What do children learn in preschool? This might be the question you’re asking yourself as you begin to consider homeschooling your preschooler. What preschool skills does my child need to master? Let’s talk a bit about what to teach preschoolers as you begin your homeschool preschool journey with your own little one.
What preschool skills do I need to teach my child?
Preschool is a wonderful and special time in the life of both the child and the home educator. Because it’s a time of discovery, exploration and play. It’s a time when things don’t seem as pressing and you can let your inner child come out and enjoy all of those little things that you secretly miss from your childhood (like playing with playdoh and coloring pictures).
But building certain preschool skills is also important. Because it gives your child the gift of being more prepared for more formal schooling as they enter into Kindergarten (whether at home or outside of the home).
The great thing though about all of these preschool skills that your child is recommended to learn before entering into Kindergarten is that most of these things they will naturally learn as you go about your days, reading, talking and playing with them.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing to intentionally play with them or have them “do preschool” for a short time each day. But I say that to ease your mind. Because you don’t have to worry about messing this up. Most kids will pick up on the majority of these concepts naturally. God designed their little brains to be incredible sponges that soak in information at a much greater rate than we can as adults. Thank God for that!
Having said all of that, I know that if you’re anything like me then you still want to have all your ducks in a row. You still want to make sure that you’re working on these essential preschool skills so that your child is ready for Kindergarten. And that’s great! I’m all about being prepared like that too, so I totally get it.
So let’s talk about what to teach preschoolers, and in particular YOUR little preschooler as they begin their amazing journey into the world of homeschooling.
What does your school district recommend?
Before I get to the list of preschool skills you’ll want to impart to your child, I want to quickly point out that it’s a good idea to look into what exactly your own school district recommends your child to know before entering kindergarten. Whether you plan to homeschool for the long haul or just for preschool, this can be a good guideline for you to follow.
Even if you plan to homeschool for the duration of your child’s education, you still will want to make sure that they are at level or above level with the children in your school district. Because depending on your state you may or may not need to turn in a portfolio and work examples on a regular basis as they get older. Some states also require regular testing to make sure your child is being taught what is required in your state. Some states don’t, but it’s good to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row and that your child is learning all they need to at each age.
If you’re unsure of how to find this information, try checking out your state’s website or do a web search for something along the lines of “kindergarten requirements for [INSERT YOUR STATE HERE]” and you should be able to find some more information about your state specifically.
So after you’ve checked in with your school district’s requirements and recommendations, then you can move on to the recommendations below.
While this may not be an requirement by the school district (far from it in fact), it is important to a family who follows God. And if that’s you, then now is the time to share that faith with your little ones. When they are young, they are so open to God and hearing about Jesus and opening up their little hearts to Him. Don’t wait until they get older and “can understand better”. Start teaching them about your family’s faith now and let their own faith begin to grow early in life.
There are some important pieces of personal information that your child should be learning about in preschool. Knowing this information not only helps to prepare them for Kindergarten, but it helps to keep them safe. If they are in a situation where they get separated from you or need to use their words to share where they might have gotten hurt, then knowing this kind of information will be essential for them.
Here’s some of the personal information that your preschooler should be taught:
- Know their first name and what it looks like
- Learn how to write their name
- Know their full name (first and last)
- Memorize at least one parent’s full name
- Memorize at least one parent’s phone number
- Memorize their address
- Know and identify basic body parts (i.e. head, shoulders, knees, and toes ;))
Preschool is a great time to start training your children to have good character. If you’re a Christian then looking to the Bible for character training is a must. You can teach them about all kinds of virtues through books, activities, discussions, and even pick up character training programs for preschoolers to help give your character training some structure. My personal favorites are the Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue curriculum and the We Choose Virtues curriculum. We use both of these together along with a few other resources that help too. Character training is also greatly impacted by the example they see in you (*ouch* I know, I feel the pressure too, believe me!).
