It’s especially challenging to try homeschooling with babies and toddlers thrown in the mix. Just old enough to stay awake throughout the day, yet not quite old enough for school … and always eager to join mommy and the older kids with their exclusive, wait-till-you’re-older school activities!
This is such a popular topic that we’ve had multiple conference sessions on homeschooling with babies and toddlers. We’ll also provide a comprehensive “Teaching Multiple Grades” overview in our upcoming how-to-homeschool webinar on Oct. 25.
For now, though, here’s a quick list of suggested activities and approaches from real-life, in-the-trenches homeschool families in the Kansas City area:
- Play “tip the bucket.”
Take a sand bucket or old ice cream container and hang it from the ceiling, so that it dangles a few inches or so off the floor. Give your toddler small objects to load into the bucket until it tips over. They can also shovel the objects into the bucket with a sand shovel.
Another variation of this is to create a makeshift “ski lift” with the rope going sideways, so that stuffed animals can travel back and forth on the rope.
“It was like two solid days worth of entertainment,” boasts one homeschool mom.
- Consider a change of location.
Who said learning always had to take place indoors? If the weather’s nice, try bringing school outside. Let your toddler play while you sit on a picnic blanket with your older kids, doing their lessons.
- Lace shapes.
Lacing activities can help kids learn later skills, such as holding a pencil or stitching. Get shapes that have holes punched around the edges, so that little ones can lace threads in and out of the holes.
- Play sorting games.
Have you got a collection of small items, such as skittles or dried pasta, that your toddlers are old enough to play with? They can sort them into different plates or containers. If the objects are bigger, such as blocks or balls, they can stand a certain distance away and toss them into the containers.
If you want to up the ante, start introducing numbers – “Let’s put 8 blocks into that No. 8 container,” etc. – to add an extra element of learning.
- Practice typing.
A few minutes of computer time can be a special treat for toddlers. They can practice tapping the keys that will eventually (with a little help) spell out their names, along with other words and favorite phrases.
- Paint, cut and glue alphabet letters.
Your toddlers can start their English lessons early by having fun with letters. Have them cut out shapes, paint them, or stick them with glue to a master board.
- Build up a collection of picture books.
You don’t have to buy them – just checking out 10 or so from your local library will do! Don’t give your toddler all-day access to these picture books, but let it be a special only-for-school-time activity. That way, you can sometimes get 15 minutes or so of schooltime while your young one is preoccupied with pictures.
- Assign playtimes for toddlers with the older siblings, and use naptimes for school.
This can be a real win-win, where the toddler gets special one-on-one attention and the older sibling gets a little break from school!
If your little one is still an infant, try scheduling intensive lesson times during their naps. Homeschool veterans also recommend babywearing, or carrying your baby in a sling, as a way to keep the baby quiet while you keep up with your older children.
One homeschool mom wrote the following suggestion:
“What I did was utilize a long hallway. I shut all the doors in the hallway except for the one to the school area. One baby gate went on the doorway to our school area, and one baby gate went across the end of the hall. This created a sort of extra large play pen. I also had a box of special toys marked “school only” which I saved for one-on-one time with an older student. I tried to keep the time very short to avoid boredom, interruptions, and other typical issues that could arise. During that 15-minute time span of working with an older student, the little ones could play in the hallway with the novel box of toys. It worked!”
- Create your own toddler hammer.
Plastic hammers are especially attractive for toddlers, who almost always enjoy hammering golf tees into a brick of floral foam. This old Parents as Teachers trick bought one homeschool mom “several solid afternoons of peace.”
Do you have other favorite activities and tips for homeschooling with babies and toddlers? Let us know in the comments!