Monday, April 23, 2012

Homeschooling with Toddlers

We have two very distinct age groups in our family. My two oldest children are seven and eight. And then there are the two younger kids, who we have dubbed "the Littles." The Littles are ten months apart. It's like having twins, except that one of the twins is just a smidge more mature than the other, and comes up with all kinds of great ideas to keep Mom and Dad on their toes.

It's a lot of fun. Really.

Anyway. The Littles are out of toddler phase now, and will be starting a preschool curriculum in the fall. Living and homeschooling through the toddler years was . . . interesting.

There are a few things that kept us sane (at least as far as homeschooling goes) during those toddler years.

1. The Power of Kits

One of the most successful ways I was able to keep the Littles occupied so I could teach the two older girls was to put kits together ahead of time. These kits were meant to provide short activities, and were only brought out at school time. Over time, the Littles referred to their kits as "doing school," which worked out because now that they're ready to start preschool at home, they're already used to staying busy and (somewhat) quiet for periods of time. I think this will help our transition a lot.

Kits can be very, very simple. Here are some of the kits I've put together:
  • Homemade felt board
  • Rubber stamps, stamp pad, and paper
  • Stickers and paper
  • Play-Doh, cookie cutters, small rolling pin
  • Dry pasta and pipe cleaners (to make bracelets)
  • Crayons and small coloring books (either purchased or homemade)
  • Wooden shapes with matching shape cards -- kids match the wooden shape to the card

There are more great ideas for simple kits:
I keep my kits in gallon-sized zipper bags, stored in a basket in our dining room (which is also our school room). Just pull one out when you need it, get the toddlers started, then enjoy a few minutes of peace to teach!

2. Laptime

 Often, all a toddler wants is to feel like he or she is part of the action. I've done a lot of homeschooling with a toddler or two on my lap. You'd be amazed at how much you can get done if you let your little one sit on your lap and give them some crayons and paper.

3. Naptime

I can't attest to this one, since all of my kids gave up napping shortly after their first birthday (sigh). But, if your toddler still naps, try to schedule your most difficult/involved subjects for that time.

4. TV is Not Always Evil

There is nothing wrong with letting your little one tune into a short age-appropriate DVD or show while you try to get some school work done. It can be a nice treat for them, and a nice break for you. Just beware of using this method too often -- it can quickly become a habit rather than a treat.

5. Special Toys

Much like the kit concept (above) it's a good idea to have a few toys that are only available to play with during school time. Of course, these should be quiet toys -- leave the toy drum set for another time.

Homeschooling with toddlers can definitely be a challenge. Some days, nothing will work. There will be times when no amount of creativity or coaxing on your part will be enough. That's OK! Take a break, or work on something that your older kids can do without your help. Remember that tomorrow is another day (Or, next wek is a new week -- yes, you will have weeks like this).

I hope these ideas help!

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