# Learning Activities For Preschoolers

## Providing learning activities for preschoolers will lay the foundation for their future education. Enhance math and reading abilities the fun way.

The preschool years are the perfect time to begin doing learning activities with children. Everything is new and fresh to them, and their sense of wonder can even rub off on the teacher! Start with reading all sorts of storybooks together, but don't stop there.

Little children need many opportunities to exercise budding math skills, particularly counting. You will note that the child can often say the numbers, but will not necessarily pair objects with numbers properly. They just need lots of practice. Count everything. Count buttons on clothing and forks for the table. Any time you see objects in amounts of 2 to 10 (or more, as the child matures), make it your habit to count.

Preschoolers can begin to understand the concept of multiplication if you start slow. Count things that come in pairs, like mittens or socks. Three pairs of shoes are six shoes, for example. Look for clovers, and count by threes. Counting by 5's is fun to learn, too. Use fingers and toes (theirs, yours, everybody's!) to demonstrate the relationship between the numbers and objects.

Simple science wonders are another area of learning that is appropriate for preschoolers. Visit nature often. Use field guides to find out the names of bugs, flowers, and tree leaves. Then, be sure to use the proper names for them. This builds vocabulary, which will later contribute to reading skills. Look for seasonal signs, such as violets blooming in the spring, and squirrels gathering nuts in the fall.

Do simple experiments, and talk, talk, talk about them. For instance, compare things that float with things that sink. This can be done in the bathtub, wading pool, or even at the sink, with supervision. Let the child rinse dishes when you wash them, and play "sinking boats" with them. That is, note the "boats" that sink, such as a colander.

Sprout beans or other seeds in the kitchen. A "garbage garden," simply a container of potting soil, can be used to plant seeds and tops of root plants that are left over when cooking. A carrot top can be placed in a saucer of water, and in a few days lacy green leaves will sprout. Beans can be sprouted in a jar. Place a few beans between the side of the jar and a wet paper towel. Keep the towel moist, check it every day, and soon you will see the root and the first leaves.

Many basic concepts, such as shape, color, and position, can be taught while working together around the house. Cooking together is especially rich with learning opportunities. Count the eggs when making cookies, and notice the round yellow yolks. Notice the square shaped butter package. Introduce fractions when measuring the flour. The child might not understand all about fractions, but they can see that it takes two half-cups to fill the cup measure. Talk about what's going in the bowl, in the pan and in the oven, and things you leave out. Reach up to get ingredients and down to put wrappers in the trashcan. Look for ways to use terms like over, under, around, and through.

Learning theorists believe developing gross motor (large muscle) skills enhances early learning. Both sides of the body need to work together to prepare the brain to read from left to right, for example. Practice crawling (pretend to be horses, perhaps) and log rolling, and make angels in the snow. Throw and kick balls together, and run races. Exercises that cross the midline are also good for young minds. Imagine a line down the center of the child, or midline. Activities like reaching and touching the opposite toe force the child to cross her midline. Swinging a lightweight plastic baseball bat does this, as well.

Social studies concepts are there for the learning wherever we go. Talk about what fire fighters and police personnel do whenever you hear a siren. When you go to the post office, talk about how the letters will travel to their destinations. When you have to visit a hospital, talk about the sign that says X-ray, or surgery, or even cafeteria.

Fine motor (small muscle) skills will be necessary when the child begins learning to write. Activities that prepare these muscles include stringing beads or buttons on a string, or sorting buttons. String circular shaped cereal for an edible necklace or a bird treat. Building toys, such as connecting bricks, develop these skills, as well. Simple art projects, such as making a collage of magazine pictures, will help develop dexterity.

Are preschoolers too young to learn to read? Maybe. Some specialists believe that reading at too young an age, even before 7, results in an increased need for glasses. They recommend learning letters and words from a distance, such as reading from the chalkboard in a classroom. In a home setting, this can mean identifying letters from billboards and store signs.

The daily story time, however, is when children really come to understand that those squiggly black marks on the bottom of the page are telling the story. So in spite of a parent's precautions, some children will learn to read simply from being read to. Most children, though, will enjoy the story and wait on deciphering the squiggles. And really, there is plenty of time for reading and other formal learning during the school years. The preschool years are the time for foundational fun activities.

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