What do a can of shaving cream, a bag of dried beans, a bag of flour, a cup of cooking oil and some measuring cups all have in common? Let me tell you, these simple household items can be a lifesaver in the daily routine of a homeschooling mom. In the throes of homeschooling older children, or attempting learning with littles, the most often asked question is, “how do create preschool for my little ones?”

One of the simplest things you can do is to repurpose what you already have on hand, and to be creative. This discovery is one that will save you the hassle trying to print out the latest worksheet, searching the perfect way to utilize those math manipulatives, or even giving in to a quick TV program which most moms would rather avoid anyway.

free frugal homeschooling preschool using everyday items you have on hand

Project #1: Finger painting with shaving cream.

This project will set you back a crisp dollar if you don’t have an old can of Barbasol lying around. You can pick up a can at most any dollar store the next time you are out, the cheaper the better, and no gel version shave cream. Bust out the paintbrushes, pastry brush, or any other kitchen item that would make unusual markings in shaving cream, and set them to work. This project works well on a kitchen counter, and no worries, shaving cream is really just soap so it washes off easily. A large cookie sheet is also a fantastic canvas so as to contain the mess a bit. Use this method to teach letters, numbers, shapes, or even sight words by simply squirting a bit of shaving cream out, smearing it around a bit, and drawing with your finger. For more independent play, set your child up and watch as your little one enjoys the ridiculous simplicity of your brilliant design.

Project #2: A bowl and a bag o’ beans.

Seriously, this one can entertain for quite some time by just the sheer kinetic play aspect. What child doesn’t enjoy sifting, sorting, and running their fingers through small items? A very large mixing bowl with a cookie sheet underneath works well for this one, or better yet, an old storage tub and set your preschooler up with it on the floor (warning, you will likely have to sweep afterwards). Using the bag of dried beans, you can teach counting, comparisons, and even sorting if you care to add black beans and Pintos to the mix. Children can separate the black beans into one cup and the brown beans into another. A mom with keen eye can also teach the concept of volume. Simply fill a measuring cup with the beans and then ask child, “is it full?” “Will anything more fit?” When the answer is “no,” take a ¼ cup of water and add that. Watch the amazement as mom just turned into a magician before their very eyes!

Project #3: A bag of flour and a cup of cooking oil.

This is mostly fun, but isn’t learning at the preschool age supposed to be? When mixed together, the oil and flour create a homemade version of moon sand. This project is best used in a plastic storage tub with a trash bag underneath to contain the mess, or better yet, outdoors. A great explorative play time that even younger siblings can join in. Oh, and if some gets into a little mouth, at least its edible. Handprints can be made for counting purposes (think counting by fives), items can be hidden for seek and find, even pretend “cooking” can occur in this medium.

As homeschooling parents we often overlook the simplest things. Learning is supposed to be fun, for young and old alike. When we create a learning environment that is fun, and educational at the same time, we cultivate a desire to learn. This desire easily translates into a lifelong love of learning. Don’t over think the process, and don’t discount what you already have on hand. You may be amazed by what creativity can help you come up with!

What things have you used to create a fun learning experience for your preschooler lately?  Please share more ideas in the comments below!


Dawn is a homeschooling mom living out her dream of a simple life on a small farm with her husband and 5 children. She is an avid gardener, a lover of simplicity, and blogger of natural living at Incidental Farmgirl.