As a mom of 4 kids under the age of 10 I have had my fair share of homeschooling with babies and toddlers underfoot. Recently I periscoped about how I keep my toddler and preschooler busy during the day when I am homeschooling the older two. Luckily we follow more of an eclectic unschooling approach so the need to keep them really occupied is lower than those who would be following a more traditional homeschool schedule.
Here are my Top 10 Tips on How to Homeschool with Toddler, Preschoolers, and Babies in your Schoolroom.
1. Teach when the Littles are Sleeping.
While this is not the most desirable of options it works if you really need it. If you have
something that you really need no distractions to teach then teaching when the littles are napping, or down for bed, works really well. For most of the time that I have been homeschooling I have had a baby or a toddler sleeping for two hours from 1 – 3 pm. I always try to cram as much one on one instruction as possible into those hours. Also if we have a messy science experiment that I do not want little fingers touching – this is the time that we utilize.
For my oldest son his bedtime is 3 hours after the littlest one is put to bed for the night, so I will use that time before he goes to bed as outlaid reading time, or to go over a concept that he is struggling with.
2. Use Media
This is also not my favourite thing to do, but sometimes I will throw on an episode of Paw Patrol or something if the nap is not working. It gives me enough time to get the bigger boys set up in their independent learning while I know exactly where my littles are. For the preschooler, I have an iPad that is loaded with many educational apps that he likes to play. This is a win-win since he is playing contentedly and learning while I am working with his older brothers.
3. Quiet Activities Just for Them
I have a whole bookcase full of quiet activities for my little kids. In my Persicope video you can see each item. Some items include Grimm’s Stackers, Mellissa and Doug Chunky Puzzles, Lace Ups, Magnet Mazes, and Dress Up Dolls.
I use these amazing Usborne Dry-Erase Books so that my littles feel like they are doing work too – and you don’t wreck your notebooks. I also have many $1 notebooks from the dollarstore or wherever so that if they get scribbled in – it’s not a big loss. I have many sticker books that the kids love to play with, and stickers in general are great for little kids. Even if you don’t have a book, a scrap piece of paper and some cheap stickers can buy you close to an hour of quiet time.
4. Messy Activities Just for Them
A sure fire way to keep a toddler and preschooler busy is to add mess. Painting, Moonsand, Kineticsand, sensory bins, play dough, and oobleck are sure to keep them occupied. Just make sure that you are close-by. If we are doing a science experiment in the kitchen – this is when I use these activities. It’s easier to contain the mess in the kitchen rather than the school room.
Water Play is another big one. Just pull up a chair or a water table, throw in some toys, cups, bubbles or food colouring and let them go to town. Maybe have them wash your dishes too…. a homeschooling mom can dream right?!
If you have the resources, hiring a mothers helper can be a great addition to your homeschool. You can teach your older children stress free, while an older homeschooled teenager plays with your littles. Plus you are giving that older child the opportunity to work and earn his/her own income. Or, you could also hire a tutor for those subjects that you really don’t enjoy or find difficult to teach while you take your little ones outside for some fresh air.
6. Homeschool Coops
Another great way to keep toddlers busy is by acquiring more toddlers. You can of course have more children – homeschoolers are a prolific bunch – or you can borrow some from friends. A couple years ago we had a classes that were taught by other homeschooling moms. If one mom wanted to teach a cool science concept or music class, we would go to her house and all the older kids would stay in the living room or schoolroom and the other moms would take the toddlers and watch them in another room in the house.
We also rented space in both a community hall and a church to do basically the same thing – however, there was more space and we could have many more children. Just as a side note – community halls and churches are cheaper in the day as no one typically uses them, so it’s good for the economy.
I would not have been able to homeschool in the beginning years if I did not have a baby carrier. Babies and toddlers just want to be close to you, and so wearing them can be a great way to keep them occupied and close. Also, you will have the use of both your hands! That is a must when homeschooling older children.
8. Wear Them Out
This may be difficult for people who do not have a lot of space, but bringing in a small trampoline, or slide can do wonders. I have friends who have climbing walls and jungle gyms right adjacent to their schoolrooms. Having plenty of large athletic toys can get those toddlers to burn off some steam and that will keep them out of your hair, or under your feet.
9. Novel Items Do Wonders
It’s a great idea to have a little box full of knick-nacks that they have never seen before. Little things like Tangles, stamps with an ink pad, new
stickers, a new book, or a new toy are an awesome way to distract toddlers when trying to get some work done. Keep your eyes open for interesting things throughout the year to keep things new and interesting. You could even create a box and when you child is done with all of the stuff in it – trade with another family.
10. Include Them and Fill Their Cup
Toddlers and preschoolers just want to be part of the family. The more that you try and get them to play somewhere else, or to leave your schoolroom in peace may lead to them feeling the opposite. They may want to sit beside you, sit on you, and demand your full attention. Make sure that before you try to use any of the above that your child’s cup is full. They feel like they are not a hinderance, or unwanted. If your toddler feels connected to you and the family, they will be more like to play independently so that you can teach without distraction (or at least minimal distraction). If it is just normal bookwork that you are doing, pull up a chair, grab some crayons and let them feel like they are learning too.
That is one of the benefits of Homeschooling isn’t it? Family companionship, closeness, and learning through life together.