Monday, October 13, 2014

At Home Preschool: Organization

During a play date we hosted a couple weeks ago a friend asked me how I organize our ABC's of Autumn preschool, so I showed her my file box. Nothing extravagant, definitely something anyone could do. Because mine is so simple and I was surprised someone would ask to see it, I thought I might as well share it here on my blog. There are already tons and tons of great blog posts about organizing your own at home preschool, so if you're really interested in doing your own you might want to complete a quick google (or pinterest) search on the topic and read through a couple different approaches.  Also, please excuse the poor quality of the phone photos (some taken inside my kitchen pantry). Thanks to a sick toddler I was exhausted the day I snapped these photos.

I have three fabulous file folder boxes which I bought at target over two years ago. I haven't seen Target carry them since, which is a shame because I would buy more. Originally I bought them to organize a Family Home Evening gift pack I made for two family members at Christmas, but I realized the boxes were way too big for the five FHE packs I included in the gift. So now one stores our ABC activities, another holds our FHE files, and the final one stores some file folder games and quiet time activities that require a little parental guidance.

We are using the cover sheet pictured above to track our letter progress. At the end of each letter study I give Reid a do-a-dot marker and have him dot out the letter we completed. The sheet was part of the Alphabet Play Dough Mat set I bought (and highly recommend) before beginning our ABCs of Autumn unit. 

Inside the box you'll find a file folder for each letter of the alphabet. Also, you'll notice some extra items in the back. Those are entire alphabet activities that we play with from time to time. They range from DIY clothespin wheels and lines, letter tracing workbooks, magnet letter packs, alphabet matching games, and more. So basically, this bin holds all letter and alphabet focused preschool activities I have. The other (non-FHE) bin holds color, shape, number, and other miscellaneous preschool activities we have.

So, what is inside each folder?

For each letter I have five basic printouts. An uppercase and lowercase block letter, FREE, courtesy the Also free, dot pages courtesy Reid hasn't been as excited about the dot sheets as I'd anticipated. So they'll all probably still be in the bin by the time I get around to doing preschool with Nell. Which is fine. We LOVE the block letters though.
We also love the Play-doh mats. The quality is excellent, and they really help develop letter recognition. Worth every penny. The lowercase puzzle is a fun activity, and I knew Reid would love it based on his obsession with cutting and gluing. I cut the letter out, trace it onto some construction paper, and then let him cut the individual pieces apart. Next, we mix the pieces up and begin putting the puzzle together, which is much harder than I'd expected (some reviewers recommend printing an extra puzzle off in 1/6 size so kids can refer to the original letter while completing the full size puzzle). Then we glue each piece on one at a time (because we've made mistakes when we try to do it all at once). Because of its difficulty, the puzzle isn't great for letter formation and recognition, but it is great for beginning sound discussions. Reid loves naming each picture and eventually realizes what sound the letter makes. 

So those are the five things each folder has. If I had a couple dozen dollars to blow on Teachers Pay Teachers, I'd also buy these activities:  letter find, letter maze, tracing mats, and more

Some letter folders have much more than the printouts. The letters I taught in our preschool co-op last year have all the reusable activities I made for our lesson. 

So our A folder has several Apple activities and even an "A Book." It is by far the most packed folder. If you are curious about the above activities, go here for our "A is for Apple" lesson summary. 

Many of my folders only have the five letter worksheets/activities. Any sheets I don't use with Reid are saved for the future when I will hold lessons with Nell (and Reid's away at Kindergarten). Having the bin ready and organized really helps me. There are days I don't have much prepared, and it's nice to know we can just pull out the bin and find plenty of letter practice activities.

The bin itself is stored on the second shelf of our pantry. You may remember, from my Ba Bye Toy Room post, that when we first moved into our house the bottom two shelves of the pantry use to hold all the toys we own (hard for me to believe). It has since transformed into a sort of preschool area.

The bottom shelf holds all our puzzles and some other fabulous motor skill toys. The white bin in the back holds all our instruments.

Photo copied from this post.

The purpose of the bottom shelf is to give my kids constant access to the toys that hold the most educational value: puzzles, instruments, and wooden pounding and sorting toys. Our toy room toys are rotated, these are not. They can always pull out a puzzle or an instrument or a Plan Toys item and have a good time.

To the right of the preschool bins are some busy bag style activities. Again, these are things I feel are educational enough in value that I don't care if they are pulled out everyday. Things like beads, lacing cards, button snakes, LDS Quiet Book etc.

Some things aren't shown in the picture. Like, behind those busy bag toys are our church activity bags/books. And behind the alphabet preschool bin is the second bin, filled with file folder games, color, matching, counting and sorting activities, and more (maybe I'll take a picture of it next time we pull it out for preschool).

Our art supplies are to the left of the preschool bins. The yogurt bucket holds our play doh tools, the ice cream bucket holds stickers, and the green basket (which you may recognize from here) holds our markers/crayons/glue/scissors. There is a magazine file which holds our coloring books squished right between the art basket and the preschool bins. 

Reid can reach our art items, but he knows not to go in there unless he has permission. Nell can only reach the items on the bottom shelf and the few busy bag activities right at the edge of the second shelf. Overall, I guess I'd call these two pantry shelves our at home preschool. I don't have a formal room I can dedicate to preschool, so this works great for us. As you have probably noticed from all our previous lesson posts, we just conduct our preschool at the kitchen table. 

I do have plans to update our preschool approach in the Spring (and possibly add Nell). If I do I'll let you know how this set up changes and/or benefits us. I hope seeing our preschool space and organization was helpful! If anything, it should help you realize you don't need anything fancy to start your own at home preschool with your little 3 or 4 year old. 

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