20 engaging homeschool ideas for preschoolers + kindergartners

Plus tips for how to build them into a week-long curriculum that keeps little learners busy and engaged

preschool homeschool curriculum

When we first began homeschooling last fall, I started with a preschool homeschool curriculum I purchased online. It was basic, but it introduced me to a simple structure and way of organizing lessons. Because I had never taught anyone formally before, I felt more confident having some direction to start with—and I honestly wasn't sure what kinds of activities I should be using to fill my preschool-age daughter's day.

We used our curriculum diligently for the first six months of the school year, but in that time I realized that the formula was pretty simple. Now I've taken what I learned from that formula and used it to create custom lesson plans each week that focus on topics my daughter is naturally interested in, or ideas that are organically relevant to our life that week. The best part? You can do it too, mama.

Here's how to create a weekly lesson plan for your preschooler or kindergartener in 5 easy steps:


1. Pick a weekly theme.

I cannot stress this enough—having a weekly curriculum theme is the guiding principle for all homeschoolers of young children. Not only does it give your little one a common thread to connect everything they learn, it also makes it so much easier for you to find activities and materials for the week.

2. Find 3-5 books that fit the theme.

Reading to your child is one of the simplest ways to broaden their vocabulary, worldview and understanding of virtually any topic. Feel free to add or subtract books based on your child's level of reading interest. You likely already own books about the themes your child is interested in, but if you want something new, just Google "children's book about [insert theme]."

Use an app like Libby to check out ebooks from your local library, find books for early readers on apps like Epic! or Homer, or search on YouTube for live readings of the book. (Bonus: On YouTube you can often find the book in multiple languages if your child is multilingual, or animated versions that can help hold their attention a little longer.

3. Find a song, nursery rhyme short expression, Bible verse or proverb that fits your theme and use it for memorization practice.

Teaching your child to memorize and present is great for training the brain to remember more complex information later (like multiplication tables or state capitals) and also improves neural plasticity and cognitive skills they will use as adults. It's also the foundation for public speaking and other performing arts they might be interested in in the future. Start each day's lessons by repeating the song or verse until your child has it memorized. (Not sure where to find one? Google is, again, the answer.)

4. Find 4-5 activities or projects related to your theme.

Here is the beauty of homeschooling right now: So many parents of homeschoolers past have already done the work for you! Search Pinterest, the hashtag #homeschoolidea on Instagram, or that OG Google for crafts, games and other activities around your theme. (Here's your search term: kindergarten homeschool [insert theme] project.) Try to find something that involves an art project, something with counting, and something that incorporates nature to hit on a variety of subjects. Then do one of the projects each day that week.

5. Supplement with apps or movies.

Yup, you read that right. Screen time is an important tool in every homeschool parents' arsenal. Especially if you are also working from home, it's a good idea to have a few screen-friendly options in your back pocket for when you need to get something else done while your child stays occupied. Try some of the educational apps on this list, or pick a movie to stream from this list. Afterward, talk to your child about the lessons learned from the movie and whether they relate to the lesson, or teach them values about friendship, family and community to make the most of digital educational resources.

Congratulations! You just created a week-long lesson plan that introduces your child to math, science, social studies, reading and writing.

Above all else, remember that your child is learning literally all the time, even when you're not in "class." (And the amount of class time recommended for each age group is probably a lot less than you think.) So broaden your idea of what constitutes "school." Let your child cook with you—hello, home ec. Count out the coins in their piggy bank—welcome to Economics 101! Impromptu dance party in the living room? You just aced Physical Education with a minor in Music Theory. You've got this.

