition, sight word building, and overall, positive feelings toward reading. I can’t emphasize enough the transformative power of even 10-15 minutes of consistent daily read alouds for your children!

  • Learning DVDs and videos like Preschool Prep Company

Preschool Prep Company is my jam. It is just the best! I like to put on the Meet the Letters, Meet the Phonics, or Meet the Sight Words during free playtime. Sometimes my children will want to watch it all the way through, and sometimes, they’ll just tune in occasionally. 

  • Letter puzzles

This is a win for fine motor AND letter recognition. Melissa and Doug are my favorite brand, especially the one that talks!

  • Cookie trays for Magnet Letters and Dry EraseLearning Activities to Do With Your Littles While the Big Kids are at School | Houston Moms Blog

A trip to the dollar store will get you a metal cookie tray, dry erase markers, and letter magnets. You’re in business! For littles, you can write a letter in marker and have them match it with the magnet. For older children, have them practice spelling their names or common short words like “mom” and “dad.”

Math Activities

  • Number books

This is a great way to integrate reading AND number recognition!

  •  Counting fun objectsLearning Activities to Do With Your Littles While the Big Kids are at School | Houston Moms Blog

Whether it be puff balls, Fruit Loops, or dinosaurs, getting kids to practice counting is an awesome early skill. For an added challenge, write down a number and have them create a group of that many objects.

  • Number Puzzles

Again, Melissa and Doug are some of my favorites here. You’ll get the benefits of both fine motor skills and number recognition.

  • Number Hunts

We like to go on number hunts during our morning walks. Sometimes, I’ll even make a little magnifying glass with a specific number for the kids to use {pictured}. You can also do this with letters too!

Learning Activities to Do With Your Littles While the Big Kids are at School | Houston Moms Blog

Sensory Activities

  • Sensory BinsLearning Activities to Do With Your Littles While the Big Kids are at School | Houston Moms Blog

This can seem like an overwhelming endeavor at first glance, but it’s actually quite simple. I go to the seasonal section of the dollar store and pick a few filler items. I like to make sure there are texture differences as well as fun little treasures to talk about. Pinterest has a wealth of ideas in this department too! 

  • Playdoh {Regular and Homemade}

Great for fine motor AND sensory, this activity is always a winner! For extra fun, pick up a little kit with playdoh pressing and cutting toys at the store.

  • Paints, paints, paints!

I know. I know. The mess is real, but it doesn’t HAVE to be! I do use finger paints for activities, but there are a wide variety of ways to cut down on the mess. My kids have painted with marshmallows, wine corks, cotton balls, roller brushes, and regular brushes. My best tip :: keep diaper wipes on hand to clean off those messy faces, and put down a cheap tablecloth {think dollar store} whenever doing activities. The fine motor and sensory benefits are awesome!

Learning Activities to Do With Your Littles While the Big Kids are at School | Houston Moms Blog

So there you have it, some great ideas to use on your littles while the big kids are away. I think you’ll find that not only are these ideas beneficial for your children’s early education, but also for providing fun activities that create quality bonding time with you and your children! Have fun!

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