But character training isn’t just for Christians. Whether you’re a Christian or not, guiding them in some vital character virtues from a young age would definitely fall under the umbrella of essential preschool skills. Things like:
- Knowing right from wrong
- Being honest and not lying
- Showing kindness and gentleness to others
- Helping them to learn to be content with what they have
- Forgiving others when they are wronged
- Showing respect towards others
Basic Life Skills
Next you’ll want to make sure to teach your pr
eschooler some basic life skills that they will need in life. And if you plan to send them to Kindergarten outside of the home a few of these are a must as they enter Kindergarten because they won’t have the help there that they would at home.
- Be fully potty trained (at least during the day)
- Know how to wash their hands properly
- Get themselves dressed
- Put on their own coat
- Be able to tie their shoes (if their shoes are the tying kind)
Basic Social Skills
We talked about character training as something that you need to teach (or at least start teaching) your preschooler. But there are a few really basic social skills that, while they might tie in to some of the character virtues you’ll be teaching them, also are important in their own right specifically. Whether they feel like it or not, they will need to learn how to follow some basic social skills needed as they enter Kindergarten. Things like:
- Playing nice with others
- Sharing with others (I love this book about sharing, it has a great overview of different ways to share)
- Know how to take turns with others
- Be able to wait in a line patiently
- Learn how to sit and listen without interrupting (a very hard one!)
- Be able to follow simple directions
Basic Crafting Skills
Preschool is the time for making crafts! And there’s a reason beyond it just being fun (although that is a good reason). But another reason basic crafting skills are essential preschool skills is because they typically force your child (in a fun way) to practice vital fine motor skills that will prepare your child for writing one day. So you’ll want to make sure they are working on these basic crafting skills:
- Cutting with scissors
- Gluing with both glue sticks and regular glue
- Drawing pictures
- Coloring pictures and trying to stay in the lines
- Using pencils (these pencil grip trainers are great for teaching them how to hold a pencil)
- Using crayons
- Using markers
- Painting with paint brushes
- Teaching them to use hole punchers is also great
Preschool is a great time for learning about the elements of a calendar and how to read a calendar. Knowing how to communicate what day it is and in relation to other days is an important skill for preschoolers to master. The good thing about these things is that they can easily be memorized for preschoolers, especially if you teach them songs to help them memorize these things. They will need to be taught things like:
- What “today”, “yesterday”, and “tomorrow” mean and be able to use them properly
- Days of the week
- Months of the year
- The four seasons
As a side note, it’s also a great time to start teaching them about recognizing and describing the weather. Often times you can review calendar and weather together like in the morning either as you’re making breakfast or even as a special morning or circle time that can be really fun for preschoolers.
When it comes to preschool skills, something you’ll often hear about is teaching letter recognition using a letter of the week formula. And this tends to work out great for preschoolers. There are many different schools of thought on whether to go in alphabetical order or in another special order. But no matter which order you teach preschoolers their letter, it’s definitely a must.
The great thing about teaching letter recognition though is that there are so many ways you an go about it. There are a lot of great letter of the week programs you could use, or you put your own together using various activities, crafts, and worksheets.
Whatever level of planning you want to do, be sure to plan on teaching your preschooler to identify and name all the letters of the alphabet.
While teaching your child to recognize letters is important, even more important when it comes to learning how to read down the road is teaching them their letter sounds. This is the foundation that they need in order to be able to read. Once they know their letter sounds then they will be able to read so many short words just by sounding them out.
Many people believe that letter sounds should be taught before you even teach the names of letters. I personally have observed that teaching them simultaneously works fine too. With my first child I didn’t even know I should be teaching him letter sounds so he learned the names of his letters first. But now he’s five and reading simple CVC words and ready to move on to more difficult aspects of learning to read. With my second child she is only two and we’ve already been working on teaching letter sounds and letter names together and she’s doing great. She can already recognize several of the letters and mastered about 10 of the letter sounds so far.