20 simple homeschool theme ideas for preschoolers + kindergarteners:

    1. Apples/harvest
    2. Fish
    3. Music
    4. Colors
    5. Sports
    6. Pets
    7. Ocean animals
    8. Zoo animals
    9. Countries (pick one that ties to your heritage for a personal angle)
    10. Space
    11. The water cycle
    12. Pollination
    13. Butterflies
    14. Migration
    15. Seasons (do one at a time!)
    16. Rocks
    17. Dinosaurs
    18. Planes, trains, and cars
    19. Spiders
    20. Human body

    In This Article

      The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

      Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

      Conz Preti

      Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

      This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

      Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


      Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


      Belly oil

      HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

      Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

      $58

      Belly mask

      HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

      Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

      $42

      Nipple + lip ointment 

      HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

      Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

      $28

      Belly tattoos

      HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

      A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

      $18

      This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

      We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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      Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

      The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

      Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

      We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

      All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

      And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


      Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

      Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

      Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

      Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

      When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

      Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

      Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

      You've got this.

      Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

      The Motherly Birth Class

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      Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

      $79

      We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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      BABYBJÖRN

      This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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      14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

      They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

      Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

      So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

      From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


      Secret Agent play set

      Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

      This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

      $40

      Mini golf set

      Plan Toys mini golf set

      Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

      $40

      Stepping Stones

      Stepping-stones

      Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

      $99.99

      Wooden doll stroller

      Janod wooden doll stroller

      Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

      $120

      Sand play set

      Plan Toys sand set

      Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

      $30

      Sensory play set

      kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

      Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

      $19.95

      Vintage scooter balance bike

      Janod retro scooter balance bike

      Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

      $121

      Foam pogo stick

      Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

      Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

      $16.99

      Dumptruck 

      green-toys-dump-truck

      Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

      $22

      Hopper ball

      Hopper ball

      Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

      $14.99

      Pull-along ducks

      janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

      There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

      $16.99

      Rocking chair seesaw

      Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

      This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

      $79.99

      Baby forest fox ride-on

      janod toys baby fox ride on

      Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

      $79.99

      Meadow ring toss game

      Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

      Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

      $30

      We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

      Shop

      26 phrases to calm your angry child

      18. "You are having a tough time. Let's figure this out together."

      Whether your child has a slow-burning fuse or explodes like a firecracker at the slightest provocation, every child can benefit from anger management skills. As parents, we lay the foundation for this skill set by governing our own emotions in the face an angry outburst.

      Next time you are dealing with a tantrum from a toddler, or cold shoulder from a teen, put your best foot forward by trying one of these 26 phrases to help your child calm down:

      1. Instead of: "Stop throwing things"

      Try: "When you throw your toys, I think you don't like playing with them. Is that what's going on?"

      This speaker/listener technique is designed to help communicate feelings in a non-confrontational manner. Not only does this keep the lines of communication open, you are modeling how to phrase a situation from your perspective, which in turn gives your child a chance to rephrase events in his (her) perspective.

      2. Instead of: "Big kids don't do this"

      Try: "Big kids and even grown ups sometimes have big feelings. It's okay, these feeling will pass."

      Let's be honest. The older your kids get, the bigger the problems they face, the bigger the feelings they have. Telling them that big kids don't experience anger, frustration, or anxiety is simply untrue. It also encourages children to avoid or quash emotions and prevents processing them in a healthy manner.

      3. Instead of: "Don't be angry"

      Try: "I get angry too sometimes. Let's try our warrior cry to get those angry feelings in check."

      A recent study reveals that yelling when we are physically hurt can actually interrupt pain messages being sent to the brain. Although your child may not be in pain per se, a warrior cry can work to release angry energy in a playful manner. Choose a warrior cry or mantra together with your child (think of William Wallace from the movie Brave Heart screaming “Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedom!").

      4. Instead of: "Don't you dare hit"

      Try: "It's okay to be angry, but I won't let you hit. We need to keep everyone safe."

      This gets the message firmly across that the emotion is okay, but the action is not. Separating the two will help your child learn to do likewise

      5. Instead of: "You're being so difficult"

      Try: "This is a tough one, huh? We're going to figure this out together."

      When children are digging in their heels, it is important to understand why. This phrase reinforces the idea that you are on the same team, working toward the same goal.

      6. Instead of: "That's it, you're getting a time-out!"

      Try: "Let's go to our calm down space together."

      This flips the script of “time out" to “time in," allowing for reconnection instead of isolation.

