What Do Preschoolers Need?

Rebekah loves to puzzle, just like her Daddy

What do preschoolers need?

That’s an easy answer: they need YOU!

Yep: they need Mom, in all her constantly loving glory, with lots of hugs, snuggles, toe-kissing, hand-holding, hair-tousling, kisses, pats, holding-on-her-lap and listening. That’s the #1 need. And in your moment-by-moment interaction, be sure to lead them to the one who loves them most of all: God. In this, you will be doing the best thing you could for your young child.

#2 Routine
Little ones thrive on routine. Can you imagine living your life without a watch or a clock? Preschoolers can’t read the time (or figure out what significance it has) quite yet. They gear their daily living off of routines such as bath-time, meal-time, nap-time, a daily walk, bedtime and other regular activities. That is why vacation or Sunday can be so disruptive to them. If you want them to be content, set into stone some daily routine that they can depend on.

#3 An Enriched Environment
Preschoolers are trying to make sense of the world, and learning rapidly. You can help by providing sensory experiences for them, including taking walks outside in nature, reading them endless amounts of stories, setting up water play, teaching them grooming, cooking with them, enjoying animals, helping them remember good manners, playing puzzles, smelling flowers, interacting with other people (not necessarily children), and providing real toys and tools. Toys are fun, but real stuff is what learning is all about! My preschoolers always preferred playing with my wooden spoons and pots and pans to playing with toy pans. Little snatches of learning are great too, such as a 10 minute phonics game, but don’t tire them with much traditional academic work.

#4 Physical care
Good nutritious food, plenty of sleep, daily run-and-play exercise outside, and some small chores to work on will help them be healthy and happy.

And what don’t preschoolers need?
Television, running too many errands, lack of supervision, staying up too late, computer games, too many toys, listening to mom talk on the phone, getting their way all the time, video games, scolding, junk food, too much shopping, movies, lack of discipline . . .

Two of my grandbabies, Abigail and Rebekah, with me!

May I recommend:

You Go First

When I was a little girl, I used to dream about living in the south during the Gone with the Wind era, when belles wore full, swishy dresses and used southern hospitality. It seemed ladies were sweet and genteel, and courtesy was the order of the day. Now that I’ve grown up (and studied the Civil War and got accustomed to air conditioning), I don’t think of living then so longingly, but I do still wish that ultra-courtesy was our culture’s style of interaction.

Well, it’s not. Rudeness is quite common. But we can have create a culture in our own home where “You Go First” is the motto.

I once invited my friend and her large family over for a visit. I had baked a cake to serve as a refreshment. With my 7 kids, and my friend’s 12, there were plenty of eager dessert-eaters clamoring around as I cut that cake! My friend’s teenage boy had his youngest sibling in his arms. I noticed as the cake was served, he held back, making sure everyone was served first including his tiny sister. That isn’t normal behavior for teenage boys! I was impressed and starting observing more carefully. Although no one voiced it, “You Go First” was that family’s method of interacting, and I determined to make it mine as well.

So, I taught my preschoolers to say, “You go first” instead of “me first”. “You go first” is a very unnatural phrase for a little one. It wasn’t easy for them to restrain their desires and offer the treat or chair or privilege to their siblings, parents, or friends first, but with practice it started to work magic in my family. The older children caught on. Instead of everyone racing and scrambling to take care of #1, they were looking out for each other. What a victory!

It takes constant vigilance and reminders, but “You Go First” brings a pleasant sense of civility that makes home life glide along so much more smoothly.

May I recommend:

A Way to Grade

My kids: Ammon, Mark, Julianna, goofing off

by Carol Johnson
Gainesville, Florida

I had heard all the arguments for and against grading your children in homeschool, and had decided not to grade. Going along with the theory that they will learn better when something is interesting to them; I teach them until they understand, or until I completely lose their interest. I couldn’t figure out how to use grades in this form of “school.”

