How to Play School at Home

Mother reading with young child.
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Role-playing is an important part of a young child's development, and playing school at home can help her prepare for preschool or kindergarten. Practice activities your child might do at school, such as coloring quietly at a desk, eating from a lunch box or cleaning up toys after playtime is over. It can also be beneficial to your child for her to play the role of teacher. This type of role play can give her a sense of control that she might not feel in her real classroom and give you incite into her classroom.

1 Make a Mini Classroom

Set up a miniature version of a classroom in your home with a teacher desk, student desk and a chalkboard or whiteboard. Hang an alphabet chart, a number line and education-themed posters on the wall. The goal is to equip the space with props that resemble a school scenario, so your kids experience what a classroom might be like outside of the house, suggests Julie Meighan, an author and lecturer in Drama in Education at the Cork Institute of Technology who writes about the importance of imaginative play at

2 Create a Mock Schedule

Develop a mock classroom schedule, so your kids get used to transitioning from one activity to the next without experiencing frustration or disappointment. Imaginative play in a mock classroom setting helps youngsters develop intellectually while advancing their social skills, says Meighan. For example, you might read aloud in a reading corner for 10 minutes and then have your child sit at his desk and work on an alphabet coloring page for 10 minutes. Take a brief five-minute snack break, followed by a final 10 minutes of play time with clay.

3 Discuss and Enforce Classroom Rules

Introduce your child to classroom rules, such as raising her hand, staying in her seat when asked and sharing her crayons with you. One of the objectives of playing school is to help your child learn self-control in a structured environment. Avoid strict punishments for misbehavior and simply say, "Loud voices aren't allowed in the classroom," or "You have to clean up your alphabet blocks before we can go outside for recess." Don't offer tangible rewards, such as candy or toys, while playing school. The goal is to motivate your child to behave and participate in school-like activities out of her intrinsic interest in learning, not because there's a system of rewards and punishments, suggests Dalton Miller-Jones, professor emeritus in developmental psychology at Oregon State University, according to

4 Rehearse School Activities

Practice and engage in school activities that your child will likely do in preschool or kindergarten. Point out words, letters and symbols in books and read aloud as your child follows along. Give your child supplies for writing and drawing, such as chalk, washable markers, colored paper, pencils and crayons. Discuss patterns around the room, such as squares in your window panes and rectangles in your wood flooring. Host a puppet show and have the puppets discuss math concepts, such as comparisons or simple arithmetic. Pack your child a lunch to eat in the mock classroom and go outside for recess afterwards. Ask him to help with cleanup, so he gets used to having classroom responsibilities.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.