Greetings Natural Homeschool readers!
I am Brenda from Schooling a Monkey. I have two daughters, aged 8 (Monkey) and nearly 2 (Bo). My oldest daughter, Monkey, is in third grade.
Since Monkey is in third grade, she is in school for several hours each day. We try to arrange most of her school to occur during nap time, but on the days that Bo takes a short nap, or doesn’t nap at all, we’ve had to come up with alternative activities to keep Bo occupied while Monkey and I do school.
Here is what we do to keep toddlers occupied during homeschooling:
Let Them Do School
Bo likes to copy what she sees Monkey doing. If Monkey is working with a pencil, Bo wants a pencil. If she sees Monkey with a marker, she wants a marker. So, while Monkey is doing school, I try to give Bo similar items (that are toddler-safe). This will keep her occupied for up to 5 minutes in most cases.
Offer a Special Toy
We have a few toys that we give Bo to play with during school. These toys are classic, sturdy toys she can play with on her own. Her favorite toys are:
- Baby dolls
- Dollhouse people
- Plastic kitchen storage containers
Give Them Books
Bo loves to look at books. Sometimes, I will give her books to look at in her high chair while we are doing school, and sometimes I set her on the floor. Right now, her favorite books are the colorful board books with flaps to turn.
Since Bo has the attention span of about 40 seconds, she must be re-directed to new activities often. I don’t think there is any way around this, so we work around it. Monkey doesn’t mind the breaks from school while Bo is redirected. If Bo gets too distracting, I put Monkey on something she can do alone and spend some quality time with Bo for a while. Then we return to school when she is occupied or wait until she goes down for a nap.
Bo likes to get messy and she likes to “clean up.” She loves pouring something from one container to another like water or rice. She also enjoys cleaning up spills with a rag or paper towel. One day she was quite amused by spreading cheese all over the table. Sometimes a few minutes of concentrated study time are worth the extra hassle of clean-up later!
Bo loves to eat. Often, she won’t sit still unless she is eating. Sometimes I give her a snack to eat to keep her calm and still while we get some school done. Right now, her favorite foods are bananas, bell pepper boats, veggie sticks, fruit of any kind, puree pouches, tomatoes, cheese, and crackers.
Try Room (or Crib) Time
When all else fails, I put Bo in her room to play for a few minutes. I make sure her room is safe from choking hazards, electrical plugs, falls, etc. so she can play without danger. Then we provide her a few toys and allow her to play for 10-15 minutes. The bonus to this strategy is that when she returns, she is often calmer than when she left the room. If your toddler will stay in a crib or playpen, you might be able to provide slightly longer alone play. I only recommend this option if you can be 100 percent sure the toddler is completely safe in the room alone. Use a baby gate so you can still keep an eye on the toddler during alone play. If you have any additional older children, you could have them alternate baby-watching with school time.
Simple Tips to Keep Toddlers Occupied during Homeschooling
The key to working with children of drastically different ages is to keep things simple and allow for plenty of flexibility. If we do something that I know Bo can’t do (like a complicated science project), we save that activity for when she is sleeping. Some days, we might not be able to get everything do, so we save it for a day when Bo does take a nap. Flexibility and grace on all sides get us through each day!
Brenda is a homeschooling mom to two girls and a freelance writer and blogger at Schooling a Monkey. She spends most of her days teaching school, racing after Bo, and trying to keep the floor clean. Follow along with the Schooling a Monkey adventures on Facebook or Twitter!
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