Parents are often concerned that they don’t have enough materials to teach preschool at home. We see all the supplies in a typical preschool classroom, and think that we must have a ton of things to be successful at home preschool.
Here’s a secret: You don’t need very much at all! In most cases half the things in those classrooms don’t get used, and if they do, they don’t get used regularly.
If you happen to inherit a lot of materials from a teacher friend or a garage sale, great! Use them! But you don’t NEED a lot to provide a rich and meaningful experience for kids.
What do you need for home preschool?
Need is a word I struggle with, because really it’s all relative. Right? Here I’m going to list what I consider the must-haves for getting started with home preschool.
- Children’s books (your own or access to them)
- Paper (plain white writing paper and construction paper)
- Writing instruments (crayons, markers, etc)
- Manipulatives for counting and sorting (These can be common household items, not store bought.) Read here to learn more about DIY manipulatives you probably have around your home.
- Alphabet and number manipulatives with the upper and lowercase letters and numbers from 0 to 10 (These can be free or purchased like magnetic letters, large beads, rocks with letters written on them, or even flashcards.)
- Children’s scissors
- Glue (white bottle glue and glue sticks)
- Paint and paintbrushes
- Outdoor play space
As you begin exploring different topics and themes you’ll likely incorporate additional materials like sensory materials, building toys, basic craft materials, learning games, etc. But these are ways to add a little more variety the home preschool experience, not essentials. I’ve shared more about some of our favorite home preschool extras here.
Where are some great places to get materials for home preschool?
With a little creativity you can come up with a lot of ways to get free or very inexpensive learning materials. Below are some of my favorite resources.
When planning activities, think about what you already have at home. There are tons of items that can be used for home preschool tucked away in our cabinets.
Go outdoors. There are so many items outdoors you can use for learning. Collect rocks, leaves, sticks, shells, etc. Use them for counting, sorting, forming letters and more. Investigate bugs, plants, clouds and more.
Talk to friends. Partner up with other moms and trade materials like learning games, puzzles, and learning toys on a regular basis. This keeps thinks fresh for everyone, saves a lot of money, and cuts down on clutter.
Use your local library. Get all those books you want to read at the local library. Some libraries partner with other branches so you can even select all sorts of books from other libraries and have them delivered to your library for easy pick up. This is one of my favorite features of my local library. We get access to 5X the number of books because of it. And talk with your children’s librarian. There may be more than books at your library. Some libraries have homeschool areas that loan learning games. Some have audio books that kids can listen to. Others give free access to online learning membership sites. Take some time to explore what is available at yours.
For Almost Free
When buying items for home preschool, consider visiting garage sales and local thrift stores.
Websites like Ebay and Craigslist can also be great places to find teaching materials at a low cost. Local Facebook Groups like Swip Swap and other mom groups in your area can also be a great place to find items. Just use caution when arranging to meet with people online. Always do so in a public place and don’t give out unnecessary personal information.
Dollar Tree and the Dollar Bins at Target are also great spots to get materials. There are books, craft supplies, seasonal items that can be learning for learning, and more.
More Online Resources
YouTube videos can be a fun way to incorporate technology into home preschool. There are so many learning videos, songs, and science demonstrations that kids find fascinating. I like to create specific playlists that my kids can access so I can target their viewing to our learning goals and themes. We also use YouTube for dance time, because there are so many great movement songs available for free. You can view some of our playlists here.
Podcasts can be another great tool. If you search podcasts for kids, many come up. There are some with learning songs, others that read stories aloud, and some that even have video. These can be a fun way to incorporate learning on busy days or in the car. We like to play podcasts over the radio and listen and discuss as we’re driving.
When planning activities for home preschool you probably already know that there are endless ideas on sites like Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and Blogs. These can be great sources of inspiration and free materials. Use them, but don’t get overwhelmed by them. And I know I’m getting on a tangent, but PLEASE remember that everything in home preschool doesn’t have to look Pinterest-perfect to be meaningful.
Share Your Favorite Place to Get Materials
I hope you’re feeling good about what you do and do not need for home preschool. In the next lesson we’ll take a look at some tips for managing home preschool with children of multiple ages.
This is Unit 4, Lesson 1 of the Guide to Getting Started with Home Preschool Special Training. Return to the main How to Teach Home Preschool or proceed to Unit 4, Lesson 2: Set Up the Learning Space.