Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How to Keep Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy & Happy While Homeschooling

This is probably one of the most common questions I'm asked about homeschooling... 

"How in the world do you occupy your little ones... and manage to get ANYthing done?"

Valid concern... 
Considering we have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old who is nearly as "busy" as her toddler sister. 

I can't figure it out for you, but these are ideas I've tried and regularly use.

~ Do school together. This is my #1 go-to response. If you can't beat them, join them (and I don't mean spankings). Have your little ones "join school". If your big kid/s are doing math, pull out some pattern blocks, pop your toddler in a high chair and call it "math time" for them! When you are doing phonics pull out a workbook or letter tiles and have your 3-year-old do "phonics"... because... it is truly school too. Who say's they have to be 5 to be "going to school". Quite literally, our 4th child has ALWAYS done school with her two older brothers and she's proof this method works!

~ Keep them moving... Tip #2 is that little ones need both a healthy balance of routine and also moving through different activities. It's easy to get focused on your older child's lessons, but keeping a steady supply of activities keeps littles ...
1. Out of trouble
2. Happy
3. Learning at an age appropriate level

~ Do blanket time. Pull out a blanket (we use a rug) and train your toddler to sit and play quietly on it with a bin of toys that they find intriguing. The key... don't be punitive. When they lose interest, move on. 

~ Daily Bins. I make a daily bin (Monday - Friday) that features items that my littles find stimulating. Some ideas are: puzzles, magnet blocks, bristle blocks, legos, pattern blocks, felt board, dry erase board and books, board books, sorting toys. Pull a bin for a half hour and enjoy!

~ PBS kids??? Have a movie block of time... whether that's one show of PBS kids, or Sign Time or another show that they can't be easily distracted from... use it! 

~ Play kitchen. Add in math with a cash register. 

~ Make a sheet tent!!! Or a couch fort! 

~ Pull out child safe (yet adult) kitchen items... big (real) pots and pans, rolling pins, plastic cups and tools are super intriguing to little people!

~ Have a puppet show.

~ Rice or Bean bin. I don't love the mess this makes, but it is a nice treat. And no, I wouldn't go to the lengths of getting a kiddy pool... I'd just rather vacuum! 

~ Invest in a kid trampoline. I was doubtful about this, but after seeing how our preschooler took to it at a sensory physical therapy session we got one! She has "jump time" every day and it's essential for both of us to make it through a winter day! 

~ Playdough or other doughs (like kinetic sand). There's something wonderful about putting a toddler in a highchair and letting them squish and squeeze to their heart's desire while you sit on the couch and read a book aloud... for at least 10 minutes! 

~ Packing. Pull out a suitcase and some clothes (ones just out of the dryer) and let your preschooler pretend to pack for a trip... they will undoubtedly pretend to take a trip and pull around the wheely suitcase for a good half hour!

~ Box play! We all know the mesmerizing qualities of a big empty box. Add crayons ot the mix for and older child and it's even better! 

~ Sensory Bin. For younger toddler a bin of sensory objects are very fun and great developmentally! 

~ Cutting and pasting... get out a tray, safety scissors, and a glue stick and set your little one up at your side (because you never know what will happen with scissors). 

~ Room time. Everyone needs time to be alone. Set up a safe room, fully childproofed with a bin of safe toys and a doorway gate. Teach littles to play in solitude for a short period of time each day, lengthen to close to an hour if desired and handled well. 

~ Fill them up first... this is the best and most vital tip for homeschooling with little ones. Start you day with something for them... songs, a book, snuggles, play with mama... what ever fills ups hteir littel love tanks, do it first thing. They will feel more able to meet the day ahead, spend time alone and playing independently if you've spent time loving and enjoying them first! 

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