Inside: Learn how to structure the day for toddlers and preschoolers while doing preschool at home. This daily routine will cover everything you need to know for stay-at-home preschool.
If you’re looking to start preschool at home – you’re in the right place.
The good news is that you don’t have to be an educator, or spend hours scrolling through Pinterest to teach your toddler or preschooler in the comfort of your own home.
Most parents are surprised to learn that the “homeschool” portion is actually the smallest part of the whole day. For kids 5 and under, play is the most important learning tool.
For example: a 3 year old can learn more while playing with Magnetic Tiles for 20 minutes than through direct instruction of a concept.
For toddlers and preschoolers, play is their language of learning.
That being said, if you plan to do preschool at home, you’ll need to have a daily schedule or daily routine in place. Most people hear the word “routine” and worry that this means a tight schedule they have to usher their kids through.
But I am here to tell you, it’s not like that at all.
A good daily routine is your road-map for the day. It’s your outline or plan. As a stay at home mom, it’s how I get from Point A to Point B (and eventually bedtime). Without a plan, things can easily become too chaotic or aimless.
My favorite parenting expert, Dr. Laura Markham states: “Use a schedule…otherwise, you have to invent everything as you go along, and every minute is an invitation to a power struggle.”
And of course – life happens. Some days the kids are sick or it never stops raining. Other days the activity doesn’t go over as well as I hoped. That’s okay.
The point is not to aim for perfection or to put too much focus on every detail. The purpose of doing homeschool preschool is so you can be flexible with your schedule, right?
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What materials do I need for Preschool at Home?
In general, this depends on what you already have and how much money you have available to invest in supplies. If you’re looking for some great resources to have on hand, here are my Top 5 “can’t live without” items:
- Counting Bears
- Magnetic Tiles
- Dry Erase Board + Markers
- White Paper Roll + Painter’s Tape
- Marker & Crayon Art Set
Do I need to follow a curriculum for homeschooling my toddler or preschooler?
Remember, preschool=play. Structured curriculum comes later in life. Meaning, teaching preschool does not require skill & drill or formal worksheets. You can teach your preschooler through play.
However, if you’re looking for a formal structure, you may find it helpful to work off of themes appropriate for your child’s age.
Here is a sample homeschool theme outline for 2-3 year olds:
- Week 1: Farm / Farm Animals
- Week 2: Weather / Seasons
- Week 3: All About Me / Feelings
- Week 4: Ocean / Ocean Animals
One of my longtime friends does homeschool preschool with her 3 year old daughter (pictured above). She structures it much like a regular preschool would, by following the Alphabet.
She features a letter of the week, and finds a fun activity to correspond with it.
For example: In the picture above, the Letter of the Week was “J” and she made a fun Jungle-themed sensory bin for her daughter to play with.
And here is a sample homeschool theme outline for 4-5 year olds:
- Week 1: Working with Numbers 1-20
- Week 2: Science Experiments / STEM
- Week 3: ABCs – Letter Recognition & Handwriting Practice
- Week 4: Animal Habitats
Where do I find preschool activities to do at home?
- You can easily find activities, lesson plans, and curriculum resources on websites like Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and even PBS Kids.
- The best way to find what you’re looking for is with an exact search: “Letter Recognition Activities for 4 Year Olds“
- I also LOVE the Preschool Playbook from Sandbox Academy. This is a complete preschool program anyone can do at home.
As always, if you ever have questions about how to structure the day for preschool at home, or any general daily routine questions – you can DM me on Instagram or leave a note in the comments below!
Preschool at Home: How to Structure the Day for Toddlers & Preschoolers
- Here you’ll find a basic outline of how to structure the day for stay-at-home preschool. In my experience, this schedule works best for kids ages 2.5 through 5.
- The times given are approximate and what works best for my family. If your kids wake up or go to bed later, you’ll have to adjust based on what works best for your family.
- And don’t forget – as the “teacher” use your best judgement! If your toddler is really enjoying something, no need to rush onto something else just because it’s on the schedule. It’s okay to be flexible with the routine.
- You may want to implement this homeschool schedule 3 days a week (M/W/F) and leave your other days “free” – it’s up to you. This outline is here as a guide, so by all means, make it work for your little ones.
