Preschool learning activities- on a budget!


Today i have a guestpost by Jenny, Jenny is a qualified teacher and a parent. She blogs at Rabbit Ideas about Early Years literacy, on a budget. She enjoys reading, writing and thinking about how to use technology in education.   

Raising a child is notoriously expensive. Even the basic needs of food, housing, and clothing take a massive chunk out of most incomes, before you start thinking about ‘wants’ or ‘nice to have’ items on top of those needs. There is also a lot of pressure on parents to buy certain toys or gadgets for their children. So, here are three ideas for pre-school learning activities which won’t break the bank; many of them are completely free! 

 1) Start a ‘loose parts’ collection.
‘Loose parts’ is the term given to materials which can be moved around and picked up; fantastic for developing fine motor skills. Loose parts are so versatile; they can easily be utilised for early maths work, counting, weighing, balancing, ordering by size, grouping by shape or colour. They are also easily used in early art work, exploring pattern, texture and colour.
-Lolly sticks, glass beads, dominoes… are all bits and bobs we have collected.
-Stones and pebbles, shells, pinecones, acorns, conkers, feathers, twigs and sticks… are totally free in natural environments.
-Store them in a big Tupperware box or, even better, an old tool chest which has dividers inside.
-I usually choose 3 or 4 types of item from the box and set them up, then allow time and space for the kids to unpack them themselves and see what they come up with; for us this is the best of both worlds- they are directing the activity but are not overwhelmed by too much choice to start with! (Make sure you stay with children who are playing with small objects due to potential choking hazard).  

 2) Make a list of FREE things to do and rotate through it.
Although this is undoubtedly much easier in the warmer/drier months of the year, there are, nevertheless, lots of opportunities for free activities, wherever you live. For some of us that is a beach, woodland or park, for others, museums, train stations or even airports! Hopefully for all of us there is also a library relatively close by. If you make a list of free things to do and keep it handy- on the fridge works for us; then whenever you are at a loose end there should be some ideas for places to go! Taking an ‘eye spy’ list of things to look out for on the way can keep it fresh and exciting, even if it is somewhere you often visit.

3) Involve kids in daily life.
For young children, daily life is fun and interesting. They can:  
-chop mushrooms using a safety knife
-peel the layers from an onion
-sort socks into matching pairs
-water plants
-sow seeds into a pot
-mix ingredients when baking
-have boxes or shelves for their toys and help with tidying up
-wash toys in the sink or bath
This kind of activity is important; not only does it teach children about daily life, giving them vital experiences, but they are all things we can do whilst speaking and listening to each other. Being together like this while you are occupied, but still able to talk, is a great way to build relationships and communication skills; and it doesn’t cost anything!

What free or low-cost activities do you like doing with your preschooler?

Thank you Jenny thank you for sharing your ideas!

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  1. Thank you Joanna, for the chance to guest post on your great blog! I really enjoyed writing this- I hope your readers find it useful. :-)

  2. I love these ideas and I love children find everyday tasks such fun :-)

  3. What fantastic ideas! We also collect toilet roll tubes, plastic tubs etc., anything that we can make something out of on a rainy day :)

  4. What brill ideas! I'll pass these on to my Mam who works in a school- she'll appreciate these! x

  5. These are really great ideas - I'm going to Pin it to Pinterest for when I have my own children and am lost for what to do on a budget! x

  6. These are some really good ideas! I like the idea of young children using safe knives and helping out in the kitchen! Thanks for sharing!

    Victoria |

  7. I remember my parents doing similar things when I was growing up! You don't necessarily need to spend money to have a good (and educational) time xx

  8. Some really great activities and ideas in this :)

  9. We love colour sorting. We have some coloured pots and have to find objects the same colour to put in them - we have quite a collection now

  10. "For young children, daily life is fun and interesting" - I LOVE that sentence, it's so true.

  11. These are all great ideas. It's a long time since my daughter was this young but we had a list of "free" days out we rotated around and she always helped me with the jobs around the house.

  12. They are all brilliant ideas. I often get stuck knowing what to do with my son, especially on days he's not in school. I also like the ideas of the loose parts collection. I might start one!

  13. These are some good examples, ill have to try these when i babysit my niece and nephew.

  14. Such simple yet fun ideas for keeping little ones entertained x

  15. I love involving kids in my daily life. They learn a lot.

  16. I think involving children in day to day activities is a great idea and sets them up for later life. There's lots of other great ideas here too

  17. Such cute creative ideas! Love that they are cheap too. Keeping my younger cousins can get quite expensive so will have to try some of these out.