Staying Home With Your Children

by: Juliette McDonald
Posted: April 18, 2005

Staying Home is Easy! Just Jump Right In

For those of you who have decided to keep your children home with you, congratulations on giving yourself the very best gift you will ever have, the presence of your children. I have never heard any parent, after their children were grown, say they were sorry for the time that they spent with their children. With my 35 years experience in childcare and preschool, the very best and honorable reason for a child to be removed from my program is because the parents want to stay home and spend more time with their little ones. For some, this seems to be extremely challenging and even a bit scary. But you don't need to be scared. There are many opportunities and support groups for stay-at-home parents these days.

Parent Co-op

Some families choose to join a parent co-op program, where you go to a school with your children part time. In these programs, the parents have a lot of responsibilities along with the power to decide what kinds of curriculum, activities and teachers they want for their children.

Some advantages to this type of program is not having the mess in your home, getting help with activities, photos, projects and field trips, getting parent guidance and education, and meeting other parents with the same age children. It can be nice not to have to do it all by yourself.

Co-op programs also seem to be a little less expensive, and you have a lot more power than with a traditional preschool.

There can also be some conflicts or disadvantages to these programs. In most parent co-op programs, each family needs to volunteer hours of their time to make the program work. The responsibilities can be overwhelming for some.

The jobs can be fun, but they are time consuming. They range from taking photos, planning field trips, driving, helping with curriculum, cleaning, gardening, building, accounting, keeping the library, purchasing, fundraising, supervising everyone's children and cooking...just to name a few.

Expect to have to attend mandatory meetings as well. If the other parents in the co-op do not share your thinking and values, this experience can be full of friction. Co-op programs allow some children and families to really thrive, but they may be too time consuming and stressful for others.

Finding Resources

Some parents worry that they cannot provide all of the same equipment at home that is offered in a preschool or childcare program. Always remember that the material things provided in an outside program cannot compare or replace what you can offer: Your undivided time and attention with your children.

At home, you work in your own time frame, choosing the activities, materials, and projects you want to do with your children that meet their individual needs and interests. Many materials can be homemade or purchased inexpensively. If you want your children to participate with others, but do not want the commitment of a program, there are many ways to do this.

You can join a local homeschooling group that offers park days and special activities for young children. To find a local group near you visit These groups may offer field trips, resources and activities for no cost or low costs.

You can usually join in when it fits your interests and schedule. A homeschooling group is a nice way to meet other parents and it's the best way to offer a mixed age group to your children, as opposed to the age-segregated environment of a preschool.

The older children interact with and learn right along with the younger children. Many local community centers, libraries, museums, and even some colleges and bookstores offer parent co-op classes for preschool age children. Look for activities in the calendar section of your local parenting magazines.

There are also private classes offered in dance, music, gymnastics, arts and crafts and more. Again, you will find these resources in parenting magazines and in the calendar section of your local newspaper.

The most important thing you can offer your children at home, is your time together. You'll have time to sit, play, read, talk, cuddle, cook, daydream, watch the clouds, find bugs in the garden, and learn and grow together. The relaxed, unscheduled time allows learning to unfold and evolve naturally. It is the best gift you can give to your children and yourself.

Where are all the Green balls? They were here a minute ago.

Activities to Do at Home

There are lots of fun, educational things you can do at home with your toddlers and preschool children, and it doesn't have to cost a bundle. Here are some suggestions.

For Ages 12 months to 2 Years

"Safety first" is the mantra for this age group as they tend to put everything in their mouths. Make sure that toys and games do not have small parts that may be a choking hazard. Invest in a safety cup (sold at children/teacher/toy stores) that measures the size of any object for safety. Then, provide a few safe things that children can stack, turn, make noise with, and crawl through. Here are some things I have made very inexpensively:

For ages 2 through 4

It keeps slipping through my fingers.

Cooking, painting, gardening, playing, going on field trips, and even folding clothes and doing household chores with your children, allows a wonderful opportunity to introduce many subjects like art, math, writing, reading, science and history. It provides an opportunity for you and your child to learn and grow together. But more importantly, it allows that learning to unfold at a relaxed pace in a loving place that is just right for you and your children.

Here are some ideas to help you create a rich learning environment for your children:

For more helpful information from our author, be sure to visit Preschool Expert: Juliette McDonald in Universal Preschool's "Ask An Expert" Section.