To give a little more structure to our play and exploration of the world this year, we will be using a book per week as a launch pad for play and learn activities. I am all for large doses of free and independent play and letting toddlers explore and experience, but since our current home and garden does not allow for much of this, I have noticed increasingly that my children (and I!!) become frustrated and bad tempered as the day goes on.
To overcome this and preserve the peaceful atmosphere of our home, I have decided to give more structure to our playing and learning this year by doing 'playschool at home' in the mornings. I knew from the start that a literature-based program would be ideal for us since both the children LOVE stories and books. The two best programs I found for our three-year old are Sonlight and Before Five in A Row. I really, really like their choices of books and activities, but we had one major problem: it was all in English. Now, my children are both bilingual - their dad is an Australian who cannot speak Afrikaans at all, so all they ever hear from him is English, while I only communicate to them in Afrikaans, my mother-tongue. But, although they understand and speak both languages equally well, and although we read books in both languages, it is important that I continue instructing them in Afrikaans in order to not confuse their language development.
So...I had to come up with my own program. And let me tell you, I am having so much fun!!
The idea is to choose a good children's book per week, i.e. one that offers
- beautiful language,
- engaging illustrations,
- subject matter that appeals to my children,
- and offers us some new things to explore, either through the story or language, or through elements in the illustrations.
Once I have selected our book for the week, I start to explore it for ideas that I can turn into
- discussions on interesting or new vocabulary
- science and geographic information my daughter will be able to grasp
- opportunities for simple math activities
- gross and fine motor skills practice
- emotional awareness, etc.
I have a spiral-bound notebook in which I then plot our activities for the week, and each evening after the children are in bed I can quickly prepare the next morning's activities. Sometimes this keeps us busy for about half an hour, while on other days we go for the whole morning! (Interestingly enough, I find that the mornings in which we do a lot of playing and learning together, turn into our most peaceful days! It seems to fill their joy-cups right up, and leave then contented for most of the afternoon.)
(I try to choose our books around a few general themes - currently it is birds, then will come fruit and vegetables, and since we are also discovering maps and South African culture, there will definitely be a local flavour to many of the choices, too.)
In addition to our book theme for the week, we also have a separate Bible theme. At this point I am focusing mostly on teaching them about Jesus: who He is, how He loves us, what He teaches us in His Word. This we do through
- Reading the particular passage from Scripture and various children's Bibles
- Practicing our memory verse for the week
- Singing a related Bible song
- Enacting the story according to the ideas of Godly Play. (more about this is a future post).
In addition to this we also have a good habit to practice each week, and we have started with some simple calendar work each morning. We also try to go for a morning walk where I let them walk at their own pace. (After supper in the evenings we put Sweetpea in the backpack and Arrow in the stroller while the Dad and I walk at a pace that means business!!)
ArrowBoy has a nap after lunch which usually last for about an hour and a half to two hours. For an hour of this time Sweetpea has to also have some quiet time and she may either read or quietly play by herself. She often asks me for paints and paper and then happily paints while I catch up on admin or sewing or just tidying up a bit.
I look forward to sharing with you in upcoming posts all the fun we are getting up to, and would love to hear about how you spend time with your toddlers!