Updated: Aug 8
A Companion Guide to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool
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As Fall approaches I know many of us are trying to make the best decisions for the health and safety of our families. In these unprecedented times, there is no one-size-fits-all “right” answer. BUT...
If you are here it is probably because you have decided homeschool preschool (whether temporarily or indefinitely) is right for you and have purchased Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool curriculum. If you haven't purchased it yet, it is still 25% off with the code "HOME25". Click here to purchase.
My three-year-old and I completed Year 1 of Playing Preschool in May and as a former teacher, I LOVED having a “plan” for structured learning time. My son enjoyed the hands-on approach to learning with an emphasis on PLAY. I think the biggest take-way for both of us was that learning is FUN.
When we started the Playing Preschool program, I had a three month old baby and a two-year-old, which made it hard to leave the house. Busy Toddler's curriculum was a lifeline in that it gave me the answer to "what am I going to do with the toddler all day?" and confidence that I was helping prepare him by developing skills needed for Kindergarten readiness.
Welcome to Playing Preschool!
Ready to get started? Susie, the creator of Busy Toddler, does a phenomenal job of outlining the program, its goals and how to use it in her Start Up Guide. I love that she makes it accessible for parents and caregivers - no teaching experience needed. If you're like me, after you finished reading it you were so excited to get started! But first, you need to gather your teaching materials, namely your books and supplies.
Printing the Curriculum
One of the most commonly asked questions in the Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler Curriculum Group on Facebook is where to get it printed. Susie recommends The Homeschool Printing Company for their affordability but the lead times can be 6-10 weeks. For a quick turnaround, others have used Staples or FedEx but that is probably the most expensive way to go. Recently I've seen recommendations for online printing via Printme1 and Lulu xPress. With any of these options, you get to choose how you want it printed (color vs. black ink) and finished (spiral, 3-hole punched, etc.). And then of course, you always have the option to print it at home with your own paper and ink, but at 300+ pages it might not be advisable.
When I started Year 1, I knew printer ink was expensive so I printed just the first unit. I fully intended to find an affordable solution for printing the entire book but never got around to it so I would just pull up the digital copy on my phone. It was okay at first but it got to be a hassle after a while because I couldn't use my phone without losing my place and as we got further into the year, I would have to scroll through hundreds of pages to find where we were that day. So yes, I will be printing Year 2.
Edited to add: I used Lulu xPress to print black and white and spiral bind for $17.78 including tax and shipping and it's supposed to be here in 2 weeks. I had to create a cover using one of their templates but otherwise it was pretty straightforward.
Teaching Materials: Books
There are 5-6 suggested books for each unit of the curriculum, but Susie encourages substituting other books related to the theme of that unit. Way back in 2019 when my toddler and I started Playing Preschool, the world looked very different. Before COVID-19 and all its craziness, you could go to the library, the used book store or the thrift store to find the recommended books. Even so, it could be a challenge to find them all, so I definitely had to find alternatives.
I live in a small town with a small library and could usually only find half of the books on Susie's list. It was easy to substitute non-fiction books because it was just a matter of going to that section in the library, but without knowing the title or author, it was harder to find picture books related to the theme. For example, a keyword search for "Weather" won't bring up "Good Night Little Blue Truck," where the beloved character and his animal friends take shelter from a thunderstorm and find its easier to be brave together.
In my search for good substitutions, I've scoured Pinterest for book recommendations, read Amazon reviews, followed children's book influencers on Instagram and spent hours browsing library shelves to compile lists of alternate book suggests for each theme. I am happy to share them with you! I've included lists for both fiction and non-fiction titles in each of my blog posts for that unit (you can find them all here).
Also, I am constantly updating my lists as I discover additional books or as new titles are released. While I've read most of the books on my lists, there are some that I haven't physically gotten my hands on yet, but I included them because I deemed them worthy and wanted to you have as many options to choose from as possible.
Fast forward to March 2020, when the whole world was in lockdown, and finding books to fit each of our themes became even more challenging. This is where technology, combined with some creativity, came into play.
