One of the most common questions I get is about keeping toddlers busy while you homeschool. Over 20 years of homeschooling I’ve used lots of different ideas. I’ve even shared some of them here.
First of all, let me say this is a really GOOD question. Let me know when you figure it out!
Seriously though, how do you keep a toddler from disrupting ANYTHING??? There’s not a magic formula for toddlers. No two are the same. Boys and girls are different. Your house is different than your friend’s house.
So how do you teach your older children while a busy little beaver roams the halls?
A few suggestions:
– Toddler first. Start your school morning with an activity that includes the toddler, such as circle time with music on the floor, a story time geared to him, or helping him say his numbers or ABCs while the rest of the family cheers him on. Fill his emotional-needs tank and buy yourself some time.
– Naptime. When the toddler naps, focus on the most intense school subjects at that time.
– Inclusion. Create a few learning activities for someone his age, like simple puzzles, counting objects, or stickers and paper. Only pull these special items out during school time. (See my post on Activity Boxes here.)
– Rotation. Rotate siblings with the toddler for 20-or-30-minute periods. Give them ideas for playtime, such as looking at books together, building blocks, picture flash cards, or even a fun snack together. (See my post on Encouraging Sibling Interaction here.)
– Snack and Fun breaks. Toddlers have short attention spans for anything, including their own entertainment and needs. Take frequent breaks from school; alternate short spurts of time that include the toddler and times that teach him about independent play; get out some Goldfish or fruit and make a big deal out of snack time.
– Training. This is really the most important. Each day, spend a few minutes talking about “school” and reminding the toddler about the expected good behavior. He won’t learn it the first day (or maybe the first year!) but consistency is KEY. Talk about quiet voices, train him to play alone on a blanket for longer periods, and praise his efforts.
And mamas, remember that this time is so short. While teaching your older kids academics is important, so is loving on the babies while they are babies. Find a balance that works for them, and don’t just focus on getting them out of the way. One of the most beautiful benefits of homeschooling is family togetherness, and the sibling bonds that grow stronger through the years. Don’t set the example that baby is in the way; show baby and the older kids that every age and every stage is important.
My toddlers are all big kids (and adults) now, but I used to blog about our day with them. If you’re brave enough, read this post from 10 years ago: A Day in the Life of our Homeschool.
When you’re ready to “teach” these little ones, check out Homeschool 101: Preschool for a gentle approach to Preschool.