Keeping a Toddler Busy and Learning
Tips for homeschooling with toddlers
If you have children of different ages at home during the day, you may find yourself wondering how to keep toddlers and preschool-aged children occupied while you work with older students. Keeping an older child on task and learning has its own set of challenges, and a toddler tugging at your sleeve with requests for attention doesn’t make it easier. Still with a little planning, preparation, and patience, you’ll find that homeschooling with toddlers can be done. These tips can help you keep your younger children busy, learning, and having fun during school time.
Provide learning opportunities
Educational games and activities are a great option to keep little ones busy and learning. For a complete preschool program for your 3-5 year old, check out Embark12 Comprehensive and Embark12 Online —two programs developed to boost early learning skills and prepare kids for kindergarten. Educational mobile apps are another good option for occupying little ones while you help an older sibling.
Focus on the youngest first
Spend time with your younger child in the morning, before starting school for the day. Beginning the day by reading or playing with them for a few minutes can help your little one cope with not having your undivided attention for the whole day.
Involve them in lessons
In addition to providing preschool activities of their own, try involving little ones in some of your older children’s school activities. Art and music are subjects that preschoolers and toddlers can enjoy along with their older siblings. If you have students in early elementary, print out extra copies of coloring pages and worksheets for younger kids to work on. They’ll feel important and involved when they’re “doing school” alongside big brother or sister.
Provide fun activities
Put together a box of toys, puzzles, play-doh, coloring and activity books, and other fun items. Make sure that this box is only available during school time, and replenish it periodically with new activities to keep it interesting (try a dollar store for inexpensive options).
Make sure books and audio books are always available to kids, and have older students practice their reading skills by reading to a younger sibling. Download one of K12’s Read Aloud Classics Apps so kids can enjoy storytime, even if you’re not available to read aloud.
Reward good behavior
Praise and thank your child on days when he or she plays independently, and waits for your attention, instead of interrupting. A sticker chart might be a good way to encourage this type of behavior, with a small reward at the end of the day or week if the child has earned it.
Everyone has bad days, and your youngest will too. Your child won’t always be interested in the activities you provide and may be more demanding on some days than others. Be patient, and remember that it’s OK to rearrange your schedule occasionally, if needed. Catch up from an unproductive day on the weekend or in the evening, or hold off on a lesson until your younger child goes down for a nap. Remember that the toddler years are fleeting and before you know it they’ll be in school too!
For uninterrupted school time, consider enrolling younger siblings in preschool a few days a week. Or, schedule a playdate at a friend’s house, so you can have uninterrupted time for lessons. If you know a family with older children who also learn at home, consider hiring one to come over as a “mother’s helper” once in a while.
Learn through play!
Many activities toddlers and preschoolers love are also wonderfully educational! Create opportunities for your child to learn and have fun by providing some of these activities.
- Creative play: Coloring, cutting, painting, drawing, stamping, tracing, and more! These activities can keep your child busy and learning for hours, and encourage creativity too!
- Fine motor play: Strong fine motor skills are foundational for future handwriting skills. Plus, the activities that develop them are fun, and can be practiced with materials you probably already have lying around! Lacing and beading, using tongs, tweezers, or clothespins, and playing with nuts and bolts are simple and fun activities for developing these important skills.
- Sensory play: This one can get a bit messy, but sensory play is such a wonderful way for toddlers to explore! Sand and water play, play-doh, slime or gak, dry rice and beans, bubbles! Sensory play stimulates the senses and gives kids hands-on learning opportunities as they explore new materials and textures.
- Pretend play: Dress up and pretend play nurture children’s imagination and help to build important skills. By playing a role and pretending to be someone or something else, children develop social and emotional skills, problem solving and language skills.
- Discovery Boxes: These boxes are simple to put together; just collect an assortment of natural and found objects for children to explore. Discovery boxes encourage “heuristic play,” or opportunities for children to explore objects without adult intervention. Manipulating these objects nurture cognitive skills, hand-eye coordination, and concentration in young children.
- Be sure to visit our Pinterest board where we have MANY more ideas for keeping young children busy, learning, and having fun!
What are your favorite strategies for homeschooling with toddlers? Share your tips in the comments!
- Pinterest: Activities for Little Ones
- Simple Homeschool: 5 Tips to Occupy Your Toddler While Homeschooling
- Life As Mom: Homeschooling with Little Ones
Ashley MacQuarrie began writing professionally more than ten years ago and has covered education, technology, current events, pop culture, and other topics. A former homeschooler, she studied English and Film & New Media, graduating with a bachelor's degree from San Diego State University. Ashley has classroom experience working with children who have autism and other special needs. She has also tutored students from kindergarten through college and taught English to teens and adults at a language school in London.