November 18, 2017

Toddler and Preschool Activities During Homeschool

Toddler & Preschool Activities

Do you need help managing your toddlers and/or preschoolers during homeschool?

With homeschooling, the family learning environment provides great benefits. My first-grader and kindergartener can learn at the kitchen table, and their three-year-old sister can play nearby. However, the family learning environment sometimes pushes a momma’s sanity level to the edge.

Those are usually the days my three-year-old wants all eyes on her. All the time. On those days, she will resort to anything, even fits and whining and causing utter chaos to get what she really wants – my rapt attention, catering to her every whim.

I try to include her as much as possible: letting her sit quietly on my lap, getting one of my sons to read a book to her, letting her water color or draw when my boys are working on writing lessons. I also read aloud to her or play with her before school to give her a few minutes of undivided attention from me.

But on days when she can’t seem to occupy herself, I pull out my bag of tricks, which entertain but also provide great learning opportunities through play.

Here is a list of my favorite activities for the Toddler and Pre-School Crowd During Homeschool:

blanket tent

Keep it Simple:

This is my go-to section. The simpler the better, right?

Pipe Cleaners and a Strainer: Poke pipe cleaners through a strainer (idea via Connie at Smockity Frocks)

Plastic Cups: Stack them, line them up, play with them in the sink, pour water in them, hide small toys underneath them. The possibilities are endless, and if they break, no big deal.

Laundry Basket: For pretend play (a boat! a train!), a bean bag basketball goal, or a stuffed animal sled

Play Fort: A simple sheet draped over a couple of chairs becomes a magical fairy land for most littles. Add some puppets or a flashlight with a stack of books for extra fun.

A Box: Seriously, my girl loves a box. Like the laundry basket, you can do just about anything with one.



Art Table: If possible set up a ready-made art station for your toddler or preschooler. (Teach Your Children Well has some fabulous ideas for age-appropriate materials and guidelines.)

Rip or cut paper. This is a great activity for the table while the older siblings are doing school work.

Magazine Pictures: For pretend play or for making a collage with construction paper and a glue stick.

Stickers: I make blank books on occasion, the perfect size for scribbles and stickers. I have some Melissa & Doug Sticker Pads that are great. I like this idea from Testy Yet Trying, using dot stickers and a paper towel roll for a matching activity.

Big Paper or a Flattened Box: We have a roll of butcher paper on-hand for extended doodle and water color time. Older preschoolers could get a flattened box and some markers.

Pre-Writing Cards: I like these printables from (scroll down to find the Writing Skills section).

Play Dough: It’s a classic for a reason. This is my favorite recipe.


Busy Bags:

These take a little prep work, but they can provide a few minutes of undivided attention.

Pom-Pom Push: Truth be told, this is absolutely my daughter’s all-time favorite toy to date.

Felt Pizza

Felt Cupcakes

Clothesline Busy Bag

Clothespin Number Wheel

Button Snake: This is an easy sewing craft, even for a non-sewer. Sew a button onto a piece of wide ribbon. Cut out squares of felt and let use the felt to button onto the ribbon.

scrapbook memory game

Memory Games and Pictures

Make a photo book with your favorite snapshots and dollar store albums.

Make your own Memory Games with Scrapbook Paper and card stock (shown above)


Pretend Play

Bank. Toddlers and preschoolers love putting small things into big things. Cut a slot in a coffee can, and give her a cup of pennies. You could also use small plastic lids as “money” to slide into an oat container.

Mail Station: Make a mailbox out of a cereal box. Have some envelopes, blank index cards, crayons and stickers ready for letter writing.

Costumes: Of course, all this pretend play wouldn’t be complete without donning favorite costumes and accessories.


Water Play

Paint with Water. If you cannot spend your time watching your toddler, this is a great activity. You only need some construction paper, a paintbrush, and a small glass of water.

Wash Dishes. Fill up the sink halfway with water and lots of bubbles. Give your sweet one a wash cloth and some plastic dishes.

Water Station: Set a cookie sheet on the floor with a shallow bowl of water and an assortment of scoops, cups, funnels, and spoons. (Keyword: SHALLOW!)

play kitchen

Food and Food Related Items

Pretend Kitchen: Give your little one some play food but real pots and pans.

Sort and Scoop Dried Beans, Pasta, or Rice. 

Melissa & Doug Play Food Kits: This set is worth every penny.


Things That Go

Matchbox Car Track: Take a few minutes and make a race car track on the carpet with blue painter’s tape.

Paint with Cars: If you don’t mind a little messy, have your preschooler paint on butcher paper with little cars.

Cars with Chutes: grab any kind of tube from the house – paper towel rolls, PVC pipe, wrapping paper tube, and shoot the little cars through the tube.

