Anyone who homeschools more than one child will eventually face the situation… what do I do with the little ones when learning with the older ones? This can happen with ANY age difference, whether they are just a year or two apart but one isn’t ready for some things or with different math levels, or with a high schooler and a toddler, or anything in between. I have experience with all of the above and more (my kids are are in 9th, 6th, 5th, 2nd, and 1st grade plus we have one preschooler and two toddlers.) So, how does learning happen with such great built in distractions?
I can definitely say that we are successfully learning even with toddlers in tow.
Here are several strategies that work for us in Homeschooling with Toddlers:
Bring out some toys that they are only allowed to play with when we’re doing homeschooling. A few options that work for us are puzzles and alphabet magnets, but can also include dinosaur and animal toys, felt activity sets, and blocks. They feel like they are doing something new and fun. It keeps them happy while you are busy. Keep them in the same room and everyone (at least for us) is engaged in something.
No matter what you are learning (yes, even AP Biology or Calculus) there is a younger version. Get out number magnets or fraction manipulatives. Any math manipulatives work, actually, as long as they are age appropriate and can’t be swallowed. Have them color pictures of frog anatomy. Alphabet puzzles while studying writing.
Some of my younger boys get little white boards they are only allowed to use when we are homeschooling. This doesn’t work for all ages, but can be adapted to your individual situation. This also works for cooking with older kids, or practicing music. What little kids don’t like pouring flour or beans from container to container? (Or if you don’t mind puddles, use water!) Banging on pots and pans with spoons, playing with toy pianos, or listening to a kid safe tape recorder all help them learn, too.
They are naturally curious at this age, and something great about homeschooling is that you can continue this fun on through high school, though it can certainly start now!
Something With Somebody
Do you have family or friends who want someone for their little one to play with? Set up playdates at times when you know your homeschool difficulties will be greatest. Ask for help. Trade off with another homeschooling family or someone with preschoolers. Sometimes when one of my older children are really motivated and done with their work before the others, I offer them some reward for helping with the little kids.
They go outside, they go read a story together, they go build train tracks, they go build a fort in one of the bedrooms. (As an added bonus, this can also motivate some kids still working to finish faster so they can go join the fun!)
Yes, I do this too. We watch movies. We watch PBS. We play computer games. These all serve as great tools to use when I need them not only to occupy some of my other children, but also to teach, inspire, kick off some new topic, provide a change of pace, and sometimes just to enjoy a few hours together laughing. This is not a bad thing. Yes, it can be overused.
Kids do not need all the screen time they sometimes get. TV, computer, DVDs, phones, mp3 players can all be great tools when used appropriately. I’ve even used the closed captioning in other languages to add some additional foreign language practice. (These choices have been especially useful when I have been pregnant or recovering from having a baby and we just need some down time.)
Take a break. Do something EVERYONE can enjoy and skip the intensive stuff for a day. You don’t homeschool so the older kids never see the younger kids. They learn together no matter what you are doing. Go to a park. Go to the zoo. Do laundry together (yes, this can actually be fun in a big group…). Visit family. Go to the library. Go on a walk. Your family will be happier and ready to get back to whatever has to be done.
The main thing here is, include them and realize that even the little ones need to have your attention and your time. It’s just difficult at times to prioritize and figure out when to do what with each of them. Try different strategies to see what works, and then try something new every now and then.
This works in every family, homeschooling or not, whatever you are trying to do, with any size family. Make sure everyone gets that time and find out a way to do this that works for you.
You might also enjoy:
- Toddler Activity: Paper Shapes
- Toddler Activity: Sponge Blocks
- Homeschool Fun with Toddlers: Water Painting
- Preschool Activities with Colors and Shapes