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!