Magnets and Lights

Magnet letters and a cookie sheet: A great table time activity.

A Flashlight and a Closet or Large Box: Closet for older kids who can open a door on their own, box for the toddler you need close at hand. You could also break out some glow sticks for a special treat.

Small Magnets and Paper Clips: Give your child a couple of magnets and a small assortment of metallic and non-metallic items. Older kids can sort magnetic from non-magnetic items.

Light Box: This is a great idea from No Time for Flashcards.

Inspirational Websites:

Need More Ideas? Check out these websites for even more toddler and preschool activities.

My Pinterest Board: Follow my Pinterest board for Kid Fun.

No Time for Flashcards: Allison is a pre-school genius. She and her team offer simple, educational, and fun activities, usually inspired by books – always happening in and around the home.

What Do We Do All Day: Another great website for practical and simple indoor activities and crafts for kids of all ages.

Money Saving Mom: Check out Crystal’s huge list of busy bag resources.

How Do You Keep Your Little Ones Occupied During Homeschool Activities?

Please note that not all activities are appropriate for all ages. Please take these suggestions as ideas and adapt them as best you can to your own family needs. Thanks!

Cover Image: Photo Credit: derekGavey via Compfight cc Indoor tent: Photo Credit: cuttlefish via Compfight cc Watercolors Photo Credit: glasseyes view via Compfight cc Clothesline: Photo Credit: Andrea_R via Compfight cc Water Bucket: Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc Play Kitchen: Photo Credit: Christaface via Compfight cc MatchBox Cars: Photo Credit: meg_nicol via Compfight cc
Contains Affiliate Links: Thank you for supporting The Marathon Mom!


  1. Holy moley! This is a pretty comprehensive list of toddler-taming activities! I love the reactivity and the way you have divided them into different play genres. There are so many different kinds of activities provided here, you could keep a little one occupied for weeks at a time. This is definitely a page worth bookmarking. Thanks for all the ideas, Kelly!

  2. Thanks so much for including my list of indoor activities in your post. You’ve got some fabulous ideas here and I’m delighted you included me!

  3. Great ideas!!!!! I am going to be putting this Blog Post in my favorites. That way, when I need some extra help keeping my lil one busy, I can try some of your ideas out 😉

    ~> This is what I do to keep my Emma busy, busy, busy!

    1. We do our Pre-school lessons with the other children ( though when all are yelling ” MOM”, it can get a bit stressful for me )

    2. Educational Tv ( obviously Tv is not a baby sitter, but 1 or 2 shows a day is not bad. In fact, it has really helped reinforce some of what we are learning together. )

    3. Dress up Dina ( We have the cutest Beagle named Dina and Emma loves playing dress up with her. She pretend Dina is her Baby )

    4. Puzzles! Emma loves to put together her puzzles, especially those Big floor ones.

    5. Computer Games. There are some really great Learning websites out there they are Free! ( )

    6. Get out side! I let her go and play and burn off some energy. While she is playing on the swing set, splashing in her lil pool, etc. I can help the older kids on our back porch 🙂

    Anyways, that is just some of the things I do 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for sharing those ideas, Kelly! It is really good to have fun while learning at the same time most especially for toddlers and preschoolers. I will surely mark this page for future reference.

  5. Thanks for the ideas. The picture of the tent got my wheels turning– could come up with some good ideas there.

    Our toddlers usually do pretty well while we homeschool, however my sixteen-month-old is not doing so good most days. I try to always have one of her siblings sit and play with her so I can focus on teaching one of the others. I also sit her in her high chair nearby with a snack or set of “new” toys. She’s in the screaming/yelling phase right now so it makes for an interesting school day. Fortunately she takes a 3 hour nap most days, so we are just trying to get most things accomplished then.

    Would love to hear any other tips for homeschooling with littles under age 2!?

  6. I just started a week-long series today about keeping toddlers busy while you homeschool. I love your list. There’s definitely things here I want to do with my little guy.

  7. want to home school Any Helpful Ideas

    • Hey Michelle, please leave your questions here and we’ll be glad to help you. What ideas are you looking for? Are you getting ready to start with a Kindergartener?

  8. Great post! I am going to be a father for the first time in November and we are considering home schooling when the time comes. I love the forts suggestion…it reminds me of my childhood. I loved blanket forts! 🙂

  9. Wow 8 boys? I have 3 boys and thought that was a challenge. Your my hero.

  10. This was AWESOME. Thanks! I now have confidence that I will be able to distract my 20 month old while trying to homeschool my 5th grader this year. Blessings on you for being so “shesourceful!”

Share Your Thoughts