I love homeschooling. I enjoy teaching, planning fun projects, and watching my hard working kids scribbling away at the dining room table.
However, as with all things that I love, there come challenges. How to choose the right curriculum, keep up with my housework, and provide the opportunities that my kids need for educational, social, and physical developement are constantly swirling through my mind. These days my greatest challenge comes in the form of two active, blond haired cuties ages 1 and 3.
People often ask me what i do with Joshua and Joel while I’m busy in school with the older kids. I always give a little laugh and reply, “Let them destroy the house!” This may sound like a joke, but it is true and ok to admit!
Keeping little people busy and out of trouble can be a challenge, but toddler activities need not be expensive or complicated.
Provide a Variety of Toys
Kids learn through play so whether it is my one year old trying to stack one block on top of another or my three year old building a tower taller than himself with mega blocks, I know they are doing what comes natural to them. My job is to provide toys that are safe and encourage them to develop. You don’t need to go out and buy a ton of ‘educational’ toys. Toddler activities should be fun, colorful, and items you already have.
You are probably thinking, ‘well, ya, of course’. The secret is keeping some toys just for school hours. These toys become “special” and stay “new” and therefore keep them interested longer. Keeping them special also increases their desire to play with them. They will be more excited to have school than your older children!
Some of my toddlers’ school toys are:
- Mr. Potato Head
- mega blocks
- letter stamps
- large magnets
- magnet dolls
- lacing cards
Household Items = toddler activities
I don’t know if it is a marketing thing or actually essential, but there seems to be a hype about learning toys. I have discovered that simple household objects are actually just as “learning friendly” and a lot less expensive. Some of our favorites are:
- colored plastic bowls and cups-younger toddlers simply enjoy putting smaller toys in and dumping them out while we use them to sort/learn colors with the older ones.
- q-tips-these are great to paint with or glue onto paper in the form of shapes/letters. They might not be safe for those littles that put stuff in their mouths still.
- muffin pans-we use these to count objects and to sort by color. These are also nice because magnet letters stick to them.
- kitchen utensils-I have to include this because although the kids have their own little kitchen set with all the necessities, they love my gear. They spend a long time stirring with my wooden spoons and plastic containers. My three year old is also getting good at picking up objects with the tongs (along with pinching his brother’s nose, so ya might want to watch out for that!)
- clothespins- another nose pincher (sigh!) but they are great for fine motor, counting, making shapes etc. Some kinds are not safe for small toddlers because they come apart easily.Toddl
Have a Cleaning Plan
My husband calls our toddlers “two foot tornadoes” and rightly so! This age can destroy a room in 5 seconds flat. With my first two kids, I’d become stressed about it. Now, at number 5, I have accepted it and work it into our routine.
If your toddler is older, this is a good time to practice putting away one toy before pulling out another. Sometimes I am busy with the older boys and I don’t have time to enforce this rule with Joshua. We have three set “clean up” times throughout our day and I insist on help from everyone (except Baby Joel). Our times are before lunch, before supper, and before bed. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle, but I can testify that it really does pile up and becomes hard to walk if you don’t have designated clean up times.
Keep Little People Involved in your Housework
Toddler activities can revolve around your house work as well. Putting clothes from the washer into the dryer, pushing the buttons on the dishwasher, matching clean socks, using a little broom and dustpan. If you keep them busy and close to you then they have less time to find their own, ummmm, activities!
Toddler activities can be as simple as keeping them involved with the big kids’ learning
Most toddlers want to be included with the rest of the family. If the big kids are playing outside, they want to also. I love this because it is easy to see how much they learn from the older kids. I did have a moment of annoyance yesterday when my six year old was trying to teach my one year old to say “butt crack”. Ya, I wasn’t thrilled about that, but MOSTLY it’s a good thing.
Because most toddlers have an attention span of about three seconds, keeping them included can be challenging. I keep a good supply of crayons, glue, cheerios, fruit loops, paint with water books, board books etc. on hand.
You may have laughed at the fruit loops and cheerios, but let me explain. Fruit loops are awesome to use to teach colors and sorting. Often I draw shapes in three different colors. We then glue the correct color fruit loop onto the matching shape. This one activity practices colors, shapes, and fine motor all in one-plus a bit of a snack. It keeps their hands busy and mouths quiet lol
I draw a number or letter on a piece of paper and Joshua traces it with glue. He then sticks the cheerios into the glue. Another win win. Mouth is chewing and hands are busy! These activities can be done with noodles and dried beans as well, but for now we are sticking to objects my one year old can pick up off the floor and safely eat.
Another one of our favorite toddler activities is lacing the fruit loops and cheerios.
I remember when I first started homeschooling. I had visions of my kids quietly studying at the table while I read to them. It was all calm and brainy in my head, but that is not the way it ended up and it is ok! We are a family, all learning together in a loud and active house and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Check out my Toddler Pinterest Board for more ideas. I have dozens of pins from other creativie mamas that you will love!