If you have a toddler, and you’ve ever tried to get anything done while they are awake, then you know how impossible it can be! Homeschooling older kids, with a toddler in the mix can be a tricky situation. In my case, I am homeschooling my two older girls (PreK and 2nd grade) while my 22 month old son roams the house looking for trouble! I have spent the last 6 months coming up with every idea under the sun to keep him mostly entertained and out of trouble during “school time.” Here I will share them with you:
Do school during nap time. If your little nugget takes a good afternoon nap, try getting all of your school work done during this time. It will be quiet, peaceful and you might actually have time to concentrate for a second or two. We find that it works best for our family to get up and get our school work done right after breakfast, but I know several families that do their work during nap time and it works well for them.
Make busy boxes.Busy boxes are a homeschool mom’s best friend. The busy box can take on many forms, but the main idea is that it contains lots of fun doo-dads to keep little hands busy for a few minutes at a time. Here are a few ideas to get you started: BusyBags1, BusyBags2.
Keep them contained. If you have more than one level on your home, or multiple living spaces, don’t exhaust yourself running every 5 minutes to go find your little trouble maker, er, blessing. Try using a series of baby gates to keep them in the same area as your are. If there is one particular subject that you need to be extra on your game for, schedule 5 or 10 minutes of quiet reading time for your littlest little in their crib, pack and play or bed. My little guy spends about 5 minutes looking at books in his crib while I read our chapter of the day. For some reason, he enjoys interrupting our reading time the most!
Feed them.Toddlers love to eat. At least mine does. Keeping your pantry and fridge stocked with finger foods like cheerios and blueberries will keep their little fingers busy, their mouths full, and will not ruin lunch or dinner! Plus there’s the obvious benefit of strapping them into their booster chair for a few minutes
Get them involved. One of the toddlers main objectives is to be just like the older people around them. If everyone else is sitting at the table, consider coming up with some “school work” that they can work on! Depending on age, things like pencils, crayons and paper will help them to feel like they are doing a big kid things. Homemade workbooks can easily be made by stapling coloring sheets together. Glue sticks are not terribly messy; a glue stick and some magazine scraps go a long way in keeping little ones entertained. Currently, my sons favorite “homework” is sticking stickers on pieces of computer paper. So fun.
Let them have a little screen time. I may catch a little grief over this one, but hear me out. We live in a world of technology, and as parents, there are lots of options we have when it comes to controlling what our children watch, when and how much. Babycenter.com has some pretty good guidelines for toddlers and tv, you can check them out here. Although my little guy isn’t quite 2 yet (his birthday is in March), I do allow him some screen time daily. We do not have cable, but we have an iPad and Netflix, so he gets to watch either Daniel Tiger or Super Why, typically one or two episodes a day, which amounts to about 20-40 minutes. The AAP suggests that children under 2 watch no TV, and I totally get it. But I am home with all of my children all day, every day. I know exactly what they do all day long, and what their strong and weak points are developmentally. And to be honest, I appreciate these few minutes very much, I often get a lot of things done and am able to spend some rich one on one time with my older two (who typically get shafted a bit because the toddler takes up to much of my time!). It’s not the right choice for everyone, but if your little one catches a few cartoons from time to time, try to strategically time them during school time!
Facilitate Independence. This is probably the hardest and most time consuming thing. But eventually it has to happen. Training your toddler to entertain themselves and stay out of trouble is a life skill. I wish I could say I was an expert here, but I’m currently in training myself. Here are some articles I have found helpful:
If you, like me, are in that stage of life where your patience is constantly tested, and you spend most of the day just trying to keep your head above water, stay strong my friend. The younger ones get older, eventually, and that challenge ends and new challenges will begin. Just know, you are doing a GREAT job, and your kids will appreciate you so much for it….one day…..