For children 2 to 5 years old, I offer a play-based preschool program. Most of the children are here for a full day, so I've created a schedule that allows for much free choice play and a comfortable flow for the day. During the richest early learning experiences, children become immersed in their own imagined worlds and creations, and for this, they need TIME. When we begin to worry that a young child must learn academic concepts, we need to realize that so much of what they will learn is integrated into activities and routines they enjoy each day. Overly academic learning is not the province of a preschooler. A young child needs to be supported as the whole person he or she already is...through authentic daily experiences which build their independence, self- confidence, and conflict resolution skills.
An overview of our general routine...
(with flexibility to follow our children's interests, moods, and any surprises that may arise).
We start our day with time to explore and play. We have blocks, puzzles, games, dress up clothes, art supplies, books, and much more to choose from as our friends arrive. We work together to clean up for breakfast. All of our toys are chosen for their quality, open-ended play value, and most of all, to meet the interests of my current group of children.
After breakfast, whenever the weather allows, we go outside to run and play. We have many types of trikes, a climbing structure, playhouse, a very large (10+ yards of sand!) sand area, balls, hula hoops, and lots of space to pretend and imagine.
We care for our own chickens and our rabbit, and feed the many birds and squirrels who visit our yard (designated as a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat!) We've planted many child-friendly plants...edible, fragrant, textures, and much more. A recirculating fountain with a child-sized bench is a quiet stopping place.
During inside times, we sing, read books, or choose a game to play together. This gives us an opportunity to practice taking turns, listening, and following directions.Then it's time for a project together or individually. Children have the opportunity to choose for themselves what activities they want to participate in throughout the day. It may be working with playdough, working in our woodworking area, listening to a story, painting a picture, or perhaps planting seeds or watching caterpillars turn into butterflies.
When mid-day arrives, it's time for lunch. We take meal times as an opportunity to come together as a group. It's a great time to talk and interact with each other as we eat. Every meal meets USDA meal patterns, and we serve as much organic produce as possible, and avoid offering too many sugary, processed foods (though we do enjoy celebrating birthdays with cupcakes!). After lunch, we all go potty, wash our hands, brush our teeth, and settle down on our cots for naptime.
When we wake up from nap, we go potty again, wash our hands and head to the table to have snack. Then, depending on the weather and our moods, we go outside to play some more, or stay inside and choose something to work on inside. We sometimes have our group split between indoors and outdoors.
Most days have at least two choice activities available, as well as all the daily free choices. A weekly menu and activity plan is posted and shared online each Monday for parents to review. Parents also have access to daily photos posted on our private Facebook group.
An example of a daily schedule...
8:30 breakfast: wheat toast, cantaloupe cubes, whole milk
9:00 AM activity: pasta necklaces
10:00 outdoor play time: free choice time, bubble machine, storytime
11:30 lunch: chicken and cheese quesadillas on ww tortillas, orange and apple slices, milk
12:00 handwashing/toothbrushing, storytime on cots
3:00 pm afternoon snack: string cheese, whole wheat Ritz crackers, milk
3:30 PM activity: Clay exploration
4:30 Outdoor or indoor free choice time, depending on weather