One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve seen on homeschool forums is: “How do I homeschool my older kids when I have toddlers in tow?”
And with good reason. Balancing the needs of multiple ages can be tricky. Take heart, though, I’m here to tell you, “It can be done!”
We just finished up Kindergarten with Tiger (6) and it was definitely challenging to figure out how to keep little Bee (3) engaged while I was teaching.
Here are some ways we got it done:
The very best time to get one on one time with older kids is, of course, during naptime. I reserved this for our most challenging tasks.
Pack n Play/Baby Gate
With very young littles you can set up a pack n play near where you’re doing school. I recommend keeping a box of toys that the baby only gets to use during school time.
For a toddler that’s too old to be confined to a pack ‘n play, you can set up a baby gate on their room or playroom. Make sure the room is safe for a toddler, and close to were you’re doing school.
High Chair Activities
This has been the most effective option for us! My little guy enjoys being included in learning time. (Usually.)
Through trial and error, I found activities that would keep him engaged for 20-30 minutes at a time. (And didn’t make too large of a mess.)
Since it worked so great, I thought I would share some of my favorite go-to “high-chair activities.”
These activities highly engaging activities were chosen, so that you can give most of your focus to your older student(s), but many of them can double as opportunities for teaching moments with your tot while big brother or sister works on a problem independently.
*CAUTION: THESE ACTIVITIES ARE MEANT TO BE USED WITH PARENTAL SUPERVISION. SOME OF THEM INVOLVE SMALL PARTS THAT MAY BE CHOKING HAZARDS. PLEASE USE DISCRETION, AND CONSIDER THE AGE AND ORAL PROPENSITIES OF YOUR TODDLER.
1. ABC Practice With Foam Letters
This is probably one of Bee’s favorite things for me to bring out. Especially the big ABCs!
These can be used both independently to get your tot familiar with the shapes of letters, but I love turning to my little one and asking, what’s this letter? And if he doesn’t know, I tell him the letter. And now we’re starting to work on letter sounds as well as names. We haven’t used flash cards or done anything formal, but Bee already knows all his capital letters and many of the letter sounds.
We have large foam letters that came with a floor mat set like this: Alphabet Play Mat
And we got our small ones from Dollar Tree.
2. More ABC Practice With Magnetic Letters & a Cookie Sheet
I love it when I can find a fun engaging activity for Bee that is also educational. These ABC Magnets definitely fit that bill! They have their home on our big magnetic wall, but I’ll pull a few off and give be a cookie sheet or bread pan and let him have a blast. Not only is he learning his letters, he’s exploring magnetism too!
Playdoh is great for those times when you really need to give all your focus to your older kiddos. It’s easy for tots to work independently and it’s great for building fine motor skills & creativity! Be sure to check out my post about How We Use & Store Playdoh.
What toddler doesn’t love stickers? Great for fine motor skill development too!
5. Board Books
A colorful board book, especially when it has flaps or other interactive aspects, is a great activity for a little one. Here are some of our favorite board books for the high chair:
6. Toddler-Safe Scissor Skills
When my toddler sees his big brother cutting, he wants to cut too! So we got him some plastic scissors. They make them in all kinds of designs. They don’t cut skin, but they will cut paper if you hold them just right. Most of all, it makes Bee feel included.
Oh Crayola Color Wonder, shall I compare thee to a summers day? I absolutely love color wonder. All the fun of markers, without any of the destruction. In case you didn’t know, Color Wonder markers ONLY write on special Color Wonder paper. So while it’s a little pricer than your traditional marker coloring project, think of all the money and stress you aren’t spending repairing and replacing things!
All of these activities are meant to be supervised, but Legos especially! If you feel your toddler isn’t ready for Legos, they make some really cute Duplo sets as well.
What works best for us at this point, is to give him a small lego board and a handful of miscellaneous pieces. And of course a few minifigures. I like ordering the off brand minifigures, especially for Bee to play with. The Lego brand are sooooo expensive.
9. Masking Tape Car Tracks
We’ve done these on the carpet as well as the table. They are always a hit. (Make the lines with sharpie.)
10. Math Manipulatives
Anytime I can give my tot the same thing his big brother is working on, he is thrilled. So when we’re doing a math lesson involving manipulatives, I always give some to little brother too.
I want to encourage you, especially if you are at the beginning of your homeschooling journey. It can seem so daunting at first. EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, I’ve talked to was nervous at first. Avoid the trap of comparison, and enjoy the ride. You got this!
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