So I think that whether you teach letter names or sounds first, or both at the same time it doesn’t matter. So long as they are learning these things in order to lay the foundation for reading.
Counting is where it starts with math. It’s the foundation that children need in order to advance to other mathematical concepts later on. It’s always needed and necessary. Typically by the end of Kindergarten, children are expected to be able to count up to 99. So teaching them to count up to 20 is a good start for them. If you can teach them to count even higher, like up to 29, then they might more easily pick up on mastering counting from that point due to the repeated pattern of counting.
Number Recognition (1-10)
Being able to identify and recognize numbers 1 through 10 is a skill you’ll want to work on with your preschooler. Knowing what numbers look like is a must as children begin to learn various math concepts. And I’m not talking about just being able to count to 10, but also they should learn how to recognize those numbers when written down even when they’re out of order.
Knowing and naming the basic colors is another essential preschool skill that is going to prepare them for so many things: math, art, sorting, and more. They don’t need to know every color under the sun, but they should be able to identify the basic colors like:
Learning basic shapes before entering kindergarten is another critical preschool skill that you can work on with your child. Like with colors, we’re not talking about learning every wacky shape that’s out there, just start with teaching them the basic 2D shapes like:
If they’ve mastered those four and seem willing and eager to learn, then by all means move on to teaching them other shapes like ovals, diamond, hearts, etc. But as long as they learn the four basic shapes they’re good.
Learning basic patterning skills is essential for math. Patterns are something that a child’s brain will begin to recognize even from an early age. But as preschoolers it’s a good idea to help them to practice the skill of recognizing and creating various types of patterns. As they begin to learn patterns it’s good to start with an easy type of pattern and progress from there as they’ve mastered each type of pattern. Here are some of the types of patterns you can work on teaching your preschooler:
- AB (i.e. red-blue-red-blue)
- ABC (i.e. car-train-plane-car-train-plane)
- AABB (i.e. stomp-stomp-clap-clap-stomp-stomp-clap-clap)
- AAB (i.e. raisin-raisin-nut-raisin-raisin-nut)
- ABB (i.e. circle-square-square-circle-square-square)
Teaching preschoolers how to compare different objects and sets of objects for similarities and differences is a vital skill. They will use this ability to visually discriminate throughout their entire lives. So laying the groundwork for them in preschool will prepare them for not only life but also for other math concepts further down the road. You can teach them comparing concepts such as:
- Matching two identical or similar objects together (Bingo is GREAT for this by the way)
- Sorting groups of objects (by color, size, texture, etc.)
- Identifying objects using comparative terms (i.e. big, bigger, and biggest)
Before your preschooler can be successful at handwriting, they will need to master several preschool skills that will help them to be successful. By introducing opportunities for them to exercise these skills, you will be preparing them for being able to write their name, sentences, and even entire book reports down the road.
One of the most important types of pre-writing activities that you can do with your preschooler is fine motor activities. This is an umbrella term for a whole slew of different activities. The ideas out there are endless and typically they’re really fun for your preschooler to do. But essentially you want them to begin exercising and strengthening those finger muscles to prepare them for writing. Anything that forces them to utilize a pincher grasp is great fine motor exercises.
Beyond fine motor you also want to build up their muscle memory for writing. What this means is giving them opportunities to practice (over and over again) tracing various shapes, letters, numbers, etc. so that the muscles in their hands will “remember” how to write those things when the crutch of tracing is removed. This might sound silly, but think about how easily and quickly you write your own signature, sometimes without even thinking about it. That’s muscle memory!
Here are some great pre-writing activities you can do with your preschooler:
- Fine motor games and activities (i.e. using tweezers to move pom poms into an ice cube container, lacing cards, using a Lite-Brite, etc.)
- Tracing shapes, letters, and numbers
- Tracing lines of various types (i.e. wavy, curly, straight, etc.)