Children's book authors like Chris Van Dusen and Oliver Jeffers started to do read-alouds of their books on Instagram. Celebrities started reading books to benefit Save with Stories to help raise money to feed children. Digital subscription services like Vooks, Epic! and Amazon Freetime offered free or reduced fees for their apps. Publishers generously gave permission for their books to be shared on YouTube or other platforms. It was nice to see something positive come out of the crisis.
There's an App for That
When looking for digital versions of books, here is the rundown.
YouTube: You can find read-alouds of many of the suggested books on this platform. Just search the "name of the book" + "read aloud".
Amazon Freetime is the kid's version of Kindle Unlimited. It is free for the first year with a kid's Kindle (we have the Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet) and then it is an additional $2.99/month with a Prime account after that. It comes with access to thousands of kids books. (A member of our Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler Curriculum community shared a list of books for Year 1 designating the 30+ that are available on Freetime if you care to join us on Facebook).
Epic! - A digital reading platform with over 40,000 titles for designed for kids 12 and under. Parents gets a 30 day free trial then its $7.99/month after that.
Nothing is as good as holding a book in your hands, but when libraries closed indefinitely, anything was better than nothing and nothing was going to stop us from reading. Now that our library is offering curbside pickup, we have been taking full advantage of that option.
A Last Resort
When I could not beg, steal, borrow (or stream) a book that seemed critical to an activity, I bought them. Some members of our Facebook community have recommended ThriftBooks.com, HalfPriceBooks.com, DiscoverBooks.com and BookOutlet.com as resources for finding copies of suggested books. There is also a Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group for members to sell their books after they are finished with them. Overall, with many people starting the curriculum in the August and September, there is currently a supply and demand issue for used books.
As an Amazon Prime member, my go-to was to purchase a few books for each unit to be delivered to my house. I kept the ones I liked and returned the ones I didn't (according to the terms of Amazon's 30-day money-back guarantee). Now, I'm not advocating this as a long-term solution, but in light of the situation, I felt I was able to justify it and in the end, we added some quality books to our collection.
Speaking of which, I chose five titles from each unit as my "Top Five Books to Add to Your Home Library" indicated by an asterisk (*). Obviously books are a matter of taste, so this is just based on my personal preference as being ones that I would want to read with my child again and again, as opposed to ones I would just check out from the library. Note: don't be surprised when I didn't choose "Corduroy" in the Clothing unit. He earns his permanent place on the shelf in the "Teddy Bears" unit.
Teaching Materials: Supplies
Now that you have your books, you need to gather your classroom supplies.
In her morning calendar routine video link, Susie uses the Melissa and Doug My First Daily Magnetic Calendar, so I bought it as a Christmas present for myself (don't tell me I"m the only one who does this...) My son loves choosing the emojis and manipulating the magnets, but this one is pretty pricey so any calendar will do the trick.
In the Start Up Guide for Playing Preschool, Susie provides a list of her most-used supplies to get your started, and within each unit there are additional materials you will need (i.e. apples are specific to Unit 1). I've taken the liberty of creating an Amazon shopping list for your convenience, but many of these items can be found at the dollar store. Then again, many of us are avoiding physical shopping as much as possible... so Walmart or Target pickup could be another alternative.
Flashlight --> This one is waterproof
Dot Stickers --> Avery brand is recommended. I was unhappy with a generic.
31 quart storage container --> The Sterilite brand is from Target but this is similar
2 lb Bag of Uncooked Rice --> Waaay cheaper at the grocery store
Pocket folder for Alphabet Portfolio
Additional Supplies By Unit
Unit 1 - Apples
Apples - 12 Total (4 red, 4 green, 4 yellow)
Visit BusyToddler.com for more answers to frequently asked questions like:
- What if my child already knows their numbers and letters?
- What age should my child be?
- Can I skip Year 1?
- Why are the letters out of order? - What if my kids are different ages? Are there extensions for older children?
To learn more about how I got started and other supplies I recommend read: A Companion Guide to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum
I also invite you to join the Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler Curriculum Caregiver Group on Facebook. This group was created to share ideas and resources and offer support to other members also teaching the curriculum.