      7. Instead of: "Brush your teeth right now"

      Try: "Do you want to brush Elmo's teeth first or yours?"

      For toddlers, tantrums are a way to exert control over their environment. This way, you are offering your toddler a choice, and in turn, some control.

      8. Instead of: "Eat your food or you will go to bed hungry"

      Try: "What can we do to make this food yummy?"

      This places the responsibility of finding a solution back on your child.

      9. Instead of: "Your room is disgusting! You are grounded unless this gets clean."

      Try: "How about we just start cleaning this itty bitty corner of your room? I'll give you a hand."

      In lieu of focusing on the overwhelming task of cleaning up a huge mess, shift the goal to simply starting. Starting an undesirable task can provide the impetus and momentum to continue.

      10. Instead of: "We. Are. LEAVING"

      Try: "What do you need to do to be ready to leave?"

      Allow children to think through processes for the transitions in their lives. This helps avoid a power struggle and it gives them a chance to signal to their minds that they are making a transition to a new activity. This is also an excellent routine to role-play when you are not actually going anywhere.

      11. Instead of: "Stop whining"

      Try: "How about a quick 'do over' in your normal voice?"

      Sometimes kids whine and don't even realize it. By asking them to rephrase in a normal tone, you are teaching them that the way they say things matters.

      12. Instead of: "Stop complaining"

      Try: "I hear you. Can you come up with a solution?"

      Again, this places the responsibility back on the child. Next time your child is complaining non-stop about school/dinner/siblings, ask her to brainstorm solutions. Remind her there are no wrong answers, and the sillier she is, the better.

      13. Instead of: "How many times do I have to say the same thing???"

      Try: "I can see you didn't hear me the first time. How about when I say it to you, you whisper it back to me?"

      Having your child repeat back what he hears solidifies your message. Varying the volume adds an element of fun to the request.

      14. Instead of: "Stop getting frustrated"

      Try: "Is that ___ too hard right now? Let's take a break and come back to it in 17 minutes."

      It sounds random, but a research-based formula for productivity is to work for 52 minutes, break for 17. By taking a break from task-related stress, you come back to it ready to begin again, focused and more productive than before. The same concept applies to homework, practicing the piano, or playing a sport.

      15. Instead of: "Go to your room"

      Try: "I'm going to stay right here by you until you're ready for a hug."

      Again, isolation sends the message that there is something wrong with your child. By giving her space until she is ready to re-engage, you are providing reassurance that you will always be there for her.

      16. Instead of: "You are embarrassing me"

      Try: "Let's go somewhere private so we can sort this out."

      Remember, it's not about you. It's about him and his feelings. By removing both of you from the situation, you are reinforcing the team effort without drawing attention to the behavior.

      17. Instead of: (Sighing and rolling your eyes)

      Try: (Make eye contact, remember your child's greatest strengths, and give her a compassionate smile.)

      Practice keeping it in perspective by seeing the strengths in your child.

      18. Instead of: "You are impossible"

      Try: "You are having a tough time. Let's figure this out together."

      Always, always separate the behavior from the child, reinforce the emotion, and work together to come up with a solution.

      19. Instead of: "Stop yelling!"

      Try: "I'm going to pretend I'm blowing out birthday candles. Will you do it with me?"

      Deep breathing helps restore the body to a calm state. Being playful with how you engage in the breathing hastens cooperation. For older children, ask them to breathe with you like Darth Vadar does.

      20. Instead of: "I can't deal with you right now"

      Try: "I'm starting to get frustrated, and I'm going to be right here calming down."

      Teach children how to label and govern their emotions by modeling this in real time.

      21. Instead of: "I'm done talking"

      Try: "I love you. I need you to understand that it is not okay to ____. Is there anything you need me to understand?"

      This keeps the lines of communication open while expressing the emotion in a healthy way.

      22. Instead of: "I am at the end of my rope"

      Try: "If green is calm, yellow is frustrated, and red is angry, I'm in the yellow zone headed toward red. What color are you? What can we do to get back to green?"

