One of the greatest challenges in homeschooling is learning how to balance your time and attention between your children. This is even more difficult when you have preschool age children and younger running around. With a second grader hungry to learn and a toddler who doesn’t want to miss out on the fun I had to come up with ways to include my tot into our homeschool day.
It dawned on me this summer, while planning my school year that I was going to have my hands full once school started. My two-year-old had enjoyed his brother’s undivided attention for the past two months. Going back to school meant he was losing his playmate for a big chunk of the day. The transition to a new routine was going to be hard for him. I knew the only way to keep him occupied during our school day was to make him a part of it.
I decided I would do three simple things to make my toddler feel included in our homeschool day.
Give him his own school supplies.
At the end of every summer, we receive our box from RainbowResource.com and it is full of next year’s curriculum and school supplies. It’s like Christmas morning at our house. There are so many new and exciting things to open and explore. The whole family digs through the boxes to discover various treasures. Often the littlest learners can become disappointed when they discover everyone got a special surprise but them. So, we made sure when buying school supplies to snag a few items for our tot too — a composition book, some fun new markers, crayons and paints, even a folder to put his completed “school work” in.
When your tot gets supplies like their older siblings they’ll feel included in the school year from the start. A few dollars go a long way in making your toddler feel grown up and a part of the action.
Provide designated areas in the schoolroom for him.
My toddler is a typical little brother. He always wants to be where his big brother is and doing what his big brother is doing. Unfortunately, this is a huge distraction for his brother. So instead of constantly trying to shoo him away, I invited him into our schoolroom by preparing a few places where he can do a number of different independent activities, thus allowing him to be with his big brother without bothering him.
- His Desk – Lil’Bro has a little desk just his size where I’ve put his school supplies and a small cork board to display his “school work.” He loves to sit there and doodle on a dry-erase board or color in his coloring books while we are working through lessons.
- Spot at my desk – We have a portable high chair attached to one side of my desk, which is a great place for Lil’Bro to sit while having 1:1 time with me. I can work on tot activities with him while still being close enough to assist his older brother when needed. I can also put Lil’Bro at the table to include him in his brother’s lessons, such as math. Side Note: Math manipulatives with activity cards are great for keeping tots occupied and yet making them a part of the learning.
- Under my desk – My toddler is a boy after all, and boys like forts. So I’ve put a few things under my desk for Lil’Bro to play with while he’s in his fort including a tub full of pretend food and a toy toolbox.
- Flannel Board – I’ve put a small flannel board on the floor next to my desk. I’ll pull out felt pieces related to Lil’Bro’s tot school and let him place the pieces on the board and quietly interact with them however he wants.
- Book bag – I keep a bag full of library books just for him in our school room. The books get replaced every few weeks. Lil’Bro knows he can pull books from this bag at any time and read them on the floor or at his desk.
Setting up a few areas within the schoolroom for your toddler will let them be a part of the classroom while keeping them entertained and out of their siblings’ way.
Pull out special school time only toys.
If your toddler is anything like mine, then you can’t expect them to sit at a desk all day doing coloring pages. Toddlers crave playtime, so don’t fight it. I provide my tot with special “school” toys he can only use during school time. I’m pretty particular about the toys I select. I look for toys that help develop his problem solving abilities, work his fine motor skills and stretch his creativity. But above all, I want toys that have the flexibility to be used in multiple ways, so Lil’Bro doesn’t grow tired of them and we get more bang for our buck. Some of our favorites are: stacking toys, pegboards, puzzles, activity buttons, colorful wooden numbers, Leap Frog Letter Factory phonics. Games such as, Cookie Shape Finder, Fishin’ Frenzy, Hyper Dash and more can be easily adapted for independent play. We also pull out foam beads, pom–poms and stamps.
Giving your toddler their own time to play and explore is the most important homeschooling they need at this stage. It will help develop their imagination and cognitive abilities as well as their fine motor skills.
Remember the key to these toys is that they only come out during school. When your toddler has special “school” only toys he is more likely to stay engaged with them for longer periods, thus giving you valuable time for instruction with your older learners.
Putting the “Homeschooling with a Toddler” plan into action.
Once I had my plan in place, I headed to RainbowResource.com. Can I just say, I’m so grateful for online stores! I love hitting them up first because they have so many home education products and often for less than what other online stores are charging. Plus, if you spend $50 or more you get free shipping. Score! RainbowResource.com has proven to be a helpful one-stop-shop for most anything I need for homeschool, including activities for my toddler.
With a little effort and planning, homeschooling with a toddler on hand will run much smoother. But let’s face it, some days there will be nothing you can do. Your toddler will have a meltdown and all your planning will go out the window. Hopefully those days are few and far between and by taking steps to include them in your homeschool day they will develop some good habits and blossom into great learners.
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These are great suggestions. The coloring books and games go over very well. Kids love those montessori games. I like this for seeing ways to test it out a bit with a toddler!