Gain Teaching Time by Using Learning Stations with 3 to 6 Year-Olds

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How to Gain an Hour of Teaching Time by Using Learning Stations with 3 to 6 Year-Olds

Many homeschool families have a wide age range of children, so placement in multiple guides just makes good sense! But, what can you do with little ones to gain teaching time with your olders? Little Hands to Heaven gives necessary mommy time with PreK kiddos, while also teaching necessary skills. However, what else can PreK kiddos do during the day? Well, a lot, really! I wanted my 4 year old to have an independent playtime (as he’s always with his big brothers). Additionally, I wanted more uninterrupted teaching time with my olders. I tried many different things, but he just didn’t stick with whatever I’d set out for more than 15 minutes. What could be done?  Learning stations, that’s what!

How to Set Up Different Learning Stations to Be Independently Rotated Through

One day, I had the idea to try setting up different learning stations for him to rotate through… and success!  He happily played for an hour right away. I honestly couldn’t believe it. He really just needed some variety and an order of what to do. This works well for a child who understands the order of numbers, and who is around 3-6 years old.

Pick a safe room and use numbered cards to designate different stations.

I picked a safe room that was near us but not RIGHT by us. We have a large entry room just off our kitchen we have childproofed, so that worked well for us. I numbered big index cards and folded them in half to tent them. I started with 5, but soon used up to 7. Then, I chose 5-7 varied activities for him to work through. Starting with a few short activities that had a definite end to them worked well. For example, #1 was a puzzle, and #2 was a card for him to practice writing his name once. These were at his little table and chairs.

Puzzles and Practice of Writing His Name

I picked a building activity for #3. For example, magnatiles. Sectioning off a spot for it on a blanket, I put the #3 tent card by it.  #4 was a book on tape, and I designated a spot for that with his little chair. I also put headphones there, so my middle ds wouldn’t be distracted by the story.

Headphones to Listen to Audio Books

For #5, he played with something that was more active, like his construction set. I sectioned that off with another blanket. For #6, he looked at a set of books he had not seen before. His bean bag chair and blanket sectioned this area off nicely. I told him to start with card #1 and do the activity. Then, he turned over the card when he was done and moved on to #2. I turned on his LHTH’s Singing Bible CD for him, and away he went. I checked on him a few times and snapped a few pics…

Building with Magnatiles 
Coloring Books
Use a variety of learning stations to keep things fresh and exciting!

By the fourth day of doing this, he headed right in there all on his own after we’d done LHTH. I wondered where he had disappeared to, as I was putting away his LHTH tub. There he was, happily putting together his puzzle at center #1! I changed out the things, but in general…

  • #1 was always a short puzzle type activity
  • #2 was a short fine motor skill type activity
  • #3 was always something more active to play with on a blanket
  • #4 was always a different book on tape in his little arm chair
  • #5 was always something more active to play with on a different blanket
  • #6 was always different books in his bean bag chair
  • If there was a #7, it was something active.
Older siblings can help set up learning stations.

My older kids liked to help me set up this or that for it too. I’d set it up right before we ate breakfast, so it was all ready to go. It took me about 5-10 minutes to set it up, as I’d put things near there for handy access. I also put a few stuffed animals at various centers, as he loved his buddies. One time, an hour had passed. I said his brother was ready to do his playtime with him (which he LOVED). He said with his hands on his hips, “But I’m not done yet! I still have #6 and #7 to do, and I really wanted to do them!”  I guess independent stations were working well for him!!!

Choose things they already know how to do fairly well. 

Finally, I think it is important to choose things that they know how to do. So, this isn’t the time for puzzles or coloring or writing skills that may be too hard for them. It also helps to change out the books, toys, and activities, choosing things they can be successful with. I just let him move on to the next one whenever he wanted to. Sometimes he was at one center for a very short time. But, that was alright, as he was at the next one longer. It all worked out.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share that past tip for us that was a wonderful help in our home!  If you are blessed enough to have a naturally independent child that just plays on his/her own with things, than this may not be necessary. But, if you have a child that needs a little help in this area, this may work for you too! It is my prayer that this could help some fellow busy homeschooling moms like yourselves.

In Christ,

Julie

P.S.  For fun ideas to use with toddlers, click here!

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Author: Julie Grosz, M.Ed.

Some passions of mine are homeschooling with Heart of Dakota, cooking with All Recipes, reading Jane Austen in a bubble bath, singing along with lyrics that strike a chord, making family traditions, creating organization out of disorganization, and writing words - in emails, posts, and books - that glorify God. I'm a teacher and an editor by trade. Here's a quick rundown of my numbers... 24 years of teaching (7 public school, 17 homeschool), 6 years of college (4 undergrad, 2 graduate for my masters in education), 17 years of editing for HOD, 47 years old, 23 years of marriage, 3 sons who are almost 19, 15, and 11 - and I believe that should about 'sum' it up! You can view my blog here - https://my3sons-julie.blogspot.com/

11 thoughts on “Gain Teaching Time by Using Learning Stations with 3 to 6 Year-Olds”

  1. This is such a practical idea! Thank you!! Usually it is the younger few who make the day harder. On tough days for them, it can be harder to focus with the older ones. Thankfully on a good day my young ones are content with a Daniel Tiger and some trains. But, having intentional time makes them feel so special and important like “big school.” I look forward to trying this!!

  2. I done something similar with activity boxes that we use for our preschoolers. They could be placed in different areas of the house, so I made a list that covers about 10-12 days and uses 5 activities a day (morning). It is beneficial to use even when you have an older child helping watch the younger ones, so they have an idea of something to do with them and knowing that there are five activities lets you know how to space them so the children have something to do throughout the morning. Some of the activites will stay out for the whole day (toys) and others are for one time use (crafts, coloring, outside play, etc.). We put everything away as we are done with it for the day and it is ready to be used the next time it is on the list.

  3. I really should give this a shot. I feel like my 2dd has no idea how to play on her own without her two older brothers so she often seems “lost” when they’re both occupied with schoolwork.

    One thing that has helped, however, is that I got her a little workbook too. Now she is much more patient because she knows that she will actually have her turn for “schoolwork”. She feels a sense of responsibility and ownership over her own workbook that really gets her trying to mimic the “mature” attitudes (not really so mature, since the oldest is 7, but more mature than wining and pestering like she sometimes does) of her brothers in taking turns at the table and not disrupting whomever is having their turn.

    1. I’m glad your little one is enjoying her own workbook! Isn’t it amazing how little ones want to do homeschool, just like big brothers and sisters? I do hope you get to try some learning stations, when you get the chance! A little training is involved at the start, but then you can have literally years of happy independent time as a result. I found it interesting that my older sons started getting involved with setting up different learning stations for Emmett! They’d say, “I’m going to set this up for Emmett’s learning station – he would LOVE this!” I hope you and your family enjoy this as ours did, Kelly!

    1. Thanks for your kind words here! This blog has been a family project from start to finish. We all put our heads together, and we hoped for the best. We are glad you are enjoying it, and we look forward to continuing to share posts that hopefully help and encourage all of our amazing homeschool families using HOD – God bless!

  4. Thank you for sharing this! My three-year-old has played well in the past, but recently seems bored and needs structure while I homeschool his older brother. I will be implementing this idea, quickly! (And, I will share this with other moms.)

    1. Oh good, Kari! You are so right- 3 year olds do tend to shift to wanting more structure to their day and even to their ‘play.’ I so hope this learning stations idea works well for you and for other busy homeschool mamas!!! Let us know how it goes!

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