How do I teach … ? ~ Not Back to School Blog Hop

How do I teach...? Ideas and resources on the website!

How to Teach Toddlers (Especially If You Have Older Children).

I have six children that are 17, 15, 12, 10, 8, and 20 months! Sometimes it can be hard to make sure they are all getting what they need – two high schoolers, a middle schooler, elementary kids, and a toddler! Sometimes I feel like the toddler gets the short end of the stick when it comes to learning. So how to teach with all these children in our house? I have recently started doing Tot School with Zeke and it has made a world of difference in how he handles our daily school time! It has also given me more satisfaction in knowing that I’m spending quality time with him each day.


Tot Trays are what I do with Zeke each morning. It’s simply a metal tray that I use for his activities! The activities I use are fairy simple to prep. It takes a few minutes in the evening or morning to prep his morning Tot Tray. 

how to teach toddlers using a color match and fine motor skills development tray
Color Match and Fine Motor Skill Development Tot Tray

I try to give him activities and tasks that will strengthen his fine motor skills and dexterity, build his vocabulary, teach him colors and shapes, and entertain him! I look around my house and through my craft and school supplies for inspiration. I also make things from felt because he loves felt! Sometimes I keep it really simple and use a learning toy or puzzle for his Tot Tray activity. 

how to teach toddlers using a color match tot tray
Color Match Tot Tray

He loves his Tot Tray! He expects it in the morning and gets excited about it! If I haven’t prepped the tray yet when he wakes up, he’ll bring it to me! 

We usually spend about 10-15 minutes on his morning tray. I leave it out all day and he comes back and forth to the tray playing with it. Sometimes he does his activity totally different from how I had planned, and that’s fine. I show him once how to do the activity and he picks it up from there. 

how to teach using a fine motor skill development tot tray
Fine Motor Skill Development Tot Tray

He has done so well with these Tot Trays and learned so much. He has learned about six or seven colors just from doing some color matching activities. I’ll just name the color and he started repeating it. Then I started asking him the colors and asking him to pick up a green button, for example. He truly learned his colors through playing!

how to teach using a color sorting tot tray
Color Sorting Tot Tray

Sometimes I will make an after-nap Tot Tray for Zeke, but I usually don’t. I try to keep it simple with one focused activity a day. This keeps him from getting overwhelmed and keeps me from running out of fun ideas!

TIPS for successful Tot Tray Activities

My tips for beginning Tot School with your toddler are simply these.

  1. KEEP IT SIMPLE. There’s no need for worksheets and flashcards! Toddlers learn best through playing. You don’t have to set up an elaborate activity, either. Pom Poms and contact paper is one of Zeke’s favorite activities. 
  2. THINK ABOUT SKILL LEVEL: Try to keep the trays just in his skill level. If they are too difficult, he will be frustrated. Sometimes working below your child’s abilities is a good thing – it builds confidence and gives your child a sense of accomplishment. I do add in more difficult tasks to give him a challenge sometimes, but I don’t do it every day. 
  3. MODIFY. If an activity is too hard for your toddler, just modify it! Make it easier or simpler. For example, when I tried to get Zeke to put rubber bands around a pool noodle, it was too difficult for him. When I put the rubber bands on the pool noodle for him, he enjoyed the challenge of taking them off! 
  4. MAKE IT SPECIAL: You don’t have to buy a fancy curriculum or a ton of new, expensive toys. Use what you have and make it special! Zeke has his very own trays for Tot School and that makes it a special time for him. We don’t use the tray for anything else which makes it seem like it’s all his!
  5. HAVE A ROUTINE: You don’t have to have a schedule, but it will help to have a set time each day for Tot School. It will help you to remember, and it will be something your toddler comes to expect. Your older kids will soon realize that’s your special time with your toddler. When I had my oldest daughter watch him one morning, she made him a Tot Tray with counting bears! A few days later, my 12 year old watched him for me and she made him a play-dough tray and sensory tray to play with!
  6. DON’T OVERWHELM YOUR TODDLER: It’s tempting to print out a entire package of worksheets and printables and flashcards – but don’t. If you overwhelm your toddler with a ton of activities and worksheets he will not enjoy the Tot School time. Start small – one activity a day.
how to teach using a button color sorting tot tray
Button Color Sorting Tot Tray using felt

I really enjoy my special Tot Tray Time with Zeke each morning. If you haven’t implemented Tot School with your toddler, I encourage you to start especially if you have older children. If you do have Tot School, I’d love to hear about how you do it in the comments below!


My Full Heart Blog Header

Thank you Megan R @ My Full Heart for today’s post answering How Do I. You can connect with Megan on Social media here: Instagram and Etsy.

IF you missed yesterday’s post on Curriculum Choices here are a few posts to inspire you.

Kristen @ A Mom’s Quest to Teach shares Top Five Homeschooling Curriculum Choices.

Annette @ A Net in Time shares Grade 10 Curriculum Choices.

Yvie @ Homeschool on the Range shares Curriculum Reveal.

Vickie B @ Tumbleweed News shares Our Favorite Curriculum {Blog Hop}.

Jessica H @ My Homeschool with a View shares Tips for Curriculum Shopping.

Dawn @ Schoolin’ Swag shares Morning Time.

Teresa B @ Teresa Brouillette shares Homeschool Curriculum .

Lori @ At Home: where life happens shares 5 Tips on How To Pick a Curriculum.

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