However, like most people, my children weren’t learning self-discipline without any consequences. They had been excellent students, but now they were developing bad school and study habits. As a result, I implemented a grading system that works in their four problem areas:

They complained and fussed about every assignment. Even the “fun” ones. This was getting difficult to deal with as a teacher.

If I wasn’t watching, my children would tuck the assignment away without finishing it. Most often, they would not complete their assignments unless I was standing over them. If I left, they put them down and did something else more interesting. I found myself constantly nagging them.

My kids love to dawdle. Whether I was in the room or not, they took much too much time over each assignment. They loved the idea of time limits, this meant they didn’t have to finish the page. When I assigned it as “homework” they would not do it without me nagging them (back to the second problem).

. . . However, when they rush, they tend to be less careful. Without grades, they had no feedback about how they were doing. With this grading system, they like knowing they’re learning and able to do things “right”.

Actually, I’ve used this “system” two different ways. When I started, I used this for every assignment they did. I have a simple little database set up on the computer, that I use as their student logs. At the end of each assignment, I would put in the grade as they watched. They could get anywhere from 1 to 4 points per assignment, and that averaged out for a daily grade. If they got a perfect 4 points for the entire week, we’d give them some type of reward—as a parent, not a teacher.

This was very effective. After using this system for a few months, the kids had really gotten much better. After four months, they were doing so well, I stopped grading them. Ironically, they didn’t like the change. At their request, I started it up again this year, but I only grade them per day. I no longer give them a treat for a perfect 4­— that’s just expected.

Life in our school is great these days— I am feeling a lot less frustrated! We do workbooks for math and language arts, but then we do unit studies for everything else. It has really worked well for us, and my children are excellent students. We all really enjoy school. We have a lot of fun—that’s probably why I think my kids weren’t taking me serious enough. I do the logs for my benefit, more than theirs.

Clones Clones Clones Clones Clones|


“Just like Mom”. My son Daniel says I’ve raised clones. Watching my little girls interact and express themselves, I would have to say that I agree. It sobers me. In spite of ourselves, we train our children to be like us. In many ways, my daughters are far better than me, thankfully. I see my aptitudes and talents inherited by my children. But, I do see my flaws in living color and I wince whenever I do!

You don’t train a child to be patient by making him wait for things. You train a child to be patient by watching you kindly wait for a slow talker to finish his sentence without your interruption. You teach patience by being content for nine months of pregnancy without wishing away each miserable day. You teach patience by standing in a grocery store line and smiling and being pleasant to others instead of pacing and checking your watch.

As far as patience goes, it has taken me 45 years of struggle to begin to make peace with life’s imperfections and slowness. My mind races and I think fast (which is my personal excuse for why I am impatient!), but people need kind and unhurried treatment. It takes time to listen to your spouse. It takes time for a child to print his name correctly. Accomplishing things in this imperfect world take a lot longer than we’d like often. Patience is one of those necessary virtues: the earlier learned, the better.

Children do not learn respect for authority in a Sunday School lesson or from a book. They learn how to respond to authority while driving on the freeway listening to their father talk about “cops”. They learn it whenever their parents discuss the mayor, the president or their church leader. They learn how to respect their own father by listening to their mother’s tone of voice when she talks to Daddy, especially when she disagrees.

The process of creating clones is perfectly sure. Whatever you do–whoever you are–day by day is the pattern and mold you create for your impressionable children to shape themselves by. Things that seem of very little consequence to a mother make a great difference, I suppose because those little acts are clues to your true values. I abhor the thought of dropping a wrapper or paper outdoors. To litter this beautiful world violates my values and touches upon my very beliefs; that God created this world and that we are the caretakers of it. Although leaving a gum wrapper in the park may not seem to be a grave matter, it silently teaches an attitude toward God, this world and our duty to nurture it, that words simply cannot.

What is our responsibility? It is for us personally to so live that our children will be led to act like Jesus when our training is done. Homeschooling only intensifies your influence as your spend more time with your children. This is such a big order for such inadequate human beings! But what an incredible opportunity to leave your legacy in the form of an excellent family of adults, well-raised!