Suggestions for the Littlest Ones

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by Kara Murphy

What do you do with young children who are not old enough to begin “homeschooling”?

Establish a daily “reading time” habit, perhaps before nap time or after breakfast. Also, if you are able, regularly have your child sit for a few minutes (in a crib or pack ‘n’ play) and “read” his own board books. These habits form the foundation for homeschooling.


The best activities for little ones are the homemaking activities you engage in everyday. Making beds, sorting and folding laundry, washing dishes, setting the table, cooking, cleaning, collecting trash, changing and dressing baby, pouring milk, spreading peanut butter on sandwiches, sweeping, dusting, picking up and putting away toys—you can include your little ones on most homemaking chores if you are creative and patient. This training is good for the child’s development and self-esteem, and you will reap benefits in the future as well.

Open-Ended Activities

During free-play times, provide open-ended activities such as coloring with crayons and paper, play dough or clay (when he is ready), building with blocks, puzzles, dressing up, etc. If you limit television time and the availability of electronic gadgets, you help his brain grow properly.

Many sites give ideas and suggestions for activities. I like Kendra Fletcher’s Preschoolers and Peace. Note: We do not follow a strict schedule, but we do like to develop routines to give structure to our days.

Go Outside

Get outside every day, if possible. Put the baby in the stroller, carrier, or backpack. This habit creates a love for nature and the outdoors, and fresh air and sunshine are healthful. While you are out, collect natural objects—rocks, leaves, flowers (but not those belonging to your neighbors!), and even harmless insects. Let the children hold and play with them. Yes, they may eat them, too, (hopefully not the insects!), but that can also provide beneficial bacteria!

Find Support

Look for support from your family and church family. Find an older, homeschool-experienced mother you respect and ask her to be your mentor. Offer to go to her house once a month or take her out for an evening coffee while your husband watches the preschoolers.

In every homeschooling support group I have been in, there has been at least one mom of little ones “too young” to homeschool. (We believe homeschooling begins at conception, so technically they are never too young.) Find a like-minded group in your area. If necessary, contact your state organization to locate one, but they are indispensable when you do not have support from your church or extended family. Internet groups are available, but do limit your on-line time so you can focus on your children. Unfortunately, too much time on blogs/e-mail loops cause homeschooling moms to lose sight of where they should be spending their time.

Finally, in your quest to profitably occupy your little ones, don’t forget—enjoy them. As the older mothers reminded me, these early years really do go too fast!

Here are some book suggestions to get you started:

Board Books

We requested these titles for birthday and Christmas presents from grandparents and relatives.

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown (1954; reprinted, HarperCollins, 1994)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947; reprinted, HarperCollins, 1991)

Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (1942; reprinted, HarperCollins, 1991)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1969; reprinted, Penguin Group, 1994)

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle (1984; reprinted, Penguin Group, 1995)

Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle (1973; reprinted, Simon & Shuster, 2009)

Tomie’s Little Mother Goose by Tomie dePaola (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1997)

Hand, Hand, Finger, Thumb by Al Perkins (1969; reprinted, Random House Books for Young Readers, 1998)

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman (1994; reprinted, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996)

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney (1994; reprinted, Candlewick Press, 2008)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. (1967; reprinted, Henry Holt & Co., 1996)

Toddler Books

Concept Books

Toddlers like books on topics of interest to them. My boys like factual books on topics they love (trucks, animals, trains). My daughter liked relational books. Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt (1969; reprinted, Zondervan, 2002) includes reading suggestions for younger children. Include “concept books” (books that teach preschool topics such as basic colors, numbers, shapes, and letters sounds) and poetry. A few suggestions follow, or use others available from the library.

Alphabet Books

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archimbault (1989; reprinted, Simon & Shuster, 2010)

On Market Street by Arnold and Anita Lobel (1981; reprinted, HarperCollins, 1989)

A Gardener’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian (2000; reprinted, Sandpiper, 2005)


Barn Cat by Carol P. Saul; illustrated by Mary Azarian (1998; reprinted, Little, Brown, 2000)

1, 2, 3: A Child’s First Counting Book by Alison Jay (Dutton Children’s Books, 2009)


Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh (colors and mixing colors) (1989; reprinted, Harcourt, 1995)


My Very First Book of Shapes by Eric Carle (1974; reprinted, Philomel Books, 2005)

Poetry Books

Sylvia Long’s Mother Goose by Sylvia Long (1999; reprinted, Chronicle Books, 2002)

Read-aloud Rhymes for the Very Young compiled by Jack Prelutsky (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1986)

Nursery Rhymes by Roger Priddy (2006) An over-sized board book with accompany CD

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