Ways Families Can Support Early Learning: 10 Great School Supplies to Consider Adding to your Home

School supplies

When a young child walks into a preschool classroom, the wonder and excitement is often immediately apparent in their wide eyes as they gaze at all the bright colors, the interesting school supplies that they can use to make creations, and the child-friendly toys and objects they are eager to investigate. Preschool classrooms are filled with tools and resources specially designed to support young children as they learn and grow each day. These school supplies and materials are carefully chosen to spark curiosity, foster exploration, and create opportunities for preschoolers to develop important foundational learning and fine motor skills.

This kind of learning does not need to stop at the end of the school day. To encourage your child to continue tinkering, wondering, and imagining outside of the classroom, consider adding some of the following school supplies and learning tools to your home environment. Learning in the home provides many opportunities for one-on-one practice and conversation as well as open-ended time for activities, projects, and creations. And, having developmentally-appropriate school supplies and learning tools means that your child can productively and safely work on important skill development while at home. 

10 School Supplies to Consider Adding to your Home
  1. Blocks: Playing with blocks allows preschoolers to use their imagination as they create castles, roads, and villages. As they stack, build, and play, they develop hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. There are a variety of types of blocks that are perfect for stacking, constructing, and creating at this young age. Consider Lego Duplo Classic Bricks, bristle blocks, cardboard building blocks, or traditional wooden blocks–or even a combination of various types of blocks. 
  1. Crayons: Crayons are a wonderful way to introduce to your child that they can be an artist! There are a variety of types of crayons, and all provide fun, creative drawing and coloring experiences. Consider adding some thick crayons or triangle-shaped crayons to your collection to help support the development of your preschooler’s grip. As a bonus, the triangle-shaped crayons do not roll off tables, so they are a great choice for keeping a child busy at a restaurant. For toddlers, check out egg-shaped crayons that they can hold in their hand. 
  1. Markers: While markers can sometimes seem like a messy choice for young children, there is value in having access to markers in your home. Working with markers is less taxing for a child learning to write or draw because there is less resistance between the writing utensil and the paper. As school supplies, markers provide a drawing experience that produces smooth marks and is relatively free of frustration. Just be sure to choose washable markers! And, to make sure the markers are easy to grip, choose the standard, large markers rather than skinny or short markers. 
  1. Scissors: While it always feels a little scary to let a young child practice with scissors, preschool is the perfect time for children to learn how to use scissors and practice cutting paper and craft materials. Not only does this practice improve a child’s precision with scissors, it also develops the hand muscles that are important for grasping and writing. Of course, it is important that children use smaller scissors with a safety tip to allow for safe practice opportunities. And, for children that favor their left hand, consider having scissors designed for left-hand use. Use their early practice sessions as an opportunity to teach about the proper way to hold these school supplies and what materials are safe to cut and to make sure that all cutting is done while sitting at a table. Also, talk about how to carry scissors facing down and at your side. To practice cutting, draw straight lines on a piece of paper for your child to cut. For advanced cutting practice, draw large, zig-zagged lines, curvy lines, or large triangles or squares. 
  1. Craft Supplies: Oftentimes, children are taught to make crafts that have a specific series of directions with little room for choice and creativity. While these craft projects can be fun, they often do not leave space for open-ended creative thinking. By having some craft supplies in your home along with some washable glue or a glue stick, you can facilitate fun, engaging, hands-on art exploration and creativity. Consider pom-poms, pipe cleaners, plastic gems, buttons, or craft sticks. Or, sort through your recycle bin to find clean, safe materials–such as milk cartons or cardboard boxes–your preschooler can use for coloring and creating. If your child has not had experience with open-ended creating, you might need to model putting together different items to make a picture, design, or invention.  
  1. Sensory Play Materials: Young children use their senses to explore the world around them. Sensory play stimulates the senses–including touch, smell, and sight–and fosters creativity, problem-solving, and fine motor development. Invite your child to build with Play Doh, create with kinetic sand, or even play with slime or shaving cream. All of these activities provide fun ways to explore and experiment with unique materials. To add to the experience, add in small tools or containers to foster play and exploration.     
  1. Specialty Paper: While any type of paper makes a good canvas for preschool art, it is worth noting that some types of paper are designed with young artists in mind. Finger painting paper is thicker than typical copy paper and has a special coating so that paint and glue do not soak through. Additionally, pads of easel paper or rolls of paper can be a good canvas for an artist that likes to spread out their creativity. These larger pieces of paper can also work as a placement or tablecloth for a kid-friendly art experience. You might even keep their large works of art to repurpose them as gift wrap. 
  1. Water Materials: Water, plastic cups, plastic pitchers, and measuring cups are all wonderful learning materials for preschoolers. While most households have these items, they are not often set aside for preschool play (as they are in the preschool classroom). Consider picking up a separate set of these items for your child or passing off containers you no longer use. Preschoolers might play at a water table, in the bathtub, or even with a basic bin or kiddie pool filled with water outside. Pouring helps young children to develop fine motor skills and coordination, and moving water between containers is a great way to begin learning about capacity, volume, and other types of mathematical and scientific thinking. In place of water, you might consider using uncooked rice, sand, or dried beans to facilitate these types of learning experiences.  
  1. Puzzles and Games: Preschool classrooms are often filled with a variety of age-appropriate puzzles and games. Puzzles begin as a few wooden pieces with pegs to place in openings and advance to include more and more pieces as children practice, learn, and grow. Working with puzzles helps children to develop spatial awareness and problem solving capabilities. Games can also be a fun and productive learning tool. There are games specifically designed for preschoolers such as Yeti in Spaghetti, The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game, Hi Ho Cherry-O!, Count Your Chickens, Chutes and Ladders, and Candy Land. Not only do these games include counting practice, color recognition, and fine motor skill development, they also teach children how to collaborate and take turns. 
  1.  Math Manipulatives: Often called counters and sometimes appearing as miniature figurines, math manipulatives are a very common and important school supply and learning tool in the preschool classroom. Math manipulatives come in multiple shapes in sizes including bears, trains, or cubes. Preschoolers can sort the manipulatives by color, practice counting while moving the manipulatives one-by-one, create patterns, or even begin to practice and understand the concept of adding. These kinds of math manipulatives continue to be widely used during the early elementary grades and this early preschool practice creates a comfort and familiarity that will help develop foundational math skills.