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Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool Review

I’m so excited to share our Playing Preschool curriculum review by Busy Toddler! If you haven’t read my post How To Homeschool Preschool, you know I’m a believer that you can teach your own child everything they need to know in preschool at home. With my 1st child, we did it practically for free and without a curriculum.

However, I bought Playing Preschool because I wanted to try themed units with my next kid. And I wanted more of a plan… someone telling me what to do each day. I’m not creative enough to come up with these ideas on the fly, so this gave me a light, daily plan. It also aligns with my goals to teach my kids through play.

I’ve learned not to say, “Time for preschool!” (at least for my kids) because that seems to be met with some resistance here.

Instead, I pick an activity from our curriculum and start it. Or grab a book from the booklist and open it on the couch. It’s an invitation they can’t resist, and pretty soon Playing Preschool just becomes a fun addition to the day.

Here’s how we use it, what ages it’s best for, and how you can easily start this with your preschooler!

A 5 year old preschool girl having fun doing preschool at home with an activity from Playing Preschool by Busy Toddler. Here she's connecting uppercase letters in order and learning to recognize what comes next.

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Why we chose Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool

I found Susie from Busy Toddler on Instagram through a friend. She is the Toddler Activity Queen. She used to be an elementary teacher, and her hands on preschool activities were all a hit with my kids!

As soon as I found out she has a 180 day preschool curriculum with themed units, I bought year 1 & 2 (you save $10 when you buy them together), and have really loved it with my 4 year old!

It tells you what to do each day, comes with purposeful activities, book lists, letter of the week, a song, and poem…

No more pulling ideas constantly from Pinterest. No worksheets. And it’s easy to do with a 2, 4, and almost 6 year old at home. Ready to see how we use it?

Busy Toddler

How much does Playing Preschool cost?

Cost: I bought year 1 & year 2 for just under $70 (it saves $10 to buy them together). Then, I had to pay to have it printed and bound.

Also, if your budget is small, book 1 is under $40!

Update: I REALLY like having year 1 & 2. It lets me see the scope and sequence of what my kids will be learning before kindergarten. I’m also amazed how spot on the progression is!

For example my 3rd child (3 years old) can now begin activities from year 1, but he’s definitely far from able to do year 2, which is perfect for my 5 year old middle child.

What does Playing Preschool by Busy Toddler Include?

This program is surprisingly well thought out! It comes as a PDF, which I got printed and bound to make it easier to use and to check off what we had done.

You get 180 days planned out for you. It ends up being 19 units, with 2 weeks for each unit. And each lesson kind of builds on the next. Each day has a:

  • Calendar routine (reviewing day, month, & season)
  • Song and poem (same one for two weeks)
  • Read aloud (book lists included and change every 2 weeks)
  • Things to talk about.
  • 2 Activities ( a learning activity you do with your kid, and a fun crafty activity they can usually do solo)

That’s it! It’s so simple.

It can be used alone, or as a supplement. Below is a sample from the Apples Unit in Week 1.

Busy Toddler Busy Toddler
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What preschool skills are learned?

  • Sorting & matching
  • Predictions
  • Letter and number recognition (uppercase year 1, lowercase year 2)
  • Shapes
  • Recall and Retell
  • Measuring
  • Number sense and recognition
A toddler girl putting colorful dot stickers on paper on the wall as part of a preschool program by Busy Toddler.

How much time does preschool take each day?

Susie says Playing Preschool should take around 45 minutes.

But I’ve found it doesn’t takes that long for us. We also often speed through the activities so rarely do we spend 2 weeks on 1 unit as suggested.

We usually split it up throughout the day, with each part taking around 5-10 minutes.

I’ll do the song and poem and calendar time in the morning after breakfast. Then read a book.

I’ll start the learning activity and craft as I find time. With then 3 and now 4 kids we have a lot of interruptions and sometimes I’m just too tired, especially when I was homeschooling while pregnant!

Can you do it with different ages at home?

We do! I feel like this is perfect for 3-5.5 year olds. Yet if you have an advanced 2.5 year old eager to count and do an activity…go for it.

I got this for my 4 year old daughter, knowing that it would be fun/review for my almost 6 year old son, and likely too hard for my 2 year old. That’s about spot on for us.

And remember, all ages of littles will like the books. All will listen to the poems and songs. And with mine, they usually all 3 want to try the activity.

Older kids can still start Year 1, they’ll just learn it faster

The older kids are, the faster they learn new concepts, so don’t despair if you are starting the same material at age 4 (like we are) and someone else’s two year old is starting the same thing.

What I’ve found is that we just breeze through some of it. If it’s way too simple for the age we are at, we skip. It’s not a big deal.

A preschool girl writing counting how many letters are in each friend's name, an activity by Busy Toddler.
Here the activity was to write down how many letters were in each of the names she asked me to write down for her.

Do you do anything in addition to Playing Preschool curriculum?

