Should I Do Something Academic?

in Cognitive, Emotional, Language, Physical, Social

The school bus screeches, stops, diesel engine hisses as the door is opened. A minute later, the bus hisses again, gears grind and the  bus resumes down the road.

Not that your preschooler would be taking a bus anyway, but your stomach does a flip and then a flop. You are happy to keep your child at home with you, but a bit of a panic sneaks in as you think:

“Shouldn’t I do something….academic?”

Well, sure! But you will be surprised to learn what activities that seem like “play” are actually academically  oriented.

That’s because young children’s learning goals are for “PRE-reading” skills and “PRE-writing” skills. Math skills are for building their number sense and problem-solving.

So, here’s a way to “do something academic” which will address all of the above competencies:

  • Gather foam letters, or plastic letters, or  magnetic letters.
  • Have child place all letters in a pile and mix them up.
  • Give the child a few minutes to explore/play with the letters and encourage dialogue:
              "What colors do you see?" "I see red, ___, etc."
              "Can you find a 'blue'- 'red'- 'yellow' letter?"
              "What do they feel like?"---
--- "Hard." "Soft/mushy." "Weird." "Like a sponge."
  • “Now let’s put them into different piles according to their color.”
  • “We’ll put all the red ones over here…”
  • “We’ll put all the yellow ones over here…”, etc.
  • “How many ‘yellow’-‘red’-‘blue’-etc. letters do we have?
  • “Which pile is the biggest?”
  • “Which pile is the smallest?”


  • “Your name begins with a ‘B’ for ‘Brian’. Here’s a ‘B’. Can you find any more ‘B’s?”
  • “Let’s put all the  ‘B’s’ in a pile….etc.

Keys to having a fun learning activity:

  • Be ready to stop the activity when you see your child start to lose interest. You want to leave the activity with the child having fun memories of it. This will encourage him to want to do it again at a later date.
  • You want to finish the task you are working on but you can say something like: “After you finish putting the green one in the pile, let’s go outside (or let’s do ______.)”
  • Give lots of affirmations for your child’s guesses, ideas, and choices.
  • Try to refrain from words like: “No. That is wrong.” If, for example, your child picks up a blue one instead of a green one, you can say something like: “Good try! That looks a lot like green. Let’s see if it matches this green one.”
  • Be positive and enthusiastic! Your child will pick up on your demeanor. Children are very sensitive to your emotions.
  • While you are both cleaning up, praise your child for his intelligence; his attitude; his proficiency in the activity. There is nothing wrong with making him feel like a genius!


  • Physical-Fine Motor: As your child explores, picks up and sorts the letters, he is strengthening his fingers. He is also gaining coordination skills as he manipulates.
  • Sensory Input: Your child learns with all their senses. They need to actually FEEL the shape of letters before they can begin to conceptualize them in their mind; and then after that, transfer the picture/letter onto paper!
  • Cognitive: Color identification; reasoning abilities; problem-solving; following directions = auditory input and processing.
  • Language: dialogue presents new vocabulary as you use different words for describing as well as lots of opportunity for talking.
  • Social: Give and take of dialogue translates into learning how to be part of a group; listening; helping = being a team player; attending to task = learning to focus despite other stimuli. Building independence as he acquires confidence in achieving a task on his own.
  • Emotional: Bonding time with you! The #1 way children perceive love! Sense of accomplishment; building positive self-image as they successfully  complete a task.

There! You have just covered all of the learning domains!




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All content copyright Margaret Burkhart | 2011-2013