Is your district doing in-person school in the fall? Ours has announced that we will start the year with fully remote learning, and this is the plan “until further notice”. This spring we largely opted out of the school-provided virtual learning and I did a lot of work with the kids using materials we already had on hand and a few that were added with an eye toward school at home.
For E5, in preschool, we didn’t do heavy academics, but instead built learning into play, looking for opportunities to introduce and increase familiarity with letters and numbers. I’ve pulled together a list of some of the manipulatives and tools we used that worked well for us.
To keep letter familiarization low-key and fun we spent a lot of time reading The Alphabet: how Pine Cone and Pepper Pot (with the help of Tiptoes Lightly and Farmer John) learned Tom Nutcracker and June Berry their letters. E5 really loved the stories (E8 did too), and there was ample opportunity to talk about the letter shapes and sounds without feeling like it was a formal “Aa is for Apple” sort of lesson.
After reading a chapter of the Alphabet book, we’d spend time building the letter of the day lots of different ways, then collecting animals and items that began with that letter. This is how we did the letter C. This can be done using any items around your home. We really liked using blocks to build the letters and holztiger animals to allign with them. Today if i were to recommend a single set of blocks to use for “building” letters, I’d recommend the Bauspiel stepped counting blocks (see below).
In addition to this letter work, E5 wanted a workbook to use just like her big brother. I couldn’t have been happier with Fun-Time Phonics. The cover and title are a little shallow, but the content is top notch. It starts slow and steady with letter sounds, but no need to recognize letters on the page to begin with. We would work through one, maybe two pages per day, and will pick it up again in the fall.
This spring we also did a lot of early math work, mostly with manipulatives. A lot of these games have become firm favorites surfacing in play all summer.
The Bauspiel Stepped Counting blocks (same as mentioned above for letters) are worth their weight in gold when it comes to math. The pink cubes are 2.5 cm per side, and each next color is another 2.5cm higher. its marvelous for addition, for measuring (and really for building too). When kids build with this set, they’re doing math without being aware–they must figure out what size is needed to fit, and the “plus a cube minus a cube” thinking is the foundation of basic arithmetic. This set is easier to visualize than the grimms version because “1” is the same length on all sides, and “10” has a unit base of “1” and a height of “10”.
Manipulatives for counting are a must. The Grapat mandala pieces, coins or rings are lovely choices, but there are many others that are just as effective. Amazon has a host of good choices–here are a few that we really like.
We also have quite a few pieces from Treasures from Jennifer. We love the 100s board and wound up getting a 20 board too as we found the 100 board was overwhelming when we started using it with numbers instead of counters. If her board is an option for you, I’d recommend it highly. If you need something sooner, I’d recommend a board like this one (also less expensive) with raised dividers between the numbers so the manipulatives do not roll around.
Grapat number coins are really popular for learning numbers and counting practice–its easy to see why. They are beautifully made and there are scads of great ways to use them. Our Favorites options have been as a “mermaid bank” and “put a ring around the number” using grapat rings.
I would have loved for E5 to have had the classic kindergarten experience this year. She has been so excited for it—and oh my—when her brand new kindergarten backpack arrived and was proudly displayed on the same day that I get news from the district that she’ll be starting the year from home. It was so hard putting on a brave face.
For this coming year, she’ll be participating in the virtual school curriculum to help her feel connected to people and meet kids she’ll likely go to school with later. We will also do a lot of supplementing using many of the same materials we used in the spring.
We’ve kept up with using the perpetual calendar through the summer, and I’m sure we’ll keep going with it through the school year as well. It has been so good for the kids to measure time when they don’t have any context in the outside world.
The links in this post are affiliate links. That means when you purchase through our links, Building with Rainbows receives a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting us.