We start teaching our kids to read around age 5, if they seem interested, and continue till they are reading on their own usually around age 6-7. They don’t even have to know letter names to learn the letter sounds for reading!

Here is how I taught my son to read.

Reading is not a preschool expectation and rarely does someone enter kindergarten knowing how to read so skip this if it’s too soon!

Other than that, the day is mostly play and free time for mine at this age! We are doing nature study as a family…which mostly includes books and getting outdoors observing what’s in front of us. One of my favorite nature study family activities was raising tadpoles together for a couple months!

What preschool activities look like for us with 3 little kids

Since every kid’s abilities are so different at different ages, you can be the judge of what they can do. You can always go faster or skip days, you know best.

For the read aloud, everyone listens, sort of. The difference is my 2 year old is running around, the 4 year old is on my lap, and my almost 6 year old is reminding me of any words I skip. (I don’t know how he does this?!)

For the craft, I set out 2-3 of whatever we are doing, if possible. Or they take turns for whoever wants to do it.

My 2 year old botches it but feels included. My other 2 love it.

kids sorting pom pom balls for a busy toddler preschool year 1 activity
Kids doing Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Year 1 Activity adding vinegar to baking soda and food coloring in a muffin tin.
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How much do you have to prepare?

Before each lesson, I check the activities we are going to do, and gather the items needed like tape, or dot stickers, etc. There’s also a supplies list in each unit so you can prepare way ahead if you need to buy something on Amazon.

If I have the library books, I set them next to me on the floor. That’s it!

The whole reason I chose a relaxed homeschool preschool with my first was so that I didn’t have to prepare anything. I would call Playing Preschool an “almost no-prep” preschool program, especially once you have a few basic supplies.

You’ll still have to set up the activity, and find library books ahead of time. Below are a few examples of supplies you might need ahead of time.

playing preschool collage of hands on activities

What if I can’t get to the library to get the book lists?

I feel that coordinating books to a preschool theme is wonderful, but NOT essential. What is important is that you read something every day!

Don’t let forgetting the week’s book list keep you from doing the activities or poem or song! Just pick other books if you have to.

Here’s a few we read from one of the units.

3 children's books from Busy Toddler's playing preschool curriculum.

I try to get all the books mentioned (about 5 per 2 week unit), but we don’t always have them just prior to starting a new unit. And some I haven’t been able to check out at the library at all. I’m not worried.

There are some units that would be hard to do without the books, like the one on nursery rhymes. I think it’s just important to not get hung up on having all the pieces so perfect that you end up not doing it at all. We improvise a lot!

What craft supplies do you need to have on hand?

One thing I love is that at the beginning of each new theme (so every two weeks), you get a list of everything to have on hand. Most things you may have laying around the house. Like:

  • cookie sheets
  • q-tips
  • food coloring
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • sharpies
  • Play-Doh
  • toys
  • storage containers
  • paper plates
  • colored paint
  • playing cards
A toddler sorting green sticky notes with names on them by counting how many letters in each name.

I went to the dollar store to buy a few other things I didn’t have, like:

  • colored construction paper
  • dot stickers
  • pom pom balls
  • post it notes

My favorite and least favorite part of Playing Preschool by Busy Toddler

Favorite Part: It got us doing hands on learning activities every day! It took away the guess work, and Susie has a plan for WHY she puts each activity in there.

Plus, it works with multiple ages, although I feel the sweet spot is around ages 3 & 4 for book 1, and ages 4-5 on book 2. And even though I’m not a crafty or creative mom, Playing Preschool makes it seem like I am.

Two toddlers painting a rainbow on the capital letter "R" during preschool at home.

Update: My Other favorite part: The booklists! O my goodness you guys, I confess I didn’t get a lot of the books for year 1, and now I’m going back and getting them ALL at the library. I’d buy this program just for the book recommendations.

Least Favorite Part: Preparing ahead of time to get the right books is hard for me. (like I said, I skipped quite a few and am now going back to get them).

Other least favorite part: I also don’t like every activity for the stage my kid is at (which is fine because every kid is different!) So somedays, we just pick a random fun activity from a past or present day and do that.

So although Susie recommends starting from the beginning even if your kid is more advanced, sometimes I skip activities, songs, or books.

My lazy mom self doesn’t want to tape up an activity if my kids already know how to do it I guess. I’d rather move on.

But it’s true that repetition is good for learning, and it won’t hurt them to do things they already know how to do!

Get your Playing Preschool Year 1 & 2 Here:

Where I got Playing Preschool printed and bound

If you decide to buy this, do yourself a favor and pay the extra money to get it print and bound into a book. It’s 100% worth it. I recommend the Homeschool Printing Company if you can wait 3-4 weeks. It’s going to be way cheaper than Office Depot.

It cost me $33 to print BOTH Playing Preschool 1 & Playing Preschool 2, including shipping. $11 for each book, plus $11 shipping.

