We've reviewed lots of great products over the past year (plus a little more) for the TOS Crew, and almost all of them have been for Sassy and MiniMe. Which, of course, makes sense, since they are the ones who are "school age". So, when the opportunity came up to review a product for 2-4 year olds, and one I'd heard lots of great things about, at that, I decided it would be fun to let Little Bit have a turn.
Before Five in a Row is a $35 book that provides ideas for 23 mini-units based on outstanding children's books. For each unit, there is the recommended book and a variety of activities to do with the child as you re-read the book to the child or in conjunction with reading the book. Be aware that you will need to buy or borrow the children's books recommended. I was able to find most of the books at our county's library.
Before Five in a Row (BFIAR) is a member of the Five in a Row family. In addition to BFIAR, for the 2-4 year olds, Five in a Row also has 4 volumes of Five in a Row for age 5 and 6, Beyond Five in a Row, which uses chapter books, and will take 2-3 years to complete, and Above and Beyond Five in a Row for ages 12 and up.
Those who've read my blog for awhile probably realize I don't necessarily advocate "school" for toddlers and preschoolers. HOWEVER, I'm finding when there are older children doing school, the little ones like to be a part of things, and this is a way to have "school" for Little Bit too. I have been doing one "unit" per week, and we do "Little Bit's school" while the big girls are doing independent work. The only problem with this approach is that the big girls tend to stop what they're doing and listen to the story LOL.
As I mentioned most of the books used in this curriculum are available from our library. There are a couple books that our library doesn't have. When I looked to purchase them used, I couldn't find any in my price range, so we'll just skip those books. The activities listed for each book can generally be done in any order, so that it's easy to pick and choose what I think Little Bit will enjoy, and understand (since she's only 2, some things are still beyond her). She's enjoyed having the scheduled reading time with Mommy, and doing things like playing with paper dolls, playing ball, etc. Though to date her favorite activity has been one not specifically mentioned in BFIAR, but that I found online to go along with the book. It was a printable that just let her glue stuff on paper and she LOVED it! I have since found various other gluing activities for her, she loves them all. I can see re-visiting these units several times while a child is in the 2-4 year old range, using different activities depending on where they are developmentally.
I've been happy to see that the recommended activities are varied enough to appeal to all learning styles, including active things for the kinesthetic learners that most little ones are, even if they settle into other learning styles as they get older. In most cases, the advanced prep has been minimal. At the beginning of each week I read through the ideas for that week's book, and choose which ones I think Little Bit is ready for, and pull together any supplies we need. Once I've done that, my prep is done.
While I understand that they don't want to assign "ages" to the activities since different children develop at different paces, I wish there was some sort of "rating" that would let me know which the "youngest" activities were. Perhaps some sort of "star" system to indicate which are the easiest and hardest?
I would mainly recommend this to those who are wanting to have some structured time for their little ones, and are struggling to come up with things to do with little ones. While we've enjoyed the books and activities suggested in this book, we could do the same thing using books we already have or books from the library that friends recommend or whatever. It just comes down to whether you need some recommendations of good picture books, and/or recommendations of early learning activities to use with books. If you're struggling with this, and need the extra help of having it all laid out for you, this is a great option! And I think, in addition to providing you with a "curriculum" that you could probably just keep rotating through for the whole age 2-4 range, it will also help you to see how you can expand your own favorite picture books (or you child's) into a similar mini-unit, or just add extra bits of learning to their bedtime stories, etc. If you're like us and own tons of great picture books already, and can come up with supplemental activities on the fly, or don't mind hunting online for suggestions on blogs, etc. Then this probably isn't a book that you need.
Be sure to check out the Crew blog to see what other Crew members thought of this product!