One of the greatest challenges in home education is what to do with toddlers and preschoolers during their older siblings’ lesson times. The best planned day can be turned upside down by the unpredictable needs and wants of a young child. Instead of dreaming of hiring a nanny for the littles in your family, try the activities
These suggestions were made by moms who had tested the ideas before giving them to me. Remember that the young child needs opportunities to learn in his way. Become intentional about his development and the foundation he needs for future learning. (For information about preparing your young child for academic learning, refer to my post Paving the Way for Learning.)
The following list of over thirty activities will help keep toddlers and preschoolers content and learning during school time.
- Do something with your younger child first, then start school. Cuddle up with him to read a book, or mentally stretch him with toys like Think It Through Tiles (Discovery Toys); then he will be happy to play by himself for a while.
- Allow the child to stay in the school room as much as possible. You will be amazed at what he can learn just from listening to what is going on during lesson time.
- Purchase a special bin/tub with toys that the child can play with only during lesson times. These are his school things. Rotate the toys. Include items such as:
- Bubba’s Color Wonder Markers
- Toy food
- Finger paints (when Mom is close)
- Magnets for the refrigerator door
- Mr. Potato Head
- Peg board with stacking pegs
- Stacking toys
- K’nex for preschoolers
- Dump a large amount of dried rice or beans into a large storage bin or tub. Add measuring/pouring utensils; sit the child in the bin.
- Follow a schedule, changing venue every twenty minutes for the child. Be sure to include:
- Time for child to play alone
- Snack time
- Reading picture books
- Provide blocks and/or magnet boards.
- Provide empty containers and multi-colored pom-poms of various sizes/colors for sorting. This is a nice, quiet game.
- A roll-up mat with airport or roads/town design for playing with Hot Wheels works for young boys and girls. Add toy horses for even more fun.
- Melt scrap crayons and pour into waxed paper cups, let the wax harden, peel paper cup off. Provide large sheets of paper; if desired, place objects beneath paper for rubs.
- Include young children in art time with appropriate supplies.
- Let child wash plastic dishes with a wet or dry sponge.
- Allow the child to do lessons with appropriate toys.
- Direct older siblings to take turns playing with the young child. Give older child a list of ideas for playing with the littles.
- For age three and older, buy a bag of mixed colored plastic beads from Hobby Lobby or other craft supply store. Get a bead organizer (about $1.99) and ask child to sort beads by color or by size. Be sure to choose bead size appropriate to the age and development of the young child.
- Instruct child to string/thread the beads listed above.
- Wash Hot Wheels in a car wash.
- Use a chamois to dry them.
- Wax them with a touch of Vaseline.
- Read, discuss, practice lessons outside with older children, keeping an eye on little ones playing in the sand box.
- Plan for other one-on-one times with your toddler and preschoolers; they will be more content and willing to play independently.
- Put the play-dough on a highchair tray for less mess.
- Collect shoes boxes and fill each one with different things such as:
- Rice to pour
- Beads to string
- Dot Paints
- Milk carton lids to sort, count, etc.
- Alphabet letters
- Old magazines, safe scissors, and a trashcan will keep a preschooler very busy.
- Guide older students to study more intense subjects during nap time.
- Provide a blanket-tent with stuffed animals inside.
- Play a relay game with younger children, asking them to bring you various items from around the house, one at a time. Thank them for each item. Ask them to put each item away, one at a time. Work with older children while the littles are retrieving items. Be sure to smile and laugh during the game.
- Sometimes a coloring book or blank paper and crayons for the child sitting at the table, while the older children are studying there, makes the little one feel big, and he tries harder to be quiet.
- Supply a lower shelf with board books as the younger child’s school books.
- Playing with Wikki Stix on an individual white marker board works well for preschoolers.
- Provide an easel with chalk board or marker board and appropriate tools for drawing.
- Take ideas from Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready by June R. Oberlander.
- Provide individual chalk boards/slates with colored chalk and eraser.
- Let them have special time at Grandma’s house!
Please use your discretion in regard to the age of your child and the suggested toys/items that you provide to help him learn in his way while you are teaching older siblings.
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