AmblesideOnline Year 0 Activities

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All of these are simple activities that can be done at home without special supplies or equipment. They are intended to encourage observation, discovery, and outside time. What a very young child, no matter how precocious and advanced, gains from these activities is more important to his expanding child mind than formal schooling. Your child's future education will be built on experiences like these. These ideas can get you, as the parent, thinking about the education that's already happening, even in the absence of formal schoolwork. These suggestions are written from a general North American point of view. If you live where the seasons or the climate are different, or near a particular natural or geographical feature (by the sea, in the mountains, on a farm, in a big city, etc.), you can and should adapt them to suit your surroundings.

These activities are meant to be done with the guidance of a parent; preschoolers of any age shouldn't be sent off to do any of these things alone and unattended.

Winter Activity Suggestions

Help bake cookies
Look for birds nests, squirrel nests, and mistletoe in bare trees
Make paper snowflakes (Instructions)
Make snow angels
Pour hot maple syrup on cups of clean snow to make snow candy (Instructions)
Grow seeds in a cup to be transplanted in spring and watch them grow

Spring/Summer Activity Suggestions

Observe a worm crawling
Look at stars and pick out the big dipper
Play in a puddle or creek
Pull plants out of the ground (either vegetables or weeds)
Catch some tadpoles/polliwogs (if it's legal in your area; they may be endangered) and watch them turn into frogs (Instructions)
Pick (but don't pull apart) flowers and put them in a vase of water
Watch an ant's nest
Make popsicles (or flavored ice cubes to crush and eat with a spoon)
Be aware of dew in the morning that dissipates
Collect flowers for Mom to press between wax paper with a warm iron (Instructions)
Keep a pet bug in a jar
Blow dandelion seeds
Watch a spider trap, wrap, and eat prey in its web
Paint the sidewalk with a cup of water and a paintbrush
Taste honeysuckle nectar (Instructions)
Press prints of leaves, seeds, flowers, rocks into play-doh or clay
Watch a snail leave a slime trail
Dig the biggest hole in the world (reference: "The Real Hole" by Beverly Cleary)
Find colors in nature that match your child's shirt, shoes, etc.
Count rings on a cut tree
Make a fairy (or toy dinosaur) garden (Instructions)
Look for a bird's nest with eggs and keep track of the hatchlings (from a distance!)
Squirt a fence or plants with water from a spray bottle
Excavate for buttons, beads, or small toys hidden in sand or mud
Grow sunflowers (Instructions)
If it's legal in your area, keep a pet turtle, lizard, frog, or toad for a few days
Find the red spot in Queen Anne's Lace
Look for four-leaf clover
Make sun prints by leaving items on construction paper outside
Identify shapes in clouds
Transfer a cocoon or chrysalis to a jar indoors to watch the moth or butterfly emerge. (Instructions or here)
Identify bands of color from a real rainbow after a rain
Catch fireflies in a jar
Explore what lives and grows on and around a tree

Fall Activity Suggestions

Make leaf rubbings with crayons
Look for plant galls (Information)
Try catching leaves as they fall
Collect acorns and look for squirrels gathering nuts
Cut up leaves with child-safe scissors to make confetti
Collect leaf pairs and play at mixing and matching them up
Make tent-style forts from sticks for tiny toy people/animals
Collect leaves for Mom to press between wax paper with a warm iron (Instructions)
Buy nuts (even peanuts) in the shell and crack them open

Activity Suggestions for Any Season

Learn some folksongs! This is Wendi Capehart's YouTube playlist of folksongs for Year 0
Pour water from containers of various sizes
Notice their own shadow and how it moves with them
Set a bird feeder near a window and watch the birds (Instructions)
Sort a box of buttons or beads by color or by size
Watch colored light made from an object that acts like a prism (How to hang prisms)
Notice how puddles decrease in the sun
Run rice or sand through the fingers
Recognize the garbage man or mailman or other regular service person and say hello to them
Watch squirrels, rabbits, birds and/or other backyard wildlife
Build a blanket fort
Notice where the sun comes up and sets; locate East/West
Help bake a loaf of bread
Play with magnets (but not near computers!)
Learn four folksongs by heart
Stop and listen -- what do you hear? Dogs? Birds? Cars?
In a tub of water, explore what sinks and what floats
Look for circles and straight lines in nature
If you have a large appliance delivered, save the box to make a castle or car.

For older preschoolers

Activities for 5 year olds might venture outside the home more, involve counting, or be slightly more advanced.

Adopt a tree in your yard and track its changes over a year
Visit the library
Read numbers off the back of a can or box at the grocery store
Visit a local children's science/activity center
Count how many different kinds of bolts or washers are sold at the hardware store
Make a sandwich
Sketch a map of your town's few main roads large enough to play with toy cars. Let your child draw houses and buildings.
Mark off a square foot in the grass and watch it for critters
Use a hammer to pound nails into a board
Play dominoes (Instructions) or make a line of them to topple
Count the number of petals on different kinds of flowers
Play rhyming games -- how many words rhyme with "game"?
Identify the birds, plants, and bugs in your backyard
Make a daisy or clover chain (Instructions)
Create a nature scavenger hunt, finding three different kinds of leaves, flowers, bugs, etc.
Try balancing a stack of rocks
Gather nature items in a box, look for two minutes and then cover. How many can be remembered?
Make salad for the family dinner
See what lives in a cup of pond water; if you're lucky, you'll find a dragonfly larva.
See if flowers, leaves, etc. have symmetry using a mirror image (YouTube Instructions)
Make a sundial with a stick and mark the hours around it on the ground with rocks (Instructions)
Look at bugs and plants with a magnifying glass (younger children may not be able to use a magnifying glass)

This site has some STEM ideas that work well with a CM education without a lot of fuss or equipment.

These chores, with guidance and encouragement, are within a preschooler's abilities.

Pick up toys
Put dirty clothes in the hamper
Help sort, fold, and put away clean laundry, especially small towels
Set the table before meals
Put their own dishes by the sink after meals
Help put away groceries
Help feed/water the family pet
Be responsible for keeping a nature display or vase of wildflowers fresh
Unload utensils from the dishwasher
Straighten bedding/help make the bed
Clean up spills
Collect small trash cans from rooms
Pick up sticks, pine cones outside

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