One of the greatest challenges of the homeschooling family is keeping the little ones busy while you are working with the older kids. The solution can be as easy as getting your toddler involved.
I know it sounds scary and time confusing to get your toddler involved but you might find it is less disruptive than trying to keep them busy and distracted elsewhere.
There are several ways to get your toddler involved in your homeschool day. Obviously it will depend upon your family dynamic, your toddlers abilities, and your patience level at times. But, in the end, you might find that getting your toddler involved in your homeschool day is an excellent way to build family unity and relationship while keeping your stress level manageable.
Getting your toddler involved is simpler than it sounds. First, be prepared to be flexible and allow more time for a subject. You will drive yourself crazy if you plan to get your toddler involved (or not involved for that matter) and stick to a strict schedule. Once you get over this, you will find it refreshing.
In our homeschool, during read alouds, all the kids are allowed to play with quite toys (legos, blocks) or color. Whatever we are doing during read alouds, all the kids do this together. This is an easy one for the toddler to participate in because everyone is playing quietly building or coloring and so can the toddler. Even if it is not a read aloud, you can have your children practice their reading aloud skills by reading to the family and allowing the other students to play quieting. This is even possible if you are working with phonics lessons with a younger child as long as you haven’t pushed the quiet play time with your toddler.
If you are doing a lap book or hands on activity, allow your toddler to watch and participate. Give him a folder and cut up pieces of paper and let him glue his own lapbook together and color it. It doesn’t have to be full of meaningful writing. Just doing it is what he enjoys. Regardless of what your hands on activity is, consider how you can give your toddler their own supplies to mimic what your older children are doing. They don’t have to write full sentences or use permanent markers, just give them similar supplies and let them play. Gluing on the scrap pieces your other children discarded can go a long way.
If you have scheduled art time, allow your toddler to participate and have his own art time. If you are painting with tempura, give your little one washable paints and a paper. If you are drawing, give her big crayons, and if you are making clay sculptures, give her playdoh. They can do it right along with the rest of the kids.
Do you have science experiments in your homeschool? Let her participate in the experiment. (obviously this isn’t recommended for high school chemistry experiments but similar, non chemical experiments are fine). Granted, your toddler probably doesn’t understand what you are doing but can have fun balancing books or making a pulley or pouring water into a jug and swirling it or molding playdoh into a volcano. Leaf collecting? They can do that too. Nature walks? Absolutely the easier to include your little one. Studying animals. Give him a set of plastic animals to play with and identify what you are talking about.
Obviously there are other times when you need to be involved with your older students and not divert attention and management to your toddler. In these cases, there are a few ways to lower the distraction level for your toddler while you work with your older students.
You can make a school box with busy bags or specific toys and games that are only allowed to be played with during school hours. Let the toddler pick something that interests her and use it on a designated rug or table while you spend some one-on-one time with another child. If you make the activities special and not something they can play with anytime, they will be more likely to enjoy that time and play with it for a little longer.
Another good way to get some quality one-on-one time with another child is to allow another child to have sibling time with their toddler sibling. This is, of course, assuming you have more than 2 children. In the case of having 3 or more, you can spend, say, math time with one child while the other child has time with the toddler then you can switch (or schedule it for later in the day). This way, each child gets some one-on-one time with their toddler sibling and you can one-on-one time with each child. If you older children don’t like “babysitting” consider it “preschool time” and ask them to be the teacher and “teach” the toddler. Have them play an ABC or counting game with the toddler or practice reading to them or counting and singing.
Though this is a last resort in our homeschool, we do occasionally utilize educational videos to help the toddlers when we need it. Usually they watch something educational that the bigger kids have watched like Rock n Learn videos or Sesame Street. But one of the biggest things we will do if we utilize video is that we will put Sesame Street or Dora in Spanish or Mandarin, to give the child exposure to the other languages we study in our homeschool. This was very helpful to my middle son and he loved watched Diego regardless or whether it was in English or not. If you start them young on this, they will get used to it and not be bothered by not “understanding” every word. You will be surprised what they pick up.
What ways do you use to keep you toddler involved in your homeschool?
Tawnee and her husband Chris live in Indiana with their four children (15, 9, 4, and 9 mo.). She blogs at Adventures in Homeschooling where she shares their family adventures in homeschooling, parenting, and life in general. She is a baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, military, work-at-home mom who loves spending time learning with her kids and feels blessed to have been called to homeschool. Also visit her on Facebook, and Twitter .