Preschool at Home: Farmyard Fun

In my (surprisingly controversial) fall schedule post I announced my intention to spend time daily on educational activities with my four year old. My plan was to put baby birdy down for her nap around one, let big sis watch a couple shows while I had some “me” time, and then spend the second half of little’s nap working on kindergarten readiness skills. So yeah. That was the plan. But surprise, real life doesn’t always go according to plan, and the number of days where I’ve sat down with C to do “schoolwork” is zero. What I didn’t count on was that T is entering that delightful phase where she wants mommy’s complete and total attention.

If I attempt to do dishes, cook dinner, clean the bathrooms, or (gasp!) shower, she often throws a full-on toddler tantrum. If she is quiet for a long stretch I’m really in trouble, like the time I found her in the bathroom with her sleep sack in a puddle on the floor. She had apparently dunked it in the potty. I caught her in the middle of doing the same thing with a roll of toilet paper. Anyway, this means I need to spend nap time taking care of the chores and tasks that I can’t do when she’s awake. By the time I’m ready to sit down with Charlotte we have just enough time for a chapter or two of our read-aloud story before little bit wakes up and it’s go time again.

I know this is just a phase and eventually I will be able to pay bills without Tessa trying to type on my keyboard at the same time, but for now I’m going to trust that Charlotte is getting plenty ready for kindergarten at Adventureland and focus on reading aloud as our one-on-one activity (it’s what we both enjoy the most anyway).
But those hours between the end of nap and dinnertime are still long and tedious, and I felt like I needed some more activities to help fill the space. Thankfully the weather is starting to cool off, so many late afternoons we simply spend outside. Unfortunately with cooler weather comes rain too, and sometimes it’s too wet. So for an easy, self-directed indoor activity I turned back to the trusty sensory bin. I’ve made a few variations of this activity but it had been a while (read several months) since I’d put one together. I did a quick Pintrest search and this farm sensory bin caught my eye.

It was so simple to make. I just grabbed a bag of popcorn kernels at Walmart along with a huge tub of little plastic farm animals (it came with fences and trees too). I stuck some pots leftover from the garden sensory bin in there to serve as feed troughs and water basins, and that’s it.

I might add a barn later if I figure out an easy way to make one, or not. 🙂 I was so pleased with my idea that I decided to run with it, and put together a (very simple) farm unit study. While C was in school I visited the library and raided the picture book shelves for any farm/barn/farm animal books that caught my eye. I found these five, which I brought home and left in a stack in the living room for big sis to find.

C was absolutely thrilled when she came home from school to find it all set up for her. We read through the books first, then she dug into the sensory bin (ha!) and played with it for like an hour. She’s had it for several days now and she still pulls it out to play with every day. On Tuesday the stars aligned and baby sister took an extra long nap, so I decided to try an art project. I pulled up Pinterest (noticing a theme yet?) and searched for farm preschool crafts. I found several variations of the barnyard animal paper plate that we had all the supplies for, and we actually had time to make three before T work up and demanded to be in the middle of things.

Please note that I was very hands-off on these projects. I let C do a lot of the cutting, gluing, and arranging herself.

It was very hard for this recovering perfectionist not to make suggestions (why don’t we move one of the cow’s spots so it doesn’t look so much like a raccoon?) but I refrained as much as possible. C is getting better with her cutting skills (who knew scissors were such a hard tool to master?) but she did ask for help cutting some of the nose and ear shapes. She was super proud of the results and kept saying “Oh I love making crafts with you Mama!” Pardon me while I melt into a puddle of warm-fuzzies.

My big girl has been developing quite the sassy mouth lately, and I’ve been less than patient with her (read snippy and annoyed) so this little bonding moment was just when we needed. I’m always reluctant to jump into arts and crafts because of the mess and all the prep work it seems like I have to do, but for this I did absolutely nothing ahead of time.

So there you have it. A super simple little preschool unit that I threw together in the most slap-dashed manner, that provided hours of fun, learning, and even some bonding. Such a good reminder to me that something doesn’t have to be perfect, planned out, or time-consuming to be worthwhile. What about you? Has your fall schedule left you busier than expected? Have you figured out any awesome ways to keep your kids occupied until dinner? Please share!

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