OWTK's Helpful Ideas / Parenting Blog

OWTK’s Helpful Ideas – #4

Smack me silly and call me Francine, but I can draw a perfectly straight line between:


With that in mind, I offer to you OWTK Helpful Idea #4 – Learning Opportunities Abound (Preschool Edition)!

Are you looking for creative ways to teach your preschooler early math concepts, develop in them a vivid imagination, and encourage a passion for reading?  Before spending hard-earned dollars on workbooks and flash cards, take a look at these six free ideas for making educational pursuits innocuous and super fun!


Math, in the form of numbers, patterns, less/more, and colors, is everywhere and can be taught in an entertaining fashion by simply looking at what surrounds you and your child on a daily basis.  Here are a couple tricks for turning basic math concepts into a game while food shopping:

  • Patterns: the brightly colored boxes in the grocery store cereal aisle transform into a giant pattern that you can use while you shop!  Remove one a red Fruit Loops box from the row then ask your child to figure out which color should come next in the pattern.
  • Measurement: while at the deli counter, talk to your child about 1/4, 1/2 and a full pound.  Explain which is lesser and which is greater  (for sports fans: feel free to use pro basketball or football to help here – both sports use 4 quarters, and a half time, to make a whole).  When your toddler pleads for a piece of cheese, make them earn it by figuring out if there will be more or less cheese when you take a slice from the pile.


You may just find that the more imaginative your child is, the less likely he will be to beg for additional screen time.  Here’s a tip on encouraging creative play to develop a child’s imagination, while also teaching some other critical skills along the way:

  • Turn a silly campfire game into an everyday imagination, alphabet, and memory builder.  Play this one with all of your children – young and old!  The game is played verbally and alphabetically, with each player announcing what they will bring on a road trip (insert anything here in lieu of road trip).  Quick example: 1st player uses the letter A saying something along the lines of “I’m going on a road trip and taking an apple”, next player “I’m going on a road trip and taking a baseball” (the letter B), and so on.  As your child’s confidence grows, employ a theme (food, animals, etc.) and require that each player announce all the items that have come before.  This will build memory and attention skills and makes the game more challenging and hilarious!  This friendly competition is perfect for long drives and Doctor’s office waiting rooms.


Reading yields numerous positive results in children.  These three ideas center around improving a child’s vocabulary, developing focus and lengthening attention span.

  • Turn reading into a challenge with goals and prizes.  Make a colorful list (see above) and hang it in your child’s room or someplace else highly visible.  Write down the name of the books read, putting stickers next to your child’s favorites.  For every ten books completed, award a prize (something simple that you both can share in – like an ice cold chocolate milk with two straws!).  Your local library is key to keeping this fresh with new titles!
  • As you are reading to your child, spend extra time on each page to appreciate the illustrations.  Allow the artwork to provide additional fun and learning by finding hidden animals in the bushes or counting the birds in the trees.  Many books – The Snowmen series (‘At Night’, ‘All Year’, etc) for example – have built in iSpy components already!
  • ‘Press pause’ on the books and ask your child what she thinks will happen next in the story.  This will develop attention and retention skills and will have your child contemplating story arcs, cause and effect, and outcomes.

You’re now armed with a half-dozen tips for introducing educational ideas on the sly while food shopping, killing time in the waiting room, and reading before bedtime.

Got any tricks of your own that have been successful?  I’d love to hear about ’em.  Leave a comment below!

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