I taught preschool for five years. I think I may have learned more in those five years than I did during any of my other 15 years of teaching. Teaching in early childhood is different. You need a whole other set of strategies and techniques to be effective. There were two things that got me through those years teaching little ones. The first was an excellent mentor. If you don’t have one, go find one! An early childhood teacher that’s worked in the trenches can be a lifesaver when it comes to helping figure out how to approach this age group. The second thing I relied on during my five years as a pre-kindergarten teacher was online resources. I constantly trolled teaching websites, Pinterest and Facebook looking for advice and activities. By the time I left the pre-k classroom, my list of favorite sites was approaching 100. I can’t share all of my list here, but I can share my favorites. Here are the top 10 early childhood websites that I absolutely relied on when I was teaching pre-k:
Teach Preschool by Deborah Stewart is phenomenal, and that’s not an overstatement. Every time I see her work I think two things: “Ooh I love that activity!” and “Can I be Deborah Stewart when I grow up?” Her ideas are always developmentally on target, engaging and clever. Her activities are also always play-based, but she magically weaves in academic concepts, without seeming too heavy handed. One of my favorite Teach Preschool posts is Ten Tips for Circle Time where she talks about how circle time isn’t just a sit and listen time. It’s a move and learn time. And anyone who has taught preschool for more than a day knows that preschoolers are all about moving and learning. Right now, my favorite place to follow Teach Preschool is Instagram. She post pictures of her lessons that will totally get your wheels turning and inspire your next classroom activity.
If you need a fun craft or activity for your class, Happy Hooligans is your source. Jackie, the site owner has run a daycare for years and these are the activities she does with her daycare kids, or as she calls them, her “Hooligans.” One look at her site and you’ll find yourself wishing you lived close enough to send your own kids to her for daycare. I’ve tried so many of the activities with my class but our favorite is her butter making activity. We’ve done the activity so many times that we actually bought our own class butter churn. The kids love taking turns churning the butter, but even more, they love eating the butter on bread after it’s finished!
3. Debbie Clement
Debbie Clement is an online resource that’s hard to sum up in a single link or image. She’s a performer who produces music for young children, she runs the well-known weekly Twitter chat, #teacherfriends, has her own website, Rainbows Within Reach and she manages the multi-contributor blog Pre-K and K Sharing Add in her fabulous Pinterest boards and you’ve got one of the most prolific early childhood educators out there! (And I’m pretty sure I’m missing some of her contributions!) Pick a way to connect with Debbie. We guarantee you’ll find at least one incredible “I never thought of that!” idea that you can use in your classroom.
This blog has tons of teaching advice for the pre-k crowd. Whether you need general information on pre-k kids, or a quick last minute activity because you’ve had a change of plans, you can find it on this site. One of my favorite posts by Pre-Kinders is 5 Mistakes Pre-K Teachers Make the First Week of School. Every last piece of advice in this post is spot on. You can tell that Karen Cox knows preschoolers.
If you’re looking for hands on learning activities to do with your class, Preschool Inspirations is the place to be. Steeped in the philosophy of play based learning, Preschool Inspirations has countless ideas for hands on crafts and activities. Don’t come here for worksheets or pencil paper tasks. You won’t find many. What you will find is engaging activities like this one: Alphabet Bead and Sand Tray.
6. Teacher Tom
More reflective in style, Teacher Tom is a goldmine. The author, a long time preschool teacher, will share snippets of his day, reflect on why students may have acted the way that they did, and then share how he responded to their actions. His insights are usually unexpectedly accurate. One of his more recent posts, I’m Not Going To Move really hit home. I’ve watched this scenario play out many, many times. His approach though, was perfect. Employing more patience than I often seemed to possess, he let the kids slowly work out their issue, only gently guiding them ever so often with a comment here or there.
If you go back and look closely you’ll probably realize that much of what you’ve pinned on Pinterest comes from Childhood 101. This online magazine is so full of rich preschool content, you can probably find almost any lesson or activity you need without having to look very hard. One of my favorites things on Childhood 101 is their books lists. They have lists of books for every possible theme and topic that an early childhood educator might want to cover.
Hands on : As We Grow is another resource-rich website. Though originally designed for parents, we’ve pulled more than a couple of crafts from this site to use in our classroom. There are pages and pages of crafts on this site. Don’t think this is only a craft site though. The author, Jamie, is serious about living up to her site name. She’s created many hands-on learning activities, most of which would work just as well in a classroom as a living room.
If you teach kindergarten, transitional kindergarten, or really any early childhood program that has a bit more of an academic bent to it, you’ll want to look at Simply Kinder. It’s tagline is “Developmentally Appropriate, Academic and Fun.” There’s a lot of pressure out there to make preschool and kindergarten more academic. Simply Kinder can help you find a way to do that, without abandoning your dedication to providing a developmentally appropriate learning environment. We especially love this post about “brain breaks” that Kindergarten (and preschool teachers) have been doing forever.
Differentiated Kindergarten is another good resource for early childhood teachers who for one reason or another take a more academic approach to learning in early childhood. Her blog post on how she sets up centers (or the Daily 5) in her classroom is one of the most thorough we’ve seen! Seriously, if you love pictures of how other classrooms or organized, you’ve got to check out this post.
What are your favorite early childhood resources? We know we missed a few!
Find more of our early childhood posts here:
All of our WeAreTeachers Early Learning Posts