- Doing simple one-solution “mazes” or tracks
As a pre-cursor to reading children first master something called phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is basically the ability to recognize that words are made up of different sounds put together. While there are certainly things you can do to promote good phonological awareness, it is also something that they might pick up on naturally as you do other activities with them like:
- Talk to them and have discussions
- Sing songs with them
- Read them nursery rhymes and other rhyming stories
- Point to and finger-follow words as you read them in a book
- Teach them their letter sounds and blends
So while this is a critical pre-reading skill that they at least begin to master before Kindergarten, it is something that they will continue to master as they work their way through learning to read by learning about rhyming, syllables, word families, etc.
Your preschooler doesn’t have to be reading by the time they enter Kindergarten (although some really giften children are). But reading with and to your child is VITAL. It’s so so so so important. Because reading with your children helps to teach them so many of the other things we talked about like phonological awareness, patterning, letter sounds, and more. It’s such a gift you can give to your child.
Here are some important reading milestones and preschool skills that you’ll want to work on with your preschooler:
- Read to them a lot — every day, multiple times a day if possible
- Introduce them to beginning non-fiction books (not just fiction books)
- Share classic and timeless children’s picture books with them
- Show them how they can learn about their world through books
- Teach them how to hold a book the correct way and turn the pages
- Let them choose some of the books you read with them based on their interests
- Help them learn how to sit still and listen to a story from start to finish
- If they seem ready, start doing read-alouds from larger chapter books with minimal pictures with them
Probably one of the most important preschool skills that you can re-enforce in your child is play. It’s kind of toss up between reading and playing because they are both almost equally as important. But make sure they have TONS of great playtime.
Every child is enormously different so I can’t speak for every child. But most preschoolers don’t need to have formal homeschool time for more than 30-60 minutes a day (for 3-4 days a week). Most of the things we discussed above don’t need to take very long. And then the rest of the time they will learn so much of these valuable preschool skills during their playtime.
Here are some important ways to play with your preschooler to encourage learning and exploration:
- Imaginative play (play house, tea party, dress up, etc.)
- Playing with open ended toys (blocks, cars & trucks, doctor kit, etc.)
- Sensory play (sensory bins, bottles, bags, etc.)
- Nature exploration (take walks, play in the dirt, collect leaves, etc.)
- Arts and crafts (make macaroni art, let them go wild with buttons and glue, etc.)
- Free play (let them choose what they want to play)
I also want to note that free play is so so SO important. Let THEM choose what to play and you’ll be amazed at what they’ll learn. Often times children will naturally steer towards playing certain things because their brains are making connections and mastering certain skills. So roll with it and they will learn more than you can imagine through just playing.
Now You Know What to Teach Preschoolers
Do you feel more prepared to begin your homeschool preschool journey? Or did I just overwhelm you? lol It’s okay! I get it. It seems like a lot, but trust me when I say that a lot, and I mean a lot, of these things are things your preschooler will learn through everyday discussions, play, and reading. Meaning you won’t have to teach them a lot of these things in a formal kind of way.
And then most of the other things can easily be taught simultaneously in a lot of cases — like how you can do a wooden shape peg puzzle with them that will not only teach them about shapes, but also about their colors, matching, and help them to use those pincher grasps to pick up the puzzle pieces for fine motor skills. So as you can see in this example, a lot of different preschool skills can be taught to your child through one simple activity.
Don’t let teaching your preschooler become overwhelming. Have fun and enjoy playing and learning together. They will learn these things in their own time and at their own pace.
And when you do start homeschooling your child, you can even find ways to minimize the costs and homeschool for free.
What Do Children Learn in Preschool Free Printable Checklist
To make things easier for you, I’ve created a free printable checklist with all of the preschool skills we’ve talked about in this post listed out in an easy-to-print format. That way you can print this out and stick it in your homeschool planning binder for easy reference as you plan out your homeschool preschool.
Just click the printer button below and fill out the form to sign up for our newsletter. After signing up you will automatically be re-directed to your free checklist to download. Enjoy!