7 Common Household Items that are Early Learning Tools in Disguise

Starting school for the first time should be an exciting time for four-year-olds and their parents/caregivers – and a positive start to their school journey can begin right at home.

The Learning Partnership’s Welcome to KindergartenTM program provides families with a kit of early learning items and activities to help parents engage with their children and get them ready for school. But even if you haven’t been to a Welcome to Kindergarten session, you have things already in your home that you can use to help your child develop the foundations needed for a successful transition to school - such as, listening and speaking, sharing and taking turns, vocabulary development, print, alphabet and number awareness, hand and finger coordination and creative thinking.

Here are 7 common items that can help build the foundation for early learning:

  1. Kitchen Utensils: Play the name game with any type of kitchen utensil while cooking together – e.g. show the child a mixing bowl and ask, “What do we call this? What shape is the bowl? What colour is the bowl?” When setting the table, encourage your child to name familiar things – e.g. “Let’s put a fork and knife at each place. Do you think we need a spoon?”

  2. Cookbooks: The next time you cook or bake, involve your child – read your favourite cookie or casserole recipe out loud, while pointing out numbers, pictures and colours. Ask your child to help you mix, pour, knead, measure, decorate, wash etc.

  3. Food: Food isn’t just for eating, of course! Use various fruit to help teach your child how to match shapes and colours, as well as practise counting and sorting. Pour uncooked rice or short-cut pasta into various size food storage containers for instant music shakers to discover different sounds.

  4. Newspapers, Flyers, Junk Mail and Packaging: Before throwing away newspapers, flyers – and even junk mail or packaging – keep some handy for you and your child to have reading material they can easily relate to – seeing pictures of everyday items they recognize will help them learn to recognize letters and words too. You can even help your child cut out and paste pictures and words to create little picture books – e.g. My Red Book, My Favourite Snacks.

  5. Storybooks: This is an obvious choice – but it’s important to go beyond just reading a storybook from start to finish. Let your child hold the book and turn the pages. Broaden their vocabulary by taking a word in the book and saying it in a first or second language. Deepen their understanding of the story by asking them to predict what happens next or relating it to your child’s own personal experiences - e.g. “Remember when we…?”

  6. Old Cell Phone: Still have that old cell phone lying around? Use it to encourage make-believe conversations with your child. Play and pretend to have conversations with characters from your favourite stories – e.g. talk to Goldilocks to find out how she felt when she met the Three Bears.

  7. Touch-Screen Mobile Devices: Smartphones and tablets can be effective education tools as long as you make them an ‘extension’ of learning rather than a replacement. Using an e-book version of a favourite hard-copy story offers animations that add playful actions that support a story line, spark additional discussion and provide visual support for action words. When choosing apps opt for ones that offer open-ended possibilities, guided instructions and encourage parent engagement.
Did You Know?
There’s a free Welcome to KindergartenTM app that helps parents work with their child to develop fundamental skills through play which help them prepare for a fun and successful first year in school. Children play with the alphabet and numbers, paint freely with their fingers, discover shapes, learn to share, and sing along with a music player. Download it now in the App Store for iOS devices or  in the Google Play store for Android devices.

These tips are provided by education experts at The Learning Partnership – a national, charitable organization dedicated to advancing publicly funded education, in part, through student programs, such as Welcome to KindergartenTM.

For additional information, contact:


5 Things to Look for When Choosing a Book for Your Early Learner (ages 3-6)
  • ​Large, simple pictures that are colorful, engaging and complement the text
  • Three R’s – Look for rhyme, rhythm and repetition
  • Simple message with a fast-moving plot
  • Includes basic concepts, such as letters, numbers, shapes, and colors
  • Storylines about everyday life and events and promotes diversity (age, gender, race, culture)
  • Support your child’s current interests and passions - let your child choose what they want to read!

Expert available for interviews:
Jan Courtin
Director, National Programs

Jan Courtin holds a M.Ed., a B.A., and a Supervisory Officer’s Certificate. Fully committed to public education, Jan’s long-standing educational career is founded within Ontario’s Peel District School Board (PDSB) through a number of senior leadership roles including Superintendent of Education, 21st Century Committee Co-Chair and secondary school Principal. She is an advocate for community engagement and mental health education, and has strong experience in shaping rich professional development for teachers that reflect 21st Century teaching and learning and enhanced global awareness.