- Take a tour of our homeschool space, here.
Stay-At-Home Preschool Daily Routine
6AM – 7AM: Mom gets ready for the day. It’s important that you’re ready before your kids. Get dressed, make coffee, make a to-do list, whatever needs doing before the kids wake up.
If your toddler or preschooler struggles with early wake-ups, this resource will teach you step-by-step how to keep them in their room until 7AM.
7AM – 9:30 AM: Breakfast, Learning Activity & Independent Play
The purpose of the morning learning activity is to keep little ones busy while you make breakfast and get the day started.
- Melissa & Doug Daily Calendar
- 2-3 Year Olds: Tabletop activity such as building Duplos, stickers & coloring, stacking blocks, shape puzzles, color sorting, etc.
- 4-5 Year Olds: Learning Activities – click on the *Activities* highlight on my IG for simple ideas
The learning activity portion usually takes about 30 minutes (yes, only 30 minutes for the actual “homeschool” portion of the day) – remember, technically everything your little one does throughout the day contributes to their overall homeschooling.
While the kids work on their activity, I get breakfast ready and empty the dishwasher.
My two girls are 2.5 & 4.5 so they are working on different skills. Often I will give them the same activity, just with skill level variations.
Most preschools provide the same structure throughout the day. The essential components are:
- Reading aloud
- Music & movement
- Sensory play
- Arts & crafts
- Playground time
- Centers/Independent play
- Naptime or Quiet time
These are all things you can provide for your preschooler at home.
Here are some simple Homeschool Activities for Preschoolers:
Activities pictured above:
- Magnetic tile shape match
- Find Your Name word search
- Sort & Graph objects
- Rainbow scavenger hunt
- Mixing colors
- Painting letters & shapes (with water on chalkboard)
- Color sorting / patterns
9:30 AM – 11AM: Mom Exercises (push kids in stroller with a snack) & Outside Play – (bubbles, chalk, ride trikes, ball, etc.)
Note: if the girls are having fun outside, I won’t rush them in for sensory play. However, if I can tell they’re getting cranky or over-heated, I’ll say something like: “Mommy is setting a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, we’ll go inside and wash hands, then have a snack.”
11AM – 12PM: Sensory/Messy Play – here are my favorite hands-on sensory play ideas. If you’re able to set up your preschooler at the kitchen table or a little kid’s table, you can get lunch ready while they play.
12PM – 1PM: Lunch, Get Cleaned Up & Get Ready for Nap
1PM – 3PM: Naptime or Quiet Time & Mommy Time
If your toddler struggles with naptime or your preschooler struggles with quiet time, this resource can help you tackle both problems.
3PM – 4:30 PM: Backyard Water Play (weather & season permitting) – this is when I break out the splash pad, baby pool, sprinkler, squirt bottles, etc. Please remember all activities must be supervised by an adult.
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM: Bathtime & Watch TV & Dinner – if the kids get really messy, I’ll give them a quick bath after outside time. This gives them a chance to relax and also get clean before dinner. I’ve also found that it helps speed up the bedtime routine. I almost always have my girls watch TV while I make dinner so I can actually get dinner ready quickly.
This post shares a list of my favorite educational TV shows for toddlers and preschoolers.
5:30 PM – 6:30 PM: Brush teeth, bedtime stories & off to sleep!
Yes, my kids are often asleep by 6:30/7 PM. They also wake up early (no matter what time they go to sleep), so I always have them in bed early. Early bedtimes are essential for little kids and for our sanity as moms.
Here is the daily routine breakdown without the instructional notes:
6 AM – Mom wakes up
7AM – 9:30 AM – Breakfast, Morning Learning Activity & Independent Play
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM – Exercise and Outside Play
11 AM – 12 PM – Sensory/Messy Play/Art Project
12 PM – 1 PM – Lunch & Clean Up
1 PM – 3 PM – Naptime or Quiet Time
3 PM – 4:30 PM – Backyard Water Play
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM – Bath, TV, Dinner or TV, Dinner, Bath
5:30 PM – 6:30 PM – Get Ready for Bed & Bedtime