How to Keep Toddlers Busy While Homeschooling
This post is from contributor, Jacinda Vdb
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Our youngest children are a two and a half year-old boy and a nine month-old girl, which means a curious trouble maker chap with a keen sense for adventure, and a crawler.
It can be a challenge–finding ways to keep them occupied so I can homeschool our other daughter. I wrote down some ideas that have worked for us, with the hope that you would benefit from them too. If you have anything to add to the list, feel free to share in the comments; I’m all ears!
Give them something constructive to do. Children like to feel useful. They feel empowered when given the opportunity to handle a dust pan or a rag “like a big person!” Often toddlers get into trouble simply because they’re bored and lack a sense of purpose. Keep them occupied and train for future usefulness by giving them some responsibility. We let our toddlers engage in the following chores:
- Line up footwear neatly in the closet when coming in from outside.
- “When you take something out, you put it back.” If they’re big enough to dump all their toys, they’re big enough to put them all away.
- Help mommy put laundry in the washing machine or dryer. (This works well if you have front-loaders. Top loaders are probably too difficult for them to reach.)
- Sort laundry by colors.
- Fold wash-cloths, tea towels, socks, and small blankets. (Our 3 year-old daughter loves to do this. Our almost 2 year-old’s fine motor skills just aren’t there yet.)
- Dust baseboards.
- Bring dishes to the counter after they’re finished eating.
- Straighten the hand towel in the bathroom after using it.
- Tuck chairs underneath the table after eating.
- Use a hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs.
To help make chore-time even more fun and meaningful, I recommend using The Chore Jar by Kristy Howard. It’s on sale for $2.00 until January 17.
Give them a surprise. I have a special bin of toys that is reserved for “school time.” He makes the most of it since he knows his time with those specific toys is limited. When school is finished, the bin gets put away until the next day.
Give them your attention. Your littles want your attention as much as your bigs. More, actually. Take a few minutes while your older children are busy with their independent work to sit down and read or play with your tykes. It will refresh and satisfy them. Perhaps you’ll pique their imagination with something you’ve read and they’ll be off gallivanting again as a knight, farmer, or princess. (Nathaniel Bluedorn’s book, Hand That Rocks The Cradle is a compilation of 400 classic titles for children.)
Give them the opportunity to get involved. I underestimate a toddler’s ability to pick up on things all the time! From simply giving him a turn to recite his older sister’s memory work, our two year-old has memorized several psalms and Bible verses, the alphabet, and counting to ten. He shocked me the other day when he pointed to the letter “B” and said, “Dat wetter is for Daddy’s name (Brad)!”
Here are some ways to intentionally incorporate your toddlers into your home school:
- Give them big letters or numbers to trace. It’s even better if their “school book” looks just like their older sibling’s! I printed off an extra copy of my 1777 New England Primer Alphabet Printables; my 4 year-old uses the dotted lines for finer copy work, and our 2 year-old simply traces the large example letters with an over-sized crayon.
- Give them a turn. Our children love it when I reward correct answers with exercise! After our four year-old has sounded out a phonics blend flashcard correctly, she gets to do a jumping jack. Of course, the two year-old wants to do jumping jacks as well, so I get him to repeat the answer and he jumps right along with her. Consequently, “flashcard time” is the highlight of his day! I recommend the Meet The Phonics Pack by Kathy Oxley. You can also buy the flashcards separately (Letter Sounds, Digraphs, and Blends).
- Give them tactile learning lessons. Toddlers love to touch their world and giving them opportunities to use their hands opens the door to many memorable lessons: How many blocks can he use to build a tower? Can he line up his animals to make a circle? How ’bout a square? If you fill one side of the kitchen sink with water, what tool drains it faster into the other: a teaspoon or a measuring cup? Can she crumple up pieces of tissue paper and stick them to a the outline of a letter, shape, or number covered in glue? (Our kids love Crayola’s My First Tissue Paper Creations – they’re the no-mess, Peel & Stick kind.)
Last by not least, be sure to check out 134 Preschool Activity Ideas for Homeschooling Little Ones!
Do you have toddlers? How do you keep them busy and out of trouble while you home school?
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Thanks for these great tips. I also homeschool my to oldest and have a 2 year old boost with energy LOL!. I will try some of these advise.
Melissa D says
Love this! I have a Kindergartner and a 2 year old and they both have short attention spans. Sometimes I feel like they’re playing Ping Pong and I’m the ball. Luckily, “school” time takes less than an hour and a lot of it can include the toddler, but table work is hard! She wants to do it, too….until I get her seated at the table with her own work, and then she wants down.
I’m going to have to try the special bin of toys!
I have a first grader, preschooler, 2 year old and 4 month nurser. This is greatly appreciated! I have a drawer full of “gallon bag activities” for little hands. I also LOVE sensory bins. I have used rice, colored dry pasta, and even dry gerbil food! I try to do classes that require more of my attention during nap time.
Jamerrill Stewart says
Laurie, you made me laugh with the gerbil food! 😉 My little guys have also loved playing with beans. I give them a tub of beans and they’ll drive their Hot Wheels cars through them and have a grand time.
melissa martinez says
What do you do with the nine month old. I have a ten month old and she always wants to be entertained and its hard for me to homeschool.
Jamerrill Stewart says
Melissa, I wear our 10-month old in the Moby wrap some days while we do lessons. Have you tried baby wearing? In the last few weeks I’ve also put her on our living room floor for crawling time while I work with our 3, 4, and 7 year olds. My older boys do their chapter book reading in our living room, so they take turns watching the crawling baby. And other days she’s tired not long after we start school time. Those days she takes a mid-morning nap.
None of that may help. It’s just what has been working for us. 🙂
Great post! First time to your site, and I like what you offer—thank you
Jamerrill Stewart says
Thanks for visiting us, Penny! 🙂