      Give children a visual to express how they are feeling. It may surprise you what they say, and what kind of solutions they comes up with to change their direction.

      23. Instead of: "I am NOT changing it"

      Try: "I'm sorry you don't like how I ___. How can we do better next time?"

      Shifting the focus from the event to the solution eliminates the power struggle associated with digging in your heels about the event.

      24. Instead of: "Stop saying 'No!'"

      Try: "I hear you saying, 'No.' I understand you do not want this. Let's figure out what we can do differently."

      By acknowledging your child's “No," you are de-escalating the situation. Rather than arguing yes/no, change the script to focus on the future and the prospect of a solution.

      25. Instead of: "Stop overreacting"

      Try: "You are having a big reaction to a big emotion. If your emotion had a monster's face, what would it look like?"

      When kids are tired, hungry, or overstimulated, they are going to overreact. Putting a face to the emotion externalizes the issue and allows children to respond to their inner monologue of anger. This subsequently helps them exercise control over the emotion.

      26. Instead of: "Just stop"

      Try: "I'm here for you. I love you. You're safe." (Then, sit in stillness with your child and allow the emotion to rise up and pass.)

      When children are in the throes of anger or panic, often their bodies are experiencing a stress response whereby they literally feel unsafe. Letting them know they are safe supports them until the discomfort passes. This is a vital skill of resilience.

      A version of this article was originally published on Positive Parents.

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      Car seat safety isn't a gray area: Why one mom's story is going viral

      She texted her husband to remind him to tighten the straps. Minutes later, he was in a car crash.

      This story was originally published on August 01, 2018

      For most parenting tasks, there's more than one way to get things done. This is important to remember if you're parenting with a partner who has a totally different laundry system than you do or packs the diaper bag in a way that makes no sense to you. It's not the end of the world if the onesies are hung instead of folded or if the bottles are in the wrong pocket. We have to give our partners room to do things their way, too.

      But when it comes to buckling our kids in their car seats, there really is only one way—the safe way—and one mama is thankful that she reminded her partner of that just in time.


      Rebecca Tafaro Boyer is a new mom and nurse at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. On her first day back at work after maternity leave she asked her husband to send her hourly updates on how her 3-month-old son, William, was doing on his first day without her.

      When her husband texted her a photo of William in his car seat, Tafaro Boyer knew she had to let her husband know that there's really only one way to buckle a baby in. "My nagging wife reply was to correct William's position in the car seat—the straps were too loose and the chest clip was way too low. And because I know my husband, I'm sure that he laughed at me and rolled his eyes before tightening the car seat and fixing the chest clip," she wrote in a now viral Facebook post about the experience.

      Just 15 minutes after her husband fixed the straps, he and little William were in a collision.

      According to Tafaro Boyer, an unlicensed, uninsured driver pulled into oncoming traffic attempting to make an illegal left turn, and although her husband slammed on the brakes at nearly 50 miles an hour, he just didn't have enough time to stop and hit the other car.

      "My precious little bundle of joy was so well restrained in his car seat, THAT HE DIDN'T EVEN WAKE UP. Even with the impact of the two cars, William only received a minor jolt - so insignificant that he was able to continue on with his nap," Tafaro Boyer wrote.

      Her husband was injured, but baby William was snug in his Britax B Safe 35 car seat. Had the straps been left as they were, it could have been a different story.

      "I am so thankful that my husband took the extra one minute that was necessary to put William in his car seat safely," she Tafaro Boyer explained. "I truly believe that the reason my family is at home sitting on the couch with a pair of crutches instead of down at the hospital is because of my annoying nagging mom voice."

      Fellow moms are all up in the comments of Tafaro Boyer's post tagging thier partners and leaving notes like, "This is why I nag."

      It's not nagging if it's a safety issue.

      Sometimes our partners (or our child's grandparents or babysitters) just don't know that something isn't safe. We've got to tell them when they're doing something we know could hurt our child. That's a text worth sending. The ones about the way your significant other folds the laundry wrong, those are the texts you might want to keep to yourself.

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        Car Seat Safety