I chose the cheapest 20lb paper option and printed black and white and double sided.

You just don’t want to be finding the file every day on your phone, zooming in, AND you can’t make notes or easily skip ahead if you want.

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You can teach preschool at home

Most of all, I want you to know that you can easily do preschool at home in 30-40 minutes a day…and it can be fun…without worksheets.

Kids are always learning…you’re just adding a bit of structured “fun” Busy Toddler style 😉 .

If you want an inexpensive curriculum to take away the guesswork for you, this is a great program! It’s one I’d recommend to my best friend, and to you.

Head here to get your own and take the guess work out of planning!

Be sure to pin the photo below to find it later!

Busy Toddler
Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum Review, how we use it, and why it's a solid preschool program.

Meg

Saturday 25th of September 2021

Hey the code she gave you doesn’t work. I tired take25 and home25 and neither worked unfortunately

Liz

Sunday 26th of September 2021

Thank you for bringing this to my attention! Apparently the code got removed within the last month after being up for over a year. I'll update my post, thanks!

Amy

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

How are year 1 and year 2 different? Trying to decide if I should buy year 1 or year 2 for my preschooler that I’m suddenly homeschooling with the pandemic (he will go to Kindergarten next year). Thanks!

Liz

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Amy, How old is your preschooler? Susie recommends always beginning with year 1, because year 2 picks up where that leaves off. I will say that year two is noticeably more advanced to me. Some of the activities I've seen with my daughter in year 2 are ones that my oldest first touched on in kindergarten like measuring, graphing, making longer patterns, identifying letter sounds, science experiments, and much much more. If some parts are too easy in year 1, you can always enjoy the books and poem and hands on activity, and pass over a learning activity if it's just too easy...or just go through the book a little faster. I personally purchased both years because I wanted the freedom to use either book if needed and year 1 was perfect for us around age 4. I am still going through year 2 with my 5.5 year old even though she's technically homeschooling kindergarten because the activities are awesome and she loves every bit of it! Year 1 covers letter names, sorting, numbers 1-10, colors, following directions, comparing groups, crafts, tons of sensory bin play, and a ton more. Plus, the book lists and poems are 100 awesome! It's super flexible. I'd start year 1. Hope that helps!

Dilma Zapata

Thursday 13th of August 2020

I am interesting in playing preschool 2 but I will like to have sample to see the unit like number one It is possible I appreciate it

Liz

Thursday 13th of August 2020

Hello! Unfortunately, I am not allowed to show photos of the inside of Playing Preschool to respect Susie's request. But if you liked year 1 you will LOVE year 2. All hands on. Great book lists (that's been a huge bonus for us, especially now that we can only order library books online). She does have a list of the unit names on her site before you purchase though. Sorry I can't be more helpful there!

Krysta

Thursday 5th of September 2019

Thanks for your post! I have been using Playing Preschool with my son since last fall (2018) but we didn't get through it all so I'm just picking up where we left off in the spring, and planning to include my (almost) 2yo daughter as much as she would like. I TOTALLY agree with you that the hardest part is getting the books from the library - even though we do head to the library about once a week. Requesting them through inter-library loan seems to be just a tiny bit more than my mom brain can handle haha...but I recently discovered that I can set an "activation date" for my hold requests when I do it online, so I can request books for the next unit, and then the following one, and just set the activation date for two weeks out, so those books don't come right away. I'd like to think that will help, but we shall see! However, I do feel that she has picked truly wonderful books, and my son has loved almost every single one!

I also agree that some activities seem too easy and I'm too lazy to set them up if I feel like it's something my son has already mastered...but I think that's one thing that I love about the whole curriculum - you can do it in a very casual way, as much or as little as you'd like, depending on your schedule or preferences for any given day/week.

Anyway, great post!! :) Happy schooling!

Liz

Sunday 8th of September 2019

Krysta love the tip on requesting library books online with a pick up date! And yes, I will second that if an activity is way too simple and you know your kid knows it, there's no harm in skipping! We do that often since my daughter is 4.5 now, and we also repeat activities that are a big hit. Thanks for your ideas!

Cagney Hurt

Thursday 15th of August 2019

I have a (just turned 5 & 3 & 1) year old(s) at home. Do you feel like the busy toddler curriculum prepared your oldest for Kinder? Thank you!

Liz

Thursday 15th of August 2019

Hi! My newly 6 year old who I'm homeschooling for kindergarten this year did not use Playing Preschool. You can read what we used for him in my post How To Homeschool Preschool linked at the top of this post to see that. But we are using Playing Preschool with my 2nd child, age 4 and I intend to go through year 1 & 2 for her because I think it does prepare them for K if you do both! It's low stress, 45 min or less a day, and they don't even realize it's "school" because it's so hands on. The extra bit we will be doing with her is Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and some extra handwriting since she seems eager to learn. Hope that helps!