How Do You Homeschool With A Toddler? – Guest Blog Written By Rebecca Miller
Are you wondering if it’s even possible to homeschool multiple children of different ages? How can you possibly teach your 10-year-old math while your preschooler is asking for snacks every five minutes? How on Earth can you practice reading with your 12-year-old while your toddler is climbing on your lap? How do you keep your toddler busy during homeschool?
As a mom of four, ages 3 to 14. I understand that it can be a challenge! But, my friend, it is most definitely possible!
Through trial and error, I have found some great ways to keep my preschooler busy while spending time with my older children on their projects.
Here are a few of my favourite ways to keep your toddler busy:
Make sure your toddlers bucket is full.
Let’s face it – sometimes it can feel as if our youngest is constantly seeking our undivided attention. Sometimes the way they go about getting our attention is not the most discreet.
Recently I added something to our routine that has been a game-changer. When you front-load the day with some quality one-on-one time with your toddler (for example – reading, playing or cooking together). It can fill her bucket and lessen the need to seek connection while you are helping her siblings.
Enlist help from others.
Homeschooling is a family affair. If you have a spouse, talk to them about ways you can share the responsibilities and joys of educating your children. Maybe you can take turns teaching. Perhaps one of you is stronger in one subject and would enjoy taking that on. Maybe your partner can play with the youngest child while you work with the older ones – or vice versa.
If you have family or friends nearby, you may be able to have them care for your youngest for a few hours per week. During the school day. Homeschooling is all about family, you may be surprised how grandma may respond if you ask her to support your homeschooling journey in this way. Another option is to find another homeschooling Mom in your area who would be willing to swap childcare with you.
Rotate toys for your toddler.
Sometimes toddlers and preschoolers can become overwhelmed when there are too many toys. If you find there are toys that your child doesn’t play with regularly, it can be really helpful to put them away in a closet for awhile. Then when you bring them back out, they can seem new and exciting again. Similarly, if there are toys that are only brought out at “school” time, your child will get excited at the novelty of those toys. Your toddler will begin to associate school time with their ‘special’ toys.
Try some fun ‘Make ahead activity trays/bags’.
Preparation is key, here. When you are preparing lessons for the older kids on Sunday night (or whenever you prepare). Take a few minutes to prepare something for the youngest learner as well. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. A simple baking pan with magnet letters, new Play-doh, stickers and paper or even a tub of rice can be a fun activity! While they are busily playing with their new activity tray, you will be able to help the other children with their book work.
Utilize nap time.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If your toddler or preschooler is still napping, you can use that time to focus on book work with the older kids without distraction. If your child is not napping, you can still add “quiet time” to your routine. Bring out quiet toys or books that are reserved for this special time. And have your child get cozy and rest their body for an hour.
Take advantage of helpful older siblings.
Don’t be afraid to have your older kids take on “sibling duty.” I believe that one of the best parts of having all my children at home is that they can create a strong bond. I also believe children who learn responsibility in younger years, find it easier to become responsible adults. In our family, everyone knows (not that they always agree) that we all have parts to play and “jobs” to do within our family unit. My oldest two are 14 and 12. They take turns watching the busy 3-year-old when I am need one-on-one with one of the others.
Play school with your toddler.
Younger siblings love to imitate older siblings. While the older kids are working on their worksheets, get out pens, markers and paper and have your little one “do school” along-side their siblings. Stickers, dry erase boards and colouring books are also great ‘school supplies.’
Seek out non-traditional learning opportunities.
Playing board games, going for nature walks and exploring a local farm are all great learning opportunities. These activities don’t involve sitting at a desk. These learning opportunities can supplement your book work and are perfect for all ages. While walking through the forest with your kids, you can point out different types of leaves and birds. Have your toddler point out different colours and shapes in nature. While playing a family board game, your preschooler will learn turn-taking along-side their siblings. Sometimes non-traditional learning activities can be overlooked, but they can really help solidify concepts learned through book work.
If you are open to using screens in your home, allowing your preschooler a limited amount of free time on an educational iPad app can be useful and fun. There are many free and low-cost programs that can be a great tool to keep your little one occupied. While still teaching some fun and important skills like shape recognition, colours, letters and numbers.
Including your toddler or preschooler in your homeschool whenever possible is the best way to build strong relationships and a strong foundation for learning. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to give your older children more individual attention. I hope these ideas give you hope that you absolutely can homeschool your children, even if you have a toddler underfoot.
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